Catching Fire / The Desolation of Smaug

January turned out to be a month of movie sequels.  At the tail end of my stay in Philadelphia, the wife and I saw The Hunger Games: Catching Fire with a friend of hers, and then after returning to Canada a friend and I took in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

Thoughts on The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Yay! The producers used the money they made from the massive success of the first movie to buy a tripod for the cameraman!  No more shakey-cam!

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire lived up to the quality of its predecessor, but it does have the distinct feel of being the middle movie of a series—the ending is kind of abrupt, and just sets you up for more.  Quality performances all around, as well as more tantalizing glimpses into the world of Panem.  Not much else to say—if you liked the first one, see this one, because you’ll like it too.

Thoughts on The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, however, does provoke me to say more.  Though in a largely good way!

It has been so long since I read the book that I can’t really pick out much in the way of differences, apart from the introduction of Legolas and a newly-created Elf woman, Tauriel, into the mix.  While I don’t think their presence is strictly necessary, neither is it particularly jarring, either.  It’s just another part of the transformation of what is a relatively straightforward children’s book that just happened to be set in the same world and predate the events of The Lord of the Rings into a full prequel to Lord of the Rings—they go out of their way to lay the groundwork for much that is seen in the more epic trilogy.

In general, I liked this movie a lot better than the first one.  I enjoyed the first one, but felt it was kind of slow, and it certainly didn’t grab me the way The Fellowship of the Ring did when it first came out all those years ago.  This one did retain the physics-defying action sequences that I found kind of jarring in the first one, but on the whole it was a better-paced movie.  It does end with a rather large cliffhanger, but I knew that going in.

While I’m sure the Hobbit would have been best as, say, a single 3-hour movie, this installment improves my opinion of the trilogy.  While there were some questionable elements (the obligatory sort-of introduction of a love triangle with the one named female character they have introduced), the acting is by and large quite good, many iconic scenes are portrayed in a visually exciting way, and the exchange between Bilbo and Smaug in this one parallels quality of the meeting of Bilbo and Gollum in the first.

So, my verdict: If you are a Tolkien purist, you are probably going to be very unhappy with this movie.  If you were kind of wishwashy on the first Hobbit movie, this one is, I think, better, so go see it.  And if you hate all these kind of movies, well, you don’t need me to tell you not to see it.

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