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What’s it About?

The dwarves, along with Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf the Grey, continue their quest to reclaim Erebor, their homeland, from Smaug.

“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”

Directed by Peter Jackson

8 out of 10

By Brian

It felt like I was in the minority but I enjoyed the first film in The Hobbit Trilogy. While I don’t believe that it was as thematically dramatic as the Lord of the Rings, it still contained wonderful bits of fantasy and entertaining characters. It ended on a cliffhanger (obviously, it was part 1 of 3) and that seemed to turn people off. I also read several complaints that the dragon wasn’t even seen except for a brief tease at the very end.

This brings us obviously to part 2, which is a definite improvement over the first both from a story and action perspective. This is “The Empire Strikes Back” episode. It’s much darker than the first, it places its heroes in far greater danger, and it does not have a tidy and happy ending. It also moves at a much more breakneck pace. There’s very little supposition. The answers are clear and definite in the story and the characters have a real progression as they move closer to their goals.

My original thought was that this was every bit as good as the first film in the Hobbit trilogy until Smaug the dragon shows up in the last 30 minutes. Wonderfully voiced by actor Benedict Cumberbatch, Smaug is a wonder of special effects design and one of the greatest digital creations in cinema history. Once the dragon enters the story, it is elevated from good to great and the scenes involving Bilbo’s interactions with Smaug are every bit as good as any of the Middle Earth films.

Side note: I saw this film in HFR (High Frame Rate, 48fps) 3D. I cannot recommend against it enough. While I have never been a fan of 3D and consider it a distracting experience, high frame rates are worse. It makes the entire film look like digital video. Special effects look faker, costumes on actors look cheaper, green screen backgrounds stand out, and motion looks cartoonish. If you have a choice, see it in good old fashioned 24 fps 2D. You’ll thank me later.

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