Friday, 20 December 2013

The Desolation of Smaug, or, Peter Jackson Blew It


I can say I am quite a fan of the Hobbit. I am fan of Tolkien's work in general, but Hobbit has a special place. So when it was first announced that there will not only be two films, but three I did not really jump through the roof out of joy, but I thought this would give them enough of working space to show what else was going on while we followed the company of thirteen dwarves and a burglar hobbit.

I thought this would be about filling the voids, and not so much about fabricating something with no basis out of thin air. And I am aware that the adaptation from one form to another demands sacrifices, some things just cannot work, some are thought unnecessary, while others are made to fill the voids. But the second Hobbit is an ugly spit in the face of the people that had faith in Jackson, thinking he would do a proper job. There were some tweaks in the first Hobbit, a lot more in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. But those were things we could live with.

This, this abomination of a film, is not an adaptation of Hobbit. This is pure fanfiction.  Now before I start. If this was any other movie, I would simply say, it is good. Action-adventure flick of sorts. Above average for what we came to expect of fantasy genre on silver screen. But because this is supposed to be a Hobbit film, I am going to tear it apart, even though I love the damned book. It deserves nothing but being torn to pieces, shred into dust, incinerated in the ever-burning flames of oblivion, and then needs to be cast into the deepest darkness of an abyss not even Morgoth has ever set his eyes upon.

The Desolation of Smaug does not really know what it is, or what it wants to be. There is this awkward transition between humorous, light-hearted scenes, and the dark foreboding ones. I will address this below. But first things first.

The passage of time in the second movie is nonexistent. They did not go from Beor to the bloody Erebor in altogether two days. The journey was long, strenuous, and exhausting. What is more, all the changes that Jackson made, only cheapen the world Tolkien created. The changes made are not necessary.

This starts at the very begining of the film. Beorn is no member of extinct race that Azog enslaved. Beorn is a Force of Nature. Just like Tom Bombandil. Nobody really knows about them, who they are, what they are, or how they came to be. They simply are. They never needed an explanation, and worked just fine without one. So why in the name of Arda would you make (at this point I am really trying not to curse, I really really am) an unneccesary change where it is not needed?

Beorn did not resemble a white-trash version of Grinch. At least my own version of Beorn never resembled to that in the film. in fact, I could hardly imagine anything further from that. When I though of Beorn, I had a picture of Brian Blessed in mind. Something more mighty, more magnificent, more threatening. Yes, Beorn has a dark temper, and his wrath is something only few could claim to see and survive, but he is much more than just a common savage. And he is certainly not last of his specie. He does not have one.

To move on. Gandalf never intended to escort the company the whole way. This is why he found Bilbo. Bilbo was meant to be the 14th member of the company to avoid the unlucky thirteen. Gandalf only came with them, because it was his way as well, not because he discovered an eye on old statue and had a bad feeling.

From the book it is obvious that there was a military campaign led against Dol Guldur. A campaign that Saruman himself insisted on as he wanted to search for the Ring himself, without other interfering. A campaign could be considered a success as Sauron fled. At the time, they did not know he returned to Mordor.

The Dwarves in the Mrkwood did not just simply stray from path and then search for it. There was so much more to it. A few fell in the river when they tried to cross. As I recall this blunted their senses, or put them in a coma. I do not remember the details anymore, but anyone can read for himself and see what I am talking about. The Dwarves were exhausted. They were short on food, short on water, they could not drink any water from the forest, they could not eat any game in the forest. It was a desperate moment for the company. Not just a simple bad trip.

While I would argue that Hobbit was always much more light-hearted than other works about Middle-earth, this light-heartedness was not constant. It had its own moments. It did not last from one chapter no next. it was something to ease the mood.

One thing where Jackson stayed faithful to the book, was the depiction of elves. Thranduil is still an ass as he was in the book. Congrats there, he is done brilliantly. Armours are fascinating, although I could not help myself but wonder where the inspiration came from. For me, the games were the obvious answer.

Now Tauriel, the commander of the watch of the elves of whatever her title is.... This was so unnecessary it hurts. It physically hurts, no exaggeration. As seen by the end of the film, her only role, as she is totally made-up mary-sue of Jackson and company, is to save Fili, or was it Kili, I always mix the two of them, from some made up Morgul arrow.

First thing, there is no such thing as Morgul Arrow. And there is no chance that if we even entertain the thought and there was one, that a simple or from some backwater would have one. This would be weapon of Nazghuls, not of any orc.

Tauriel and her love triangle with Legolas and Fili does not serve any purpose either. It seems to be there only so she could justify why she went and saved the dwarf, which in end leads to Legolas showing us how awesome he really is. Jumping from branch to branch, from one dwarf's head to another in the river through the streams. Yeah, we get it. It is over exaggerated. In Lord of the Rings, these "Legolas moments" were something to break the tension. These moments were not meant to be roller coaster ride.

Tauriel serves no purpose in the whole film. She is just a female token character. No purpose, no personality, just a made up story to save the day and split the company when there was no need for it.

The whole sequence at the Lake was done wrong. Bard was never a simple ferryman. He was a commander of the watch. The city itself took the dwarves in with joy. After they stumbled out of their barrels all bruised and dead tired, the city had feasts, dances etc. Joy all-around. Only after the elven envoys informed the mayor about the escaped dwarves, (It took weeks for Bilbo to find all dwarves in their prison cells) they moved on to the mountain, well equipped and all together. All fourteen of them. They came to the place, and spent weeks looking for the keyhole.

They did not just rush in last minute saw the sunset and say, "eh, we gave it a try" better luck in next five hundred years. And again, when they did open the door, they did not just tell Bilbo, you will know the archenstone when you see it. They spent time and time describing it. Bilbo tried his luck for some time. Came back with some gold, some gems, until Smaug took notice of him, and decided to burn the city.

And after that, The dwarves once again spent time and time and time searching for the arkenstone. Thorin even declared that he wants arkenstone for himself, one and only item he will claim, this to be 1/14 of his share. The dwarves never tried to engage the dragon directly. When the dragon first tried to roast them, they hid in that tunnel of theirs and closed the doors. They were waiting for days in total dark, afraid that Smaug would still be around.

All in all, Desolation of Smaug is good fantasy film, better than most. But it is a monstrosity, abomination, something not worth the existence when it comes to a Hobbit film. It really shows why you should stay loyal to the story instead of changing it for the sake of change.

1 comment:

  1. Strangely I can enjoy such things much better when I label them fanfic.

    I guess altering my expectations for quality of writing and faithfulness to the original allows me to enjoy people riffing on Tolkien if they do it well enough, without them having to match the stratospheric standards of Tolkien himself.

    ReplyDelete