The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug, or "They really should have changed more things rather than just adding stuff"
|I would just like to note that the amount of gold in this movie is hundreds of times the amount of gold found in all of the real Earth combined, and would make for a totally unworkable standard for money.|
I like this movie. Just to get that sentiment out of the way. It is fun, moves at a good pace, has a lot of visual variety, ice, forest, dungeon, mountains of gold, cliffs... It is beautiful. The costumes, sets, makeup, and visual effects are all amazing emerging you in a massive world of magic, legend, and big ideas. All that being said I am going to go against the popular opinion on this film and say, "they didn't change enough."
"The Hobbit" is a short, comedic book mostly aimed at a young audience. It serves as a simple jumping off point for the events of "Lord of the Rings" which had a much (much, much, much) more developed narrative with more description and bigger climax. But a movie is not a book. In the book most of the Dwarves are blink-and-you'll-miss "characters". Often they are one note jokes that are interchangeable. Thorin and his quest for his gem are background, my brother read the book and didn't even know that in the climactic final War of Five Armies that more than one dwarf died, that is how little an impact they made. But in the movie that doesn't really work.
Having more than a dozen "characters" running through dangerous situations without any of them dying undercuts the threat (again I am saying "characters" sarcastically because while each has their own look they don't all get lines or development, I'm a nerd and can't name them all). In the first film they are taken hostage by Trolls, and run through a goblin city squaring off against thousands of potential opponents before confronting the Orcs who have been hunting them all movie. Logically someone should have died. Pick one of the dwarves who is most visually engaging and has had a lot of lines (I would have picked Dwalin... Very few people will know who that is without a picture... So here is a picture.)
|Also, a noble sacrifice would help to inform the audience as to why Gandalf thinks the Dwarves are worth helping. It shows them to be commendable in courage, and even worth imitation.|
Dwalin was the first dwarf to show up in the movie, he is the most warrior like of those present, he has numerous lines, and thanks to his tattoos he is very visually memorable... He should have died heroically fighting with the albino orc. Think about it, the orcs have them all cornered on trees, on a cliff. Gandalf has called for help to the eagles but unless someone buys time the Dwarves won't be able to escape, one of the Dwarves jumps down from the tree and stands fast. Gandalf looks apprehensive, Thorin knows that Dwalin is the one to do it and orders him to save them (showing he can make tough leadership decisions) and Dwalin yells at the Dwarves, "YOU SHALL NOT PASS." And fights. And dies. Much like Gandalf and Boromir in "Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring". It shows that this quest is dangerous, and that people will die while on it. It changes from the book, but the book was a simple story for kids, the movie has to do things differently to work better.
All of that was from the first "Hobbit" so let me point to an instance in this movie which was both good and bad.
Spoiler time discussion: Not one damn dwarf dies fighting Smaug. The biggest, most powerful being in the whole world, not one dwarf dies during the whole fight. Smaug goes from huge, looming threat (beautiful to look on, and very tense when interacting with Bilbo) and is downgraded minute by minute as he fails to kill any of the dwarves in his lair. THIS IS BULLSHIT. You are de-balling the character. Kill some dwarves. Seriously, Bifur, Bofur, and Bombur should have all bitten it. Each killed fulfilling part of the Dwarves' attack against Smaug. As is the movie's climax is an incredible let down.
I do like that they made Bard an actual character, and that Lake Town was a real place with people, politics, and style all its own. I like that the Elves were characters (dicks as they are) and that they have their own concerns in life as to why they are not trying to get tangled up in some crusade against evil. I like that they added a cool female elf commando and that she wants to bang the Dwarf Prince Fili, and the Elf Prince Legolas... Kind of star fucker now that I think about it... But she is good at what she does, killing orcs and doing healing magic. I also like that the Dwarf group breaks up a bit, half going to fight the Dragon, the other half staying behind to care for the sick and get ambushed by Orcs, that is a lot of fun and breaks up the action for each.
Really, everything that was an addition worked for me, and all the most faithful plotting to hold to the book disappointed me... I guess what I really want is just an original story told in the Middle Earth universe, rather than just an adaptation of the books. Tell me about the Blue Wizards, what happened to them when they left so long ago that Gandalf has forgotten their names. Give Radigast something to do. Show me some minor Elrond adventure. Do something that isn't so hung up on an existing book, because I am tired of people complaining that this isn't enough like the book. If you want the book, read the book. I did. I liked it a lot. It is really short and fun.