The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug DVD/Blu-Ray
A review by
“If this is to end in fire…then we will all burn together”
And that pretty much sums up Thorin Oakenshield’s determination to achieve his goal of re-entering the Lonely Mountain and taking back what is rightfully his….no matter what the cost. And in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug we begin to get a glimpse of exactly what that cost might be.
In the long awaited DVD/Blu-Ray release of Peter Jackson’s second installment in a trilogy of films adapted from J.R.R. Tokien’s enduring novel, “The Hobbit”, the Dwarves are back along with everyone’s favorite Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, (played to perfection by Sherlock’s Martin Freeman) and the legendary Sir Ian McKellen as Gandalf the Grey, as they continue in their epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from Smaug, the ferocious fire-breathing dragon (voiced by the deliciously dangerous tone’s of Benedict Cumberbatch) who holds possession of all the gold including the king’s stone, the Arkenstone, which will put the heir apparent, Oakenshield, (gloriously played by Richard Armitage) back on the throne where he belongs! (Whew! Got that?) After all it’s been nearly 200 years since his homeland was ravaged and captured by Smaug and the Dwarves were either slain or sent wandering homeless…why shouldn’t Thorin be hell-bent on taking back Erebor? As he says in the film, “I have the only right.”
It might be refreshing to know (or not) that, unlike millions of loyal Tolkien aficionados, I did not grow up reading The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings books and therefore did not have a pre-conceived, dogmatic vision of how the books should be represented up on the big screen. As far as I was concerned, Peter Jackson was free to do with the story as he wished…and apparently, much to many a Tolkein fan’s chagrin, that’s exactly what he did. Bringing back Orlando Bloom in the role of Legolas, who does not appear in The Hobbit book, was one of them. But as Jackson explains, “He’s Thranduil’s son, and Thranduil is one of the characters in The Hobbit, and because elves are immortal it makes sense Legolas would be part of the sequence in the Woodland Realm.” Sounds good to me. Listen the man is an Academy Award winning director, who am I to disagree? And while he’s at it let’s toss in a potential love interest for Legolas in the form of Tauriel, (played by Lost’s beautiful Evangeline Lilly) the head of the Mirkwood Elven Guard, (think Tinker Bell on steroids) who spends a great portion of the film either saving or flirting with, Thorin’s nephew, Kili (played by the gorgeous Aidan Turner.) Hey, I’d flirt too.
Okay, let me get something off my chest right now: in my next life I want to come back as Evangeline Lily. The woman got to spend six seasons frolicking on a beach in Hawaii shooting ABC’s Lost, looking all sexy and windblown while wielding a gun, with two of the world’s sexiest guys (“Sawyer” and “Jack”) vying for her affection. CUT TO: New Zealand, working with ‘Directing God’ Jackson, where she now gets to wield a bow and arrow, wear a cute little figure-hugging Elf costume (I’m getting one for Halloween), and flirt with Orlando Bloom and Aidan Turner. JUMP CUT TO: The Hobbit world press tour where, as the only female in a testosterone driven film, she gets to shine in gorgeous designer gowns and have Richard Armitage asking her for drinks in Dwarvish….which I’m pretty sure he learned just to impress her! Yep, I wanna come back as Evangeline Lily…..
But I digress.
Much of Desolation of Smaug’s forward motion is action-packed with our merry band of determined dwarves encountering various obstacles on the perilous road to Erebor. A run in with skin-changer Beorn (played by Swedish actor Mikael Persbrandt), a nasty bit with spiders in the forests of Mirkwood (I’ve watched it twice, now I just hit the fast forward button…), being captured by the Wood-elves led by the villainous King Thranduil (the perfectly cast Lee Pace), and my favorite scene featuring what should become the next big theme-park ride…the barrel escape! The Dwarves go white water rapids racing in wine barrels to escape Thranduil’s dungeons! (Thorin’s long wet, rock-star-like locks flinging in the wind, mind you!)
All the while the great orc, Azog the Defiler, continues on his vengeful quest of destroying Thorin. He’s like a giant gnat that won’t go away. The Dwarves have enough blockade running to do on their way to Erebor without having to deal with this nasty beast every 20minutes. This all leads them to their encounter with Bard the Bowman (played with heart by Luke Evans), their journey to Lake-Town where we see more of Thorin’s desperation revealed as he is willing to leave behind his ailing nephew Kili suffering from a poison-filled arrow wound and finally…the moment we’ve all been waiting for, the arrival at the Lonely Mountain where upon the last light of Durin’s day will reveal a key-hole where they might insert the key that will finally welcome them home!
But what awaits them inside is what Cumberbatch fans have been waiting two films for. The Hobbit must face Smaug the Magnificent and, like a needle in a haystack, find the Arkenstone! Cumberbatch’s rich Alan Rickman-esque voice does not disappoint. I actually think I applauded when I first heard it provoking strange looks from my fellow theatre-goers. But I was like a kid in a Sherlock gift shop watching Martin Freeman’s Hobbit and Cumberbatch’s Smaug face-off! Even with Cumberbatch relegated to solitary confinement doing mo-cap in a soundstage somewhere, you could STILL see and feel the chemistry between these two fantastic actors.
But it’s Richard Armitage’s towering and layered performance as Thorin Oakenshield that steals the show for me.
If Oscars are handed out to actors who lose themselves so significantly, and unrecognizably in a role, then Armitage should be making room for one on his mantle piece. Having interviewed Armitage, I can tell you first hand that you can not detect even one trace of the would-be dwarf king in him. Not in looks, in tone of voice or in mannerisms. Well, you might say, that’s an actor’s job isn’t it? To become someone else, so completely unrecognizable from who they actually are. Yes it is. But how often do we actually see that it today’s leading men? Not often. When I’m watching Oakenshield’s journey towards an all consuming desperation and greed not once do I think that’s the same actor who once played John Thorton in Elizabeth Gaskell’s period drama, “North and South”. In fact, I do not think I’m watching an actor at all.. and it has nothing to do with the elaborate prosthetics Amitage had to wear while making the film. It’s what Shakespeare was talking about in Hamlet’s speech to the players when he urged them to create the illusion of reality by holding the mirror up to nature.
“Speak the speech I pray you as I pronounce it to you, trippingly on the tongue; but if you mouth it as many of your players do I had as lief the town-crier spoke my lines.”
I think I’m fairly safe in saying that Peter Jackson and Producer/Co-Writer Philippa Boyens do not believe the town crier is spoke any of Thorin’s lines. And if you know the book (and I do now because I read the Cliff Notes) you know what lies ahead for Oakenshield.
Armitage, get your speech ready!
If you don’t already own a Blu-ray player, buy one. It’s worth it to see Jackson’s film in all its glory. From beginning to end the edge of your seat action never stops but it does not do so at the expense of storytelling such as with Bard and his family, which gives us a touch of real life back story to this fantastic adventure.
You’ll also enjoy the Special Features especially the “day in the life of” featurette where Jackson invites you onto the set to experience what life was like for the cast and crew of The Hobbit films. You will walk away with a great sense of appreciation and respect for all the hundreds of talented unseen heroes (1100 crew!) behind the camera. These are the people who magically bring Tolkein’s world to life and made this film happen! But their life in New Zealand was more than that. This was like the greatest job-relocation gig in history. Only you weren’t packing the wife and kids up and moving to boring East BumbleBerry, USA. These people moved a half a world away (well, many of them were locals) for the better part of two years and became one big family. Enjoying school-like lunchtime breaks where they played ‘9-ball’ at recess, live-entertainment during mealtimes, Weiners Wacky Wheel of Wonders where crew spun a giant wheel to win prizes like a weekends away or cash! Made “Dwarfericise” videos and dwarf calendars. Arts and Crafts and Teatime! I want to go to Peter Jackson Camp too!
One thing you can see for sure is this experience changed their lives. Even Luke Evans said they formed such close bonds that when it was time to go back to reality, he said, “not sure I’m ready for that.” No wonder Armitage nearly moved to New Zealand permanently. I’m sure this was a unique experience that they’ll all remember for the rest of their careers and lives.
“You’re not the same hobbit that left the shire…”, says Gandalf to Bilbo Baggins. I think we are, none of us, the same. We’re all changed after experiencing The Hobbit films. Cast, crew and audience alike. And even though I didn’t read the Tolkien books, I’ve become such a fan of the Tolkein/Jackson combo that I’m got my Elvish ears ready to camp out for my local midnight showing of The Hobbit: There and Back Again this December!
Own “THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG” Limited Collector’s Edition Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack, Blu-ray 3D Combo pack, Blu-ray Combo pack, 2-disc DVD special edition, and Digital HD on 4/8
Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, stars Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Ian McKellen, Benedict Cumberbatch, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Stephen Fry, Ken Stott, James Nesbitt and Orlando Bloom.
Thank you to Warner Bros. Pictures and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment for providing us with copies to giveaway to your loyal Hobbit fans!
Hobbit Fans: There is STILL time to WIN The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Blu-ray Combo Pack PLUS the AUTOGRAPHED The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey signed by RICHARD ARMITAGE! Leave your comment on the video below! See you all at The Hobbit: There and Back Again!