Have to say that in spite of it being the holiday month, this December has not been all that great. I'll spare folks the drama and just say that there was much sucking of pink twinkies (to borrow a phrase from R2-DToots). Work has been leaving me mentally tapped out, which is probably why a few updates I'd hoped to make in the prior weeks never happened.
Also, the future of the Gamer Security Agency is currently up in the air, with none of the writing staff (those who are left at any rate) really sure what's going on. Wayne Basta, author of the Arestia series of books (go check them out, as they're pretty good) has noted he stopped submitting articles as he wasn't sure if the site was going to just fade away in the wake of former editor Brian "Fiddleback" Casey having moved on to do his own version, the Mad Adventurer's Society... which is pretty much the same thing as the GSA, just without the overwhelming focus on Edge of the Empire material that the GSA fell into.
But enough of my whining. It's the holiday season, and that means Christmas to look forward to. I opted to give myself an early Christmas treat and go see the newest installment of Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy, the Desolation of Smaug.
Let me be honest, from the time it was announced it was going to be a trilogy of films, I wasn't a fan of the idea, and truthfully felt that while including material from the LotR Appendices was cool, making The Hobbit into three films felt more like a money grab. Of course, that doesn't mean I wouldn't go see them, having been practically raised on Tolkien, with The Hobbit being one of the first books that I had read on my own.
I'd originally planned to go see the latest film on opening day, but car troubles and lackluster response from the repair shop pretty much nixed that whole plan. And deciding I wanted to see the film sooner rather than later, I opted to brave the Christmas shopping crowds/traffic and head to the theater.
Despite only being the middle film of the trilogy, overall the movie didn't disappoint. I will say that I thought the movie could have done with a lot less time spent on "oh hey, here's Legolas being all awesome and stuff!" I will admit to being leery about the addition of Tauriel to the film, but her scenes didn't feel at all forced, and the scenes between her and Kili were sweet without being mushy. The way that Bard was presented was quite different, and I actually don't mind the change. Stephen Fry as the Master of Laketown was certainly entertaining to watch. The Dol Guldur/Necromancer story arc was also done well, with Radagast making another appearance.
But the thing that would make or break the film was Smaug, greatest of calamaties. While I loved the Rankin-Bass take on the scene and the dragon, I felt the film did it just as much justice. The CGI work on Smaug was incredible, and though processed to sound deeper and more menacing, Benedict Cumberbatch's voicework for the dragon was incredible. Peter Jackson and his crew did an amazing job of bringing life to the old wyrm, and the scenes inside Erebor were excellent. And though a change from the books, it was really nice to see Thorin and company make an earnest attempt to take down the beast; naturally they were doomed to fail, but they get an A for both effort and ingenuity.
One element that I think could lead to an interesting scene in the next film is the fact that Legolas is currently the one in possession of Orcrist, having taken it from Thorin when the dwarves were taken prisoner by the wood elves of Mirkwood. As I said, could lead to an interesting scene where Thorin is either handed back the blade during the upcoming Battle of Five Armies or has it laid to rest when he perishes after said battle. And don't whine to me about spoilers on that last bit; the book's been around longer than I've been alive!
So overall, the movie was very enjoyable, though not without its faults. I will probably wind up seeing it a second time, if only due to taking my mother as I've done with all the prior films, and I won't mind doing so in the least.
Though on a gaming related note, I really do hope that Cubicle 7 can get back into producing and releasing supplements for their One Ring RPG. While I may not be actively playing said game, I do very much enjoy it, and would like to see more of Tolkien's world through the game's filter, as I honestly believe it's the best attempt to reflect the setting while staying true the professor's work.