Friday 3 January 2014

The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug

The Desolation Of Tolkien

The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug
2013 USA/New Zealand
Directed by Peter Jackson
Playing now at cinemas in the UK.

Okay then. I suppose I’d best write this thing... although I’ve not been looking forward to it.

The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug has a great musical score by Howard Shore... and that’s one of the very few positives I can really identify in it.

To elaborate on that first item... Shore did wonders with his scores to similarly bad adaptations of the works of Tolkien for Peter Jackson and his score here, both in the film and as a stand alone listen, is no exception. It is a work of beauty which will live on long after the film has been forgotten. Absolutely gorgeous.

As to the rest...

Well this film takes bits of Tolkien from here, there and everywhere and tries to weave them into the basic, compromised skeleton of The Hobbit at every twist and turn of the narrative. Some bits come from Tolkien and other bits are merely stolen from him. The orcs, for example, if memory serves me correctly, have no place being in The Hobbit. If people were worried about a thin children’s book being turned into 9 hours plus of movie just to try and capitalise in the success of the hasty pseudo-adaptation of The Lord Of The Rings, then this film in particular shows them that they had every right to be. It’s padded out almost beyond recognition and even the casual reader of Tolkien (I admit, it’s been about three decades since I last read his stuff) will detect the extensions and travesty at large throughout the movie.

As much as I am still angry about all of the stuff Jackson left out and abbreviated in Lord Of The Rings, I am as angry about all the stuff he’s mockingly stuffed into these so-called prequels. I recognised occasional feint bits of Tolkien amongst the wreckage that is The Desolation Of Smaug and even the comical barrels sequence had been enlarged to a kick ass battle/chase sequence involving orc and elf carnage which turned it into an epic instead of staying with the modest childrens book that The Hobbit was intended to be. The Lord Of The Rings was an epic book... The Hobbit was not. The only thing that really bound it to the sequel that Tolkien went on to write, was the one ring. And while Tolkien was indeed guilty of making changes to the original text for future editions after the success of his more adult themed sequel, and I’m thinking of the changes to Smeagol’s character to make him more obsessed and hostile to Bilbo regarding the ring, he never went fully gung ho “George Lucas, Greedo shoots first” revisionist on his original tale the way Peter Jackson is trying to use The Hobbit as a lead in for his original trilogy of films.

As a movie, divorced from its relationship from the original work, I’m afraid it doesn’t do much better. I quite enjoyed, to an extent, certain passages of the initial movie but this one didn’t nearly keep me as entertained as the first one did and it’s not what I’d choose to see at the movies if I wasn’t already invested in it by having seen the previous four...

It’s well acted, more than competently edited, has great special effects and, as I remarked at the start of this review, has an incredibly beautiful score. It’s just such a shame that the intent behind the decision to layer on all this extra and unwieldy stuff into a trilogy just to make tons of money from the initial audiences to the first trilogy are the main motivation behind the decision to make these films. It shows itself up in every frame of film. It even has something not dissimilar to the furnace scene from Alien 3 spliced into it when we get to the scenes of Smaug. It just felt wrong.

So... brilliant music, which was expected and which I will continue to listen to for a long time and catch any concerts I can if Shore tours it like he did with his music from The Lord Of The Rings. However, like so many gorgeous scores written for bad movies (Jerry Goldsmith was a master at getting those kinds of projects to work on), the film fails Tolkien quite badly, in my humble opinion... although it’s obviously going to make tons of money. So Jackson and the studios can certainly sleep well on that. Job done.

At some point, though, I’d love to see some proper movies made from Tolkien’s original books.


  1. I only just watched this last night for the first time & you're not wrong in your analysis unfortunately Mr. R2 . The needless bloating actually gets in the way of the story even as Jackson would like to tell it.

    I liked it perhaps a little better for entirely irrational reasons & for the mere fact that the story is on screen. Actually I should really say I disliked it a wee bit less. One other problem I was having is the 3D here. It gave it (for me) a feel like a play televised from a theatre making immersion into the fantasy very difficult.

    Thanks muchly for your thoughts on it, it's always a joy to read your reviews.

    Katrin Jenny

    1. Hi Katrin,

      Thanks for reading.

      Yeah, I wonder if the analogy you're making there is something to do with the high res frame rate he shot it in? That would probably make it seem less like film stock and was shown in this kind of resolution in some theatres, from what I understand.

      Glad you liked it more than me though... at least you had some fun out of it.

      All the best and thanks for taking the time to comment.