Sunday, December 15, 2013

Smaug and his Desolation in 48 fps and 3-D

I saw The Hobbit II: The Legend of Smaug's Gold this weekend (in faux-IMAX, high frame frate, and 3-D for the full Jackson). There are no doubt a number of negative reviews out there and a number of positive ones, so you can mix and match or pick what goes with your preconceptions. Rather than trying to persuade you one way or another from an overall perspective, I'll just say: 1) it is not (as you're already aware if you saw the first one) Tolkein's Hobbit, particularly; and 2) it's got  swashbuckling action set-pieces in the Pirates of the Caribbean or Lone Ranger (2013) vein.

That out of the way, I'm going to talk about things I like about the movie that might be worth stealing for gaming.


Overall, Mirkwood and the fortress of the wood elves made me wish that Guillermo del Toro had directed, as I think he would have given them both a fairy tale-ish feel that would have been visual interesting and perhaps more in keeping with the book. However, Lee Pace's haughty and fay King Thranduil is pretty much spot on. There's a part where he let's his glamour slip and allows Thorin to see the scars he bears from fighting a dragon that does evoke elves of fairy tales or legendry that was a really good bit.


My another nice bit was Laketown. It evokes a very different feel from the Laketown of the book, but it's given a look sort of like a ramshackle Medieval Russian version of Venice. It's people are multi-ethnic and have clothing styles mixing the vaugely slavic, Tibetian, and even a bit of Mongol thrown in, but blended pretty well. It's Master is a rather Terry Gilliam-esque bumbling noble, equipped with a suitable obsequious assistant. The coldness, squalor, and police state ubiquitous informer culture the Master oversees, seems to be meant to evoke Soviet era Russia. The whole evoke is utterly un-Tolkeinian, but very interesting as a potential gaming locale.

After all of that, the movie finally arrives at Lonely Mountain and a solitary dragon. Smaug is menacingly portrayed (vocally) by Benedict Cumberbatch. The cgi design is nice, too; there's a little bit of Dragonslayer there, I think. Smaug's treasure horde is ridiculously large. There most be no more gold in all of Middle-Earth. As Dunsany would say: "Their hoard is beyond reason; avarice has no use for it." The encounter with Smaug in this treasure den does remind one how frightening dragons ought to be, something that has been lost a bit with their perfunctory appearance in fantasy games.

Desolation of Smaug isn't a book brought to life or even a great achievement in cinema, but there are things is in it to like and nice details to appreciate.

9 comments:

Metal Earth said...

I try to keep an open mind, and I don't really care about loyalty to the book- after all, I have the book if I want the book. However, I have been vetoed by the kids they are not into it, so I'll see it in some far off future on disc or memory crystal or whatever.

However, I don't know that it is entirely wrong to enter into it with some preconceptions. I mean all of us have spent a goof deal of ass numbing theatre time with PJ, and likely have a pretty good idea of what we're about to see. The inclusion of Legolas, for example really should not surprise anyone, nor should PJ's failure to entirely get these soirce material- or at least his failure to express that understanding on the screen.

In short, no teeth gnashing here.

Trey said...

I don't think I said it was wrong to go into with preconceptions, did I?

In fact, I think I acknowledged that virtually everyone would (second setence, first paragraph).

In general, I take the stance that there are good reasons for disliking any movie.

Metal Earth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Metal Earth said...

Edited for typos
My mistake, I got the (wrong) impression that you were frowning inthe gneral direection of preconceptions.

Tangentally, I think all of PJ's tolkien movies have some good things in them, but are probably best enjoyed with a judicious use of the fast forward button.

Francis Lee said...

Looking forward to seeing it!

Tom Fitzgerald said...

The thing I think that goes on with these films is that the production design is so vast in scope and so many people are involved and so much talent and excitement that perhaps the source material is a bit drowned out. Sure Tolkien's is an important contribution but it is only one person's contribution among many and the lure to utilise all the skills of the choreographers and the set-designers and make-up people and all the rest is difficult to resist. Something of a culture of unchecked enthusiasm develops, I reckon, and the thing that results from it tend to appeal to the public and even curmudgeonly purists like me still feel obliged to see it so nothing is lost.

Tim Shorts said...

I still haven't seen the first movie. Of the reviews I've read, yours seems the most unbiased. Seems like I've been either reading Tolkien Fanboys or Jaskon holics.

dmarks said...

I do kind of wonder about the existence of a sort of foundry that seems to be made to mass produce mountain-sized gold dwarf statues that each one would contain a few times as much gold as has ever been mined on Earth.

garrisonjames said...

Looking forward to seeing it with our daughter over the holiday. I was sort of hoping to see Mirkwood done well...but then caught myself. It's a movie. Just enjoy the show. The book is over on the shelf. When this set of three is done, maybe they'll try to do something from the Lost Tales or Silmarillion...not sure how that'd go, but Hollywood does not let go of a cash cow easily...