The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – review

Peter Jackson directs The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug, the 2nd movie in The Hobbit trilogy, the continuation of the prequels’ story as the company of travelling dwarves, Bilbo and Gandalf draw closer to Erebor and to Smaug, encountering new challenges and threats along the way. The main cast returns with new additions in Elf king Thranduil (Lee Pace), Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), the returning Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Bard the bowman (Luke Evans), Mikael Persbrandt (Beorn). Lee Pace is geat as Thranduil, a reluctant an harsh ruler, out to safeguard his people, not caring for Dwarves, while Tauriel, a character invented for the films specifically brings a nice, different take on Elves to the story and Evangeline Lilly plays the role well.

The Desolation Of Smaug picks up where The Hobbit left off as the company continues onto the mountain and the film has slightly darker tone to the plot, with the story of the necromancer (Sauron) gradually returning to power in Minas Morgul as an interesting side story. And we also get the side stories that the setting of Laketown provides, with Bard the Bowman and the towns mayor. Meanwhile Saurons evil influence and power is felt across middle earth with increasing numbers of Orcs and giant spiders, this sub plot as a nod to the rise of Sauron was a nice touch, not really relevant to the story of The Hobbit but cool easter eggs for Lord Of The Rings fans. Though the main story of The Desolation Of Smaug follows along the same lines as An Unexpected Journey with a lot of trekking across middle earth and the company encountering different challenges as they get captured 3 times in the film alone, in varying circumstances.

The Dwarves are again a driving force of the plot with their bantering and playing off of each other, though there is more depth and new dimensions to certain characters explored via Thorin and Killi, as well as Bilbo, who grows as a character throughout the trilogy and you see active development in his character. More development of the different dwarves would have been a nice but fleshing them all out would  understandably have been a logistical nightmare with the runtime the film already has and as it is, I feel that Desolation is well paced and flows well enough.

There is a bit more action in the film and the set pieces are somewhat bigger in scope and definitely more long winded, especially that river chase sequence involving the Dwarves and the orcs, you know that I’m talking about, the set pieces are again CG heavy and some scenes do look even more like cartoons but the story is still an engaging watch. Not using Smaug himself that much in the film is a criticism, though for the little we do see of him, he does come across as  a menacing and formidable evil force feeling voiced fantastically by the evergreen Benedict Cumberbatch.

The Desolation Of Smaug stands as a more well rounded, evenly balanced film than The Hobbit which may have felt a bit too light in tone for some, the action and set pieces are bigger in scope and it’s great to see even more new, different parts of middle earth, the stakes are higher and the story is told well, with a bit of a darker tone and more action as the Dwarves converge on the Lonely Mountain.

8/10

. Plot adds more depth to some characters,  good dramatic moments

. Great, fun set pieces with some good action scenes

. New character additions to the plot fit in with the story well

. People may be disappointed with the lack of desolation in relation to Smaug

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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – review

Peter Jackson brings us all back to Middle Earth for another trilogy in The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey, a prequel to The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, with a great cast including the returning Ian Mckellen as Gandalf and Elijah Wood as Frodo, while Richard Armitage, Martin Freeman, James Nesbitt and Aiden Turner among a host of others also star.

The film was somewhat new territory, being filmed and shopped in 40FPS and being the first true full HD Lord Of The Rings film and understandably it looks great, from the costumes in the film to elemental effects to the various locations in the film, The Hobbit is a bit of a visual feast, everything looks very bright, colourful and vibrant for the most part. Which falls nicely in line with the brighter, lighter tone of the film and book itself, being a childs novel and significantly shorter than the Lord Of the Rings novels.

The story this time around takes place in another part of middle earth and focuses on Bilbo and his adventure decades before the Lord Of The Rings story as he reluctantly joins a company of dwarves, led by Thorin (Richard Armitage) as they seek to reclaim their home of Erebor, which has been taken by the menacing dragon, Smaug. And for a LOTR fan, you’ll probably be right at home, exploring a different side of middle earth, still occupied by orcs, goblins and elves but with a quite different feel, a lot of this differing tone is brought on by the cast of Dwarves who bring a bantering, jovial nature to The Hobbit. Though in essence, following a group of characters (in the Dwarves) with no sense of belonging and home is quite a tragic, dark story and the loss of Erebor was to Smaug was pretty calamitous and An Unexpected Journey sets you up to empathise with the Dwarves and their plight.

Ian Mckellen as Gandalf is again in his element and great to see in the role, 10 years after the end of The Lord Of the Rings, while the new addition of Martin Freeman as Bilbo is a great chasting choice, playing the straight, cautious character of Bilbo, wholly unprepared for a journey a few minutes away, let alone outside of the shire itself. While Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield is fantastic, bringing a darker, more sombre mood to the film, helping to balance the often childish humor which may throw some long time Lord Of The Rings off initially. That being said, the tone wasn’t really a huge issue for me, as it fits the quirky, jovial nature of the Dwarves. The pacing however may be a broader issue, with the first third of the film being a bit of a slog, the film takes a while to really get going but gets progressively more interesting as it goes on. The set pieces are quite large in scale but great spectacle, often full of CGI which may take you out of them a bit as scenes look a bit cartoony, but the action is still pretty solid enough.

And some more on the tone, the film has a brilliant soundtrack, well tempered to each scene and fitting of a Lord Of The Rings film, from the more sombre, ominous music in scenes with the orcs to the more triumphant, uplifting music when things are going well. There are darker moments in the film nearer the end, with characters in danger and while the solutions may seem a bit predictable, the darker moments temper events and make the story all the more engaging, with the Orc Azog, Thorins’ arch enemy being a formidable foe for the travelling company. And for a film that’s over 2 and a half hours long, the plot certainly flies along once it’s in its stride, with well done dramatic moments and a particularly fun scene with Bilbo and Gollum playing riddles in a cave,  An Unexpected Journey is a fun start to The Hobbit trilogy, lighter in tone but well balanced, with some pacing issues but overall good flow to it, it’s a good introduction to story of The Hobbit.

7/10

. Film looks great visually, albeit a bit CGI heavy

. Great great performances from Richard Armitage, Ian Mckellen, Martin Freeman

. Brilliant use of costumes, locations, re-imagining Middle-Earth

Fantasy week!

So I didn’t actually make any announcement of this on the blog just yet but I’ve been planning another themed week of reviews for a while now, having done sci-fi, 90s and horror on here in years gone by, anyway it’s time for a new area I haven’t touched – fantasy! Starting today, a solid week of daily reviews in the genre of the fantastical.

I hope you’ll enjoy the reviews and I’ll hopefully do some more themed weeks in future, enjoy!

Top 5 fantasy worlds

Here are some of the other themed weeks I’ve done.

Horror-ween – (End of October 2015)

90s Film week – (Mid – end of August 2015)

Sci-fi Week (End of September – October 2015)

 

 

London and the UK will not cower

So you probably know about the terrorist attacks that happened over here in London last night, terrifying, disgusting attacks of cowardice carried out by deranged individuals, casualties were had and lives lost but I just want to say much respect to the first responders, police and condolences to any families of the people that were involved in the events.

And also I wanted to make a general statement, London isn’t scared, fear and terror will never win and we stand united, today, tomorrow and every day, despite anything that happens, we stand together. Life goes on and the British spirit won’t be broken, much love to the people of London and if you’re feeling down in the dumps, keep your chin up and I hope this post somehow has brightened your day a little bit!

June film preview

So June is right around the corner and as we reach the mid point of the year, here’s a look at some upcoming films for the next 30 days as summer film season really gets into gear. US release dates by default.

Wonder Woman – released on the 2nd of June

Directed by Patty Jenkins

Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Danny Huston.

Origin story and the latest film in the DCEU sees Diana Princess of of Themyscira (home of the Amazonian warriors) discover herself as a person, accidentally coming into contact with American pilot Steve Trevor during WWI, shes goes with him to London to try and end the war, with her having a bit of a culture shock along the way.

 

The Mummy – released on the 9th of June

Directed by Alex Kurtzman

Starring: Tom Cruise, Annabelle Wallis, Sofia Boutella, Jake Johnson, Courtney B Vance, Russel Crowe.

Reboot of the horror franchise of the same name, set in London as the ancient force of Princess Ahmanet is unleashed by archaeologists accidentally, including Nick Morton who seems to be being targeted by her personally as she tries to take over the world, Nick seeks the help of organization ‘Predigium’ in order to fight off Ahmanet and save the world.

 

It Comes At Night – released on the 9th of June

Directed by Trey Edward Shults

Starring: Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbot, Carmen Ejogo, Riley Keough, Kelvin Harrison Jr.

Psychological thriller set in a cabin in the woods, a families meticulous home balance is off set by a young man looking for refuge, all the while everyone is paranoid about something potentially outside and the dangers it may bring.

 

Cars 3 – released on the 16th of June

Directed by Brian Fee

Starring: Owen Wilson, Cristela Alonzo, Armie Hammer, Larrie the Cable Guy, Bonnie Hunt, John Ratzenberger, Tony Shalhoub.

Third film in the Cars series sees Lightning McQueen struck by tragedy after an accident in a race, he strives to race in the Florida 500, training and rehabilitating with Cruz Ramirez, while facing off against a generation of newer, faster cars.

 

Transformers: The Last Knight – released on the 21st of June

Directed by Michael Bay

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Tyrese Gibson, Stanley Tucci, Josh Duhamel, Anthony Hopkins, Isabel Moner, Santiago Cabrera, Jerrod Carmichael.

The latest film in the Transformers series sees war ensuing between humans and Transformers, following Optimus Primes’ long absence from earth, Cade Yeager teams up with an English lord and university professor to find out why the Transformers keep coming to earth, while an arising evil forces threaten to take over the planet.

 

Baby Driver – released on the 28th of June

Directed by Edgar Wright

Starring: Ansel Elgort, Lily James, Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Jon Bernthal, Eiza Gonzalez, Sky Ferreria.

Crime thriller centred around exceptionally talented get away driver Baby who suffers from Tinnitus but drowns it out with music, he works for the mysterious criminal ‘Doc’ but after meeting a certain girl, he strives to get away from his life of crime and run away with her, though this escape from his lifestyle may be harder than he thinks.

 

Despicable Me 3– released on the 30th of June

Directed by Pierre Coffin, Kyle Balda.

Starring: Steve Carrel, Kristen Wiig, Trey Parker, Miranda Cosgrove, Steve Coogan, Julie Andrews.

Animated comedy set around the formerly evil Gru, who re-unites with his long lost and more successful twin brother, Dru who wants Gru to suit up for one last heist for the two of them.