There is a certain beauty in nature’s untouched landscapes. Having traveled across the United States, visiting 47 out of the 50 states to date, I have been incredibly grateful for what I have seen. I felt I was on a different planet while trekking through Badlands National Park and when I was at Yellowstone National Park, I finally understood the line “purple mountain majesties” when I saw them with my own eyes. Without special effects or being touched by man, earth can provide us an unbelievable movie set. Sitting in the movie theater with my 3D glasses on, I felt I was watching a PBS special. Scene after scene after scene of fantastical landscapes filled with soaring mountains and unfurling waterfalls, I did not know where to look first. If this was only a travelogue then this would be wonderful in its own right. But this was a movie, so I wanted a story to connect the beautiful and exciting images before my eyes. It felt to me as if the special effects were thought of first and then the writers put a story to them. Starting a new trilogy, I understood there would have to be a groundwork of explanations laid down to get the movie audience on the same page; however, it made for a slow pace in the beginning. Martin Freeman (Love Actually, Hot Fuzz) played Bilbo Baggins, a hesitant Hobbit who went along with a band of Dwarves to reclaim their mountain home from the dragon Smaug. Richard Armitage (Frozen, Robin Hood) was the Dwarf King Thorin who with the wizard Gandalf, played by Ian McKellen (X-Men franchise, Stardust) lead their group through perilous lands filled with goblins, giant spiders and other deadly creatures. Where the beginning of this movie was disappointing, the last half of this 2 hour and 49 minute film came together for me. Director Peter Jackson and his special effects team did an amazing job, bringing a new and improved Gollum, played by Andy Serkis (Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Prestige) to the screen. The facial expressions on Gollum and the other fanciful beings were truly realistic. With the excitement ratcheted up, the steadier pacing and deeper chemistry between characters; I thoroughly enjoyed the movie by its conclusion. If only more attention had been given to the story as the special effects this would have been a masterpiece. As I was leaving the theater, if they had been selling postcards of the movie’s landscapes, I would have bought several to mail out to my friends.
2 2/3 stars