The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Because I like thinking in list format (pro writer) and have now seen The Desolation of Smaug twice (once in HPR 3D and once without) I feel I know enough to share my thoughts on it via a PMI (Plus, Minus, Interesting) list because my head is filled with them making lesson plans for uni!
- Evangeline Lilly is made to be an elf. She just fits in perfectly with the aesthetic that Jackson has established for the Elven kingdoms. I see a lot of similarities with Arwen character-wise and yet I think that Tauriel is more kick ass than her. This might be because I think of the Mirkwood elves as being more warrior-like than Rivendell or Lothlorien.
- Kili and Fili are the best brothers ever. The moment in Laketown when Fili said he would not leave his brother made me so happy, and for me gave a bit more of the book’s Fili and Kili to the film. I like that they also made reference to Thorin as their uncle. Having re-read this particular section of the book I feel that is an important distinction to make, especially given what happens to the trio in the book. However, noticing Thorin saying to Fili that he will be King Under The Mountain someday, I also wonder if the next movie is going to end with someone other than Dain on the throne.
- I also really liked the increasing focus on Bilbo and the ring. With the ring’s theme being played in the background it helps show the transformation that Bilbo is undergoing because of the ring. The scene with the spider (or scorpion looking thing) where he just goes nuts after dropping the ring is the one that really strikes me as highlighting the power and darkness of the ring.
- Visually, the sight of Smaug flying higher and higher flicking off droplets of molten gold before heading off to Laketown was stunning.
- The sequence of the dwarves in barrels heading from Mirkwood to Bard was amazing. There were many scenes in this movie that I felt could make fantastic theme park rides but none so much as this one. There were a few times when the water and the elves leaping around got a little too CGI, but overall this scene was phenomenal.
- Seeing Gandalf at the tomb, and realising whose tomb it was, probably gave me the biggest “OHHHH whaaat??” excited reaction of the whole film, so in that was the inclusion of Gandalf’s adventures was awesome.
- Also found it hilarious seeing Fili just keep pulling weapons out of nowhere.
- I will preface this all by saying I am usually a strict “Book First” person, with more loyalty to a book than to its movie adaptation. I understand that in some cases (e.g. LOTR) there is an overwhelming amount of source material for the amount of screen time they can dedicate to it. However, and using the LOTR example, I feel that this second movie in particular has about half an hour of book action and two and a half hours of made up nonsense. I was worried when the first movie came out that for such a short book, there would be a lot of fluff that they would make up to fill out the story. I was beyond glad when watching the first movie and in particular the scene where Bilbo finds the ring. Word for word almost exactly like the book, it is my favourite scene throughout all five Middle Earth movies because it is loyal to the book and cinematically dynamic. This movie however, there is a LOT of non-book material, some of which I like but most that just irks me.
- Take the storyline of Tauriel and Kili. Having read the novel I know what happens to Kili (and Fili) but having Kili poisoned by a Morgul blade (of sorts) so early on concerns me. I liked the mirroring to Frodo/Arwen with Tauriel’s healing of Kili however I am not sure about having Tauriel crushing on Kili. Looking at the actor’s face, the emphasis on his mother and Tauriel saying he was tall for a dwarf, I wonder if they are going to mess around with the character a little and say he his mother (or father) was an elf. While this would certainly be interesting to see I don’t want the story to be jeopardised just for the sake of some shoehorned in relationship. I can understand the inclusion of Tauriel, I like her as a character and as a girl I like seeing strong female characters within this patriarchal universe. However I would rather them be characters with motivations in their own right (Galadriel, Eowyn to an extent) instead of reliant on a romantic storyline.
- While I can respect the cinematic and narrative need of having the dwarves attempt to slay Smaug, to me it just seemed pointless. As the climax of the film it might have worked for those who haven’t read the book, but almost the whole second half of the movie I sat there thinking “What are they doing? This isn’t going to work and if it does I will lose it. Why isn’t Bilbo mentioning the arrow in Laketown?”
- And Laketown. You have a sophisticated surveillance system that the Dwarves and Bard have to overcome, and yet you miss a whole pack of Orcs stomping around your roofs? Completely makes no sense.
INTERESTING (A.K.A WEIRD)
- The point at which the movie ended. I was expecting the second movie to be all about slaying Smaug, and for the third one to be about the Battle of the Five Armies. I suppose it makes sense to keep the dragon around as long as possible, he is a huge attraction for the casual viewer, but story wise the movie just kind of ends with Bilbo literally saying “what will happen next?”
- Also the point at which the movie started. In the book meeting Beorn provides the perfect opportunity to reintroduce the dwarves two by two, which is what I assumed would happen in the movie. I also don’t think Beorn would let the dwarves sleep in his homestead before being introduced to them. I think this was an opportunity that the filmmakers missed out on, even having read the book I found myself only remembering about half the names of the dwarves (matching them to their faces I mean).
- I have a feeling that the writers/producers felt that people didn’t really connect in the first movie that Gloin was the father of Gimli. I don’t know what other reason there would be for Gloin’s increased dialogue and the specific mention of his son.
- I also don’t quite know how I feel about seeing just what it was that Gandalf was off doing when he wasn’t with the dwarves in the novel. I can understand wanting to link this trilogy to the LOTR trilogy, but there are times that it feels unnecessary. Seeing the image of Sauron melting in to the eye over and over again was admittedly awesome, but seeing Gandalf imprisoned in Dol Guldur doesn’t really have a lot of terror or urgency to it because we know who he is and what he can do. Most likely what will happen is he’ll pull the “moth and eagle” trick that he has done twice before in these movies. I like using Galadriel in voice over to tie things together, and it is interesting to see Sauron growing in power as the ring is calling to him from the shadows each time Bilbo uses the ring, but I don’t know that it’s completely necessary. This novel is dense enough (if not terribly long) that there are things they can include without stretching the source material.
- Something else that really bothered me was this: If Gandalf knows or at least suspects who is stirring in Dol Guldur, does he not wonder why?? I feel like a wizard as powerful as Gandalf should at least wonder why Sauron would just randomly decide now was the moment to make a move. And also, would he not be able to sense the ring? I feel that now he knows it was the ring wraiths who were resurrected, the next movie should at least suggest or mention the ring in connection with them .Obviously Gandalf would know who the ring wraiths were and why they deserved such a tomb, so surely he must wonder why they were brought forward. I will be disappointed if nothing comes of it.
- Not quite movie related, but still. Although I know who the three elven rings went too, I feel they should have been equally distributed through the three elven realms of Middle Earth, meaning Thranduil should have ended up with one of the rings or at least have come into contact with the One ring. I feel like his would have been an interesting reaction to it, perhaps similar to Galadriel’s though I feel it would have been a mix of her’s and Boromir’s intentions.
What did you think about Jackson’s newest Tolkien adaptation? What were you good, bad and interesting bits? I’m simply itching to talk about this movie with people are as Tolkien-nerdy as I, so nerd away!
PS: Also see these awesome thoughts on the movies so far:
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Good Story Telling
The Hobbit: A Meticulously Prepared-For Journey
The Nerdist Review: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug