I didn’t know what to expect when I went to see the first part almost exactly one year ago. I guess I was hoping for that Middle-Earth flair that the first trilogy had. When the movie ended I was pretty underwhelmed by what I saw. It surely was Middle-Earth… but not the way I hoped it to be. I blame the HFR (48 frames per second) projection technique Peter Jackson forces on these movies. It really gave me a headache. The 3d was fine though. In hindsight the first movie also had its lenghts and didn’t feel very consistent as a whole. For me it was a weak start for a trilogy and my hopes for the movies to come weren’t high from that point on.
Due to my lowered expectations I did not go to see the second film with any high hopes. My sole reason to see it was basically to give Peter Jackson a second chance. And judging from what I saw in the second movie, he mostly managed to get back on track. There were still parts that feld weird and a little out of place.
The second movie basically starts where the first one ended. Our group of Dwarfs, a Hobbit and Gandalf is continueing the journey towards the mountain. Wherein the former capital of the Dwarfs lies, which is now occupied by the dragon Smaug. The group is still hunted by some Orcs who relentlessly try to catch them. Gandalf has to leave the group to check on some facts and other things that trouble his mind. In more than one scene we get the impression that he knows what evil is plotting and brooding in the darker corners of Middle-Earth. And there we have a similarity to ‘The Two Towers’. There he’s leaving the group as well. In this movie there are a couple of things/similarities happening that reminded me on the first trilogy.
The first bigger setpiece is an enchanted forest where the group gets lost in. This sequence was a lot of fun and for once the HFR and 3d combination managed to play out its strength. The forest is populated by effing huge spiders that, of course, try to get our heroes to eat them. Bilbo is using the Ring to disguise himself and take out the spiders one after another. The Ring also enables him to hear the spiders speak. Which I found a nice touch to it all. I didn’t expect the Ring to have that power. A nice surprise. The scene itself is just amazingly well shot and the crystal clear VFX along with the ugly disgusting giant spiders just looked great. That was the Peter Jackson I want! Of course our heroes manage to get out of the forest alive… rescued by Elves.
Legolas shows up and with him a group of Elven soldiers who drive the remaining spiders away. There we also get the first appearance by Tauriel. Since Elves and Dwarfs aren’t exactly friends, our group isn’t exactly rescued. ‘Captured’ may be the better word. Only Bilbo manages to stay hidden with help of the Ring. Returned to the Elven city our heroes are thrown into prison. Which they managed to escape with help of Bilbo. Now one of the Dwarfs is fond of Tauriel and the two come a little closer. Then we learn that Legolas has a thing for Tauriel as well. Unfortunately the father of Legolas, ruler of the Elven city, doesn’t want him to start anything with Tauriel. I presume her blood isn’t majestic enough or something. Legolas doesn’t care. He likes her and in some scenes we can see his inner conflict in his eyes. So yes, ultimately there is a love triangle going on. Is it necessary? I don’t know. For some reason it’s a nice new perspective I think.
After a, sometimes really very much over the top, escape scene our group is free and mobile again. On their way to the mountain they have to cross a huge lake and meet Bard, a guy with a ship big enough ship. Together they land in the wonderful town of Esgaroth. As filthy and dirty as this town looks in the movie… the detail and the whole look of it is just great work. The lighting they used for it, with its blue and orange color palette, looked just great. Dwarfs aren’t exactly welcome in this city as well and hide in the home of Bard. In the meanwhile the Orcs are still following them and so do Legolas and Tauriel.
After some action in Esgaroth, part of the group leaves to go for the mountain. One of the Dwarfs got hit by an poisoned Orc arrow and has to stay behind. Tauriel arrives just in time to do some magic and save him. Of course it’s Dwarf that bonded with her earlier. A few miles away our group finally enters the mountain, after a failed attempt to open the door. That was a weird moment in the scene. The Dwarfs go through all this crazy stuff and when their one attempt to open the magic door fails they just go “F it… we tried and failed, too bad. I’m going now”. Only Bilbo solves the riddle and the journey continues. Now it’s Bilbo’s big moment. The reason why he came along. He has to go into the mountain and find a certain magic stone. Too bad there’s a dragon too.
Much like the first Hobbit movie this one felt like a rollercoaster ride. Story part, action part, story part, action part and so on. For some reason it felt much more consistent though. I don’t know if it was because I knew what to expect, but the HFR didn’t hurt as bad as it did in the first movie. Even though there were plenty of hectic scenes. What I noticed though was that within these fast scenes we had less rapid fire cuts. It all felt more fluidly executed which benefited the HFR. The 3d for the most part was done very well. Especially the earlier mentioned spider scene. And most importantly when Smaug enters the movie. That’s how to use 3d!
Now does it mean I’m getting old when I say that I enjoyed the quiet moments best? The actions setpieces and their execution was well done but the quiet story parts were the ones that brought back a little flair of Middle-Earth. Especially the part when Bilbo is playing hide and seek with Smaug. There you can see where the money went. That dragon looks absolutely fantastic.
When it comes to characters then I must admit that I don’t like Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) and somehow really like Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly). Bilbo (Martin Freeman) does a hell of a job saving Thorin’s and his gang’s ass from spiders, Elves and Orcs… and Thorin is still not fond of him. Even after Bilbo entered the mountain Thorin doesn’t have a single bit of confidence into Bilbo. Sorry… Thorin is an A’hole! Now the other Dwarfs get a bit more screentime in this movie and are more likable. Especially Kili (Aidan Turner) who’s kind of falling for Tauriel. Which, I’m sorry to say that, is kind of cute. Tauriel has some nice screentime as well and delivers. While all the other Elves, including Legolas, have their reservations against Drwafs… she has an open mind and looks at things her own way. She has her quiet moments where some good acting is going on. And the action moments show some bad ass fighting. She’s cute and pretty damn lethal to her enemies. Gandalf (Ian McKellen) follows his own plot in this movie after parting from the group early on. Well, what’s to say about Gandalf… it’s Gandalf, you know? We also have a guest appearance from Radagast (Sylvester McCoy) again. I like him show up for a couple of scenes. He has a nice grumpy feel and look to him… as well as birds nesting under his hat. The acting overall was solid but closing in on cheesy.It maintained its level right beneath it. But that’s maybe a taste thing.
Overall I have a feeling that people who liked the first Hobbit movie don’t like the second and vice versa. And also please don’t get me wrong. I still don’t like the HFR technique. While it may have worked 15-20% of the time in the first film… it probably worked 30-40% of the time in this second one. Which is still by far not enough to justify the use of it. There were still plenty of scenes that looked so goofy and fake that it completely took my out of the movie experience.
This movie is as epic as a fantasy movie can get. It got its flaws, and most of them are very visible in the HFR version, but overall it felt like Middle-Earth again. Even though they could have easily trimmed out 20 minutes of this cut. There is some padding here and there.
Go see it in 3d! HFR is not necessary.
A 7.9/10 for me. (HFR & 3D Version)