The Hobbit Part II— Roll Out the Barrel, Watch out for the Smog of Smaug

I went to see the Hobbit Part Two with some fear and trepidation. I was pretty disappointed with the first installment last year, which involved too much running and fighting and fighting and running underground etc. I had reconciled myself to the fact that Jackson having done the LOTR trilogy first was going to retroject some of that back into this story to create a seamless whole. A children’s tale it would not be. I was even o.k. with using bits from the Silmarillion saga, though why in the world Tom Bombadil got left out (I would cast Robin Williams in his role) is beyond me. Still, despite my disappointment, I had some hope for Part II as the reviews were better. And indeed, I am happy to report it was a good deal better than Part One.

I saw the film on the giant IMAX screen in Bellingham Washington last evening complete with my 3D glasses. I can tell you it takes a big screen to accommodate that super-sized dragon in this movie. He is a whopper. On the whole though, the 3D did not add a lot to the film, and notice it is not available in that super fast frames per second mode we got in the first installment.

What are the pluses of The Desolation of Smaug? Firstly, even at 2 hours and 41 minutes it has no dead spots and maintains one’s interest throughout. Secondly there are some enjoyable scenes of comic relief and good humor, as the relationship between Bilbo and the Dwarfs develops. Thirdly, the barreling down the river scene is a big highlight, as is the visit to the city on the lake and the elf fortress in Mirkwood.

But what should we think of the new, and non-Tolkien character Tauriel, played by the star of Lost, Evangeline Lilly? Certainly she adds some romantic interest to the story, which softens it a bit, which is nice, but one wonders what Tolkien would think? After all, its not like there aren’t positive female characters in LOTR. Still, Lilly is excellent in her role, and steals quite a few scenes. Peter Jackson noted that only 5% of the female portion of the acting guild could have played the athletic parts Tauriel plays in this movie. He’s probably right.

And this brings us to Ole Dragon Breath—- Smaug the greedy. He makes King Croesus look like a poor man. Benedict Cumberbatch does a fine job of breathing life (and fire) into ye old dragon, and I found the encounter between Bilbo and the dragon really quite well done. Though Bilbo (still brilliantly played by Martin Freeman) is austensibly after the arkenstone, this is nearly forgotten in the attempts to mess with the dragon, who by the way, will be reappearing in Part Three next summer.

In this installment we finally have almost the full range of characters in play– wizards, elves, dwarves, humans, hobbits, and of course the forces of darkness, orcs, Sauron etc. Missing in action however is Gollum. I expect to see him in again in Part Three. In the meantime, raise a glass to Peter Jackson. It was no small task to get this story on the screen in a way that was both fresh, entertaining and still retained the essential integrity of the story. Mission Accomplished. This one will leave you wanting more, not less.

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