Posts Tagged With: The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug

An Explanation

I’ve seen some comments on negativity in the fandom about DoS and so on over the past few days. There have been comments that question why someone who is predisposed to dislike the movie would go and see it in the first place. Another suggested that such a person would only go see the movie under such circumstances in order to have something to complain about.

As someone who was open about my misgivings before seeing the movie and also someone who laid out her complaints afterwards, I feel like I’m a good person to address this topic. Mainly because I think people without some kind of affinity for the book are going to have the kind of thoughts listed above because they don’t, and perhaps can’t, see things from the perspective of a book fan.

With specific reference to Tolkien and The Hobbit many of us book fans have been waiting at minimum, a decade to see this book brought to life on the big screen. We’ve loved the story for so long and have been anxious to see it fleshed out. After a decade or more of waiting, you don’t just up and say, “Oh, the reviews give me misgivings. Damn, I guess I won’t go see this movie I’ve been waiting forever to see.” While I can’t speak for all Tolkien fans, the ones I know well would say such a thought was unconscionable. Even if you walk out of the movie unhappy with some or even most of the movie, there will be parts that made it worth going. Not to mention that if you don’t see it, you’ll never know if you could have liked it.

I think there’s also a distinction that needs to be made between being predisposed to dislike a movie and having misgivings. Again, I was pretty blunt with my assessment that based on reviews it sounded like PJ had really messed up the story. I can see where that would leave me personally open to criticism of being predisposed to dislike the movie. But let me be clear about something, when we walk into the theater to see the film, Tolkien fans–at least those I know well–don’t go in wanting to hate the movie. We go in hoping that the reviews have somehow misled us and that we’re going to love what’s been done. Because seriously, who in their right mind wants to dislike a movie based on a book they love? The thing we desperately want, that we crave is to walk out of that theater feeling the magic we felt when we read the book for the first time.

It’s always been more or less clear to me that fandom is something outsiders can’t understand. I didn’t really realize until this past week how incomplete that view was. It isn’t just fandom in general. I’m coming to understand that those outside of your very specific fandom(s) lack understanding as well. The view isn’t the same if your vantage point is different.

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The Morning After: A DoS Review

Last night, or to be more exact around 4 this morning, I shared my knee jerk reaction to The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug on ItsJSforMe’s blog. Having slept, I’m more clearly able to see why exactly I walked out of the theater pretty darn pissed off with Peter Jackson.

So here’s my two cents on the movie and I’ll do my best to remain spoiler free.

When I saw UAJ last year, I felt like the movie moved too slowly for the first 45 minutes. That is certainly not a problem this time. The prologue will please Armitage fans and then we jump right into the action. Beorn’s screen time was shorter than I would have liked, but still enjoyable. The time in Mirkwood gave us a chance to see Thranduil in all of his glory. Lee Pace is excellent in this role. The character isn’t even remotely likeable, but Pace’s performance gives him the ancient feel he needed along with a clear disdain for the dwarves that read true.

It’s in Mirkwood that things started to go wrong for me. In general I’m not flat out opposed to the edition of a female elf. I disagree with the oft repeated stance that she was necessary, but I know there are a lot of people who feel such a character was required. So add a she-elf, just give her a decent story. I felt like the writer’s really fell down on the job here. There was nothing relevant about Tauriel’s character. Her story  recycled stuff from other places in Tolkien’s work. Then of course there was the triangle we’d been warned about. Basically it felt like a waste of time we could have been spending with characters central to the story.

Luke Evan’s was enjoyable as Bard the Bowman and if I decide to see the third film, his character will be one of the reasons why. He was a character that I found myself sympathizing with and rooting for, even when and possibly especially when he challenged Thorin. He seemed to be the only clearheaded person in that scene.

Gandalf’s jaunt away from the dwarves was basically what I expected. Nothing spectacular, but I can see how it helps set up where the story is going in the third movie.

I thoroughly enjoyed Bilbo’s time in the mountain with Smaug. The digital artists are truly masters of their craft. The dragon really was stunning. Benedict Cumberbatch really got the voice right too. It just fit so well.

Then we got to the last 30  minutes of the film. I won’t go into detail about what happens, but it was a complete departure from Tolkien’s story. It was not The Hobbit. It was three screenwriters turning badly written fanfiction into a movie. I’ve always thought Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens, and Fran Walsh are at their weakest when they depart from the original. If you’ve read my blog long enough, you’ll know that I’m a big proponent of a high level of fidelity to the source material. So I was highly unlikely to like these changes even if they were well done. The fact that there were poorly done made it even more frustrating. Cheesy, hokey, and oh good grief are some of the sentiments that come to mind when I think of some of the things that took place.

As the movie cut to the credits a woman in the front of the theater shouted out, “Peter Jackson, you’re a jerk!” In that moment, I was in total sympathy with her. All I could see was that gawd awful last 30 minutes and the parts I liked about the film were filed away at the back of my mind. I actually wondered if the film ended where it did as a calculated ploy to lure pissed off book fans back for a third film they might no longer want to see.

So to wrap this all up, I think this movie is going to be hard for Tolkien fans, at least those who are purists in any way, shape or form. While there’s a lot of good, that last part has you walking away with a sour taste in your mouth.

This is a Richard Armitage fan blog. And I know that many of his fans see these movies more for him than because of any particular tie to Tolkien’s work. For those fans this movie will go over extremely well. Richard’s performance is what we always expect from him–layered, nuanced. He makes me care about a character that I don’t particularly like.

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