The Desolation of Smaug: A Cautionary Hobbit’s Tale


I trust that watching the newly released extended trailer for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug has already been part of your NaNoWriMo procrastination routine, right?  Go on, watch it.  I’ll wait.

Now.  Let me just say that I’m not planning to review the movie before it comes out (you can read my review of the first one here).  That would be silly.  I have no more information about the full shape of the film than you do (and probably less if you’re gone all fanboy about this on the forums), and I shall, as always, maintain hope that Jackson has done justice to the task entrusted to his Kiwi hands.  However, I have issues.  I have lots of issues that need airing, and that’s what I plan to do right now.

Radagast is back

This, it goes without saying, is a horrible thing.  If you don’t think it’s a horrible thing, then I can’t help you.  I simply can’t.  You can leave now.

Lots of random Elves are back

On the surface, this is not a horrible thing.  The history of the dwarves has always been intimately tied in with the Elves, and exploring it can in the film can help non-Tolkienites understand the reasons behind what goes down in Mirkwood, etc.  Do I have a problem with Legolas being there?  Not really.  If my memory serves, he wasn’t mentioned by name in The Hobbit, but it’s not stretching artistic license too far to give him a role – although how big of a role he gets remains to be seen.  But then there’s the girl.

Oh, yes.  The girl.  The girl is symptomatic of the disease that we all knew would plague this unnecessary trilogy from day one: story bloat.  It appears that Jackson has confused widening a story with deepening it, which is an amateur mistake he should be ashamed of.

There is more than enough backstory he could have drawn on to bring color and richness and drama to his tale without inserting a random elf chick, and that offends me both as a book-to-movie purist and a story teller.  It also offends me as a female, because it means that Jackson has once again fallen into trap number two…

The token woman is back

Jackson really likes his Elvish women.  From Arwen’s weird and drawn out quasi-death scene to Galadriel’s party crashing in An Unexpected Journey to Tauriel’s strange nearly-word-for-word repetition of what Merry said to Treebeard at Entmoot, the token female Elf is alive and well in Middle Earth.

In The Lord of the Rings, the Silmarillion, the Lays of Beleriand, and more of Tolkien’s works, women play a very strong and vital role in shaping events.  In The Hobbit?  Not so much.  Why?  It’s very simple.  The Hobbit is not a story about women.  It’s a story written by a father for a little boy about adventure and dwarves and dragon slaying, and women simply don’t enter into it.  It’s not misogynistic.  It’s not maliciously exclusive.  It’s just not a story where females fit into the narrative of events.

So why add them?  For me, and many others, I find it much more offensive that a filmmaker would add a token to pat on the head and wave around then it is to acknowledge that some things just don’t need our presence.  It irks me deeply on many levels to see that Jackson is continuing this disappointing pattern, even with ten years of comment and criticism under his belt.

Also back? Armitage, Freeman, McKellen, and their little dragon pal, too

There is nothing wrong with any of this.  I will happily watch Richard Armitage glower his way through anything, even if he is three feet tall.  I am not disappointed about seeing Aidan Turner again.  Sir Ian McKellan has always been flawless, and I remain pleased with Martin Freeman’s continuing cross-universe inability to control the behavior of Benedict Cumberbatch.  Carry on.

What do you think?  Are you in agreement?  Are there other things that bother you?  Is Jackson a cinematic god that can do no wrong?


The Hobbit: An Unedited Journey


This post contains spoilers.  Please be warned and click away accordingly.




Dear Mr. Jackson,

Peter, you’re breaking my heart.  You know how much The Hobbit means to me.  You know how much it means to hundreds of thousands of early readers who fell in love with fantasy because of Bilbo Baggins.  You know how much time and money you poured into this, and how much everyone hoped An Unexpected Journey would be the beginning of a new record-breaking run.

So I can only ask: why?

Why load up a perfectly cohesive, easily understood story with a bunch of background stuff that Tolkien left out for a reason?  Why bog down your actors with tedious, amateur, useless, repetitive dialog? Why is Ned from Pushing Daisies making a cameo as King Thranduril? Why did you turn Radagast into Middle Earth’s Jar Jar Binks?  Sled rabbits?  Animated hedgehogs?  Seriously?

I can see what you were going for.  You’re ambitious, and I like that.  I love Middle Earth like a second home, and I’d be overjoyed to see its rich and complex history come to life.  I’d even love to see you do it.  But it doesn’t belong here, and I wish someone had told you that.

When you stick to the story, you do it brilliantly.  When you use dialogue straight from the page, my heart sings with how perfectly rendered it is.  The first twenty-five minutes were lovely, striking just the right tone and using all of the best bits of the original text.  Martin Freeman?  Perfection.  Richard Armitage?  Fantastic.  The guy who plays Kili?  Tell him to audition for the film adaptation of The Last Death.

But I beg you to take a good look at your script before you release the next two (entirely unnecessary) films.  Cut out the crap.  Half of this movie felt like the first draft of a NaNoWriMo novel, heavy on the filler and wandering where it didn’t need to go.  I’d be happy to give you some tips on editing, because that’s all I could think about, and it distracted from all of the wonderful things in the film.

Also, the 3D was kind of awful for me.  There were parts that used it to great effect, but the colors were dark and dreary through the glasses, and half of the motion was sickeningly blurry and impossible to focus on.  But that could have just been my movie theater, which is not known for being particularly great (they started the movie five minutes early, then stopped it, brought up the lights, and waited until 5:00 to roll film again from the beginning).

Is it worth seeing?  Well, yes, of course.  As I said, the good parts were very, very good.  The bad parts are tolerable, and probably better than most things you’ll see in the theater over the holiday season.  But it doesn’t leave me with very much hope for the second two movies, even though I desperately wish to be wrong.  Please prove me wrong, Peter.  Please.

Lots of love,