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Jan 182014

I Am of Two Minds About the Desolation of Smaug!

Here is my review at last… there will be spoilers a plenty throughout this nine part review… so keep that in mind if you have not yet seen the film!

Please go HERE to our Hobbit: DoS Review Page for all nine parts of the Mordor Review!

I’ll begin this review the same way I began my review of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The movie theater’s commercials came to an end. The endless slew of trailers were finally finished and the lights began to dim and then fade to black. I waited in the darkness for the Dragon, much as Bilbo did in his first encounter with Smaug in the book. Then the projector’s lights flickered and the now familiar Warner Bros. logo appeared on screen across a deep blue sky. I was excited for the film to begin.

As I sat watching, the Warner Bros. logo began to fall apart, a slow swirling transition that reforms to create the Newline Cinema logo.  Then came the eye of the MGM Lion as the camera zooms out and we are treated to his famous roar. The familiar musical notes from the score by Howard Shore moved along with the images. The screen went black once more. I was more than ready to return to Middle-earth!


As I stated in the title of this review, I am of two minds about The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

I have to begin by saying, that only hours ago, I went to see the film again for the second time, almost a month after having viewed it the first time. I’m so glad I did, because otherwise this would have been a very negative review of the film. When watching it the first time I was irritated by many of the choices Peter Jackson made with this film, it simply wasn’t the film I’d been expecting to see. There were entire parts that did not make sense to me and left me puzzled and unable to enjoy the film. I felt there was too much underdeveloped CGI that was not up to the level of Gollum and too many over the top fight scenes and improbable plot devices that left me exhausted rather then excited about the film. Not to mention my major disappointment over Azog and Bolg. MAJOR DISAPPOINTMENT!

Then a funny thing happened. A month went by and I read many reviews of the film, often siding with the Tolkien Purists and those who felt that Peter Jackson had simply taken Middle-earth off the reservation. Time passed. The fans of Mordor were asking me when I was going to write my review. I felt no joy for this film and really didn’t feel up to it. However, I felt obliged to offer up my thoughts, even if I didn’t like the film at all. I did feel it was unfair to write a thorough review without seeing the film one more time. I decided to go again today and really watch it for details with an eye on writing a review.

To my complete surprise and everlasting joy, I loved it. Every minute of it… with a few notable exceptions, which I will mention later in this post and in detail in later postings for this nine part review.

I don’t know what happened, but it was like I was watching a completely different film. However, the film hadn’t changed, but rather my approach to it. I went in with no expectations… in fact I was rather excited to look more closely at the film and enjoy the parts of the movie I had liked in my first viewing… such as Beorn, Dol Guldur, Thranduil and of course the absolutely gorgeous Smaug. But the truth was… in this second viewing of the film, I able to fully enjoy the film and was able to appreciate The Desolation of Smaug as the truly wonderful and epic film it is. DoS is not a prefect film, but I thoroughly enjoyed it nonetheless

Of course… I must attribute this divided film experience with what I like to call ‘Tolkien Shock!’

I have suffered Tolkien Shock with each of the films about Middle-earth that Peter Jackson has made. The first viewing of each of the Lord of the Ring films and the first of The Hobbit trilogy was met with a feeling of shock. As the vision I’d hoped to see was literally knocked down and replaced by Peter Jackson’s vision of Tolkien’s writings. I must say, I am a Tolkien Purist at heart… I love the words… holding the books… turning the pages… getting swept up in Tolkien’s poetry of the past. The way he economically and with few words creates a vision in my mind that is a both stirring to the heart and satisfying to the spirit. To this day I still feel those things when I read the books… and nothing can replace that.

Still that has never held me back from enjoying Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth films. Once I got past my Tolkien Shock, which is really my preconceived notions of what should be on film,  I’m able to sit back and just let the films be what they are. There are moments and plot choices in all the films that I do no agree with, these are the moments that from my perspective stray the farthest from the heart of Tolkien. However, Peter Jackson and company have given us so many epic and heart warming moments on film that so capture the essence of the books, that I’m willing to forgive the occasional comedic burping dwarves, crazy tomato eating Stewards and falling wizards who plunge to their deaths on spiked wheels. In this life you just can’t have it all!

That said… and even with Tolkien Shock aside, I have to say that The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug takes the greatest detour from the spirit of Tolkien, more so then any of the other four films. And I want to be clear that this is not about PJ sticking to the story of The Hobbit book, I’m perfectly alright with Peter Jackson making a film that combines The Hobbit, the LOTR Appendices and even inserting new material that helps The Hobbit to align perfectly with the vision of Middle-earth he created in the three LOTR films.  I wouldn’t want him to make anything less. However, I’m not a fan of creating plot and story-lines that actually contradict the story in the books. That for me was the biggest and most disappointing bit of Tolkien Shock I had to contend with. And that gets to the heart of my negative feelings about this film. It is not that it’s so much different from The Hobbit books… but the spirit of Tolkien feels missing in many parts these new films… much more so than in the Lord of the Rings films.

The negative feelings I have about this film were completely turned on their head as I watched the film for a second time… nearly a month after seeing it the first time. In this viewing, I was able to feel the spirit of Tolkien shining through in moments I had dismissed earlier.

In this first post in my nine part Hobbit: DoS review, I want to highlight some of the things I loved… and some of the things I hated! Here you will see why I’m of two minds about The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug!

As many of you may already know, I’m a fan of watching films in 24 frames per second… call me old fashion… call me a Luddite if you will, but I simply enjoy the experience more in 2D and 24 FPS! Watching films should be fun… not work.

So… it’s only fair to tell you that I viewed the film only twice and both times in 24 FPS and 2D. Which to be honest is really how the majority of people are seeing this film. So I won’t waste any time talking about 3D and HFR in this review.

So… back to the theater… the lights dim, the beaten metal Hobbit logo comes and goes… and then we descend into the town of Bree.

My thoughts on the opening Prologue and the introduction of Bree.

I have to say I was excited by the introduction of Bree and the Prancing Pony into The Hobbit. It was fun to see the iconic location used as a prologue into the  second film.  It seems an appropriate place to launch The Desolation of Smaug, because even though this scene does not take place in the Hobbit book, it does play an important role in the story, though it only exists in the LOTR Appendices. A wonderful way to begin the film.

I have read that some believe this scene lacks the subtly the we see in the same location in The Fellowship of the Ring. I have to agree to a point. However, the introduction of Gandalf is priceless and the way he ends the conversation by way of introducing  the need for a burglar is prefect. Thus we fade out to Bilbo doing his job as burglar!  Well done PJ!

I must mention, that I loved… loved… loved… The Desolation of Smaug film title. In my opinion it is the best of all five films. The dark reddish clouds, the Warg Riders lunging over the top of the mountains and the musical score by Howard Shore set the perfect mood to begin this film. Up until the first Hobbit film, it was the film title for The Two Towers Extended Edition the was my favorite. Then when The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was released with the brilliant idea for the smoke ring, that one became my favorite title opening. I guess we will just have to see if There and Back Again’s title opening will top this films title!

The House of Beorn

After the mood setting title, we are launched directly into the action of the story with Azog and the Orc pack in hot pursuit!

We also get out first glimpse of Beorn the bear. Again I’m sort of torn. My first impression was that the Beorn Bear looked a bit odd… not REAL like a bear. It was better in my second viewing of the film, as I became more accustomed to his look. I was very happy with the human version of Beorn after seeing Mikael Persbrandt so fully inhabit the character. Two thoughts on these scenes before I move on to Mirkwood. I loved the way PJ transitioned from the scene of Bilbo in Beorn’s House holding the Ring to our first scene of Dol Guldur. Brilliant edit! Secondly, both the exterior and the interior of Beorn’s House was beautifully done and enhanced the magical quality of this film. I’ll post more about Bree and Beorn in my second more detailed posting for our Mordor Review of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug in Part Tw0 ~ The House of Beorn. For me the Beorn scenes seemed a little rushed and I’m looking forward to seeing more hopefully in the Extended Edition.

On to the Dark Forest of Mirkwood

Well… I was just not a fan of Mirkwood on my first viewing. The segment seemed too short and the whole concept about the spores making everyone hallucinate just did not sit well with me. However, in my second viewing of the film I liked it much better as I got used to the concept. It’s still not may favorite part of the film, which was disappointing to me, because the Mirkwood chapters are some of my favorite in the books.

I did enjoy how Martin Freeman continues to build the character of Bilbo. He is a wonder to watch.

The spiders were perfect… menacing… frightening… creepy… and downright spine-chilling. The sounds they made were especially unnerving and I loved the idea of the Ring making the spiders voices understandable to Bilbo. A stroke of genius. The entire sequence within Mirkwood was much better in my second viewing of the film. I will get into more detail on the pros and cons of this part of the film in my third part of the review in Part Three ~ The Dark Forest of Mirkw0od.

Now lets explore the realm of Thranduil.

I thought this was visually one of the most stunning parts of the film. The underground Kingdom of Thranduil was perfection. It hit all the right cues for me, incorporating enough elements from the books and The Lord of the Rings films to form a very satisfying mix. There were moments when the CGI was too obvious, but the locations were so beautify conceptualized and designed that it made no difference to me. There are many moments in the Lord of the Rings films when you know that what you are seeing is not real, but it’s so beautiful or so frightening, or it carries the story forward so well that is simply doesn’t matter. There are so many films, where the special effects are obvious, but we accept it, because it’s such a good story.

The center piece of this sequence is the performance of Lee Pace and the throne upon which he sits. In my mind he was the perfect Thranduil. An ancient and languid isolationist King. His moments with Legolas, Tauriel and the rogue orc, as well as his face-off with Thorin raised all their performances to a higher level. I enjoyed this sequence in both viewings.

Now… lets talk Tauriel, Legolas and Kili. Sigh… I’m willing to go with this plot line as long as we are given a real emotional pay-off in the third film.  I would have been perfectly happy with a budding romance cut short between Legolas and Tauriel. Using their love to deepen the character of Legolas and how we see him in The Lord of the Rings films. I can’t fathom at this point in the story, why Kili and Tauriel should be so enamored of each other. This feels like meddling by the studio to me. I have decided to wait and see where this story-line goes before condoning or condemning it… let’s just wait and see.

Tauriel I love… I think she is a wonderful addition to a story dominated by male characters. Also, there is nothing in the LOTR Appendices or in The Hobbit book itself that precludes her character from existing. She fits very well into Tolkien’s Middle-earth as interpreted by Peter Jackson. I like her character and want to see more. Legolas on the other hand seemed a bit lost. I believe his role in this story was changed, which leaves him hanging. I suppose we will have to wait and see where the script takes us..

Bilbo’s escape and the Barrel Chase.

I thought Martin Freeman as Bilbo played this scene perfectly. There is so much to like in how he saves the day for the Dwarves. The barrel chase was wild and exciting and though it too suffered from the over use of CGI… it was indeed thrilling. There were moments during this scene, when I heard people gasping, screaming, giggling, laughing and exclaiming… much the same kinds of sounds ones hears on a roller coaster or a thrill ride. This occurred especially during Bombur’s flying barrel sequence. The entire barrel chase with Orcs and Elves is way over the top, a blockbuster thrill ride. It doesn’t feel very Tolkien, but it was still loads of fun to watch all the same.

More thoughts on this sequence in the film coming in Part Four ~ The Kingdom of Thranduil

The Mysteries of Azog and Bolg

It was the introduction of Bolg that really set my teeth on edge. I was very disappointed in the entire Bolg/Azog story-line. Even on my second viewing of the film, I felt the same way… cheated. Something was wrong… something was missing. Bolg, rather than being an improvement over Azog was and even greater disappointment. I have spent the last year defending the Mo-cap digital Azog, as a character worth his salt. In this film, I expected him to be on the same level as Gollum in terms of visual quality. To my complete surprise, is he literately pulled off stage like a vaudeville comedian that’s not getting any laughs. The only thing missing was the long cane coming out and snatching him off the stage. I expected Azog to be clarified, both visually and in terms of his character, rather than being diminished. I expected him to be a truly life like digital creation, that would make up for the sometimes weak CGI we saw in the first film. I expected him to be given deeper meaning and motivation, instead he’s almost immediately yanked off screen, stage right. Say what?

This might have been forgivable, if Bolg had been the ravening and realistic monster Uruk we were expecting him to be. We thought he was going to be one of the coolest orcs in the series, based upon how he looked in the photos and action figures released last year. However, he was completely changed in appearance from the cool character we were anticipating, to an even less frightening and CGI laden version of Azog. WHY? These choices really ruined the film for me in my first viewing. I lost all interest at that point.

I have my own thoughts on why this was done and I plan to explore them more deeply in Part Five ~ The Mysteries of Azog and Bolg, along with my thoughts about the over reaching use of CGI in these films. This movie in particular, was on the very door step of being a great film. However, I fear it missed the mark in large part, because of the over use of CGI. If you don’t believe that characters are real, then you won’t have any feelings about them one way or the other as the story unfolds. More on all this in my later post.

So… what exactly does happen in Lake Town?

OK.. to begin, I have to say that the Lake Town sets and digital matte paintings were so much fun to look at. I absolutely loved the look of Esgaroth upon the Long Lake. It was better then anything I could have imagined. I thought Bard cut a dashing figure, the right mix of brooding outsider and likable hero. For the film, his character needed to be fleshed out since he plays such a pivotal role in the film and I was happy to see Bard given depth and purpose. When the moment comes for him to wield the Black Arrow… we will justifiably be rooting for him.

The Master of Lake town was played perfectly by Stephen Fry. The expansion of the politics hinted at in the book are fleshed out nicely in the film.

I was OK with how the Dwarves are taken into Lake Town. Jackson, Boyens and Walsh make use of every moment in these films to deepen character development and move the story forward. No scene is wasted. I was happy with Lake Town up until the moment when Thorin breaks the company of Dwarves by forcing Kili to stay behind.

What The FUCK? Un-fucking-forgivable!

Sorry… I just had to get that out. Up until that moment I was willing to go along with Peter Jackson on his adventure… but for me that was simply too much. The Tolkien purist in me, who had accepted Azog, had wrapped my head around the Tomb of the Witch-king, had embraced the Bunny Sled, and even swallowed an Elvish and Dwarf sandwich, had finally had enough! I wanted out of Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth. I did not get up and leave… but at that point I kind of turned off. I was like… whatever!

During my second viewing of the film I was not so taken aback… like I said I’m of two minds about this film.

I will say no more on this for now… I plan to go into deeper detail on the evolution of my thoughts on this in Part Six~ What Happens in Lake Town.

Gandalf goes on a journey of discovery.

At the borders of Mirkwood, Gandalf discovers a sign, with the help of Galadriel. I have watched this scene twice, the first time I barely registered it, during the second viewing of the film I was able to take it in. However, there are questions that need answering. With this film there is so much going on and it happens so quickly that it’s hard to recall all of it after just two viewings. I will share more of my thoughts about Gandalf’s role in The Desolation of Smaug.

Gandalf, after seeing a red painted Eye at the entrance into Mirkwood, decides to leave the company of Dwarves and Bilbo, to go in search of answers. Next we see him at the High Fells of Rhudaur. How did he get there exactly? Did he call upon the reluctant Eagles again? After seeing the ‘Smaug Sneak Peek’ last spring, with the scene of Gandalf and Radgast in the Tomb of the Witch-king, there was much discussion here and at other Tolkien sites about where this scene would fit into the story. Would it be a flashback or would it occur in real time. It appears that Peter Jackson for the sake of the story, is hoping that the majority of his audience for these films simply won’t care about the geography of Middle-earth. I was hoping that this scene of Gandalf and Radagast in the High Fells, would take place after Gandalf left Rivendell. As we know he later shows up to save the day in the Goblin Tunnels. I thought we might see this scene as a flashback. However, Jackson chose to take a different route and let this scene unfold in real time no matter the distance, backtracking and obstacles he must cross. (I will discuss this in more depth later.)

Despite the problems with timing and location, I loved every scene  involving Gandalf in this film. I was especially excited to see the exterior shots of the High Fells and hopefully learn more about them. I thought the dialogue between Gandalf and Radagast was dead on! These scenes held the menacing  tones of The Lord of the Rings films, which will help hold all six films together as a cohesive whole.

Back to the Bunny Sled and off to Dol Guldur. Over the mountain and through the woods! Again! LOL!

I must say I really enjoyed the scenes with Gandalf and the Necromancer, who we all now know is… Sauron! No more need to worry about this as spoiler material. After getting over the initial shock of both the story-line and the visual representation of the Necromancer, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It adds so much to the larger story. I was very excited by the idea of Gandalf exposing the spell of concealment. As a plot point, I was confused that the ancient fortress was empty except for the Witch-king and the Necromancer in the first film. Now it makes sense. I thought this was a brilliant stroke of story-telling the fits well into the films.

In watching the film for the second time, I found myself thoroughly enjoying this sequence from beginning to end. The visualization of the armored Sauron in the great Eye was a nice touch. I believe this will help many who casually watch The Lord of the Rings films and are perhaps confused by the forms that Sauron takes in the films. This helps tie it all together in a very visual way. I can’t wait to see more of Dol Guldur and how Gandalf will be set free! To me, this sequence is a highlight of DoS that will have a big payoff in the final film. I will delve into Dol Guldur more fully in Part Seven~ Gandalf vs the Necromancer in Dol Guldur.

Now we come to the Dragon… oh Smaug the Mighty!

What can I say… glorious… magnificent… a work of art. There is no doubt that The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug should win the Oscar for Best Visual Effects, simply on the merits of Smaug alone. He is everything.

Peter Jackson once said, while being interviewed about the making of The Two Towers, that everything hinged on the audience believing that Gollum was a living creature. A character just like any other in the film. Peter Jackson stated that if he failed to bring Gollum to life, then the film would fail and so might the entire trilogy. That was how import Gollum was to the story. At that time, no one had ever created a truly believable digital creature with the depth and pathos of a character like Gollum. Attempts had been made, such as George Lucas’s Jar Jar Binks… and we all know how that went! Peter Jackson took a great risk… and it paid off in spades! The rest is history!

The same can be said for Smaug in The Hobbit Trilogy. If Smaug failed to deliver as a fully believable character, then the entire trilogy might collapse. So Peter Jackson did what he had to do. He created, together with his creative team the most impressive dragon that has ever been seen on film. Smaug not only lives up to his namesake, but surpasses him by leaps and bounds with what is written on the page. I truly believe Smaug makes this film!

Benedict Cumberbatch gave the performance of a lifetime though Motion and Vocal Capture.  The conceptual work on Smaug, along with the incredible digital animation, combined to create something thoroughly wondrous to behold.

Now… this is not to say these scenes were perfect. Smaug takes up nearly a third of the film and well he should. As with all of Peter Jackson’s excursions into Middle-earth with The Hobbit and LOTR films, he has taken a few lines of text and turned them into huge action sequences. I personally stand behind his choice to have Thorin and the dwarves interact with the dragon. I might not agree with all of his plot devices, but to have the company of dwarves traverse over half of Middle-earth through deadly peril and needs to have his confrontation the dragon.

In my first viewing of the film, the far fetched nature of the events taking place in Erebor were a bit bothersome to me. But it all pays off when you see Smaug mesmerized by the vast figure of the dwarf in gold, that will seconds later cover him in liquid fire. That is a classic bit of film making that will last over time.

Well… there is much more to say about Smaug and I will be getting into all the details of the dragon in Part Eight~ Smaug the Terrible Unleashed.

However, before closing out this first part of my nine part review, I have to say how much I agree with the decision NOT to kill off Smaug in the second film. On so many levels, this was the right move. It was the most exciting, cliff hanger ending you could ask for in the second act of a three part narrative. I will give further thoughts on this in the later posting.

I will offer up my final review and give the film a final rating between one and ten in Part Nine~ Closing Thoughts.

You might think it’s crazy to create such a lengthy and long series of reviews for just one film… but I just can say it all in just one post!

Please go HERE to our Hobbit: DoS Review Page for all nine parts of the Mordor Review!

Source: Mordor ~ The Land of Shadow.com

 January 18, 2014  Posted by at 1:18 pm
  • Random Musings

    Interesting. Completely agree with with the proposed ‘Tolkien Shock’ as it has also affected me on both Hobbit films (Although not on LOTR as I was late to the game with the books) Can’t wait for parts 2 through to 9!

    P.s. In defense of Azog in AUJ (which I was also intially critical of) the appendices state that they did all the CGI only a month or two before the film was released due to a late creative change. Therefore it’s a wonder that it’s as good as it was!

  • I’m in full agreement on Azog in the first film. I became a staunch defender of him and was hoping that in the second film his CGI would be on the same level as Gollum. However… and I will detail this in my post on Azog and Bolg, their was again a bait and switch. They pasted Bolg in over Azog… if you look closely you can see it.This last minute decision led them to rush Bolgs CGI and result in another disappointing mess… but I will go into more detail in my post! Thanks for reading my review Random! Glad you liked!

  • Random Musings

    That would tie in with the fact that you can see Azog at the river gate just outside Thranduil’s realm (why doesn’t it have a specific name?) in the following trailer at 1:14.

  • It was when I thought about that clip, that I began to realize something was amiss…

  • Bagronk

    Finally got a chance to read this. A great prologue! Definitely going to share this review! Hopefully I’ll get a chance to share my thoughts later today or tomorrow once I give it a second go. I might even watch this movie a third time to see if your thoughts compel me to another view.
    I will say, being a Tolkein admirer rather than a die-hard fan, I didn’t have Tolkein Shock. My perspective comes from seeing what the movie sets out to accomplish in and of itself–to see if the movie meets the goals it sets for itself as story. Being a die-hard Orc fan-boy, I don’t know if I can get over Azog and Bolg shuffles. >:(

  • Can’t wait to hear more of your thoughts! I’m working on part two as we speak!

  • Christine Golden

    I find it odd that a self-proclaimed purist would have no problem with so many radical, not adaptations, but alterations to core Tolkien canon. Three examples out of dozens:
    Azog has been dead for 150 years and only Eru has the power to ‘raise the dead.’ (The Silmarillion, Luthien and Beren) Also, orcs were unable to tolerate sunlight until Saruman created the orcs of the White Hand.
    Female elves were followers of Yavanna, nurturers and healers (Letters); even Galadriel waited until Celeborn’s army had defeated the forces of Sauron before destroying Dol Guldur. Also, again according to Letters, an elf could be a healer or a killer, but not both.
    Sauron did not reveal himself as “the evil rising in the East” or assume the persona of the Eye until after the events described in The Hobbit.

  • Bagronk

    It all depends on your perspective on what a movie’s job is in bringing a book, or short story, screen. While not a Tolkien purist myself–I simply don’t have the breadth of knowledge to even approach that category–I am a die-hard Conan fan, and by extension Robert E Howard. That character has been translated from page to film three times, and I can say no single one of these films as ever been faithful to Howard, but the first one captured something that the other two lost: it caught the primitivist and Nietzschean spirit that “Conan the Destoryer” completely abandoned for high fantasy and the remake abandoned for the sake of being “brootal.”
    But the first Conan as a film triumphed not only in capturing the spirit of the original stories, it also excelled as a film in and of itself. The heaviness it set, the dip into philosophy, the touch of the Howard originals it brought set it apart as a film from every other sword-and-sorcery film that came out. It can’t be touched in its genre. Milius was able to work around Arnold’s lack of dialogue (quite Conan wasn’t in the stories) to bring a new kind of imposition the character. While Momoa was a more faithful Conan, he wasn’t better than Schwarzenegger in representing the character. Conan can’t be adapted, translated or brought to film in a faithful way. The team has to be loose with the material and instead strive for something new while being faithful to the spark of creation that birthed Conan.
    I think Jackson is faced with the same dilemma.
    And I’ll also add that the Solomon Kane movie was an excellent and faithful take on Howard’s character.

  • Bagronk

    In all honesty, I think if Jackson would have been 100% faithful to the texts, the movies would have bombed. It says nothing about the quality of Tolkien’s work, but it says something about what movie-going audiences want out of a movie. Tolkien’s characters worked because of the time he wrote them in. Fantasy novels are a different breed now, and, while people currently love Tolkien’s work, I don’t think a publisher would touch a text as striking, archaicly beautiful and rich as “The Silmarillion.” The playing field is different for novels now than it was then, and the movie field is a different beast all together.

  • I am a Tolkien Purist that is perhaps not so pure… LOL, If I was a purist on the level you are demanding, then I would also hate the LOTR films, which I don’t. The films can’t be the books… I have been saying this for well over 15 years now. We have to pick and choose our battles. For me the breaking of the Company of Dwarves was the straw that broke the camels back. This however, doesn’t mean I hate the film, because it does not conform to the books. I expect you and I have a different definition of Tolkien Purist. But that’s fine and it’s all part of what makes the Tolkien community so interesting!

  • Well said Bagronk. Also writing is simply a different medium from film, I love the example John Rhys-Davies gives when discussing how they had to film the scene of Gimli asking Galadriel for one of her golden hairs. The written word is so beautiful, but filming it would have been a nightmare at best and comical at worst. Translating words to film is a true art form.

    PS, I love the first Conan film too!

  • Bagronk

    “Now… lets talk Tauriel, Legolas and Kili. Sigh… ”
    I’m going on record as being glad this plot line is here, even though it’s completely invented and even though it’s a love-line that, to my readings of Tolkien so far, doesn’t even jive with Tolkien’s style at all. Jackson had to have a love story simply because people want a love story. I’ll admit, a Tauriel/Azog love story would have been much more interesting, but there’s only so much an audience is willing to accept.
    The notion that the MOVIE needed a love story follows the same reasoning why Jackson had to throw Azog in as a major villain–audiences have to have a villain to identify. With Thorin and Bilbo sharing hero duties, the absence of a clear villain for the AUJ would have made the movie suffer since it deprives the film of a proper frame. Whether fantasy fans or Tolkien fans are upset by that doesn’t matter. Without Azog, no clear villain means no definite audience, which means no Hobbit movie.
    This is why I think Azog, despite my anger, had to recede into the shadows for this film. The clear villain that everyone is expecting is THE DRAGON they’ve heard so much about. Azog simply had to slip into the background as the main villain because it would confuse the audience. You can have a couple of heroes sharing duties, but multiple villains would tear the story line even more apart than it already is. No other movie would be able to have a line for Gandalf, a line for Bard and a line Thorin and Bilbo.
    I was definitely upset about the lack of clear Orc leader. The shuffle with Bolg and Azog may hurt things in the end at least for me, because I’m left wondering who will lead the goblins in the battle of five armies. Bolg obviously isn’t taking off in the end towards Dol Guldur; Azog didn’t leave the hill of sorcery marching with an army. My only guess is that Smaug is going to level things out in the next film. And Bold himself as a character was an utter disappointment. But I think this reflects where Jackson is taking the Orcs. In LOTR, they were, quite honestly, bad-ass. I know in the texts they’re described as lacking courage without a superior leader telling them what to do, but Jackson this time around made them into bad Storm Troopers. With Azog, he created the most memorable Orc to me, someone admirable, tough, ferocious. But not a single Orc in this movie made a worthy villain. They were fodder. Bolg was a turd compared to his dad–and that wasn’t even established.
    Now all that technical stuff having been said:
    This, I think, is the biggest problem. Anyone who is not siding with the Company of Dwarves already thinks the coming of Sauron is old news. Smaug, Azog, the POW Orc and probably a few pickpockets and their dogs know that Sauron is the head honcho who’s kicking about on Dol Guldur, and that is the biggest thing that annoyed me the most. It’s TOO interconnected with LOTR. And I couldn’t remember if in the book Smaug at least knew Bilbo had a special ring, but I was left puzzled in the movie how he knew it was The One Ring!
    That in and of itself offended me as someone who enjoys the novels. Connecting Smaug to Sauron in that way, I think, violates–deviates–tarnishes–whatever the word is–Smaug’s character. He’s bad. He’s tough. He’s selfish. But he is not Lawful Evil. He’s Chaotic Neutral. (Yes I went there, but everyone might get my point). Now, one could make the argument Morgoth made Glaurung who is that father of all dragons, and Morgoth essentially made Sauron who he is, therefore Jackson has the right to connect Smaug to Sauron (mind you, I’m not familiar enough with the material to know Smaug’s origins or the nature of dragons in general in Middle-Earth).
    Regardless, I just can’t buy that Smaug is somehow in the know of the true identity of the Necromancer and finds some kind of delight in it. That was too much for me and I don’t think I’ll be able to get over that. It takes Smaug from being simply a mighty dragon who sleeps upon his gold to being someone who enjoys evil. It didn’t ruin the film for me, but it was the thing that delivered the death blow.
    That’s essentially the core of my thought. And like I said, if the movie’s still kicking in theaters a couple of weeks from now I’ll watch it a third time to see if I can lighten up.

  • I agree with all your points! Especially… what the Orc said to Thrandiul… that shocked me also. As for Smaug’s knowledge of the ring, his calling Thorin “Oakenshield” was bad enough, he has supposedly laid upon the gold of Erebor sleeping for the last few hundred years, how he could he have any knowledge of the outside world? As for any connection between Sauron and Smaug, there is none. Gandalf did fear that Sauron might use the dragon to deadly effect, but there is nothing in the canon to suggest that there was ever any direct communication with Smaug or if the dragon would have had any interest in the wars of Middle-earth.

    Many good points… you will indeed hear more about them in my reviews!

  • Random Musings

    With regards to orcs being unable to tolerate sunlight, I actually made a conscious effort to check whether this was forgotten about in DOS when I watched it a second time. It actually was not. The river fight is set before dawn and when they are chasing the dwarves down the river a little later they do so in the shade. It’s subtle but I can assure you its there. Have a look next time you watch.

  • Random Musings

    I think the decision to split up the dwarves was for some people other than Bard to be at the looming battle with Smaug in and around Lake Town. Otherwise It would be simply Bard running around (with a little of the Master and Alfred) fighting Smaug for what I presume will be around 15/20 mintues of film. As such I think I would become slightly boring/repetitive very quickly. Also who will break him out if not the Dwarves?

  • I have a feeling, that once I see all three films this will make sense to me in terms of the films plot. However for me, the ‘breaking of the fellowship’… pun intended, just seemed to me to veer so far from Tolkien and the fundamental core of The Hobbit, that I find it hard to swallow. In time I’m sure I’ll accept it as I have all the other rabbit holes Peter Jackson has taken us down.

  • Also to say that orcs cannot tolerate sunlight is an overstatement. They don’t like it surely, but if push comes to shove they will travel under the sun. This is evidenced by the Uruks from Mordor and the orcs from Moria that travel with!the Uruk-hai bred by Saruman over the plain of Rohan in The Two Towers.

  • Pits_Of_Utumno

    Hey Mordor, just wanted to tell you I stumbled onto your review of AUJ last night – I agreed with most of what you said – your review is great! I, being a Tolkien book fan like you, am still not sure what to think on DOS. Personally I think the EE may fix the things that I had a problem with (Apart from Kili/Tauriel). While I enjoyed AUJ more, because it felt so true to the book, there were some moments in DOS that had me scratching my head, but others (like Smaug/Dol Guldur) that just blew anything from AUJ out of the water. Hopefully you will be able to give me some more insight here. 🙂

    Eagerly anticipating the rest of your review, as well as your eventual thoughts on TABA! So glad I found this!

  • Glad you like! I’m working on Part Four ~ The Kingdom of Thranduil… should be ready in a day or so. Thanks for taking the time to post a comment, that really motivates me to keep working on these reviews!