I’m going to try and do this without being that fan. I don’t speak Elvish, don’t even have it as a tattoo. No replica of Sting graces my wall decor, and I have never celebrated any Middle Earth holiday, nor did Gandalf the Grey officiate at my wedding.
But, last night I picked up The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug from the local library. I had seen The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in theatres and came out a little disappointed.
Well, disappointed except for the music. That was amazing.
However, knowing to the pattern of movie series that currently plague our cinemas, The Desolation of Smaug deserved taking a look at, even if there were issues with the first.
The movie starts off with a lonely dwarf making his way through the city of Bree towards a familiar-looking inn, I’m pretty sure it’s the same inn that Frodo and his three hobbit friends would meet Aragorn under the name of Strider in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Once inside, all the women in the audience got to see the main heart-throb of the movie, Richard Armitage. My wife has a crush on the man, thanks to that one kiss at the end of North and South. Even with a beard and diminished stature, he’s still swoon-worthy.
Back to the movie, Gandalf the Grey enters the scene, and basically invites Thorin Oakenshield to assemble a team and take back the mountain that used to be his homeland.
That ends up being a flashback. Fast-forward to where the present, and all thirteen dwarves, one hobbit, and one wizard had just escaped the orcs and Gandalf leads the towards a house. A bear chases them and we meet Bjorn the skin-changer, who hates dwarves but hates orcs more. He outfits them and directs them as to the shortest path to get to Erebor by the time they need to be there. They have to go through Murkwood, which is inhabited by unfriendly elves, giant spiders, and an overall aura of insanity and corruption.
Well, they get captured by the elves, but their burglar, the hobbit Bilbo Baggins, uses a magic ring he got in the first movie to help them escape to Lake Town. This city, a Venice and London hybrid city of canals and tall buildings, hosts the survivors and descendants of the people who remember when Smaug the dragon came to Erebor only a little distance from the city of Dale, and destroyed everything in his pursuit of gold. The dwarves were chased out of their mountain, and Dale was destroyed.
And from there, the caravan of dwarves can see the mountain.
Here’s where I’m trying not to be that fan. I actually haven’t been able to read the Lord of the Rings trilogy, despite many attempts. You know what I get caught on? The details. All of them. To the student of Middle Earth, there are the genealogies of just about every character who walked and talked, maps detailed enough to plot a course and paper a wall, a full mythology (which was Tolkien’s desire for Middle Earth), and languages to learn. It wouldn’t surprise me to find recipes, honestly.
I’m willing to bet that many fans of The Hobbit (the book, not the movies) spent a lot of time wondering where Peter Jackson gets off on inventing new stuff to add to a legendary canon. Some of the stuff that isn’t in The Hobbit but in the movies I’m sure we could find in The Silmarillion, which is a whole book filling in the gaps in the mythology that couldn’t have been covered while trying to tell a story. But there was so much in this movie that felt like Peter Jackson was trying to invent the details that Tolkien must have forgotten.
Either that, or he’s trying to soften it up to be friendly to the non-Middle Earth people who are only going to watch the movies. I can imagine Peter Jackson sitting in a chair thinking
How can I get more girls into the theaters?
Invent a love interest. How about one of the two dwarves without facial hair and an elf? Maybe a female elf who journeys far beyond the Murkwood to save him? We could have elves even fighting orcs as they escape from the elves and all the dwarves are riding barrels out of the castle.
Thauriel doesn’t make an appearance in the Hobbit AT ALL. Kili isn’t poisoned by an orc arrow, and Legolas shouldn’t even be there!
But wait, there’s more! Because the last movie is called “The Battle of Five Armies” we need to spend some time explaining that, so let’s add another half an hour of footage to build up to that. Let’s see, for that we need more characters, like the skeazy dude who works for the government official dude in Lake Town. I don’t even know what was up with them.
Who am I supposed to be caring about in this movie? Peter Jackson’s attempts to dredge up feelings for the elves who weren’t in the book, humans who also weren’t in the book, orcs who weren’t in the book, even wizards who weren’t in the book.
If you don’t ever plan on reading The Hobbit and trust that movies do a good enough job on their own and stay true to the media they are based on, The Desolation of Smaug is a keeper. Peter Jackson does have moments of brilliance and scenes that display the beauty one could imagine from the mind of J.R.R. Tolkien. To those who have even casually read The Hobbit, it’s a complete deviation from everything Middle Earth could have been.
It gets two out of five stars.