OK, I hate admit it. As a Tolkien fan, there is a lot to not like in the “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” which my son Ben and I saw today.
Such as: Why, if they are blowing so much air into this slim kids’ book that they’re going to make close to 9 hours worth of cinema, was the transit of Mirkwood so quick? Sure they ran into elves and spiders, but not only is there a lot more that happens in the forest in the book, both the dwarves and Bilbo struggle much more emotionally there, too.
Take, for instance, when Bilbo climbs a tree. In the book, he doesn’t just jump up the tree and scale it quickly, as he does in the movie. In Tolkien tale, he has to be really talked into it (Hobbits do not climb trees), and when he gets to the top, sure, he’s briefly charmed by sun and butterflies, but he doesn’t see the mountain and shout, “Hey, guys, we’re almost there.” In the book, the irony is they are almost through the woods, but in a little valley, so when Bilbo climbs the tree the forest seems to go on forever and he and the dwarves become very discouraged, not realizing they have almost crossed the forest.
The book Mirkwood makes a lot more sense.
And, leave aside the movie convention that mines are incredibly well lit, why in the world would anybody with a magic ring allow himself to be actually seen by a dragon? In the book, Bilbo was not such a numskull.
And don’t get me started on riding open barrels that never swamped or sank or that were caught up in a long and ridiculous chase scene just to pad out the movie. Please.
Still, I confess it. I liked this movie. I liked it a lot. It was just too much fun to be plunged back into Middle Earth. Say what you will about Peter Jackson, and you can say a lot of negative things and I would probably nod my head in agreement, but he has the look of Middle Earth down right.
I don’t mind too much when movie makers take some liberties with books. Books don’t usually translate directly onto the screen anyway—movies and books are too different as media. Books have a lot more hints and internal dialogue and feelings. Movies are visual and simpler in plot and detail. But, I do prefer when the spirit, the heart of the book, is respected by movie makers.
And yet. Well. Smaug was magnificent, even if gilding him seemed a ridiculous touch. He looked and sounded just right, to me, and I don’t mind that he lit up like a nightlight before doing his flame-thrower act. Granted, even thought the extra combat scenes between dragon and dwarves were more than a little ridiculous, it was still great fun to see and hear this terrible worm.
And even if Bard has brats, and that makes no sense at all and was very irritating, I still liked him and I loved the look of Laketown.
And then there is Tauriel. Her creation out of whole cloth and intrusion into the Tolkien narrative was simultaneously irritating and thrilling. Irritating due to some odd cross-species romance that seems, well, more than a bit weird and irritating because she was involved in many of the sillier added chase scenes. But she also gave the elves more layers of complexity and political shenanigans, and frankly, I just didn’t mind it. She can shoot her bow and slash her knife and glow in the dark all she wants, as far as I’m concerned. It’s nice to see a she-elf who can kick a lot of Orc butt.
And the dwarves. Thorin was more somber, which made him a bit more Thorin-like, even if he still seems 75 years too young. Balin was more of a character, and that was good to see. Why they had to split the dwarves up and leave some in Laketown is beyond me, but I did like seeing more of the dwarves in this flick.
So, a reluctant thumbs up for the second Hobbit flick. It’s based on Tolkien, and rather loosely. As some other writers have noted, the tragedy of his movie is that it’s so visually stunning it shows what a great Hobbit movie Jackson could have made if he just made one.
Anyway, I don’t think I’d sell that hot elf chick any life insurance. A gratuitous extra character who distracts the other hot elf in the upcoming trilogy, and is never mentioned there? I am suspicious she might be a member of an old school Star Trek landing party—you remember them ,the extra characters who wore red shirts just so that the alien tree monsters would be able to tell which actors they should snack on.
Just a hunch. In the book The Hobbit, not all the good guys make it there and back again. Of course, details like that don’t necessarily have to apply to this movie trilogy version of the story. After all, there has been an amazing level of violence with only one character getting hurt, and he just needed a bit of weed and glow therapy from the hot healer warrior elf chick. So who knows how this longer, ponderous version of the Tolkien tale will end?
There are a few things for sure. Smaug is headed for a world of hurt. And we know Bilbo and Gandolph and Orlando Bloom survive. Beyond that, all bets are off.
Bottom line: despite its flaws, sure, I would go see this movie again. I would say this one is better than the first. Too bad there has to be a third. You’d think they could have told this whole tale already.