The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)
I wrote about my background on The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit in my post on The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey so I'm just going to jump right into this one and keep things fairly short. I found The Desolation of Smaug to be an improvement over the first. However, this is mostly because the characters and story are now set up and more fun by this point.Unlike the first Hobbit movie, I watched The Desolation of Smaug in the theater in IMAX 3D with the 48 frames per second frame rate. Overall I thought it was a great, immersive experience. I can see why some people didn't like the look of the 48 fps as it does kinda have a shot on video feel and exposes the makeup a bit. I don't think that 48 fps will ever catch on for all movies as it simply isn't meant for that. There is no reason a Will Ferrell movie needs the high frame rate! However, for a film like this one on a big scope with a lot of outside landscape shots the 48 fps generally looks magnificent and the pros outweigh the cons.
The film's action and visual effects are excellent. My favorite scene was the barrel sequence which besides looking great flowed well and had nice choreography.
Other than the barrel scene, another standout moment for the special effects is Smaug the dragon. Smaug is brought to life by Benedict Cumberbatch who did a nice job not only voicing the character but also performing the motion capture for the role.
If you still can't get past the fact that Peter Jackson's Hobbit films are more prequels to his LOTR movies than an adaptation of the book, The Desolation of Smaug won't win you over. There is a love story added for the movie which involved one of the dwarves and a female elf. Although this subplot is unnecessary and could've been cut, I actually thought it worked well and fit naturally with the story. It also helped tie in the elves to this movie more which makes sense given the stronger connection to LOTR the Hobbit movies have when compared to the books.
The decision to make three movies out of The Hobbit is still a stretch but the pacing is better this time around. That said, The Desolation of Smaug leaves the story off near the end of the book. I guess this means we'll see a lot more of the final battles and there will be more added material in the next one. The final part of this film trilogy, The Hobbit: There and Back Again, comes out in December 2014.