The Hobbit – The Desolation of Smaug
Two weeks ago the second part of the Hobbit Trilogy – The Desolation of Smaug came out. I had been very torn about the movie. I liked the first part, but some of the added parts were really unworthy of such a book. Still, it was a good movie with some incredible pictures. So on one hand I waited impatiently for the next part, on the other hand I was uncertain on what to expect: Would the movie stay close to the book, or would it deviate even further?
Maybe I should lead my thoughts about The Hobbit – The Desolation of Smaug with the addendum that I’ve been often dissappointed by cinematic adaptions of books I had already read. The Harry Potter movies lacked some of the important charm of the books, Ender’s Game concentrated on the action and mishandled a great story, and don’t get me started on Eragon (please!)… Part of my dislike stems from generally enjoying books more than movies, but I still do watch a fair amount of movies and like many of them. Don’t worry though, I’m not one that expects a movie to follow the book word for word, that would be impossible.
I hope you can understand somewhat that, while I was very much looking forward to The Desolation of Smaug, I was concerned how the story would play out.
Let me start with one thing: I enjoyed the movie, at least most of it. As a whole, it is a good movie and everybody interested in fantasy should watch it. The movie makes for a fast-paced and funny adventure, and it has bombastic pictures. Sadly that means that not only has it not much to do with the actual book by J. R. R. Tolkien, the movie feels more like a sequence of action scenes – sometimes with a bit of funny mixed in, but not much else.
Before I go on and explain some more of my thoughts about the movie, I wanted to warn you that from here on out there will be spoilers (as much as you can spoiler a book that has been published for so long…):
It irked me that the focus of the movie lay mostly on the action. The book doesn’t rely on action as much, but uses a more measured pace that helps you savour the importance of the journey. I have nothing against action, and the fighting in this movie is done extremely well, but it feels like it’s action only for the sake of action, and many important parts of the book fall by the wayside. Just take the beginning of the movie, when they meet Beorn for the first time. In the book, it is a witty and funny episode, in the movie it’s an escape from an enraged bear. I can see why they did that, but many of the changes Peter Jackson did go against the spirit of the book.
Take the escape of the dwarves in the barrels for example. In the movie it’s a festival of dead orcs, with dwarves throwing weapons to each other (like the dishes in the first movie) and dispatching orcs left and right, and Legolas using the dwarves as stepping stones while killing orcs in rapid succession. It’s great action, but totally over the top. And while the barrel-of-death is a funny moment, it doesn’t fit the book Tolkien wrote. You know, I laughed at that scene, but I stopped dead as soon as I realized what I was laughing at. Many of the scenes in the movie had that effect on me. I liked them, but they didn’t fit Tolkien’s Hobbit.
My biggest problem with the movie weren’t the action or the way the movie strayed from the book, but the dwarven-elven love story. It was simply cringeworthy. Does anyone believe that grown people find an apparent eternal love in two heartbeats, especially between two very different races? I can overlook this dumbed down version of love (especially since love at first sight is a rather common trope in fantasy), but what I can’t ignore is the messianic picture of Tauriel when she heals Kili. The scene was so bad I had to look away…Can’t you make the movie and the lovestory at least somewhat serious?
On the other hand you have Smaug, and what a beast that is! When you first see him in his whole glory, you will feel awe and the fear a superior predator causes in his prey. His appearance is incredible and I hope other movies take him as an example to model their dragons after. His voice creates goosebumps and the exchange with Bilbo is one of the high points of the movie. I loved this character and he’s the best part of the movie — easily pushing especially the elves from the spotlight. My main critisizem is the way the chase after the dwarves is handled: For a being that is characterized with a very high intelligence by Tolkien, the dwarves easily escape simply by splitting up into small groups and taunting the dragon. I hope I wasn’t the only one that thought about MMORPGs in this instance, with some tanks using their “Taunt”-skill to kite an exploitable AI-Smaug.
And please don’t get me started on the end. While the last scene was great, the way the dwarves force Smaug from his hoard defies good taste. Who ever thought it would be a good idea to use a giant gold statue that melts to defeat Smaug? When the dwarves first revealed their “trump card”, I was baffled, to say the least. At least the movie didn’t use the first idea that came to my mind: A mechanical statue that fights Smaug. Sadly, their idea isn’t much better. How could the dwarves even believe such a plan could ever work? The worst thing is that it does…
As I’ve said before, and even though I mentioned so many things I didn’t like, I enjoyed the movie. The thing that bothers me the most about this movie is that I don’t think it should have been called The Hobbit, because it clearly isn’t Tolkien’s Hobbit. It’s not even close to the book and I don’t think it deserves to wallow in the success of a great book. To use the titel of a book for a movie adaption should force the director to at least try to be true to the original. I’d have found the movie much more acceptable if it had had another titel with the notice that it is “a movie loosely related to Tolkien’s The Hobbit“.