The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
"If in fact you find a sleeping dragon down there...don't waken it." - Balin
release year: 2013
viewing setting: home Bluray 4/29/18 and theater 12/24/13
synopsis: As Bilbo and the dwarves get closer to the dragon's mountain, other events are also afoot.
impressions: These movies may not be perfect adaptations of the written source material, but they will never be bad or lack entertainment value. As before, the filmmakers have woven together the original novel, supplemental material written later by Tolkien, and a bit of original stuff to make a rip-roaring adventure that's a hell of a lot of fun to watch. Among the cool settings here are an insular elven kingdom built inside trees and an intricate dwarven palace with halls, forges, and of course millions of gold coins serving as a bed for a huge dragon. The dragon looks great (and sounds both intelligent and evil) and there's also the hint of another, greater evil, the impending return of Sauron. One of these movies wouldn't be complete without some battles, and they're here; the highlight is the running fight as the orcs chase the dwarves, who are floating down the river in barrels, while two elves chasd everyone else and deal death as they run, leap, and bounce off of everything and everyone.
acting: There are a LOT of people here, and a few standouts. Martin Freeman is Bilbo, the reluctant (and sometimes incompetent) burglar who saves the day on several occasions. Richard Armitage is Thorin, leader of the dwarves on their quest. Ian McKellen is Gandalf, the wizard who always knows more than he tells everyone else about. Benedict Cumberbatch provides the sinister yet regal voice of the dragon Smaug. Luke Evans is Bard the bowman, who cares about the welfare of the common people and realizes what will happen if the dragon is agitated. Manu Bennett is the mean, scarred orc chief Azog. Evangeline Lilly is the (non-canon) elf warrior-woman Tauriel, who tends to think for herself instead of blindly obeying orders. Orlando Bloom reappears as the elf Legolas, who's deadly in battle. Lee Pace is Legloas' father the Elvenking, who's kind of a jackass. Aidan Turner is memorable as the dwarf Fili, who develops a crush on the elf Tauriel. There are many others, but I'm not writing an essay here.
final word: Another grand and lengthy chapter in a fantasy epic; I don't think an overall better job could have been done adapting these to the big screen.
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