Later this week, the second part of the Hobbit-Trilogy opens in Swiss cinemas. However, we have seen the movie last week and here’s what we thought of it. The short version: You need to see this movie, even if you don’t like Tolkien, Lord of the Rings or Fantasy. Why? Find out here!
In the second installment of the three Hobbit films, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) and a group of dwarves must travel to the Lonely Mountain where Smaug – a firebreathing dragon – is guarding vast riches. There, they are to reclaim the Arkenstone that cements the instigator of the trip – Thorin Oakenshield, King under the Mountain (Richard Armitage) – as the rightful king of the dwarven realm. Because, you see, Smaug has taken over the dwarven forges and squats there. So Smaug must be dealt with before Thorin Oakenshield can reclaim his throne.
The story is simple. It’s your run-off-the-mill “Go there, do that”-plot. But this isn’t what makes this movie so great. Because this is a great movie. This is a movie that you should see. Hell, everyone should see it. As such, there’s no doubt that The Desolation of Smaug will make a lot of money. And it deserves every bit of it. However, there is one thing you need to know, should you decide on a whim to go see it next weekend: This movie is the second part of one story. You will need to have seen the first part – The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – in order to fully enjoy the sequel.
Now, with that out of the way, let’s get right into the good stuff: This movie does most of everything right. By far the most amazing part of the Tolkien films (The three Lord of the Rings films and the Hobbits) is the insane level of detail that goes into the production. Remember that scene in “An Unexpected Journey” where the dwarves are eating at Bilbo’s? You believed that there were dwarves and Hobbits in Middle Earth, yes? Everything was so thought-through, so accurate, so breathtakingly amazing? This is this entire movie. You will believe that they built Lake-Town. You will believe that there are giant forges under a mountain. You will believe that there are Elves in the woods and they live in a badass castle-like estate. Obviously, they didn’t build the entire village. Obviously, there’s no Mirkwood, no Elves, no castles belonging to the made-up race in the made-up forest. And that’s where the production team outdid themselves.
They blended the CGI and reality so well, that for the most part, you can’t tell where one begins and where the other ends. The big chase scene down the river where our party escapes from drunken Elves, pursued by Goblins and Elves alike, looks brilliant. It’s exciting, looks absolutely real and it’s only your mind that tells you that this can’t be real and barrels don’t really work that way.
If you’re like the Uncannies, you will go see the movie in English and you’ll have to suffer through subtitles on screen. While this is usually really bothersome, the movie has done something amazing. Say Gandalf stands to the far left of the screen and tells Bilbo something. The subtitles will appear to the right so that the main focus of the picture doesn’t get overwritten. While we’d still prefer no subtitles at all, this is probably as good as it gets when it comes to subtitling things and it shows that even the translation crew and the people who set the subtitles cared. Well done.
Of course, this movie continues the trend of its predecessor and plays to all its strengths: Dwarves aren’t just comic relief, they’re noble people who know how to handle themselves. They’re neither plucky nor graceful. They’re just dwarves. And Bilbo’s a flawed hero if there ever was one. He doesn’t really want all this for the most part. He is still referred to as The Burglar, whereas he keeps repeating that he’s never stolen a thing in his life. Yet he is rather competent at it, because Hobbits are light on their feet and quick in their heads. Yet he deceives his allies who aren’t necessarily friends by still keeping the Magic Ring (yes, The One Ring) a secret. Adding to that is a political intrigue in Lake-Town, a glimpse at the econonmy of Middle Earth that seems neither out of place nor forced nor overdone and enough exciting scenes to have you entertained throughout the movie.
The amazing scenery, the fantastic story and the mindblowingly amazing special effects – are they still called special effects if they don’t make anything look special but just like actual reality? – come at a cost, though. Whereas “An Unexpected Journey” was entertaining from beginning to end, “The Desolation of Smaug” makes you feel its length. Sure, Journey was long, but Desolation actually feels long. By the time our party of heroes reaches the beautiful Lake-Town, the movie hits a bit of a dry spell that it doesn’t quite manage to recover from until the very end. It’s still far from boring, it’s just long and it doesn’t seem to end for a bit.
Another minor complaint is that Smaug’s character is rather inconsistent. At first, he’s a very eloquent, very smart and very intelligent opponent who vastly outmatches puny Bilbo, even with the One Ring. All in all, Bilbo’s pretty screwed. Later on, when the party shows up, he’s easily confused and distracted. While this, too, doesn’t ruin the movie, it is a complaint. Even if it’s on a rather high level.
On a personal note: I miss the dwarves’ singing.
All in all, “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” is a must-watch movie, just like its predecessor and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Because this shows us the best in movies. They show us that movies can fool audiences into believing the fantastic without CGI. They show us what hard work, dedication and a lot of money used right can do for an illusion on screen. Therefore: It deserves every franc, rubel, dollar and yen it makes and you should go see it.