The Desolation of Smaug – Thoughts


Well, they’ve done it again. Those nerds at Weta Digital have conjured another fully-formed digital character that is expressive, fascinating, and generally quite evil.

Smaug, the stupendous.

After Gollum, Caesar, and all of those blue cat aliens, what else could they do to set the bar higher?

Get Benedict Cumberbatch to voice the character. That’s what.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug weirdly fractures its storyline and takes a great deal of focus away from the personal development of Bilbo, instead choosing to iris out for a much larger-scale view of the events which are so nicely encapsulated in the slender tome that makes up the printed, book-form story this film is based upon.

And yet it all works. There is a great deal more world-revealing going on in this film, and some of it even feels rushed. Gandalf virtually splinters off into his own, distinct storyline for the majority of the picture (which created something of an existential issue for Ian McKellan while shooting scenes for this particular installment.)

There are exotic locales and fantastic beasts of all kinds, and plenty of action. I found myself dreaming up a ridiculous sequence involving the dwarves’ Barrel-Rapids Escape® (future name of a ride at the inevitable Middle Earth World Theme Park) right on the cusp of when said sequence actually unfolded in the film. And my, what a cartoonish and incredible sequence it is. Full of Legolas and arrows and orcs and glory.

There are some vague, political themes floated at Laketown (pun intended) and Bard the Bowman is merely known as Bard the Barge-man. Stephen Fry does a delightful turn as the ignominious Master of Laketown, and Stephen Colbert plays one of his lackeys. Ryan Gage does his best to skirt the Wormtongue comparisons by pushing his character, Alfrid, into Gilliam territory.

Everything culminates in a ruined-Erebor action sequence that is really strange, but definitely awesome. And seeing this film in 3D is a must. The action is dizzying. And there’s Benedict Cumberbatch. His voice also utters the Black Speech of Mordor as the shapeless Necromancer.

No Gollum in this one. Kind of a bummer. Gotta love Smaug, though.

2012 ~ The Year in Film

Admittedly, I didn’t see a great many “films” theatrically in 2012. I spent a decent portion of 2011 ingesting a glut of films for free at a theater that still used the actual medium of film, but in 2012, I daresay I saw perhaps only one legitimate “film.”

The Master
Enigmatic. Surreal. Mesmerizing. Discomforting.

That film, was The Master. By no means an endearing experience, it is nonetheless an unshakeable one. This film springs from a dusty, high, forgotten shelf of cinema  where a few peers may reside. Perhaps Aguirre: The Wrath of God? Perhaps The Thin Red Line? I don’t know what else to compare it to.  It’s just… extant. Great performances all around, but the connection between the film’s titular character and Scientology-founder L. Ron Hubbard is tenuous and oblique. P.T. Anderson seems to have something to say about the apparent futility of soul-searching in a world replete with charlatans who employ technology as a means of enlightenment, but I’ll be darned if I know what it is.

Balin & Dwalin
Dwarf Lords from Under the Mountain

Now I am brought to my top 10 list of movies from 2012. The #1 spot is taken by The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, unsurprisingly. I have been a Tolkien fan since my youth, and originally read The Hobbit from an illustrated version that my mother bought for my cousin. Gollum’s cave is etched deeply into my remembered childhood imagination. Peter Jackson’s return to Middle Earth is at once triumphant, cataclysmic, and like the arrival of a dear, old friend on your doorstep.

Jack Black’s greatest role.

My second favorite film came as something of a surprise. I had known of Richard Linklater’s new(er) film, Bernie, for a while. Strictly speaking, the film was completed back in 2011, but it didn’t see the light of day as far as a distributor until 2012. Why on earth it took me so long to finally watch it, I cannot say. I do know I will NOT miss out on Linklater’s next project, a third entry in the Before Sunrise series, with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. I digress. Jack Black does something amazing, here. He inhabits the entire length, breadth, and width of his idiosyncratic, real-life character’s personality traits and proclivities, delivering a performance that is so bizarre and true, it could not have ever been invented. Read that last sentence aloud, without taking any breaths. Sorry about that.

And the list goes ever on and on, down from the door where it began.

  1. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
  2. Bernie
  3. Jiro Dreams of Sushi
  4. Moonrise Kingdom
  5. Kari-gurashi no Arietti (The Secret World of Arrietty)
  6. Looper
  7. The Avengers
  8. Les Misérables
  9. The Master
  10. The Dark Knight Rises

Here is a list of ALL 2012 releases which I have seen, specifically. An all-time low: total number equaling 18. I aim to do a little better in 2013.

  • Brave – theatrical
  • Les Misérables – theatrical
  • The Master – theatrical (film!)
  • Kari-gurashi no Arietti (The Secret World of Arrietty) – theatrical
  • The Avengers – theatrical
  • The Dark Knight Rises – theatrical
  • The Hunger Games – theatrical
  • Skyfall – theatrical
  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – theatrical
  • Prometheus – theatrical
  • John Carter – theatrical
  • Looper – theatrical
  • Chronicle – theatrical
  • Moonrise Kingdom – RedBox
  • Bernie – Netflix
  • Jiro Dreams of Sushi – Netflix
  • Take This Waltz – On-demand
  • The Innkeepers – DVD