Friday, December 26, 2014

Smaug: Unleashing the Dragon (Daniel Falconer)

Smaug: Unleashing the Dragon
Daniel Falconer
Nonfiction, Media Reference
**** (Good)

DESCRIPTION: Since his appearance in 1937, Tolkien's Smaug has been the epitome of the traditional Western dragon: cunning, vain, greedy, terrifying, and nearly invulnerable. Peter Jackson's Hobbit films brought the dragon from page to screen, from the author's ink sketches to larger-than-life CGI. Achieving this took a great fellowship of animators and artists. This book includes a foreword (and occasional additions) by Benedict Cumberbatch, the voice of Smaug.

REVIEW: Though I was not as impressed as I'd hoped to be with Jackson's Hobbit translation, Smaug is indeed an epic achievement in CGI, well worth a special look. From the earliest sketches to the final battle of the second film, this book tracks the inspirations and evolution of a truly monumental wyrm. It also confirmed that Smaug changed between the first and second movies - and that he was, as early promotional material promised, originally a four-legged dragon, as per Tolkien's book and illustrations. (Reading this, I understood why the design was changed. What's not explained is why Weta and Jackson released full-body promotional images before the final design of the dragon was nailed down... but I expect I'm the only one who noticed, as nobody else seems to have seen it.) Some of the industry jargon grows a bit thick, and it could've used a larger format to show off the details, but overall this is an interesting look at how much work goes into bringing a creation like Smaug to life on screen.

You Might Also Enjoy:
The Art of How to Train Your Dragon (Tracy Miller-Zarneke) - My Review
The Lord of the Rings: The Art of the Fellowship of the Ring (Gary Russell) - My Review
The Hobbit (J. R. R. Tolkien) - My Review

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