Clear outlook, with a touch of Smaug
What are we going to do for Christmas 2015? 2014 will bring the final chapter in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit Trilogy, the entire Rings series effectively a Christmas cinema trip tradition at this stage. Maybe Jackson actually is Santa, aprés his bottles of Just For Men, or indeed maybe he has actual living Weta CGI in use about his visage.
But let’s not worry about that just yet, we’ll cross that New Zealand mountain when we come to it. For now we have the latest Tolken installment rendered in HFR (high frame rate) 3D, just as the author would have wanted it, maybe. ’The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’ pics up immediately after the previous chapter. Thankfully it has learned alot from that episode too. There was an element of ’The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ that felt a tad method acting, but for the audience, wherein we had to endure the journey itself, such was the length of the movie. Rather than an extended version, I would have happily bludgeoned out at least 40mins, & I LOVE long movies. Lessons learned, there’s no such problem with this new delight. It literally belts along like a gap year student barrelling down white water rapids.
Also, the HFR seems to have got much closer to something wonderful as opposed to looking like an American TV show import dvd, the fakeness becoming far more natural, even radiant. It has to be said that all the actual New Zealand landscapes look utterly stunning in this format, as they do it reality, so do try and see it in that presentation if possible.
So we’re back on the nasty webbed hurdle strewn path of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman wonderfully filling the big feet of the character) & his squabbling bunch of cohorts, on the way to The Lonely Mountain to try to reclaim the Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor.
The pacing is (thankfully) far faster than the previous journey, and there’s a wonderful diversity of lands that they pass through on the way to the mountain. Particular mention must go to Lake-town, the final port stop prior to the mountain. A beautifully rendered Dickensian gutter hole of a town built on a lake, it’s inhabitants still traumatised from a devastating historical meeting with the Dragon Smaug. It’s overseer being the lamentable, despicable and pestilent Master of Lake-town, beautifully played by Stephen Fry, and supported by his rank fish oil greased subordinate Alfrid (Ryan Gage). Blinded by the greed of potential untold wealth, Lake-town effectively comes across like Wall Street on a lake.
But there is great beauty too, in landscape, humanity and in the guise of Evangeline Lilly playing Tauriel, the kind of Elfin warrior you’d really like standing beside you on your daily commute to work.
But let’s not forget the Dragon Smaug, the reason the Dwarf Kingdom was lost in the first place, and current resident of Lonely Mountain. Is there anything Benedict Cumberbatch can’t make enthralling? He could make the periodic table sound epic. But his multi-faceted rendering of Smaug really is excellent, flipping from a near immortal being, to petulant child (although be it a gigantic fire breathing child with scales, wings, tail etc) almost in a single sentence. As with Andy Serkis and Gollum, the character morphs before your eyes into a fully realised entity. The full realisation of which will no doubt come to devastating effect in the closing of the tale (tail) next year.
There are a gluttony of other great moments throughout the film, an unforgettable, utterly beautifully ludicrous Elfin parkour meets Buster Keaton (Jackson is a life long fan) water ride whilst being chased by Orcs with daddy issues, that really have to be seen/enjoyed, as no worded description can do it justice.
The series is really in it’s stride now, wonderful entertainment, but with intelligence, warmth, heart and beautiful levels of details and artistry mixed in to the soup of adventure. It really sets the table for an outstanding last Christmas meal in 2014.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is out now, released by Warner Bros. Pictures.