1. Ashlee says:

    Very interesting! I always anticipate these movies with a combination of hope and premature disappointment. I have not seen this one yet, but am looking forward to it, faults and all. Thanks so much for the insight into the film’s pros and cons!

  2. Julie D says:

    In addition to carefully reading Tolkien, you seem to have read my mind, as my experience followed the same timeline: initial disappointment, followed by general approval. I must keep that test in mind for other adaptions — Princess Bride tends to pass at level 1 (not surprising, since the author wrote the screenplay), while LWW is at 3.5 or so.
    Glowy Tauriel and Golden Statue are my remaining criticisms of the film. Though your comments about Tauriel may further improve my view of her.
    For those who have read The Silmarillion–did you notice any parallels between Thranduil and Thingol, especially in “let the outside world alone” attitude? The lack of a Maiar ally makes it rather harder for Thranduil to sustain his realm, but he can’t be entirely blamed for trying.

    • Hannah says:

      First off, I’m a huge Tolkien Fan, and despite having mixed feelings concerning many of the same elements as expressed in the review above, I LOVED the movie.
      Second: Julie, I’m so delighted to heard that someone else thought Thranduil was given Thingol’s attitude! It took me a bit to get used to this new Thranduil, but I did enjoy him. I just hope his nobility will be brought out more in the next movie!

  3. I’m here to tell you that you don’t, in fact, have to “grow to like” the dwarves vs. dragon fracas which constitutes the climax of Desolation. There are very specific reasons that entire sequence is an embarrassment and a disgrace, and those reasons have nothing at all to do with the fact that it’s absent from Tolkien’s book.

    The final half-hour of The Desolation of Smaug consists of Smaug and Thorin & Co. trying to kill each other throughout the bowels of Erebor. What’s wrong with this picture? You know – deep down in your gut – that something is terribly wrong, but you’re tempted to brush the feeling off as a spasm of irrational purism. Resist that urge; in this instance, your gut knows more than your brain. I’ll tell you what’s wrong: Smaug the Golden, greatest of the dragons of the north, doesn’t try to kill anything. If he wants you dead, he kills you. Period. Every single instant in which Thorin & Co. remain alive after Smaug lays eyes on them for the first time is an insult to his reputation, a diminishment of his terror. It’s not even as though we can pretend he’s having trouble hitting a small, moving target; a company of eleven makes for a target-rich environment. At one point, Thorin goads Smaug into a trap by describing him as “slow and fat in [his] dotage.” I couldn’t help but agree with that assessment. I actually felt sorry for Smaug. It was a terrible, chilling sensation. It meant that everything had gone wrong with PJ’s storytelling. Everything.

    In Tolkien’s book, the first time we see Smaug become angry he sets a town ablaze and gets himself slain. Smaug is no oafish stone troll, cackling orc king, or small-minded spider. The dwarves are terrified of him, and for good reason: you can’t antagonize Smaug without bringing swift destruction down upon either your own head or the head of whoever’s standing nearby. But because PJ, in his bloated hubris, thought himself capable of turning a 300-page book into nine hours’ worth of movie, he needed to invent a sequence that’d feel like a climax for Part Two. He couldn’t very well end it with Smaug’s death, because then he’d need to spend at least another half-hour setting up the Battle of Five Armies in order to hook his audience for the third and final installment. So what’s he do? He sacrifices Smaug’s dignity and majesty for a series of cheap thrills which culminate in a gigantic “Huh?!” moment of insufficiently-cooled molten gold. (No, I didn’t get it. Maybe I was just slow on the uptake during the chase scenes, but it speaks to my total distrust of PJ that I actually expected that statue to open its eyes and turn into some kind of massive dwarf-mecha there at the end. I was so afraid that that was gonna happen, I actually got light-headed. True story.)

    Unacceptable effect: I’m no longer afraid of Smaug. Futile prescription: Kill off some dwarves! Seriously. I mean, you’ve got dwarves to spare, right? For crying out loud, PJ, you’re buried in ’em up to your kneecaps, and only a handful even have speaking parts! If you’re gonna diverge so drastically from the story we all know and love, you might as well make it worth the time and effort. If you wanna insert a big showstopping climax where none existed before, then you’re gonna have to pay for it. And an antagonist that doesn’t destroy anything that we as an audience care for is weak, weak, weak. And Smaug should never appear weak!  He’s the Big Bad, the chief peril of the Quest, the titular villain! To strip him of dignity is to strip the story itself.

    • David A says:

      So, should I even bother seeing this movie? I have yet to hear an “Oh man, this is amazing!” review from anybody. I either get “it doesn’t follow the book” or “it’s pretty good”. I’d rather not waste a theater visit when quality material like Frozen is still around.

      • Well, to be fair, my above critique applies exclusively to the film’s final half-hour.  Granted, it’s the most important half-hour, but a half-hour of cheese doth not a total waste make.  The film overall is pointedly hit-and-miss.  I loved the Mirkwood sequences unreservedly (which is odd, as that’s the part of the story I’d deemed most likely to get tweaked beyond all recognition).  After the dud that was Shelob, it seems PJ’s finally figured out how to effectively portray Tolkien Spiders on screen.  Not only were they frightening in appearance, but said appearance was withheld until the last possible instant in order to maximize suspense.  I also loved Thranduil (who beats PJ’s Celeborn all to heck) and Legolas with his inexhaustible, Rule of Cool-compliant acrobatics (if you hated him in LotR, you’ll really hate him here), and developed a surprising fondness for Tauriel (for her as a character, that is; her role in the plot is all gag-inducing, hope-in-humanity’s-creativity-crushing melodrama).  Also, I found Lake Town to be aesthetically pleasing (based as its architecture is on the Scandinavian stake church template).  So there’s that.

        But I also have more complaints.  Seven of ’em, to be exact, delineated in a lengthy Facebook review which I won’t regurgitate here.  Point is, for everything that Desolation did well, there’s at least one other thing it did poorly.

        And Frozen is a better movie, hands down.

  4. Arizona Mike says:

    All of my complaints with this film can essentially be reduced to two characters: one numeral and one letter. Those two characters are the reason why so many films are terrible these days.
    “3” and “D”
    Because the Hobbit was released in a 3D version, the need to have action-heavy sequences where things are suspended in space (to effectively use the process) means that we have to see endless time-wasting sequences where characters leap, spin, fall, somersault,  crash, and fall (then get up and dust themselves off from falls that would land any biped in the hospital for months) for the entertainment of juveniles and the juvenile-minded. Because moviegoers want to “ooh” and “ah” with each literal poke between our collective eyes.  That kills effective storytelling and turns the film into the cinematic equivalent of a carny dark ride..  You didn’t have (or need) that in the far-superior LOTR films.  (And one is glad that “Citizen Kane” was not filmed in 3D.) 

  5. I thought I’d adequately braced myself for this movie being essentially a three-hour play-through of a video game called “Orc Hunt”, but I was really unprepared for how totally awful and even, yes, boring the movie was. All those tedious action sequences, crammed one after another with scarcely a breath between them, left me numb and completely indifferent to the fates of everyone in the film except, curiously enough, Tauriel. She is after all the one character whose ultimate fate we don’t and can’t know from the books, so I found her story at least somewhat piqued my interest and curiosity. Though I agree that the love triangle was a capital error (and Evangeline Lilly herself would heartily agree with us on that as well, especially she’d originally agreed to do the film on the condition that there NOT be a love triangle for Tauriel, and then they sprang it on her in reshoots. Stay classy, PJ & Co.).

    I thought I’d reconciled myself to this movie being essentially Peter Jackson writing Tolkien fanfic with little regard for the canon, but it wasn’t even GOOD fanfic. It was just one tiresome cliche and brain-numbing battle scene piled on top of one another until all of a sudden, the narrative cuts off with a resounding thud. I was sorry I’d taken my boys (aged 8 and 11) to see the film, not only  because of all the gratuitous beheadings and other unnecessary grue, but also because they were just as visibly disappointed and confused by the egregious stupidity of it all as I was. Smaug’s magnificence revived their spirits a little (my 8 year old loves dragons), but they all HATED the ending and didn’t even want to talk about the movie afterward except to pick it apart.

    I am not at all looking forward to part 3.

  6. David A says:

    So, I saw the movie. And I know in the comments above that everyone seems to be panning it because “It doesn’t follow the book.” Well, I have never cared one iota about movie adaptations following their source material. I also have not read the Hobbit in like 15 years.

    That said, I think Hobbit earned the “lamest movie of 2013” award. Emphasis on “earned”. It did nothing well. It had no plot. It had no character development. It had no real characters. The love “triangle” was missing a dimension (or 2). Namely, time. What on earth did Kili fall in love with? Her knife skills? And what did Tauriel fall in love with? His height? I cared zero about Tauriel or Kili coming out of the theater (in fact my cousin and I were cracking jokes about her). I was actually hoping Kili would die and Tauriel would arrive too late but I already knew that wasn’t going to happen. When the audience has more residual care for Dave the Minion, then your buttkicking warrior damsel (I’m pretty sure elves have a corner on the term “warrior damsel”), you should stay home. The sets and costumes were good I guess, but when you come out of the theater comparing it to the Narnia movies (and not the recent ones either), you know that someone overpaid. One of those people was me. I will not even be wasting a blog post on this garbage.
    Best moment of the movie: Bombur’s barrel bouncing and my cousin, after the 4th or 5th bounce saying loud enough for people around us to hear, “Penta kill!” 
    If someone wants to argue for any “goodness” in this movie such as “I like Tauriel.”, I’m open for criticism. I just didn’t see it. If you want to see a quality movie right now, go see Frozen. Or, if you can find a theater still showing it, go see Gravity.

  7. Joanna says:

    I just couldn’t get past all the blatant computer/video game levels though the movie — it was like Hollywood wasn’t even trying to pretend this whole movie didn’t simply exist in order to sell stuff — especially the video game.
    Honestly, if I want to watch someone play a video game, I’ll watch someone play a video game.
    And the thing with Gandalf and the Necromancer? It would have been better if it didn’t just feel like a replay of stuff from the LOTR movies.
    And glowy elf maid. Just… no. >_<

What do you think?