Sunday, May 18, 2014

Way too Late at the Movies: The Desolation of Smaug

Back in the late 1970s, the animation team of Rankin/bass produced a 77-minute version of JRR Tolkein's "The Hobbit" that I love to this day. So there's my foundation with Hobbit-based movies.

I loved Peter Jackson's Fellowship of the Ring trilogy of films. Absolutely loved them. They established such a sense of awe and such a sense of place I think Tolkien would have been astonished. They were also (for the most part) faithful to character and story, with the exception of leaving out poor Tom Bombadil. So there's my foundation with Peter Jackson's films.

Way back at the dawnna time, I sorta knew when they said they were going to make a trilogy out of The Hobbit, it was gonna stink. There's just not enough story there. Then the phanbois kept telling me that Jackson and company were drawing on the Silmarillion to help fill in some bits of the story, and that gave me a bit of comfort.

Then I saw The Desolation of Smaug.

My impressions: The bits with the dragon are nice, if over long and having only a tenuous relationship with Tolkein's story.  But the rest of the film, well . . .

I am shocked at how much fluff is added to this film in the form of really dumb action/chase sequences (did we really need to see Legolas (and LEGOLAS?!) balancing on the heads of dwarves shooting at Orcs hunting the dwarves along the River Running (and ORCS?!)?

I know. They're playing to the folks who like the action. And that's fine. But they were LONG action sequences that did not stick with the story.

And then there's Beorn. My favorite part of the book, with Gandalf introducing the dwarves to the skin-changer a few at a time. Gone. Completely gone. And Beorn's character? Wooden. Why tried to make me care about him, oh, they did. But no. Nope. No care there. Even though I've read the book a thousand times and love his character. Worst mistake in this company since the elimination of Tom Bombadil.

And Mirkwood forest? No brains, no affection for this creepy forest (aside form Bilbo climbing and finding the black butterflies). Hallucinations? Don't remember that from the book. And didn't they get tracked off the path pursuing the elves? Not in the movie.

And the spiders. The spiders.

No cries of Attercop (well, you hear it muttered once, but other than that . . .) And none of the verbal taunting. NONE OF IT. Just another dumb action sequence and Bilbo fretting about the ring, which he never lost in Mirkwood. The verbal taunting by Bilbo is what sold that scene to me. Not the chasie-chasie after the ugly spiders. Phooey. Just another dumb action scene at the expense of a good part of the book they could have included (and made just as actioney) if they hadn't blown it completely.

Now we move on to the Kili/she-elf love story. I don't even remember her name BECAUSE SHE WASN'T IN THE BOOK. Nope, nope, nope. Don't cut material like the spiders and like Beorn at the expense of crapola you have to invent for the story. No, don't do it.

And what was up with Bilbo NOT wearing the ring during his interview with Smaug?

And what was up with the dwarves trying to kill the dragon in melted gold?

And what was up with . . . well, the whole movie.

Peter Jackson, I'm disappointed. You had a wonderful story to start with. Why add all the fluff? Was it studio pressure? It sure as hell wasn't pressure from Tolkien's fans, right? RIGHT?!

Now, the film has some wonderful scenes. The dragon is artfully rendered and acted. But there's no sense of awe at the abandoned dwarven kingdom, like we had in Moria. In fact, the whole of the interior of Erebor felt like an exploration of how can we get this dragon and the dwarves to interact.

Go back to the book: THEY DIDN'T INTERACT. Or very little.

The closest interaction they had was at the destruction of the secret door. Which, oopsie, they left out of the movie.

Yes, I'm a little disappointed.

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