Saturday, December 14, 2013

Thoughts on The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

This is not a review, really, although it sort of could substitute for one.  And it could get spoilery, since I'm planning to discuss the movie vs. the novel.  Go ahead and click away if you don't want the movie spoiled.

So, I saw the movie on Thursday, when it opened here in Korea.  I've got a bad head cold, and called in sick to work.  After laying around for a bit, I remembered that the movie opened, and we checked the times and there was a showing my wife and I could make, so we went to see it.

Visually, we get the same beautifully rendered world of Middle Earth that we know and love from the LotR movies and An Unexpected Journey.  The special effects were well done, the locations, sets, CGI backgrounds, props and costumes, all of that really continue to bring Middle Earth alive. 

Martin Freeman really brought Bilbo to life, showing his growing courage, the beginnings of the pull of The One Ring, and cleverness in the face of adversity.  Ian McKellan was also great as Gandalf.  A few of the dwarves besides Thorin and Balin also began to stick out as actual characters, but it would be hard to do that with all of them.

As far as the story goes, though, there were (IMO, of course) way too many derivations from the novel.  In the LotR movies, there were abridgements, additions, and substitutions, but I always felt like they were done to help translate the novels to film.  Not so here.  Most of the stuff that actually came from the book was over in a flash, while stuff that PJ and company made up seemed to take up the lion's share of the film.  And I'm not just talking about the Necromancer/Dol Guldur stuff.

OK, here are the spoilers:

Beorn got less screen time than Radagast did in AUJ (and Radagast gets a fair amount here in DoS as well).  Bilbo does a little bit of spider fighting, but no taunting.  Then the dwarves all get their weapons and chop away until Legolas and Tauriel (the female elf character they added - who was fairly well done by the standards of action movie kickass babes/love interests) take out the rest.  Barrels out of Bond turns into, as someone I read on either G+ or Facebook put it, a video game platformer.  The fairly unnecessary Azog the Defiler gets pulled away from his chase of Thorin, only to be replaced by Bolg (who's in the book), but who looks almost the same and acts fairly similarly as well.  Laketown is a seeming cauldron of near revolution led by Bard against the Master (IIRC in the book they have no love for each other, but it's not like a daytime soap opera)  The dwarves try to fight Smaug, leading to a big set piece battle in the forges of Erebor. Oh, and worst of all was the unnecessary elf-dwarf-elf love triangle.  But then if you cast a young handsome dude as Kili, I guess as a filmmaker you feel the need to give him some romance in the movie.

When the Momoa Conan movie came out two years ago (or was it three?) lots of people said it was a good enough fantasy action movie, it just wasn't Conan.  I feel sorta the same way about Desolation of Smaug.  It's got "The Hobbit" in it, but there's so much other stuff bloating it and taking away from the style and feel of the book that it's not really the same story at all. 

Still, I will be there next December to see the Battle of Five Armies and the cleansing of Dol Goldur.  It's a fun movie, don't let my complaints give you the wrong idea.  I just wish there were more The Hobbit in The Hobbit.


  1. Nice review. Better than the first, but not by much. Although, I do have to say I look rather forward to what's next in the final installment.

  2. I think P Jackson had a Lucas moment when he decided to focus on Kili and Tauriel. I'd rather have more spooky scenes at the bad guy lairs.