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“If this is to end in fire, then we will all burn together.”
Can you believe it’s been nearly four years since I reviewed the first Hobbit movie? *Sigh*, how time flies. My tastes may have matured and expanded, and I like to think my writing has improved too, but my thoughts on The Hobbit trilogy haven’t changed. The Lord of the Rings trilogy is superior, obviously, but I’m quite fond of this slightly smaller yet no less exciting adventure. I went into great detail why in the previous review, but if I had to sum it up I like how it expands upon Middle Earth lore hinted at in Lord of the Rings while decently tying it back to the events of those movies, and it fixes some major character and plot issues I had that kept me from fully enjoying the book it was based on.
While The Hobbit films do suffer from some the same issues as another prequel trilogy that people love to harp on – mainly an over-reliance on CGI and some contrived plotting – I’m relieved to say that poor performances and production value are not among them. The fact that they were able to bring together some great newcomers to the franchise as well as get as many cast members and locations from Lord of the Rings to return and make it all not feel like fanservice is a testament to the writing, craftmanship and direction that went into making these films, even more so since they were under double the studio pressure than they were the first time around. And if I may be shallow for a moment, it also looks really nice. Sometimes I like nothing more than to get lost in an inviting woodland fantasy atmosphere and this scratches my itch every time.
Now we have the much-anticipated Part 2, The Desolation of Smaug. This incarnation of The Hobbit was originally supposed to end here. But at the last minute it was decided that the Battle of the Five Armies, which happens during the last fifty pages of the book, was too important to relegate to the last act of a film that could potentially overreach The Return of the King’s runtime so they made it its own separate movie. I should mention that the copy of Desolation of Smaug I’m reviewing is the theatrical version since I received it as a gift. I saw the extended edition when it came out on blu-ray and the comparison between the two is an…interesting one. The extended cut fixes some of the inconsistent pacing and adds a few welcome character moments both original and from the book, but the rest I could do without. Some scenes stop the movie, sidetrack the main plot for something else to happen and take you out of the moment as a result, or simply add way more than necessary. One of these days I might get around to editing my own cut combining the best of the two, but for now I’d say you’re better off sticking with the theatrical cut in this case. Just to give you an idea of what I’m talking about, I’ll give special mention to those parts when they’re supposed to come up. So let’s find out if it was it a wise decision to split these movies up or if those naysayers who edited the entire trilogy into one forty-five minute feature were right.