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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Tolkien

I don’t often write movie reviews or comment on a lot of pop culture topics, but the latest installment of The Hobbit was so annoying and awful that I wanted to say a few things about it. I saw the movie after having already read several very negative [1] reviews [2], but I tried to convince myself that it couldn’t possibly be as bad as the critics kept saying. In fact, the critics erred on the side of being too generous. The Desolation of Smaug is even worse than they let on. For those that want to see the movie for themselves, you should stop here, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Spoilers follow.

It is well-known that Peter Jackson has added a large amount of material to the story of The Hobbit in his quest to expand a short adventure story into a bloated would-be epic, but it is hard to appreciate just how silly and unnecessary these additions are until you see them. Thus we are treated to quite a few characters that never appear in the book, plotlines that have no relevance to the main story, villains that serve no purpose except to remind us of The Lord of the Rings, one pointless love story that functions at most as a lazy plot device, needless rewriting and mangling of key scenes, and frequent additions of battles that exist solely to fill up time in a movie that should never have been made. It is not completely ridiculous that Jackson adds in a few major elf characters, since wood elves do play a part in the original story, but the creation of an entire subplot around a love triangle involving Legolas, a made-up female elf character, and one of the dwarves is really inexcusable and painful to watch.

The weakness of Desolation of Smaug is underscored by the repeated and increasingly heavy-handed attempts by the director to make the audience recall similar scenes from the original LOTR movie trilogy. The most blatant and boring of these was to have Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) play the part of the magical elven healer just as Arwen did in the movie version of Fellowship. These scenes usually exist solely to justify the added subplots that do nothing to advance the story, and they exist for no other reason than to extend the running time to a tedious 161 minutes. The various additions require so much screen time that it practically consumes the second half of the film, and when Jackson does get around to telling the original story he still somehow manages to wreck it. The movie contrives several confrontations between the dwarves and Smaug at the end that were never part of the original story. These add absolutely nothing except to give Richard Armitage, who plays Thorin, more opportunities to look grim and determined. Benedict Cumberbatch provides the voice of Smaug, and he delivers his lines very well, but like the rest of the cast he is not able to rescue the film with a solid performance. Perhaps if Jackson had settled for making just two Hobbit movies, he might have been able to pull it off without too much abuse, but as it is the second installment in this trilogy is a mockery of Tolkien’s story and insult to the audience.

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49 Comments To "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Tolkien"

#1 Comment By Darth Thulhu On December 19, 2013 @ 4:50 am

Agreed. The entire book can be read in 6 hours or so … about the same amount of time as the two corpulent films thus far. How much padding can the lead up to the Battle of Five Armies possibly endure? How many hours will that battle end up running? How many people in the audience will care about the neverending padding in the slightest?

At least there’s enough footage for some intrepid nerds to hack this thing down to 1/3 to 2/5 the size after the third film hits DVD, perhaps creating a watchable fan version.

#2 Comment By William Burns On December 19, 2013 @ 7:19 am

My favorite two-word review of Desolation of Smaug: “Tauriel Binks.”

#3 Comment By Puller58 On December 19, 2013 @ 8:42 am

Fans of the book(s) and movies might not like this latest installment, but the return of the investment of the producers will count more than an Oscar or reviews.

#4 Comment By Al-Dhariyat On December 19, 2013 @ 8:52 am

I enjoyed the Hobbity parts of the movie and didn’t mind the additions that at the end related to Smaug. But I do agree strongly with you that the extraneous plot lines such as the extra battles scenes, orcs, elven love story, etc. really detracted from the story. The Hobbit could have been done in a tight two movies and remained true to the source material.

#5 Comment By Kieselguhr Kid On December 19, 2013 @ 9:02 am

Wait, hold up, I haven’t been following this stuff because I wasn’t a fan of the original trilogy movies. But — Jackson cast a former State Department number two as a dwarven warrior? Fer reals? Holy f*$k, I’m calling up Moviefone _right now_ so I can catch a matinee!

#6 Comment By Charlieford On December 19, 2013 @ 10:07 am

You should write more movie reviews.

#7 Comment By Jeff On December 19, 2013 @ 10:15 am

Agreed. And don’t forget the let’s-shoot-it-in-3D-so-we-can-make-even-MORE-money angle.

It takes a lot to make it onto my Top Five Films I Wish I Could Un-See list. Desolation of Smaug’s Audience debuts at Number One.

#8 Comment By Adam On December 19, 2013 @ 10:20 am

I wasn’t quite as negative as this review, although there were things that bothered me. I didn’t like the love triangle at all, so I’m with Dr. Larison on that. The love triangle, moreover, is at the root of much that was wrong with the movie: the need to leave several members of Thorin & Co. behind in Lake-town, the orc assault on Lake-town, even a chunk of the fight leaving the Halls of Thranduil. Moreover, I did not understand why Jackson has Bilbo take his magic ring OFF when chatting with Smaug. Forget about how this isn’t what happens in the novel; it just doesn’t make any sense. Similarly, the big fight with Smaug throughout Erebor just makes no sense, and Smaug’s conclusion at the end similarly makes no sense — why would he abandon the fight to go burn down Lake-town when he’s got intruders who can put him through his paces? Tolkien’s narrative on these points just made more sense.

On the other hand, aspects of the movie that are getting bad reviews trouble me a bit less. The ongoing involvement at Dol Guldur is being panned as Jackson trying to manufacture an epic, but I think it’s worth doing — the novel does not do much to explain why Gandalf needs to spirit off and leave Thorin & Co. just as they’re heading into Mirkwood, and I think viewers would justifiably want some explanation. I also don’t have a problem with Legolas being brought back; having already made Lord of the Rings, Jackson can’t get by with Tolkien’s excuse of not having dreamed up the Legolas character yet. Giving *Legolas* a love interest in a manufactured Tauriel character also doesn’t really bother me either.

Anyway, I think the movie is deeply flawed, although I think a couple of the things being pointed to as flaws aren’t so bad, while some other things that are deeply flawed are, if anything, being underappreciated for how bad they are.

#9 Comment By Zathras On December 19, 2013 @ 10:43 am

The additions aren’t in the movie to create an epic. They are there to make the Hobbit movies more explicitly a prequel to LOTR. The Hobbit movies may be flawed, but I can certainly think of another prequel trilogy that was done far, far worse.

#10 Comment By hetzer On December 19, 2013 @ 10:50 am

Well at least when I see it this weekend I’ll have properly adjusted expectations.

Dragging the story out seems to be the biggest crime (I thought the first Hobbit was “alright” but could have stood to lose some weight). I personally prefer the Hobbit to the Lord of the Rings when it comes to the book – I read LOTR in high school but it’s a bit of a slog these days. The Hobbit’s simplicity I think leads to better storytelling.

#11 Comment By C. L. H. Daniels On December 19, 2013 @ 10:54 am

For all of his admitted genius as a filmmaker, at least in terms of producing epic fantasy milieus, Peter Jackson leaves a lot to be desired as a storyteller. While he’s clearly a Tolkien fan, even the LOTR movies have a certain air of geeky overindulgence; it’s like Jackson just couldn’t restrain himself from adding more BOOM and cheap laughs into the plot, frequently at the expense of the story’s quality and even (at times) coherence. This tendency became markedly worse as he progressed through the trilogy, to the point that where I found the Fellowship to be a rather enjoyable adaptation of the book (understanding that certain changes had to be made to make it fit into movie length), the Return of the King was so disappointing that I’ve not been able to bring myself to watch it again since I saw it in theater.

Given this trend, is it any surprise that the Hobbit should be turning out so poorly? Jackson seems to think his storytelling is an improvement over Tolkien’s, and the reception of the LOTR movies would seem to support that opinion, at least in terms of box office results; is it any wonder then that he’d feel free to abuse Tolkien’s work to an even greater degree in the prequel trilogy? Unfortunately for him, his storytelling is actually quite insipid, something that his mastery of production and special effects can’t truly overcome. It’s a shame. The elements of the movies that are true to Tolkien are actually enjoyable and reasonably well done. If he’d been able to restrain his urge to rewrite the story beyond all recognition, it might have turned out quite well.

Also this (spoilers and general hilarity):

#12 Comment By Fulton On December 19, 2013 @ 10:54 am

I actually liked Tauriel, the romance with Kili aside which was daft, I think it’s not unreasonable for Jackson to try to shoehorn a bit of female action heroing into the movies. And Legolas was meant to be the son of the Wood Elf King, so while he isn’t mentioned in The Hobbit, it’s also reasonable to write him in.

Biggest disappointment for me was the face-off with Smaug. My daughter (aged seven) thought it was the best bit, however I thought Smaug was one shade away from Dr.Evil in Austin Powers as an endlessly monologuing villain. In the book, the encounter between Bilbo and Smaug is far more tense and menacing and Smaug is clearly terrifyingly powerful. By contrast I ended up thinking that if he can’t even swat a few dwarves and a hobbit running all over his lair, what possible threat is he to massed armies?

Overall, my feeling on it was, eh, it was ok. I wouldn’t bother watching it again.

#13 Comment By Franklin Evans On December 19, 2013 @ 10:56 am

Once I realized — about a third of the way through the first movie — that Jackson was not in fact making a movie adaptation of The Hobbit, it became easy to view the film on its own merits.

This is in fact a movie rendition of the story of Thorin Oakenshield, and Bilbo is relegated to a supporting character.

I suppose a comparison might be made to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, or even to “Shakespeare in Love”. However one wishes to approach it, the first movie is a poor rendition of a Tolkien story — I see it as a vain attempt to flesh out something Tolkien himself gave little on which to go — and I intend to see the second and third movies only on DVD and only because my son intends to buy them.

No disrespect intended, but I find criticizing the movies as Tolkien stories a trivial pursuit.

I shudder at the prospect of a Jacksonian treatment of The Silmarillion.

#14 Comment By Skipjack On December 19, 2013 @ 11:20 am

I think the biggest sacrilege is in making this Bilbo so frequently un-Hobbit like. He’s stabbing and slashing with aplomb, and having not so much as a second thought for his hobbit-hole. It struck me that one of the funny things about the Lord of the Rings is its insistence that what will most resistance the inevitable corruption of power is Englishness in the purest form you can find. Even inventing a new type of humanoid to be more English than any human reasonably could be, home bodied and unconcerned, brave where needed but never borrowing trouble. This Bilbo however struck me as rarely showing any of those qualities.

With that said, I enjoyed this installment much more than the previous one. It’s kind of hard to complain about Jackson having his way with the material after all this time. Perhaps the film should have been titled “Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit- Here Be Dragons”

PS. Anyone who hasn’t seen his Muppets having sex and doing drugs variety show movie “Meet The Feebles” needs to track it down as soon as they can.

#15 Comment By Jake Lukas On December 19, 2013 @ 11:21 am

My biggest complaint doesn’t concern the additions, but the subtractions. If he wished to expand upon a scene for the sake of expansion, Jackson ought at least to have expanded upon scenes which longer in the book. Some of these scenes would do much to convey the spirit of the book itself.

The scene with Beorn is compressed severely. I suppose that it’d be inappropriate in Jackson’s rendition, where Gandalf is more a superhero than a trickster. There’s nary an “attercop” to be found, in spite of the levity Bilbo’s teasing brought to this scene in a lighthearted book. The murkiness of the Murkwood is largely absent. There’s a bit of confusion but the desperation and eleven feasts are removed. And after the interminable escape, the company arrives so suddenly at the door on the Lonely Mountain that one wonders whether they took an eagle to get there. It is, without a doubt, the weakest of the five Jackson movies.

#16 Comment By philadelphialawyer On December 19, 2013 @ 11:36 am

What a shame! The first installment was so charming too. I was suspicious though, of why and how Jackson could turn such a short book into a three part movie. Then the trailer for part two, with its ultra violence and new plot lines, which I’ve seen a half dozen times, furthered my fears. Now I know: he added a bunch of BS to it. Thanks for the tip. You just saved me fifteen bucks! Maybe the journey home part three will be better.

#17 Comment By Matt On December 19, 2013 @ 11:37 am

A Legolas cameo makes sense enough, but it sounds like he has a more expansive role. I haven’t seen it though. I didn’t really love the first one that much, as there were about 8 too many slow motion scenes with grandiose orchestral music, sometimes 2 or 3 in a row.

I shudder at the prospect of a Jacksonian treatment of The Silmarillion.

Please don’t give him ideas.

#18 Comment By Connie On December 19, 2013 @ 12:23 pm

I shudder at the prospect of a Jacksonian treatment of The Silmarillion.

Oh, but you know it’s coming!

#19 Comment By icarusr On December 19, 2013 @ 12:27 pm

“Once I realized — about a third of the way through the first movie — that Jackson was not in fact making a movie adaptation of The Hobbit, it became easy to view the film on its own merits.”

As soon as it was announced that the Hobbit was being made into a Trilogy, it was clear that the movies were not going to be a faithful adaptation. And so, it seems to me, the proper question to be asked is whether cinematically, and thematically, they hang together. (The trilogy as a story, and – this is key – as a prequel, because, again, it is clear that more is being done.)

So yes, all the talk of “the Enemy” is silly from an adaptation perspective, but it makes sense to tell us how it is that Sauron’s Eye ended up on top of Mordor a generation hence.

As for the love interest – I think to compare Tauriel as a character or Evangeline Lilly as an actress to the mess that was Jar Jar is a little bit strained. Nor am I persuaded that a dwarf’s attraction to a beardless she-elf is all that difficult to understand. Look, there are men out there – manly men, macho guys, muscular masculine athletic guys, who, you know, like other guys, even hairy ones. Why shouldn’t a dwarf – one out of twelve – not be attracted to an unbearded she-elf? (As someone who would find it difficult to chose between Evangeline Lilly and Aidan Turner, if I ever had the option, I can say with considerable confidence that Kili’s odd attraction does not faze me at all.)

Not that it matters, but it was not Arwen who acted as the healer, but Aragorn (he’s the one who mixes the herbs); Arwen saves Frodo by taking him to her father. The Tauriel scene tells us how it is that Aragorn might have learned his own healing skills. For prequel that is supposed to link us to the LOTR story-line – which is how this trilogy should be seen – these minor details are actually to be welcomed: it shows that some thought has gone into the linkages.

Finally, I find the criticism that some scenes were not given more time somewhat strange. Do I really need to see how the troops trekked on the foothills of the Lonely Mountain?

#20 Comment By alkali On December 19, 2013 @ 12:40 pm

The weakness of Desolation of Smaug is underscored by the repeated and increasingly heavy-handed attempts by the director to make the audience recall similar scenes from the original LOTR movie trilogy.

These kinds of scenes are sometimes called “fan service.” The Star Trek reboot is filled with fan service callbacks to the original series. A bit of that is fun but after a while it just gets creepy, as if the film is an artificial construct designed to hit your pleasure centers as many times as possible rather than a genuine effort to tell a story.

#21 Comment By Ron Beasley On December 19, 2013 @ 1:00 pm

Having read both The Trilogy and The Hobbit over 40 years ago and again a few times since I thought Jackson did a decent job with Lord of the Rings but his treatment of The Hobbit is criminal.

#22 Comment By Volcano Cowboy On December 19, 2013 @ 1:36 pm

Zathras is correct. The Hobbit story was expanded to match the LOTR story, just as the LOTR was shrunk down to match the upper limits of our movie going attention span.

As for the content, as Tolkien said: “Now it is a strange thing, but things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and take a deal of telling anyway.”

Anyone wanting the authentic The Hobbit should read The Hobbit, which is enough unto itself.

#23 Comment By Franklin Evans On December 19, 2013 @ 1:41 pm

I should disclose that I am a small-scale contributor to theater art. I’ve produced, and I have a first-effort play in the works. I have no illusions about my talent per se, but I do have confidence in my attention to basic concepts.

As a storytelling link, the movie version of LotR is already beyond the thematic concepts Tolkien employed. I won’t go into them here — there are several scholarly works that do — but a brief survey of Jackson’s cinematic choices point them out.

Item: The shards of Narsil are reforged into Anduril when the Fellowship is formed, and Aragorn takes it into battle from the very beginning of their quest. Elrond showing up with the sword at Harrowdale was the rectification of a mistake, in my view.

Item: Saruman’s death at Isengard was an arbitrary exercise in cutting, because they skipped an entire chapter, “The Harrowing of the Shire”, a key point in the entire story.

Item: Denethor’s hand being forced by Gandalf and Pippin lighting the signal fire. Indeed, the movie characterization of Denethor was completely botched. It weakened the roles of both of his sons.

I really don’t begrudge the necessities of cinematic choice, especially from as rich a medium as a novel is. I truly enjoyed the relationship between Legolas and Gimli, I thought Miranda Otto was brilliant as Eowyn, and Galadriel lived for me on first sight (ahem, sorry, I do have a crush on Cate Blanchett). However, and to me this is the critical point, the thematic departures in LotR quite naturally lead to more of the same for The Hobbit, and there’s no getting around it.

I have a mild speculation: The Rankin Bass production of “The Hobbit” was quite faithful to the book. One may dislike the stylistic choices — I was not impressed with the music, but felt it an important choice — but it stood and stands as a comparison point. I can easily imagine Jackson wanting to avoid that comparison.

#24 Comment By EngineerScotty On December 19, 2013 @ 2:17 pm

Minor spoilers in the comment, for those who haven’t read the book..

C’mon: Tauriel’s not Jar-Jar, she’s Peter Jackson’s Padme Amidala. (And like Padme, she’ll likely be iced in the third film–given that Kili gets iced at the end of the book).

It is Radagast the Brown who is Jar-Jar.


And something tells me that the third version will see the seduction of Anakin, er I mean Count Dooku (dammit, just a sec. Hon, which baddie does Christopher Lee play in LotR? No, not Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Lord of the Rings! Who? Thanks!)–I mean Sarumun, as the white council wins a Pyrrhic victory over Darth Sauron at Dol Goldur.

#25 Comment By Charlie On December 19, 2013 @ 3:15 pm

Fans of the book(s) and movies might not like this latest installment, but the return of the investment of the producers will count more than an Oscar or reviews.

True enough, but I don’t think the bloat is entirely a product of Jackson or others caring more about money than the story. I think Jackson just has a natural tendency to inflate his movies–look at King Kong, which could have been 30-45 minutes shorter without having any impact at all on its profitability (if anything, it would have made it more profitable by allowing more showings per day).

The first two Hobbit movies total about 5.5 hours, meaning the full trilogy will end up being eight or nine hours long. Even if there are financial reasons to favor too many movies, there’s no financial reason to favor making each movie too long. If each of the movies were between 90 minutes and two hours, instead of being 2.5 and 3 hours, you could cut the total running time by a third or even by half.

Of course, then people might complain that the movies are short enough that splitting them up is an artificial cash-grab. But, then again, people suspect the same thing about the movies we actually have–that they’re only this long to justify splitting them up and making more money.

#26 Comment By Charlie On December 19, 2013 @ 3:26 pm

I should have added that there’s a reasonable artistic case to be made for three movies. The book isn’t very long but it does split naturally into three segments, and Jackson seems to be dividing his movies accordingly. I think making three fast-paced, 90-minute adventure movies would have been a perfectly reasonable thing to do, and everyone makes more money in the bargain.

#27 Comment By Aaron Paolozzi On December 19, 2013 @ 3:58 pm

I enjoyed the voice acting for Smaug and the delivery of his lines but like most everyone else here I think the poor trilogy should have been a great singular movie, or if they told the whole story, a great double header.

#28 Comment By Emilio On December 19, 2013 @ 4:23 pm

Haven’t seen it yet, so I just skimmed your review. It IS a pleasant surprise to see this post, I didn’t know you were a Tolkien fan.

I though Peter Jackson’s treatment of the LOTR was a disgrace, and that’s putting it mildly. I still had to see all of it. There was very little in it I appreciated. I don’t mind changes to the original or even the addition of some new characters, as long it’s in the spirit of the original. Most of it wasn’t to my taste at all.

However, for some reason, maybe in part because my disappointment in the first adaption was so deep, I actually really enjoyed the Hobbit part 1. I suppose my expectations were as low as they could go. And I’ll definitely go see part 2 in any case. I HAVE TO. It’s Tolkien.

And if he dares to touch the Silmarillion, may Ungoliant’s black wrath consume him.

#29 Comment By Scott S On December 19, 2013 @ 5:07 pm

I don’t often write movie reviews or comment on a lot of pop culture topics

Personally I love it when you comment on geek topics like this. I always enjoyed it when you would bring up BSG back in the day.

I have zero desire to see the second film after the bloated, boring first. The Hobbit is just not a dark grim tale. It’s a very lighthearted one. The original material has to be changed to match the new tone, and it still doesn’t quite match up with the added material.

Of course, I don’t think that Jackson’s made a good movie since the first LotR film (the theatrical cut), which probably not coincidentally had the least amount of added or changed material.

#30 Comment By EngineerScotty On December 19, 2013 @ 5:09 pm

IIRC, the Tolkien Estate has not sold off film rights to The Silmarillion or any other of Tolkien’s writings beside The Hobbit and LotR. There’s a reason that Jackson’s film ignores and contradicts many things from the wider Middle-Earth canon: Jackson lacks the rights to works such as Unfinished Tales, in which many additional details are provided. There’s a little joke about this early in An Unexpected Journey when Gandalf is telling Bilbo about wizards, and “can’t remember” the names of the two Blue Wizards of the East (Alatar and Pallando)–their names are only given in Unfinished Tales and thus unavailable to Jackson for use.

#31 Comment By Franklin Evans On December 20, 2013 @ 11:20 am

Scotty, are you sure about that “joke”, or is it something you found likely? I’m just curious.

I have a personal conceit. I would like to try my hand at adapting certain works of literature (well, okay strictly science fiction and fantasy) to the big screen. But I’m also painfully aware of the main hurdle: An author’s imagery is not necessarily going to “translate” directly. An inadequate analogy is song covers. The original is almost always going to form the standard by which all others will be judged.

I’m fascinated by the implications behind the brevity of “Akallabêth: The Downfall of Númenor”. Even if it never saw the light of a projector, I’d enjoy trying my hand at writing that screenplay. I’m also intrigued by Tolkien’s First Born characters (who include Galadriel) and I would dearly love to explore their personalities and the thoughts and feelings behind their dealings and war with Morgoth.

#32 Comment By Ryan Booth On December 21, 2013 @ 3:00 pm

I didn’t dislike it, but it was a little disappointing. I actually liked An Unexpected Journey, as I thought that Jackson did a good job with the conflict that we all feel between comfort and contentment on the one hand, and adventure and accomplishment on the other. It was also a good commentary on courage.

This episode, however, didn’t seem to have anything to say. And my biggest objection was simply the video-game action scenes. When goblins shoot hundreds of arrows and the best they can do is hit one guy in the leg, while elves shoot hundreds of arrows and each is a killing shot, it trivializes the story and makes it fundamentally unserious. As was already stated, the same can be said for Smaug’s bumbling — it diminishes the material.

#33 Comment By Jeremy On December 21, 2013 @ 9:17 pm

I shudder at the prospect of a Jacksonian treatment of The Silmarillion.

Rest assured, it won’t happen. Neither Newline Cinemas nor any other film company owns the rights to the Silmarillion. Christopher Tolkien, who controls the Tolkien Estate will certainly never sell them. He says Jackson has dragged his father’s work through the mud. The only reason that the rights to The Hobbit and LOTR were available to anyone is that JRR Tolkien himself sold them for a pittance way back in the day, thinking that no one could ever possibly make a film out of them. I guess one day Silmarillion will enter the public domain, but until then it is in safe hands.

#34 Comment By ChuckT On December 21, 2013 @ 11:41 pm

I have to agree with the comment about Beorn’s house being too compressed. For me – that’s one of my favorite sections in The Hobbit and I was really looking forward to seeing the full treatment of the set for his home. You barely got a look it went so fast. Also – to my mind the introduction of the company two by two during Gandalf’s telling Beorn their tale was iconic. To remove it in favor of all the added battles (Orcs in Laketown? REALLY?) was a poor choice.

As for Tauriel – I actually didn’t mind her character at all. The implied “love triangle” stuff is nonsense of course, but overall I didn’t mind her addition to the story.

I also felt Mirkwood was given short shrift – removing the puzzle of how to get over the dark steam and Bombur getting wet and falling asleep, their hunger, the chasing of the elves feast as the reason they strayed from the trail. Wish Jackson had hewed a little closer to Tolkien’s actual devices rather than going off on his own direction.

Enjoyable – but not nearly as much as I’d hoped, and very disappointed with the whole Beorn section. Wanted SO much more. Ah well.

#35 Comment By anjerse On December 23, 2013 @ 1:14 am

If Peter Jackson wanted an epic, why didn’t he just take something from the appendices or the Silmarillion?

#36 Comment By stef On December 23, 2013 @ 12:09 pm

I loved the introduction of Tauriel as a character, but saw no need to give her a romantic sub-plot. Why? Bilbo doesn’t have one. Neither does Thorin. It’s as if a woman character can’t walk into a story without everyone wanting to pair her up with someone.

But Evangeline Lilly was great in the role, although I had to stop myself from wanting to hear her say, “I saved you an arrow!” (LOST viewers will know what I’m talking about here.)

@anjerse: See the comments above. Jackson can’t use Silmarillion material because he doesn’t have the rights.

#37 Comment By Ken T On December 23, 2013 @ 2:06 pm

Tolkien wrote in at least one of his letters that it was his hope and intent that his stories would become the foundation of a “mythology” for England – which would then be expanded on and filled in by others. It is his son Christopher who now owns the rights and is holding firm to protect the “purity” of his father’s ideas, apparently against his father’s expressed wishes. I suspect that once Christopher passes on, the Silmarillion and other stories will become available.

#38 Comment By Franklin Evans On December 23, 2013 @ 2:53 pm

Ken, I’m not convinced that Christopher is “protecting” anything outside of the desire to prevent popularizations from defeating his father’s original motivations.

Tolkien’s hope has been fulfilled, albeit arguably. I can list a dozen authors without much effort who’ve followed in his wake successfully. They didn’t strive to add to his mythopoeia, they embarked on their own.

His thematic elements are by definition in the public domain: The unfiltered views of non-human “peoples” as adjuncts to or independent commentaries on human societies; the elevation of ancient stories in their original forms but adapted to modern sensibilities instead of reworked or transformed; magic as an element of life, embedded within it instead of being an arbitrary imposition on it; and (finally but not completing the list) the realm of spirit manifesting itself via avatars who participated in life directly rather than at some sort of remove.

Tolkien is a modern example of the bard, in the tradition of Homer or Shakespeare. He told the stories that he thought were important, in ways he valued.

#39 Comment By vato_loco_frisco On December 24, 2013 @ 12:37 pm

Having read the Hobbit & the LOTR when I was 10, I found the film version of the trilogy appallingly bad (I took my young nephew to see the films over the years). I’d wager that most film-goers haven’t bothered to read the books. What a shame…

#40 Comment By Corey On December 24, 2013 @ 1:41 pm

Just to be fair to the film, it is sitting at a more than respectable 75% on rottentomatoes, which is among the highest rating for any movie in theaters. Clearly Larison’s suggestion that the movie is receiving across the board negative reviews, or even that most reviewers think the movie is bad, is wrong.

#41 Comment By tamiasmin On December 24, 2013 @ 6:12 pm

People worried about a Jackson version of The Silmarillion might recall that Tolkien did an edition of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Yikes!

#42 Comment By Austin Post On December 24, 2013 @ 10:20 pm

I’m somewhat saddened by this edition of the Hobbit. I feel like Jackson is taking Tolkien’s world and making it his own. The sad thing is that people will always define these books by the movies. I think in some ways it is a disgrace to Tolkien what they have become. I enjoyed the movies in some sense and own extended editions of the first three, but I refuse to accept them as “canonical.” There is admittedly a part of me that wishes they had never been made.

#43 Comment By mrscracker On December 26, 2013 @ 11:22 am

My son was home for Christmas & we checked out the latest Hobbit movie. It wasn’t so bad after all.Maybe that’s because after all the terrible reviews we didn’t expect much.Sure there was a lot of computer generated stuff, but seriously, how else would you create a talking dragon? Animation?

#44 Comment By Dapa1390 On December 26, 2013 @ 1:23 pm

“When goblins shoot hundreds of arrows and the best they can do is hit one guy in the leg, while elves shoot hundreds of arrows and each is a killing shot, it trivializes the story and makes it fundamentally unserious.”

I think you have a fundamental misunderstanding of orcs and elves. I think the presentation of the elves and their martial skills is consistent with the Lord of the Rings books.

#45 Comment By David Smith On December 27, 2013 @ 3:30 pm

I agree wholeheartedly with your review. I would only add that it is a shame to so misuse an otherwise strong cast on such needless sensationalism and clumsy storytelling.

#46 Comment By Scottinnj On December 29, 2013 @ 5:21 pm

I too didn’t mind Tauriel, and thought the love triangle was silly. Though it seemed sort of an obvious rip-off of The Hunger Games to include a talented female archer.

#47 Comment By Rob K On December 30, 2013 @ 10:32 am

I thought things were going ok up through the point where the barrels dropped through the floor – and then it changed gear into combat too over the top to take seriously, a five minute elf-on-dwarf handjob scene (tell me it was anything else), and Gandalf dropping acid in the woods and having a vision about how evil is a fractal. What the heck?

#48 Comment By Donald On December 30, 2013 @ 3:20 pm

“Indeed, the movie characterization of Denethor was completely botched.”

Yes. That ruined the third movie for me–Tolkien’s Denethor is heroic tragic figure who falls out of hubris, thinking he could match wills with Sauron in the Palantir. Jackson’s Denethor is buffoon who understands nothing and dies a meaningless death to the orc-like cheers of audience members in the theater where I saw it. Probably the reaction Jackson was going for. In the third movie he also portrays Frodo’s compassion for Gollum as some sort of Ring-induced mental illness, which leads him to chase Sam away.

I liked much of LOTR and much of Hobbit 1, but there’s a big gap in Jackson’s understanding of what the books are about.

#49 Comment By Mike Alexander On December 31, 2013 @ 9:08 am

I am still going to see the movie but I fear I will not see what I initially hoped for. When I first heard that the Hobbot would be a trilogy I figured this implied a whole extra film. I hoped it would be about the White Council attack on Dol Gulder, the internal politics on the Council and Gandalf’s first suspicions about Saruman. You could fill one third of a trilogy with this and its part of the story (it’s referred to as Gandalf’s business away South) with more in LOTR appendices. There is lots of material here. And a big Helm’s Deep-like battle against Dol Guldur (except lots of fireworks from wizards and major elves) where Jackson could display his stuff.

Then there could be portrayal of the connections between Laketown and the Elves, including the very profitable Dorwinion wine trade that made the Master of Laketown (also in the book) rich (room for more political machinations that can put the entry of these dwarves into perspective, and help explain just why they got locked up by elves. Plenty of material for a very interesting three-movie set built around the children’s story, but with expanded more adult side plots to explain some of the things which were happening off-stage in the book.

But no, I guess it’s going to be car chases, or the Middle Earth equivalent.