The Hobbit– The Desolation of Smaug

While the general tenor of the reviews of the first Hobbit movie was that there was disappointment, not with the new technology, but with the way the story was presented, especially the over-emphasis on running and chasing and fighting. It looked like Peter Jackson, in lieu of more substantive material, had simply elongated the fighting sequences, especially the one underground. We now have the official trailer for the second film, which deals with the dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch of BBC Sherlock fame) and his ‘desolation’, but it is also about getting beyond that desolation. We must bear in mind that this is the second of three films, and so we cannot expect resolution or denouement from this film. What we would hope for is more character development, and frankly more focus on the Hobbit in question and his dwarf and elf friends and allies. More Gandalf would be good as well.

It must be borne in mind that because Jackson has filmed the Tolkien ouevre backwards, so to speak, doing LOTR first and then the Hobbit, that he made a strategic decision to film the Hobbit as an adult film like LOTR, even though, it was and is a children’s book about the battle between good and evil and how humans and halflings are caught up in the struggle. Thus, it is not a surprise that the Hobbit Part One had a much more adult feel to it than the novel, and it is rather sad that instead of adding lighter material like the story of Tom Bombadil, Jackson turned to the appendixes to LOTR to fill out the story and be able to bridge the gap between the Hobbit, and the later stories in LOTR. The jury is necessarily still out on how successful this ploy will be.

As with last year, this film will come out in time for the Christmas season— Dec. 13th, so we must abide our souls in patience and wait for it’s release. Because there was something of a sense of disappointment with the first Hobbit film, there seems to be less fervor in the anticipation for the second one. We shall see.

  • Peter McLean

    I agree with much of your assessment, however one point on which I disagree is that ‘the jury is out.’ Jackson does not have the sensibility for this story. While the parts with Smaug will (probably, hopefully) be outstanding, the entire oeuvre has been ruined by the first outing and its unnecessary additions, deletions and farcical, peurile attempts at introducing humour where there was already plenty that has been destroyed through inappropriate characterisation (plain silly or over-aggressive dwarves), plot elements (for example, the tedious addition of an enemy, Azog, in the first part so that can pad out the trilogy of movies and ‘add tension’), abysmal and cliched dialogue, desecration of Bilbo’s character by turning him into some quasi-action hero, endless cutaway scenes, Radagast the Binks, Gandalf’s scenes with Galadrial. I could go on, but that might be unseemly. I’m a big Hobbit fan and really enjoyed the LOTR films, but the experience of the first film made me want to not see the next. Very disappointing.

  • Ed Brenegar

    My suspicion is that even a purist approach to the novel on film would
    be ultimately unsatisfying. The Hobbit and LOTR are fantasies that take
    place in the imagination of our own minds. I’m certain that our
    individual recollections of the stories are not the same. Jackson is
    interpreting on film, just as we do in sharing the stories with family
    and friends. Even if the books were staged as a Broadway musical, it
    would be the same, just as unsatisfying. I am sure that there are some
    who felt that Les Miserables, both the musical and the film, were untrue
    to the Victor Hugo’s story. An interpretation of one art form using
    another art form will never create the same experience. The films have
    to be judged not against the book, but, rather, on whether Jackson tells
    a story worth following. And, based on what has appeared on the screen
    this summer, I’ll choose Peter Jackson’s Hobbit over almost everything
    else that has been released since. So, don’t reject the good just because it isn’t the perfect.

  • Peter McLean

    I saw a multi-million dollar stage adaptation, with life-sized ‘puppets’ (including a bus-sized Smaug) animated by actors and a handful of ‘human’ actors playing parts such as Bard and Gandalf, that toured Australia in the ’90s and was immensely popular. Highly entertaining, amusing and appropriately moving. Certainly its own interpretation of the story. Included some wonderful music and inventive action, great characterisations. Quite brilliant. Wish it were still touring.