Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin, where I blog about one of the movies I own. I'm plowing through The Hobbit trilogy, and today I get to movie #2, The Desolation of Smaug. This is in my notes at April 12, 2015.
I finally accepted that there was something a little off about The Hobbit trilogy in the opening of The Desolation of Smaug. It opens with our company of dwarfs spending the night at Beorn the Skin-Changer's house. In the book, it's a very jovial scene, and Beorn is presented as being a very lighthearted woodsman. In the movie, he's the last of a hunted kind, and everything about the scene is o so dire and serious.
This is where the padding really starts to get bloated and heavy-handed. Who was really itching to see the politics of Lake-Town, with Stephen Fry as its simpering mayor? Why was that needed? And giving one of the dwarfs a love story? Why? They share some chit chat through a jail cell one night, and now she's willing to lay down her life for him?
I'm talking, of course, about the elven warrior Tauriel and her romance with the dwarf whats-his-name. Tauriel...the one character with no basis in Tolkien's texts and was flat-out invented for this movie. Jackson said he wanted to do it because he, too, felt a dearth of female characters in the saga. OK, that's fine, I can accept that. But how cliche can you get to make her the moon-eyed girl who wants to know what love is?
And along with her, the bring in Legolas to get a love triangle going. Again, why? Legolas isn't in the original Hobbit book. There's more of that "bridging" concept that Jackson wanted to introduce. Legolas, great character and all, but he's got no place in this movie. I'll never forget watching the first movie with a friend of mine. After Elijah Wood made his cameo as Frodo, my friend commented that it was a "million-dollar cameo." Walking out of the film he says to me, "Hey, I thought Orlando Bloom was in this too," and I replied, "I think they saved his million-dollar cameo for the next one."
And Bilbo's scene with Smaug. No no no. I had another friend text me and comment, "Bilbo and Smaug's encounter should have been an epic battle of wits," and all I could text back was, "It is! It is! In the book, it is!" Why the hell did they have to make the dwarfs turn suddenly heroic and charge in their to slay the dragon? I understand, when they decided to make it a trilogy, they had to give this second film a big action climax. And they chose to do it by creating some kind of medieval version of the droid factory scene in Episode II. But there's already one in the book they could use! Smaug setting fire to Lake-Town and his eventual slaying at the hand of Bard the Bowman. That should have been your big-action climax! But instead, it was shortened to the pre-credits sequence of film #3.
I'm sure this'll upset some people, but there is one change I liked. The barrel sequence. In the book, it's this magical sequence as our heroes float down the river to the lake. And in the movie, they turn it into this bonkers action sequence. I love the barrel sequence. It's ridiculous in the fun way.
And the ending is so disappointing. As I said in my review of the last film. Each film in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and An Unexpected Journey do build to a rather satisfying conclusion, so each film mostly feels like a self-contained entity. But the end of The Desolation of Smaug is so abrupt that it's incredibly disappointing. When I saw it in the theatre, people actually booed that ending. I remember walking out of the theatre myself and thinking, "What's left? They slay Smaug, and we've got the Battle of the Five Armies, and that's it!" That's, what, 3 chapters in the book?
This is the one where the simple single novel really gets big and bloated. With a little more editing, there's no reason why this couldn't have been two movies.