Saving Mr. Banks & The Desolation of Smaug: Movie Review(s)

Baby, it’s cold outside. Yesterday it never even got above freezing, which is highly unusual where I live, and this morning it was 18 degrees! I suppose I could’ve walked out there belting, “Let the storm rage on! The cold never bothered me anyway!” But I didn’t. I looked more like Luke Skywalker on a tauntaun.

Anyway–in spite of these chilly woes, I’m very excited to make my first 2014 post! Here’s the dual movie review I promised a couple of weeks ago.

We’ll start with Saving Mr. Banks, since I saw it first, and with my whole family.

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Saving Mr. Banks is the story of P.L. Travers and Walt Disney trying to reach common ground where her story Mary Poppins is concerned. Mrs. Travers doesn’t want to sell the story rights to Disney, fearing he’ll make a movie full of trite musical numbers and corny cartoons. She’s desperate to hold onto the character she created, thus making herself something of a puzzle to the warm-hearted Mr. Disney.

Mrs. Travers’ attachment to Mary Poppins, however, runs deeper than anyone thinks, with roots that can be traced all the way back to her childhood . . .

I’ll go ahead and say now that I highly recommend Saving Mr. Banks. My only quibble with it was that it was VERY, VERY LONG. It’s rated PG-13 but honestly, I thought that was ridiculous. PG would’ve been much more appropriate. My little siblings sat through that whole film and enjoyed it, even the four-year-old. It’s a delightful family-friendly film.

Emma Thompson (Mrs. Travers) is a phenomenal actress. In some ways I could relate to her character. The idea of someone mangling and changing my characters into people I never intended them to be would be repulsive to me, too. But I thought Mrs. Travers went overboard, and I went back and forth between agreeing with her and being mad at her. It’s neat to see how she slowly warms to Walt Disney’s genuine desire to keep a  promise to his own daughters.

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An interesting aspect of the story is her relationship with her father, shown in flashbacks. At one point, he tells his daughter that “the world is an illusion.” This destructive, irresponsible, unbiblical philosophy ends up wreaking havoc in their home as her father’s alcoholism worsens and her mother’s sanity weakens under the stress. (These scenes are a little disturbing, but we just covered small ears and eyes and had no problem.)

Tom Hanks–oh my, he was fantastic as Walt Disney. He was definitely the best character, with Paul Giamatti as Mrs. Traver’s kindly chauffeur coming in at a close second.

Recommendation: If you’re going to see this film, brush up a little on your Mary Poppins. I saw MP numerous times when I was little, but my littlest siblings have probably seen it once or twice. My mom said she regretted not showing it to them before we went to the theater because Saving Mr. Banks was full of little nods to songs and quotes from Mary Poppins. 

And now, the review many of you have been waiting for . . .

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I’d heard so many mixed reviews about this movie. One friend hated it, this friend loved it, that friend thought it was okay, nothing spectacular. So I tried to go into it with a completely open mind, aware that there were going to be major inaccuracies and changes from the original story, aware that I might very well hate it, but hoping that I would find things to like about it.

Actually, I ended up loving it.

The Desolation of Smaug is much, much better than An Unexpected Journey. Yes, there were inaccuracies and yes, I have my quibbles, but the pacing was so much better and there was a definite Lord of the Rings tone that the first movie was missing and that I loved. I know some people took issue with that, but I felt like this one flowed perfectly with the LOTR trilogy.

Martin Freeman as Bilbo was wonderful, as always. My favorite Bilbo moment was when Smaug wakes up and poor Bilbo just plops down and puts his chin in his hand, with a “Of course this would happen to me” look on his face. I also loved the scene where he found the keyhole in the mountain. The Burglar proves himself yet again!

My new favorite characters in the Hobbit trilogy are Bard the Bowman and Tauriel. Bard is a canon character and I thought the film fleshed him out beautifully. He’s an honorable man, loves his children, and is obviously trying to form some kind of resistance against the tyrannical city government.

Tauriel, the red-headed Silvan Elf, is a non-canon character. I was prepared to hate her. I ended up really liking her, and here’s why. For the first time we got to see an Elf who wasn’t all dreamy and breathy and ethereal. We got to see the Elf-maiden that Arwen could’ve been if she’d kept to her Flight To The Ford persona. Tauriel has personality. She has depth. I also liked how they hinted at the higher Elves’ contempt for the lesser, Silvan Elves (which, if I recall correctly, is an element in The Silmarillion).

From what I’d heard, I expected the “romance” between Tauriel and Kili to be dreadful. In my opinion, it didn’t become a romance until the end, and even then it was pretty mild. Before that point it seemed to me that Tauriel and Kili found common ground, became friends in spite of their racial differences, and had genuine concern for each other. Tauriel defied the callousness of her king to save her friend. Besides, we already got the impression that she’s really in love with–with–well, with a much older Orlando Bloom who nevertheless provides some pretty cool Elf-stunts.

The most heart-stopping scenes were when 1) the Necromancer shows up, and 2) when Smaug shows up. Just stop reading here if you don’t want spoilers because I’m about to go beserko with them here.

Oh, and real quick: can we all acknowledge what these two scenes have in common?

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Benedict Cumberbatch, AKA Sherlock Holmes, does the voice of the Necromancer and Smaug. I have to say, his voice is very impressive and it’s just cool to realize he’s in the movie–and with Martin Freeman, who also plays alongside Cumberbatch’s Sherlock as John Watson!–but please don’t fall in love with Sauron and the dragon because you like the actor, okay? 😉

Gandalf fighting the Necromancer brought up memories of Gandalf fighting the Balrog.  I thought it was amazing how the black shadow just swirled around the Necromancer, as if he was trying to conceal himself, but Gandalf’s light just penetrated further and further until finally he unveiled the Necromancer for who he really was: SAURON. Sauron, in the same silhouette as we see at the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring, but also–The Eye! The foreshadowing for the Lord of the Rings trilogy was beautiful. And that’s what I loved about this movie: there were so many tie-ins for the LOTR films. Tolkien movie marathons are going to be great fun.

And Smaug the Stupendous? The computer animation was spectacular. Smaug was so believable. He had personality, both in his voice and his facial expressions–and I hadn’t expected the facial expressions. You can feel his seething hatred for Thorin and his condescension towards Bilbo.

I did feel like Bilbo revealed himself way too much to Smaug, though. There were so many moments where the dragon could’ve destroyed my dear Hobbit. He’s a highly functioning psychopath, you know–he would do it! 😉

So in conclusion, I was pleasantly surprised–I really, really liked this film–and whereas I still haven’t seen the first movie since we saw it in the theater, I can see myself re-watching this one when we get the DVD.

AFTERWORD

Some of the trailers I saw and my reactions (for real, I’m not making any of this up in front of my computer–these WERE my reactions)

Son of God (coming out in February): WOW. That looked exceptional! I hope it proves to be as biblically-accurate as the trailer made it out to be.

300: Rise of an Empire: Gross. Except when “from the director of Man of Steel” flashed across the screen and Emmy and I grabbed each other’s hands.

Divergent: Seriously, another dystopian movie involving teenagers? It’s not getting old yet?

Godzilla: I just giggled. Really, Godzilla?

Interstellar: Hmm, that could be interesting. Not enough detail to the trailer though.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier:

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Me, Emmy, and Anna. ‘Nuff said.

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22 thoughts on “Saving Mr. Banks & The Desolation of Smaug: Movie Review(s)

  1. *shivers* yes, it’s gotten cold even here in the south. I can’t walk outside without muttering “coldcoldcoldcold” like Anna in Frozen 😉

    oh, yes, I liked both of those movies very much! Saving Mr Banks was good (although a tad long, I agree) and The Desolation of Smaug-ahhh! Loved it. I pretty much agreed with everything you said about it, from Bard the Bowman and Tauriel to Bilbo and Smaug.

    That last gif made me laugh 🙂

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    1. Thankfully the forecast looks a wee bit warmer tomorrow. I’m looking forward to the water buckets in the barn not freezing solid anymore!

      I forgot to say I thought TDoS was a tad long as well…also, the battle scenes were verrrry long. After we got home I told my mom it was like watching Zod and Superman all over again: “Okay okay, boys, STOP. You’ve all proved you have cool fighting moves. Now get back to the story, pronto.” 😉

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  2. I completely agree with your assessment of DoS. I always get nervous when my favorite books are turned into movies, but I have to say that the changes and inaccuracies were not as jarring as I had expected. It seems that, changes and all, the movie still stayed true to the world of Middle Earth. Also, you’ve convinced me of the worthiness of Saving Mr. Banks! I imagine it will be quite refreshing! 🙂

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  3. I’m so glad you liked Saving Mr Banks! I’d really like to see that movie – it looks pretty cool; I love Mary Poppins, and the books and movie. 🙂 Desolation of Smaug was beautiful. Is, I should say. 😉 I loved that scene with Gandalf and the Necromancer too, and Gandalf’s light piercing the darkness. It’s neat how the hobbit movies are getting more of the feel of LOTR as they come closer to the time period of it. Oh, and that was my favorite scene, too, when Bilbo gives up hiding from Smaug and sits down in the middle of the treasure with his chin on his fist. 🙂

    xx

    P.S. It’s almost sad how long my sister and I spent looking at that last gif and laughing, and laughing…. 🙂

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    1. Haha!!! Well that GIF was so appropriate, I couldn’t help using it. Seriously, we were just sitting there fangirling as quietly as we could (quite a feat), clapping and bouncing in our seats. We’d seen the trailer on the Internet, of course, but seeing it on the big screen was amazing.

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  4. Need to see both of these, gosh. I go to Hobbit movies for Benedict and Martin, let’s just be honest here. 😛 And Saving Mr. Banks – SO looking forward to it.

    Also, the gif of the minions was exactly, totally the reaction of my sister and I during That Moment We’ve Been Discussing Between Two Shipped Characters in a Certain Show. 😀

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    1. Well, I will confess here and now: when Smaug showed up, when he started waking up and poor Bilbo just plopped down in despair, I was grinning from ear to ear thinking, “Sherlock and John, Sherlock and John, Sherlock and John.”

      LOLOLOL!!! I need to find a GIF of someone’s eyes popping out of their head because THAT was my reaction when I saw That Moment We’ve Been Discussing Between Two Shipped Characters in a Certain Show 😉

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  5. I want to see Saving Mr Banks but I will probably see it from Netflix though. It sounds and looks really good; I’m glad you guys enjoyed it!!

    So, may I ask, have you actually seen any episodes of Sherlock yet?! Sometimes you talk as though you have. 😛 If you haven’t, I hope you are able to soon because they are sooooo good and I think you’d really really like them! 🙂

    ~Jamie

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    1. “Have you actually seen any episodes of Sherlock yet?! Sometimes you talk as though you have.” <<<< Biggest compliment I've gotten all day, haha! Because NO, I have not yet seen a full Sherlock episode. I just have a degree in Sherlockian Studies from Pinterest University 😉

      BUT THERE'S HOPE ON THE HORIZON, for my brother plans to buy both seasons on iTunes so he can preview them for the family! (*happy dance*) I'm very excited. I know the episode with Irene is kinda iffy, and it WON'T be something for the little ones at all, but I expect us "older folks" to be on the edge of our seats.

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  6. Okay, now I’m going to have to see Saving Mr. Banks when it comes out on DVD. 😉

    And yesss, the scene with Gandalf fighting the Necromancer was such an AWESOME scene! So cool! I loved all the nods to the Lord of the Rings trilogy in the movie, and I also loved how The Desolation of Smaug felt more similar in tone to LOTR than An Unexpected Journey did.

    Bard the Bowman was my favorite character in the book, so I’m glad they did him justice. And I didn’t mind the relationship between Tauriel and Kili, cause, yeah, it was really mild. And I dunno, it was kind of sweet. And I just really like Kili. I’m not as in love with Tauriel as a lot of other people seem to be, though. I thought she cool, but a tad stale. *Shrugs* But I liked her well enough. Maybe she’ll grow on me with further viewings of the movie. 🙂

    Awesome reviews! 🙂

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  7. 😀 Good reviews, m’dear! We saw Saving Mr. Banks yesterday and I must agree with you about Tom Hanks. He was *perfect*. It was rated PG13? 😯 Wow. Ok. I didn’t realize that.

    Haven’t seen DOS. I’ll probably get it from Netflix at some point. 😉 But I’m glad you enjoyed it despite the large amounts of controversy over those two hours. 😛

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      1. Oh yes, I enjoyed it a lot! The story ended up being a bit more intertwined with her childhood than I anticipated, but that wasn’t a bad thing. But I think I can say that Tom Hanks was the best part of the movie. 😉

        And guess what movie I’m going to watch Friday night? (angel) Need a hint? The movie that took over my Pinterest stream for a week. 😉 😉

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      2. GASP! Really? I’ll be very interested to hear what you think! In the course of the past week, I’ve discovered that our friend Margaret W. is head-over-heels-in-love with it, while another friend of mine completely disliked it. It’s almost like The Desolation of Smaug, you either love it or you hate it and I’m still not quite sure why that is the case.

        Oh, and I offer a half-hearted apology for shamelessly sabotaging your Pinterest stream 😉 😉 😉

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  8. Yay! I’m so glad you wrote about Saving Mr. Banks! And that it was worth watching! I have heard great things about it, but the PG-13 rating was getting to me a little bit until I read this…
    And I loved your Desolation of Smaug review…

    But your nod to that grandiose debate that exploded on Facebook about Tom Hiddleston cracked me up! I laughed out loud when I read that on the screen! Because of course, that’s exactly what you were alluding to when you said not to fall in love with Smaug because Benedict Cumberbatch does his voice…Right? 😉 You are hilarious, indeed. 😉 😉

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    1. Hehehe…well, the funny thing is, I wrote this review and posted it, and plum forgot to put the link up on Facebook because that very evening I got embroiled in “that grandiose debate!” I actually wasn’t thinking about Loki/Hiddles when I wrote that about Benedict, though. I was instead thinking of a very handsome picture I saw of him with the caption, “Say hello to Sauron.” I laughed at it, of course, but STILL! I grew up hating Sauron with every fiber of my being and that doesn’t change just because Benedict Cumberbatch is playing him, haha! 😉

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