THE HOBBIT 1: An Unexpected Journey
I did not watch this film when it was first shown last year. Honestly, the Hobbits were not exactly my favorite among the characters of the original Lord of the Rings trilogy of films. So why was I going to watch a long three-hour movie all about a Hobbit?! However, now that there is buzz about the second film being shown in cinemas this week, I have decided to watch this first film finally in order to watch its well-reviewed sequel.
It turns out "The Hobbit" is really about only ONE Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins. Aside from the Grey Wizard Gandalf, the rest of the characters going on the titular "Unexpected Journey" are actually Dwarfs. The journey was made to help the Dwarf warrior Thorin recover the lost Dwarf Kingdom Erebor from under the control of the dragon Smaug (that is the name in the sequel's title).
On this journey, they will encounter Goblins and Orcs who will imperil them in various spectacular elaborately-executed, yet obviously computer generated battles scenarios. Every member of the quest group seemed to have charmed lives the way they escape even the most precarious and deadly situations. These action scenes were fun to watch in their video-game-like presentations, though they went on a tad too long.
There will also be quiet scenes, and these were actually more effective. Gandalf will have an audience of Lady Galadriel in Riverdell. And in the best part of the film, Bilbo will encounter Gollum, and we will witness how the Hobbit gains possession of Gollum's "preciousssss" Ring. This was THE big moment of the whole film though it only comes after the second hour already, when you may already be zoned off since nothing of any big significance happened before this iconic scene.
This first film really just prepared us for this second film when they will actually encounter Smaug. OK, now I am ready to watch Part II. 7/10.
THE HOBBIT 2: The Desolation of Smaug
I'm glad I was able to watch the first Hobbit film before watching this film. This sequel did not really go into much detail in reviewing the past episode for the benefit of those who missed it. Though you may eventually pick the story up if you were astute, but those with less concentration may get lost.
"The Desolation of Smaug" picks up from the first film. While Gandalf (Ian Mc Kellen) went looking for the Necromancer in Dor Guldur, our titular hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and the 13 Dwarfs led by Thorin (Richard Armitage) continue on their quest to the Lonely Mountain to reclaim the lost Dwarf kingdom of Erebor. Along the way, they encounter deadly Orcs, Giant Spiders and Elves who give them a harrowing time. With the help of Bard (Luke Evans), a human from Laketown, they reach their destination and encounter Smaug, the fire-breathing dragon that had taken over the Dwarfs' old realm.
Again like the first film, there are several memorable action sequences that make this a film to enjoy and remember. That scene with the vicious Giant Spiders will chill your spine, though it admittedly was too long for comfort. Then there was that entertaining and breathtaking sequence where the Dwarfs were escaping in wooden barrels down a river while being attacked by Orcs, as the elegant Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and she-elf Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) come to their aid with their awesomely graceful archery and fighting skills.
If the highlight of the first film was the encounter of Bilbo and Gollum, in this film it was the encounter of Bilbo and the dragon Smaug The special visual effect that was Smaug was very convincing that this was a living breathing beast. Its voice, lent by the versatile Benjamin Cumberbatch, is tauntingly sinister and evil. That entire last hour with Smaug as the Dwarfs were doing all they can within their ingenuity and ability to kill him was worth the price of admission in itself. (On retrospect though, all of this fighting had actually been all for naught, since the dwarves knew very well what was needed to kill the dragon, and they do not have that particular weapon with them.)
The story telling of Peter Jackson dragged or stretched on a lot of occasions during the film, but you will eventually get your bearings straight when the next scene comes on. Editing could have been more judicious. A romance angle was introduced by Jackson where there was none in the book, which though not really necessary, was not distracting at all from the main story. Cinematography was topnotch as production design was spectacular, though the CGI can be overwhelming. The ending comes just when you are whetted up for a big fight scene. We will really have to catch that final film in the trilogy to see that monumental battle come to life. 8/10.