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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

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I was hoping that the first installment of The Hobbit trilogy would be merely a Phantom Menace moment, and that Peter Jackson would produce leaner, tighter sequels that would pull this ill-conceived trilogy out of the crapper. But no. I am saddened to report that The Desolation of Smaug is freighted with the same problems as the first movie, and more.

Jackson’s first mistake, of course, was to puff up J. R. R. Tolkien’s slender book into a trilogy at all. The whole story could have been told in a single, two-hour movie. This decision was, of course, based simply on greed, and it necessitated a great deal of dramatic fluffing and padding. Hence new characters, new scenes, and especially new thrills, chills, and battles, have been added.

Jackson’s second mistake was to give reign to his very unattractive penchant for megalomania and cinematic one-upmanship, which first emerged in King Kong. (Jurassic Park has dinosaurs? I’ll show you dinosaurs!) The sad truth is that even as a trilogy, The Hobbit could have been good if Jackson were not trying to one-up The Lord of the Rings.

Of course, to outdo The Lord of the Rings, Jackson also has to re-do it in part, which means that a lot of the new material stuck in here feels derivative of The Lord of the Rings. So we have an elf maiden like Arwen, who, like Arwen, heals a poisoned wound (from a Morgul arrow, this time), and who flirts with a non-elf (the cute dwarf), etc., etc.

This lethal combination of derivativeness and one-upmanship gives vast stretches of The Hobbit the feel of nothing more than a parody of The Lord of the Rings. (Perhaps Jackson’s next project will be nine three-hour films based on Bored of the Rings.)

Jackson’s third error is the farcical cartoonishness of the action sequences. I admit that I enjoyed the elves and orcs battling it out as the dwarves made their escape in barrels. But when the dwarves do battle with Smaug in their underground city, the sequence is so overly busy and absurdly implausible that the net effect is rather uninvolving.

But it gets worse. As the greedy, scheming master of Laketown (played by the Jew Stephen Fry) addresses his people, the camera pans over the audience. At first, I thought some Uruk-hai had crept in. But no, when the camera returned again and again, it became clear that Laketown is afflicted with dark, vibrant, nappy racial diversity.

Peter Jackson endured more than a decade of kvetching about the “racism” of his faithful adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, in which the races of Middle Earth are portrayed as white and their enemies dark. But now he has caved. The first Hobbit movie pullulates with pasty orcs and goblins. And now we have Negroes and Papuans in frigid Laketown.

This movie is an insult to the taste and intelligence of its audience and to the memory of J. R. R. Tolkien. I can’t recommend it, and it will only be out of a sense of duty to you, my audience, that I will rouse myself to see the final film next December.

The supreme irony of this exercise in wretched excess is that the character of Smaug is, of course, a parable on the dangers of greed and megalomania. It is rather amazing that Peter Jackson could work on this project for years without ever glimpsing himself in it.

 

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10 Comments

  1. Mr. Dithers
    Posted December 22, 2013 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    I just saw the movie and was sickened by Peter Jackson’s inclusion of blacks, mestizos, Asians and mystery meat people as inhabitants of Lake Town. Years ago I read that Jackson had taken some heat for the white vs. dark and pro-white racial overtones of LOTR, so I guess now he doesn’t have to defend himself from charges of racism and white supremacy at the next Hymiewood cocktail party. He now qualifies for membership in the Republican party since he has surrendered to the will cultural Marxism.

    Jackson has taken moderate artistic license with the novel which detracts from the original story (unlike with LOTR), such as the aforementioned Lake Town scene and recasting Azog the goblin as Azog the pale orc. In the book Azog had already expired and in the animated version the goblins were black, ugly and hairy not semi-human with milky white skin as Azog in Jackson’s new movies.

    Still, “The Hobbit” trilogy is still worth seeing as long as one can keep all this in mind.

  2. TruthAdvocate
    Posted December 22, 2013 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    Didn’t enjoy the second installment of The Hobbit. Very disappointed.

    Who is Tauriel?

    And yes, Peter Jackson, you cast some asian and black folk into the movies after many people complained your films weren’t multicultural enough (I think Dwarfs, Elves, Men, Hobbits, Orcs etc is multicultural enough if you ask me) but you don’t have to keep flicking your camera at them to make some kind of “I’m not racist” point.

    The book itself is no more than 350 pages long so I understand extra bits would needed to be added in order to make it more interesting to general movie goers.

    That being said, though. I just didn’t enjoy the film.

    Maybe it was the blatant addition of a pointless love triangle to satisfy people’s lust for “will they, won’t they” scenarios.
    Maybe it was the addition of a character because Jackson felt the story was missing Kate from Lost.

    Or maybe, and I’m going out on a limb here, maybe it was the dozey cock munchers sitting in eye shot of me playing on their fucking phones.

    Not impressed by many aspects of visiting the cinema and watching The Desolation of Smaug.

    Oh, and Stephen Fry is in it. Awful choice. A Tim Burton-esque choice.

    I wish Jackson would stay true to the original. I noticed the camera panning several times to the black people and I could see he was trying to make a point. It annoyed the hell out of me… They didn’t even look convincing as actors. The fact that they were there isnt lore friendly either.

    Visually, a spectacular film. The scene with the barrels and the orc chase was amazing.
    It was more the changes that ‘need’ to be made to classic literature to help the moronic public ‘get it’ is what annoys me. Which isn’t Peter Jackson’s fault necessarily. It’s not his issue the general moronic public, who don’t even know it was originally a book, crave the same mundane sub-plots to keep their attention.
    And the stupid white people in the cinema on facebook or texting, I just wanted to stand up and shout “this was written for you, and your kin. Appreciate it!”

    Worth for sure .. but you have to make border in your mind between movie and book (if you read it) .. I love Tolkien´s books the most, are masterpiece for me. Jackson´s movies are great (LOTR/HOBBIT), Hobbit with epic 3D HD qualiity .. but you have to accept some added parts which are not for lover of books acceptable. For me the worst thing about 2.nd part is too little time for “Beorn” and that “love triangle” about Tauriel/Legolas/Kili .. but for example Legolas character (not mentioned in book at all) was added by Jackson into plot quite well. (Sorry for my lame english )

    Worth a watch for the general film experience. But, if you’re a Tolkien elitist. It’s hard to get past the added shit to please the public

  3. Jaego
    Posted December 17, 2013 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    Negroes in Laketown? I will boycott. What next? Having them hit on Elven maidens? Or Gay Hobbits cruising Rivendell?

  4. NBG
    Posted December 16, 2013 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

    After seeing the first one I knew these movies would be incredibly bloated. However, I was hoping that when all three were released someone would cut out all the extra crap and edit it into a single good movie. Now I don’t think that’s possible because the non-book, non-interesting and non-Bilbo parts are too integrated into the story to be cut out. I still might attempt it, though.

    That said, even if Jackson had attempted a straight adaptation of the Hobbit it would have not been on the level of his Rings movies because the story of Bilbo Baggins is so light and small by comparison.

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted December 16, 2013 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

      The Hobbit is a very different kind of book, written in a fairy tale mode for young adults, whereas The Lord of the Rings is epic and written for adults. A proper film adaptation could have preserved these differences, instead of trying to torture The Hobbit into a trilogy of epic grandeur like The Lord of the Rings.

  5. Theodosius
    Posted December 16, 2013 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    PJ ruined LOTR and now he ruined The Hobbit. Tolkien must be break dancing in his grave.

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted December 16, 2013 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

      I think his LOTR films are magnificent.

      • Theodosius
        Posted December 16, 2013 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

        As films they are good, but as adaptations they are awful. Many of the characters are so different that the only thing they have in common with their book counterparts is their name. And there other problems as well but it would take me a while to list them.

        The best and most faithful adaptation to date is the 1988 BBC2 radio dramatization.
        I highly recommend you get it. I think you can get it from Amazon for not too much. It’s 13 1-hour episodes and it comes with a great sountrack.

      • reiner arischer Tor
        Posted December 17, 2013 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

        The LOTR movies are very good. Cinema is a different art form, and it is impossible to remain totally faithful to a book. It’s like opera adaptations of Shakespeare plays, most of them don’t work so well, and the ones that do, are actually rather edited versions, like Verdi’s Othello – a magnificent piece and nice drama, but a bit different from Shakespeare’s original.

      • reiner arischer Tor
        Posted December 17, 2013 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

        A good example is David Lynch’s Dune, which is superb (and was liked by Frank Herbert as well) even though it is as different from the book as possible.

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