Wednesday, January 1, 2014 6:30 PM Eastern Standard Time, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

Smaug

If you are one of the Hobbit purists who hoped for a Peter Jackson film completely faithful to the book, then perhaps you have the wrong Director and Screenwriting team.  But The Desolation of Smaug was, to most of the rest of us, an amazingly entertaining ride.  I was skeptical about this follow-up because I was dissatisfied with An Unexpected Journey (see below) and purposely stayed clear of the production videos this time so the magic didn’t fade into the background of the special effects.

I got what I paid for in a film that kept me enthralled from start to finish.  My 17 year old said there was too much talking and not enough action!  I totally disagree!  From giant spiders to whitewater barrel rides and a showdown under the Lonely Mountain with the magnificent dragon Smaug, it seemed somehow less contrived as a theme park ride this time.   Ok, I did think the barrel scenes went on too long.  We already have that ride at Kennywood Park and Six Flags.   But it WAS fun.

One of our party remarked that Legolas seemed  a completely different character than in the LOTR trilogy.   It is not fair to compare his prequel character to his trilogy character because he wasn’t given much to say or do in the trilogy in comparison to others.  In this film he had a major role to play.  I believe the screenwriters showed us how this Elven Prince was influenced by his father and also the background we needed for his hatred of Dwarves. We know that Elves are fleet of foot and now we see that Elf warrior women have some skills with a bow, a blade, and some acrobatic moves.

It did not bother me to have a love triangle of sorts added to the story.   It makes sense to have some sexual tension in a film otherwise devoid of it when you add a beautiful She-Elf to the story, one blessed with Evangeline Lilly’s figure, and you put her in a tight-fitting costume and give her dead aim with a bow and the strength to kill dozens of orcs in hand to hand combat while doing cartwheels and bounding off rock walls.    Maybe next time around there will be a whole division of warrior She-Elfs?  She can’t be the only one!

Quite a few heads were severed, and I admit I laughed out loud in surprise at a couple of the beheadings which kind of disturbed me!

Bilbo was far more at ease with his sword as he skewered quite a few Orcs in this episode.

The best part of course was the way Jackson gradually revealed Smaug to us.  First an eye, then a tip of a tail emerge from the huge hoard of gold he has been slumbering in — that is one huge dragon!  And I am grateful to Jackson for understanding how much time we wanted with Smaug. The scenes that are not in the book were welcome simply because they gave us more, and they gave the Dwarves a larger hand in extracting their revenge.  It makes sense that they would have wanted to be actively involved in Smaug’s defeat.   The great Thorin Oakenshield was not one to let others do his dirty work. They had come all that way apparently thinking that  a small and quiet Hobbit could pilfer their Family Jewel without waking the beast and place it in their waiting hands.   But once the beast was awake and ready to roast them all with his firey breath, they were more than up for the fight.  

One hole in the plot to me was that Gandalf had to send Radagast to physically get a message to Galadriel.  I thought she was communicating telepathically to him just a few scenes earlier!

I don’t know why I never imagined Laketown as the Venice of Middle-earth, being totally built over water.  It should be far more difficult to burn down a city like that!   

I confess I didn’t see the ending coming.  I read about a cliff hanger, but I was not ready for it because I was absorbed in the action.  Another year to wait!

Nothing for it but to get my Smaug action figure and wait for the end of all things Hobbity with the final installment next December.

Friday, December 14, 10:30 PM Eastern Standard Time, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania USA

We caught the 10:30 pm viewing on a whim instead of waiting for the family’s planned viewing. 3D but not HFR version.  Only 30 people there.   Wonder what the first weekend stats will be.

My initial thoughts:

It’s over already?  Nearly 3 hours and it didn’t seem like it at all.  Some reviewers said it dragged quite a bit in the middle.  I didn’t think so, but I’m a fan.

PJ says it’s more light-hearted than LOTR!??? Um, no, I don’t agree.  Was it the 3D?

Did anyone else feel like they were watching Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom during the Goblin Caves scenes?

I promise to stop watching all the pre-movie hype and “making of” video blogs from PJ because knowing it was “Dame Edna” AKA Barry Humphries acting the Goblin King totally ruined the character for me.

Did they really need to put bird poo in Radagast’s hair?  Ok, if you’ve got a birds’ nest under your hat, “bleep” happens, but still, not necessary, very distracting.

Martin Freeman — what a LOVELY Bilbo!  I just fell in love with the little guy.  Both Martin AND Bilbo!

Viggo, I apologize, but there’s another King in Middle-earth and he’s kicking butt too.   But you’ll always be my muse.

Tomorrow we see it again, but not in 3D.  This time with more family along.  Going to wait a few WEEKS for the HFR version LOL. More comments to come.

January 1, 2014.  Update.  I never did bother with the HFR version after all the bad reviews!  I did finally come to terms with the film’s theme park feel after several more DVD viewings — the book was a children’s story, and so I suppose in today’s world the Jackson version makes sense.

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