The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

Following close on the heels of the previous installment, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012), the adventure picks up as Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellan) and the dwarves – led by the king-to-be; Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) finally find themselves close to Erebor, which they must reclaim from the terrifying dragon, Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch).

After Journey, I honestly didn’t have much hope for the second installment. While the first film was “ok” – it felt bloated and it was pretty boring overall, even though Jackson tried to spice things up by throwing bits from The Lord of the Rings in there. Thankfully, they amped up the action in this middle chapter (which makes total sense because the content in the film covers the middle, and most exciting, part of the book). This is a good thing in many ways, but I honestly felt like they could have summed up the first film with only a few scenes included in this second film (that was almost three hours as it was, I’ll give you that) and tacked it on, rather than Jackson making three films out of the book (which people seem to despise). This second installment really only covers five chapters worth of material, so the development still feels a bit thin in the big picture – just when the steam starts gathering, the film ends.

The other side of this is that Jackson introduced a new character, Tauriel, (Evangeline Lilly) in order to “expand the world of the Elves” and to create another female character in a mostly male-dominated character cast – which has been proven to be pretty controversial.

To be clear: I love Tauriel. Evangeline Lilly is great to look at, is very dynamic and kick-ass, and although her acting style hasn’t seemed to change much since her days on Lost, she brings another dynamic to the stuffy ways of the Elves. If you’re a Tolkien purist, you’re going to probably hate Tauriel – but in terms of cinematic enjoyment, she is the epitome. The true adaptation was lost in the first film, anyway, with lots of different aspects that Jackson introduced. As a separate entity that still pays homage to the original, I believe this film and the Tauriel character succeeds.

Still, the movie could have been a little shorter and on a side note: did Orlando Bloom look kind of puffy and weird in this film, or was that just me? Also, keep an eye out in Lake Town to see if you can spot Stephen Colbert! Yup. He’s in it!

JOE Rating: ★★★★

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Iron Man 3 (2013)

Iron Man 3 (2013)

Original Theatrical Release: May 3, 2013
Director: Shane Black

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), aka Iron Man, hasn’t been the same since the events in The Avengers. After somehow surviving the wormhole and helping to mop up the invading aliens, he has developed post traumatic stress disorder, unable to sleep and letting his tinkering get in the way of his relationship with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). When a terrorist calling himself the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) starts to attack America with a series of explosive attacks and inadvertantly puts Pepper’s bodyguard Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) into a coma, Stark issues a challenge to the terrorist, resulting in a chain of events that will force Tony to confront his issues with himself and with his creation Iron Man, as well.

While not my favorite of the three Iron Man movies, this one was decent and I don’t really have much in the way of complaints, aside from a few sequences that could have been more exciting and the ending being wrapped up too neatly.

The film is much darker in tone than the previous movies, and it also deals much more with Tony Stark than it does with Iron Man. He must decide if it’s Tony that’s in control or if it’s  the armor that dictates who he is. It’s a journey of self-discovery for Stark, and Shane Black seemed to be able to capture the inner struggles that Tony is facing since the insane events taking place in The Avengers.

Robert Downey Jr. was amazing, as always, and likewise for the rest of the cast. We got to see more of Don Cheadle as Rhodes, and his character was developed a bit more in this film than in previous entries into the franchise. Likewise for Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts. She wasn’t just cast to banter back and forth with Tony like in the first and second films. Here we got to see her as more of an independent character with her own motivations and goals.

It was neat to see all the different armors, and the special effects were pretty great as usual.

Don’t go into this film expecting straight-on Marvel canon. The storyline for this film, at least part of it, was taken from the Extremis storyline by Warren Ellis….but it has its own spin, as is usually the case with film versions of comic book properties.

Like The Dark Knight Rises, this film was more about the man than the superhero. Keep that in mind, because some people are bound to be disappointed with the lack of actual Iron Man screen time as compared to Tony Stark screen time. However, the journey is worth it. Go see it. It’s a nice cap to the trilogy and should make things more interesting once Avengers 2 rolls around.

JOE Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Movie Trailer For Iron Man 3