Thursday, December 19, 2013

Movie Review of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

I just wanted to provide a quick review of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.  I am a big Tolkien fan as I believe this man singlehandedly set the tone of fantasy literature for the last half century.  Most other fantasy works are nothing but derivative from his own work.  Nothing wrong with that really since truly awe-inspiring work is always copied by others.

In the latest installment of the movies, we see Peter Jackson taking the helm again.  One thing I need to point out for the fans of the books is that these movies are prequels to the previous three movies, unlike the original book from which it is based.  The original book, The Hobbit, was a much simpler tale about the adventure of a hobbit.  But because of a single event in that book, the discovery of a magic ring, it essentially caused a cataclysmic effect on the rest of the Tolkien universe.

So of course Jackson and his team are going to address a lot of this in the prequels.  And while I have some complaints about the latest installment, I think he did a pretty good job of dramatizing events which are only hinted at in the novel and the appendices of The Return of the King.

I will say that only about 25% of the novel is in the movie.  There is the scene with Beorn, something that was lacking in the original animated version, though this could have been extended.  I really hope he is not cut from the third movie.  Next we have the scene with the spiders as well as the scene where Bilbo climbs to the top of a tree in Mirkwood.  There is also the Wood Elves and the barrel riding scenes.  These latter scenes are extended, however.

As for the new stuff, we have further investigations into the Necromancer with Gandalf and Radagast, although mostly Gandalf.  We find out who the Necromancer really is as well here, though an avid Tolkien fan knows exactly who and what he is.

The spider scenes were great, although they did not speak until Bilbo put the ring on, implying that he couldn’t understand their speech without the ring.  Add a new power there.  One thing I disliked about this scene was that in the novel, it was where Bilbo really began to shine through as a hero as he used his ring in combination with Sting to dispatch several spiders.

Beorn’s appearance was short, but they did show Azog as being wary of him.  Despite what many people may think, this is actually accurate as Beorn is that dangerous, which should be shown in the third movie.

Some of the additions, however, were not needed except for maybe long term character development.  There is a bit of a love triangle with Legalos, Kili, and a new she-elf character named Tauriel.  This was not needed unless they wanted Legalos to warm up to dwarvenkind as per Kili’s ultimate fate at the end.  I predict a tragedy that will inspire Legalos to become the elf he is in the final movie.  Still totally unnecessary though.

The fact of Legalos being in the movie despite not being in the novel doesn’t bother me though.  His people are in it and I’m pretty sure he took part in the final battle at the end despite not being mentioned by name.

Finally, we have Smaug, who is more wyvern than dragon in this depiction, although he has a lizard head rather than a wolf-like head as depicted in the animated movie.  In truth, I enjoyed his character as he had both aspects of the novel as well as lines appropriate for the prequel, hinting at the true nature of the ring and of his possible future service to Sauron.

My one other beef is the fact that the leader of Laketown was a dictator rather than an elected official.  Instead of being called “Mayor”, he was called “Master”.  This flies in the face of what Tolkien was trying to do in The Hobbit, which was parody the ineptness of elected officials and instead demonstrate that a king can be better in some cases.  I guess having an elected official being overthrown in favor of a monarch hurts the insecurities of the intended audience.

All-in-all, I enjoyed this movie, though not as much as the first prequel movie.  Go watch it in the theaters, you will not be disappointed.  Unless you’re not a bit fantasy fan.