Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug - The Discussion

It's been a week so I presume a lot of people have seen the movie by now. Below are my thoughts (positive and negative) about the film.


First, the positives.

 - While the slow pace of the previous film, An Unexpected Journey, turned off many people, I liked that the story took its time to unfold. For DoS, however, that wasn't a problem. The film flew by. If anything, there were a couple of times I wanted the story to slow down a bit. But still, better paced overall.

 - Smaug was great. Beautifully voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, the design and movement of the dragon was incredible.

 - The dwarves continue to delight. In the book, the dwarves really are indistinguishable and do little to differentiate themselves. In fact, they don't do much of anything except get saved by Bilbo. In the movies, the dwarves all have their own personalities, do help from time to time, and if you pay attention, you can tell them apart. I didn't get enough Bofur and Dori in this movie, though.

 - Beorn was really well realized, though I would have preferred the book's introduction of him to the dwarves. Also would like to have seen more of him. Probably will be more Beorn in the extended edition.

 - I loved that Bilbo could understand the spiders once he put on the ring. Nice touch.

 - I liked Tauriel. The film needed at least one female and I liked her. She was earnest and kind and attractive. And I liked the flirtation with Kili. There, I said it.

 - The prologue in Bree was great, and I imagine they'll include Gandalf's flashback to getting the map and key from Thrain (which we've seen in previous trailers) in the extended edition.

 - I LOVED the butterfly scene. But then it's a fantastic scene in the book too.

Now, the negatives.

 - Peter Jackson seems to have lost all sense of geographic distance. Gandalf tells Bilbo that they'd have to travel 200 miles north to go around Mirkwood and twice that going south. But the orc band following them quickly goes from Northern Mirkwood to Dol Guldur in the south and back again in no time at all. Sheesh.

 - While I thought the action sequences were less CGI-driven than in An Unexpected Journey, some of the action was still WAY over the top. Especially the battle against Smaug. Thorin actually rides a tray on a river of molten gold. Come on. I appreciate that Jackson added in some direct confrontation between the dwarves and the dragon (something it never occurred to me that the book needed, but nice catch, Peter), but the dwarves are apparently indestructible.

- The journey through Mirkwood and imprisonment in the Elven King's halls didn't convey any passage of time at all. They seemed to happen all within a couple of days. Would rather they seem to have taken time and would have loved to see them carrying an enchanted Bombur through the woods.

 - While I enjoyed the barrels out of bond sequence, it did get too ridiculous. I liked that the elves ended up actually protecting the dwarves, but geez, how many orcs could there possibly have been? And their wholesale slaughter by everyone really undercuts their menace.

 - The fact that Bilbo has killed a whole bunch of enemies (orcs, goblins and wargs) by the time he kills the first spider totally undercuts one of the great moments from the book. In the book, Bilbo grows after he kills the first spider because he does it on his own and alone. It's a huge character moment. The movie blew that by making Bilbo a killing machine well before Mirkwood.

 - I liked many of the Dol Guldur scenes, but I'm not sure how I feel about the confrontation with the Necromancer and the imprisonment of Gandalf. I understand why Jackson did it, just not sure I like it.

 - I REALLY don't like how powerful the ring is at this point. In the books, during Bilbo's ownership of the ring, it was mostly dormant as Sauron was still not restored to power. Consequently Bilbo uses it a LOT in the book. In the movie, he's constantly getting flashes of evil and it's affecting him way too much. It begs the question of how he could possibly survive in possession of the ring for the next sixty years.

 - While I'm ultimately happy to see links between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, there is a timespan of sixty years ahead before Fellowship. Too many of the things happening in the story have been ramped up to 11 so that it seems ridiculous that another sixty years will pass before the war of the ring comes to a head. And once Gandalf finds out about Bilbo's ring, he's really going to seem stupid for not immediately figuring out that it's the One Ring.

That's all for now. I'm sure I'll think of more later. I did really like a lot of the movie. I just wish Jackson was exercising a little bit more control over the story and relying on the CGI a little bit less.

One more year, then it's all over.


Eric Haas said...

One more year, then it's all over.

Assuming Jackson doesn’t try to do the Silmarillion.

Ipecac said...

I think there's a very small chance of that. They don't have the rights and Jackson only took on directing The Hobbit because Del Toro dropped out.

PaulSeegers said...

I did not like the whole exchange between Bilbo and Smaug. I thought the RANK & BASS CARTOON did it way better, and the whole pouring of hot gold on Smaug seemed like a desperate "we need more action" writer's gimmick. I was less upset by the addition of the the Elf chick, but many of my female friends found it to be insulting that the produces thought the story needed it to ge the female demographic.

Dan O. said...

I had a good time with this movie, although it is painfully obvious that it's already an overlong trilogy. Let''s hope that they can get this next one over and said with, and move on. Good review.

Ipecac said...


I'm honestly torn over the additional material Jackson's adding. As a former wannabe screenwriter, I recognize that he's not delivering tight, well-plotted and paced films. But since I love his version of Middle Earth so much, I want to see as much of it as he wants to put out there.

I imagine that once all three movies are complete, someone will do a "purist fan" edit and take out everything that's not in the book. The result will turn out pretty great.

Ipecac said...

Paul, I don't believe he added Tauriel to attract a certain demographic. It was more an attempt to modernize the story and make it less than the sausage-fest Tolkien wrote. Women aren't going to go see the movie just because it has a woman in it, but everyone can appreciate the character and the breadth she adds to the story.