Thread: The Desolation
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Old 12-11-2013, 10:16 AM   #1
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Dark-Eye The Desolation

My initial thought was to title this 'The Desolation of Canon', but I want it to be more objective than that because I am sure not everyone even on this site shares my (and Lommy, Legate & Greenie's) opinion.

This thread is for discussing your second Hobbit film experience, so it will be rich in spoilers.

Did you know you need a ballista to shoot the Black Arrow? Neither did I, but I think it describes quite perfectly what Peter Jackson is doing to the Hobbit.

While I really liked the first film up until they met the trolls (and very little from then on), this one was different. The first half seriously made me wonder what I was doing there and what had happened to the story I knew.

You want to know the structure of the film? Orcs, a five minute bear, orcs, spiders, elves, orcs, orcs, elves & orcs, Smaug, orcs. Yes, I am speaking about the fighty scenes - there's little else.

The film opens on a flashback of a famous director chewing a carrot and moves on to an appendix story about a chance meeting in Bree. However, the characters are not quite how I've previously seen them. We have a reluctant Thorin, and Gandalf who basically sits down like "Okay see here, you have to go and reclaim your homeland, quiet now do as I say, also you need a burglar!"
I don't know what Peter Jackson is trying to achieve by taking away the dwarves' agency - I simply can't understand why he is portraying them as Gandalf's tools. (Help me?) Gandalf on the other hand is given a lot more knowledge and agency than in the book, and frankly, he uses the dwarves. He also shows Radagast the empty graves of the Nazgūl (conveniently buried in the same mountainside) as proof of Sauron's resurrection (which he obviously knows). Oh and did I mention he sort of duels Sauron in Dol Guldur in a way very reminiscent of him & Saruman; they probably used the same footage and stuck it to a different background.

However back to the beginning of the film, to the here and now. While running aimlessly from the orcs, Gandalf ushers the dwarves into Beorn's house - where they make it just in time to bar the door against the rabid bear who wants to tear them apart. But in the morning Beorn is there in his human form that looks a lot like this, serving them breakfast and delivering poorly written lines such as "I don't like dwarves............. But I like orcs even less! What do you need here take my sword take my bow my axe!" Aaand those five minutes of so that we see Beorn is all. All. There is nothing of the magic of his house, nothing. I can't see why he would ever come to the Battle of the Five Armies to save the day.

Mirkwood goes along the same lines. The dwarves wander around for a minute or two and get lost, then Bilbo climbs a tree and sees butterflies and the Lonely Mountain oh just there nearby, and when he comes down the dwarves have been taken by spiders. Cue a loong and messy battle. They have funny voices and they are nicely done and kind of creepy, and it feels like PJ was trying to outdo Shelob.

That's a big problem with the Hobbit films anyway - it feels like PJ wants to outdo LOTR; make everything bigger and scarier and more dangerous. Indeed when Sauron calls for Azog and the orcs of Dol Guldur assemble, it feels like the fate of Middle-earth is at stake more than during the War of the Ring. Doing an entire 6 film marathon would probably be a let down because most of the massive stuff would happen in the first three and the actual big things would look shoddy in comparison.

Alas even though the dwarves fight the spiders bravely they cannot win; there are too many! Elves to the rescue! They capture the dwarves and take them to the Elvenking's dungeons. And here is all that happens in Mirkwood. The magic was just not there - obviously because PJ didn't give it time. Because it's more important to fit 101 ways to kill a spider and 102 ways to kill an orc in the film than gives us a story, a real story.

Thranduil interrogates Thorin, who refuses to give answers, and then locks him up again. Fortunately for the dwarves, Bilbo is there and releases them the very same night (is how I understood it). However I'm pretty sure barrels out of bond would be more enjoyable if we didn't have both elves and orcs hunting the dwarves, throw in an occasional elf saving a dwarf or a dwarf an elf, all the while either riding a barrel or running downstream.

Legolas and Tauriel play a big part here, and I sort of like them both, compared to the rest of the film at least. Orlando Bloom's acting is hilarious because he's clearly making fun of his ten years younger self - and I would never have believed I'd praise his Legolas sincerely one day! Tauriel is alright as a character, and her first encounter with her romantic interest Kili is surprisingly okay, even if it's wrong on so many levels to have a romance between an elf and a dwarf. Thranduil is also okay, even if he's one of my least favourite characters. He just wasn't given very much canon time at all, and not a lot of fanfic time either.

After washing ashore, the dwarves run into Bard who is there collecting the empty barrels and also seems to work as a smuggler of sorts, agreeing to take the dwarves to Esgaroth. And here begins the part I liked best, even if little of it happens that way in the book. It's a little break from the running, and it appeals to my visual tastes. I find Bard a likeable character - different from the book yes, but here it works - and the Master is also interesting, even if he has a little mini-Grima (as Rune aptly named him on facebook) following him. And the Laketown theme is one of my favourite musical pieces in the Hobbit films. Also there are people of colour among the Laketowners, and while it shouldn't be a noteworthy thing, it's one of the first times PJ shows them as something other than villains. Generally though, I like what happens in Laketown, even if the dwarves' stay there is also really rushed (arrive in the morning, leave the next morning because Duuriin's Daay is at hand and got to get to the Mountain run run run).

Oh except not all dwarves leave! Here I forgot to mention Kili (who took an arrow to the knee), Fili, Bofur and Oin stay behind in Laketown and are attacked by Bolg's orcs who sneak on the roofs. But fortunately there are two unexpected elves who kiilll theeem aaaall! Legolas rides off after Bolg (who dared to hit him and give him a nosebleed) while Tauriel heals Kili from the poisonous wound that's killing him with athelas, and Kili starts a feverish ramble about Tauriel and "Do you think she could love me?" Well yes she probably could because she just took your hand.

Meanwhile the other dwarves get into the Mountain (even if there's a pun involved and 'the last light' actually means moonlight, clever Bilbo and even cleverer Peter Jackson), Bilbo sneaks off to look for the Arkenstone and up Smaug wakes. It's alright as long as they stick to the book dialogue, and Smaug is sort of cool. Then Bilbo runs away and Thorin throws a fit because he doesn't have the Arkenstone, and all the dwarves enter the mountain. Then we have a lot of running from Smaug (who, despite having a very keen nose and eyesight and hearing and all, is apparently too stupid to find them), and then a lot of running to Smaug as somebody gets the brilliant idea to try and kill him then and there. There's explosions and hot metal and dangerous deeds and dragon torture, and Smaug and Thorin exchange words ("The Mountain is mine" "No mine" "Mine" mine mine mine) before the dragon leaves the dwarves in the mountain and heads off to take revenge on the people of Laketown.

Basically here we have Peter Jackson Thinks He Is A Better Storyteller Than Tolkien vol. 2 (or vol. 5 depending on your point of view). It feels like he follows the book plot nominally, just for the sake of it, keeping canon parts short in order to indulge his own megalomaniac fantasies. Indeed if he'd stuck to filming The Hobbit at that pace, one film would've been more than enough.

All the running and fighting were an even bigger problem here than in the first film. In AUJ they'd sort of started to build interpersonal relationships and give the characters some inner purposes as well, but here it all is shadowed by the action. There's no character development at all, and even the script leaves no room for getting attached to anyone. Even though my expectations were low to start with, I am not impressed. Besides I primarily went to see the film for hot dwarves and they got very little screen time, and even when they did they were running around and you couldn't get a good look.
He bit me, and I was not gentle.
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