Saturday, December 14, 2013

Benedict Cumberbatch steals the movie: ‘Smaug’ fires up second ‘Hobbit’

Thursday, December 12, 2013
By:James Verniere

“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” is not the first Peter Jackson film with a scene-stealing performance by a digital character. In this second installment in the “Hobbit” trilogy based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit, or There and Back Again,” the standout creature is Smaug, a hoard-guarding giant lizard that speaks in the dulcet tones of ubiquitous Englishman Benedict Cumberbatch. Cumberbatch transforms a fire-breathing dragon into a Middle-earth Hannibal Lecter with wings and fangs and talons, oh my, and the results are scary, seductive, insinuating and sibilant. He even knows how to pronounce “precious.”

Back in their quest to reclaim the Lonely Mountain of Erebor, ancestral homeland of the dwarves, are 13 heavily­ armed and heavily bearded dwarves, led once again by the regal Thorin Oakenshield (the gifted Richard Armitage), rightful King of the Dwarves, accompanied by wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) and “burglar” and ring-bearer Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), a hobbit from the Shire. Still endeavoring to hunt the journeyers­ down is the white Orc Azog (Manu Bennett), who commands a hellish Orc posse and rides a slavering white Warg.

In opening scenes, the band is rescued from the Orcs and taken captive by warrior “woodland elves” Legolas (LOR’s Orlando Bloom) and ginger-haired Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), who enjoys a flirtation with “surprisingly tall” dwarf Kili (Aidan Turner). Also back are Buster Keaton-inspired action set pieces and a Rube Goldberg device in the form of the dwarves’ reignited furnaces and smelting operations.


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