Director: Peter Jackson
Writers: Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Guillermo del Toro, from the Novel by J.R.R. Tolkein.
Starring: Ian McKellen (Gandalf), Martin Freeman (Bilbo), Richard Armitage(Thorin), Orlando Bloom (Legolas), Evangeline Lilly (Tauriel), Sylvester McCoy (Radagast), Luke Evans (Bard), Stephen Fry (The Master) and Benedict Cumberbatch (Smaug).
Yesterday I watched the second installment of the Hobbit trilogy, but this time in 48 FPS 3D. I haven't had a great deal of luck with these movies. When we watched the first one we had rotten seats, and this time some overly selfish hippy parents brought their 7 year old who whispered throughout the movie and afterwards had to be carried out as he was terrified.
But, like Bilbo, we soldiered on.
The second installment starts off with some more exposition of the history of Thorin, then moves quickly to the Dwarves and Bilbo fleeing from Azog and his Orcs, through Mirkwood and Lake town to the introduction of Smaug.
The hyper reality of 48 FPS 3D took a moment to get used to, but I think I liked it. However, if you do decide to go and see it I recommend that you sit in the middle as on the very edge there can be some blurring. It is certainly different and I think it is the next step in film.
As far as the story goes I enjoyed this considerably more than An Unexpected Journey. While I am not really sure that the exposition at the beginning added anything of value, and, like the previous film, Jackson has added combat where there was none in the book, this time it wasn't so tiresome. There were many points during the first movie when you could compare the antics of the Dwarves to a Keystone cops movie, however, Jackson appears to have found a better balance of action and humor here.
The look and production of the film was good; Lake town and Mirkwood looked fantastic. Lake town, especially with Stephen Fry as the corrupt master, has been well designed and had a great feel to it.
However, I think Jackson missed a great opportunity. Freedman is an excellent Bilbo and his performances were always good, and with the scenes between Smaug and Bilbo there was enormous potential for dialogue. Especially when you have the established relationship between Freeman and Cumberbatch to work with. But I thought the focus of the scene was not the dialogue, but the retrieval of the Arkenstone. Also, the scenes with the Dwarves and Smaug seemed to drag on. I understand that Jackson wants to show off his wonderful dragon, but I think the execution was misplaced and the film suffers again for it.
While purists will be frothing at the mouth over the additions to the plot, the most controversial turned out to be the most enjoyable. Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel was a superb addition, and one of the best female characters I have seen in years. Her story line, while a departure from the book, brought a well needed feminine side to the story. It was also the most compelling. While I am usually on the side of the purists, the decision to add Tauriel to the story was probably one of the best creative decisions Jackson has made.
The new visuals work well and the film doesn't drag on so much until the end. The performances were all good, and as you expect it is spectacular viewing. On the whole it was a better film than the first, but it still suffered a little from self indulgent film making. I enjoyed it.
7 monkeys from me.