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Thursday, July 2, 2020

Movie Review: 'Smaug' alert for 'The Hobbit'

Wednesday, January 8, 2014 by PAUL WILLISTEIN in Focus

Let's make this perfectly clear.

This movie review contains a spoiler.

Spoiler alert!

You've heard of that.

It's when a movie reviewer or someone writing or discussing a movie gives away a key plot point, one that might "spoil" the movie for you if you haven't seen it because the suspense or surprise of not knowing the reveal, or story resolve, or plot outcome, is removed.

It's necessary for me to reveal the outcome of "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" because the movie has one of the most abrupt, irritating and movie studio anger-inducing endings in recent memory.

Spoiler alert (Second warning)! Here we go:

Smaug does not die in "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug."

For the presumtive slaying of Smaug, the gargantuan monster dragon that talks (Benedict Cumberbatch in an electronically-altered voice sounding like that of Black Sabbath's "Iron Man") you must wait for the sequel, third and final (the first was "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," 2012) in "The Hobbit" trilogy.

You will have to wait until the December 2014 release of "The Hobbit: There and Back Again."

Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), Ian McKellen (Gandalf), Thorin (Richard Armitage), Balin (Ken Stott), Dwalin (Graham McTavish), Legolas (Orlando Bloom), Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and the rest of the dwarves, elves and orcs will be back.

And, of course, that dreaded dragon, Smaug, will be back.

If you're a fan of the classic fantasy novels, "The Hobbit," "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Silmarillion" (the latter has not been made into a movie) by J.R.R. Tolkien and the movies directed by Peter Jackson, you'll be ... back ... there ... again, too.

Jackson is making quite a cottage industry more like mansion industry of "The Hobbit," as is the studio releasing the films based on the beloved books.

In addition to directing the first two "Hobbit" films and the forthcoming third part, Jackson directed "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," 2001; "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," 2003, and "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers," 2002.

Jackson utilizes the latest in computer-generated imagery. His attention to detail in "The Desolation of Smaug" is astounding.

Among the places in Tolkien's world of Arda and Middle-Earth that Jackson plunges us into is the tangled Milkwood Forest (arachnophobia alert: the dwarfs are attacked by huge, repulsive spiders), the cozy and decrepitly charming Lake-town, and the Lonely Mountain kingdom hall lair of Smaug.

For this review, "The Desolation of Smaug" was seen in Imax 3D. My son, Elias, accompanied me. It was his third time seeing the film. He previously saw it in 2D. It is unnecessary to see "The Desolation of Smaug" in 3D. Elias agreed. Still, we were glad to see it in the large Imax format, which thunders the score by Howard Shore into your ears, as well as chest-rattling sonic effects.

Visually, "The Desolation of Smaug" has a gritty, mucky, predominantly brown and gray palette. One thing that Jackson does admirably, and which not many film-makers accomplish in a color film, is an emphasis and clear filming of actors' eyes.

The screenplay co-written by Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Guillermo del Toro, takes liberties with the Tolkien source material. Elias pointed out that the character of Tauriel was added by the screenwriters, as were certain battle scenes and sequences.

The acting is mostly from the action-oriented firm of pensive look, grimace and startled react.

Freeman gives the most sympathetic performance as Bilbo Baggins. He's the audience's way into the story and with whom one most identifies. I would have enjoyed even more scenes with Freeman and his dwarf-mates.

McKellen is wonderful as Gandalf. One can never have too many scenes with him, too.

Bloom, as Legolas, is also quite memorable.

"The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" were cult classics of literature to the 1960's generation. It was kind of a teen-age extension of the imaginary children's world of Winnie-the-Pooh.

That's why the extensive, often graphic, violence, of which one third seems to occupy "The Desolation of Smaug," is a turn-off. Then again, this is not your grandfather's "Hobbit." It's geared toward video-game playing, action-oriented teens and twentysomethings.

What's the verdict on "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug"? It's a fan-pleaser and a fan-teaser.

They'll be there and back again for the third and we think final chapter, "The Hobbit: There and Back Again."

"The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," MPAA Rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some Material May Be Inappropriate For Children Under 13.) for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images; Genre: Adventure, Fantasy; Run time: 2 hrs. 41 min.; Distributed by New Line Cinema, MGM.

Credit Readers Anonymous: Stephen Colbert has a cameo as a Lake-town spy in "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." Peter Jackson has a cameo as a carrot-eating towns person in the opening scene in Bree.

Box Office, Jan. 3: The No. 1 revolving door continued, with "Frozen" icing back up from No. 2 to No. 1, with $20.7 million, $297.8 million, seven weeks; keeping "Paranormal Activity; The Marked Ones," opening at No. 2, with $18.2 million, and giving "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" a slippery slope from No. 1 to No. 3, with $16.2 million, $229.6 million, four weeks;

4. "The Wolf of Wall Street," $13.4 million, $63.2 million, two weeks; 5. "American Hustle," $13.2 million, $88.7 million, four weeks; 6. "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues," $11.1 million, $109.1 million, three weeks; 7. "Saving Mr. Banks," $9 million, $59.3 million, four weeks; 8. "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," $8.2 million, $45.6 million, two weeks; 9. "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," $7.4 million, $407.4 million, seven weeks; 10. "Grudge Match," $5.4 million, $24.9 million, two weeks

Box Office, Dec. 27: "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" continued at No. 1, three weeks in a row, $29 million, $189 million, three weeks, freezing out "Frozen," which slipped back up from No. 3 to No. 2, with $28.5 million, $248.1 million, six weeks, dropping "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues" from No. 2 to No. 3, with $19.6 million, $83.1 million, two weeks;

4. "American Hustle," $18.7 million, $59.1 million, three weeks; 5. "The Wolf of Wall Street," $18.3 million, $34.1 million, one week; 6. "Saving Mr. Banks," $13.5 million, $37.3 million, three weeks; 7. "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," $12.8 million, $25.4 million, one week; 8. "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," $10 million, $390 million, six weeks; 9. "47 Ronin," $9.9 million, $20.6 million, one week; 10. "Walking with Dinosaurs 3D," $7.2 million, $20 million, two weeks

Unreel, Jan. 10:

"The Legend of Hercules," PG-13: The mythical Greek hero gets an update, directed by Renny Harlin and starring Kellan Lutz, Gaia Weiss, Scott Adkins and Roxanne McKee in the action-adventure film.

"One Chance," PG-13: James Corden, Mackenzie Crook and Julie Walters star in the drama based on the true story of Paul Potts, who won "Britain's Got Talent."

Read Paul Willistein's movie reviews at the Lehigh Valley Press web site,; the Times-News web site,; and hear them on "Lehigh Valley Art Salon," 6 - 6:30 p.m. Mondays, WDIY 88.1 FM, and, where they're archived. Email Paul Willistein: pwillistein@ You can follow Paul Willistein on Twitter and friend Paul Willistein on facebook.