Written by Markus Robinson, Edited by Nicole I. Ashland
Markus Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images
Now playing at Century 20 Oakridge Mall in San Jose, California:
To paraphrase Matt Atchity, Editor in Chief of Rotten Tomatoes, this is the second part of the cynical cash grab adaptation of “The Hobbit”, from director Peter Jackson, which continues where “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” left off, with Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) and the dwarves walking around. But having actual action and adventure in your action/adventure movie, goes a long way. Right off the bat, this installment is leaps and bounds better than its predecessor on the sole basis that this action/adventure doesn’t take nearly two hours to get going.
More improvements: There are tons more intimidating and grotesque looking villains that keep this story moving forward (the giant spiders stand as one of the scariest things I’ve seen on the big screen, all year) even though the plot consists of a highly repetitive formula, wherein they guys walk around, run into a group of hostile enemies (who all seem to be anit-dwarfist) get captured, have to hear a slathering of anti-dwarf propaganda, believe all is lost, miraculously escape, walk around some more, run into different hostile enemies, get recaptured and start the process all over again. But it was the actual battle sequences which really made me lean forward in my seat. From the extremely well choreographed river sequence, laced with superb comedic timing and the best camerawork since The Two Towers, to the 40 minute battle with a fire breathing dragon named Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) a dragon more impressive looking than anything in that new “Godzilla” trailer, it’s good that Jackson finally realized the likelihood of people actually enjoying this series, is predicated on its entertainment value. Back to basics.
One of my biggest complaints about my “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” movie going experience, was the 48 frames per second aspect. This was an argument against the film that many critics outright and irresponsibly disregarded; as if how the film looked has nothing to do with ones movie going experience. Anyway, according to a recent article in The Guardian, Peter Jackson admits to “softening the high definition of this newest installment” so as to make it more cinematic. And though “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” is not quite 24fps, it is obviously a much better visual experience all around, thus enabling our eyes to simply focus on the masterful direction that Jackson brings to the table, instead of being distracted by a filming technique that repeatedly takes the viewer out of the cinematic world.
Final Thought: The content is still really stretched out, the film is still a bit too long (maybe 30 minutes or so) and there is some exposition that I didn’t quite understand, but didn’t seem relevant to this installment. BUT, with a film where (going in) I knew it would be nearly three hours long, wouldn’t have a “real” ending since there is still one more film to come and was the sequel to a film that nearly made my list of the ten worst movies of 2012, the fact that “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” was mostly a non-stop thrill ride and had more of a comedic edge than any of the last four Jackson hobbit driven productions, really doesn’t leave me much to complain about.
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