Katniss Everdeen voluntarily takes her younger sister's place in the Hunger Games, a televised fight to the death in which two teenagers from each of the twelve Districts of Panem are chosen at random to compete.
After successfully crossing over (and under) the Misty Mountains, Thorin and Company must seek aid from a powerful stranger before taking on the dangers of Mirkwood Forest--without their Wizard. If they reach the human settlement of Lake-town it will be time for the hobbit Bilbo Baggins to fulfill his contract with the dwarves. The party must complete the journey to Lonely Mountain and burglar Baggins must seek out the Secret Door that will give them access to the hoard of the dragon Smaug. And, where has Gandalf got off to? And what is his secret business to the south? Written by
Aside from providing the voice of Smaug, Benedict Cumberbatch also supplied motion-capture performance to portray the dragon. However, since Smaug's body is impossible to motion-capture fully, only Cumberbatch's face, upper body and arms were captured and the rest of the body was completed in keyframe animation. See more »
As the company prepares to enter Mirkwood, the skies become overcast and it begins to rain. During this scene, there are shots of Gandalf where light and shadows show that he is standing in bright sunlight instead of overcast skies, with digital rain added in after filming. See more »
It never ceases to amaze me, the courage of Hobbits...
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Improves upon the first one just about enough to cover the weaknesses it shares with it
After seeing the first Hobbit film I must admit that I could have cared less about seeing the second and indeed it took me a minute to get back into it and I was grateful for the film giving me a "12 months earlier" scene to sum up what I am supposed to be following. It wasn't that the first film was bad (it is too expensive to be bad) but more than constant action and movement with no consequences or realism to engage me, really left me looking at a video game that I had no investment in (and I say this as a gamer). I didn't hope for much better when I went to see this sequel and, as Theo Robertson has said, perhaps this helped me enjoy the Desolation of Smaug more.
The plot has more to it than one encounter after another and connecting it to the later films was a good move that made me feel there was more content here although I think that was artificial, I will not deny that it worked. The action sequences retain the same problems as the first film, which is that nobody ever feels like they are in real danger no matter how long the fall, how low the odds or what is happening. The good thing is that because the film isn't one escape sequence after another, I didn't feel this so often although it is undeniably still a problem in these films. The characters were a little better than before although perhaps I was just more interested in them. Smaug in particular is a great creation visually and stylishly; just like the first film where my favorite parts were the still and tense sequences with Gollum, so too here the high point of the whole film is where Smaug is toying with his potential victims and it is such a shame that this was not done longer.
Visually the film remains a feast although, befitting the time of year, it is a Christmas feast where everything is good but it is endless and eventually just feels indulgent and gluttonous. This remains the case because the film almost never feels like it was shot wholly on a location. I remember the LotR films impressing me with their natural beauty but here even a shot of people walking across a field seems to have been digitally enhanced and, as good as it looks, it does remove me from the film somewhat. Visual effects are impressive but it does really hurt to see Jackson leaning towards the George Lucas "if we can do it then we should do it" school of effects management. The cast do solid jobs I liked Freeman and McKellan when they were allowed to be more than just special effects The dwarfs made more of an impression on me this time but the elves not so much Bloom remains stiff while Lilly sports the only unconvincing effect in the film in the shape of her ears. Cumberbatch was strong as the voice of Smaug and I enjoyed Fry and McCoy in supporting roles (shame the latter missed out on more time due to his Doctor Who efforts during the 50th anniversary year!).
The Desolation of Smaug is a solid blockbuster; lots of action, a decent story and strong special effects this is not the same as saying it is a great film though, but it does still entertain. The story remain distant due to the invincible characters and consequence free (but very seriously presented) action, which does prevent one being drawn into it. Of course I'll be there for the final film, but I really do hope than they focus on danger rather than spectacle and build the tension instead of just increasing the noise.
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