The Hobbit: The Desolation of Literature and Film-Making2/10
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is more of a bad Steven Seagal clone than an adaptation of well-read literature. The first film in the new trilogy, An Unexpected Journey, was very good, with one problem I'll mention later. If the worst decision Director Peter Jackson made was to include Orlando Bloom and Evangeline Lilly, which seems to be the case for the professional praise-givers, this film would be fantastic. However, it just so happens that there's this little thing Jackson and his fellow writers forgot to do: make sure the movie resembles the book.
I'm sure most people who saw the first movie remember the leading villain Azog. Well, in case you haven't read the book, page 251 of my 1997 Houghton Mifflin copy states "Bolg of the North is coming, O Dain! whose father you slew in Moria." In the section on Durin's Folk in Appendix A of the Lord of the Rings, it is stated that Dain Ironfoot, who is supposed to appear in the next film, slew Azog in the big Dwarf vs. Goblin battle we see as a flashback in film one. This means that the entire Azog subplot is just one big fan-fiction. It is one thing to include the son of the Elven-King (Legolas) even though he is not mentioned in the book, after all, is it so inconceivable that Legolas would be near his father? It is an entirely different matter when a character is included even though he has been dead for over 100 years!
Continuing with our game of "What is timeline consistency?", we come across Gandalf. Gandalf ends movie 2 in a cage at Dol Guldur. Beyond the fact that there is no rationale for such a decision, we know from Appendix B that Gandalf reports the existence of Sauron to the White Council and then takes part in the attack on Dol Guldur. After that battle, he proceeds to save Bilbo's life right before the Battle of Five Armies. Based on this film's timeline and what part of the original timeline still remains, Gandalf has but a handful of days to accomplish all that I have listed.
My copy of The Hobbit is 271 pages long. The US edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is 310 pages. Why in the name of Eru do you need three movies for this story? I understand and would have gladly stood behind two films, therefore allowing for extended action sequences and a limited reduction in content. Three films should be more than enough to cover the entire book but apparently not for Peter Jackson.
Beorn is trimmed down to the importance of Celeborn, then we watch a ridiculously long giant spider sequence, then the dwarfs are captured for maybe three hours Middle-Earth time, then we watch an overly long fan-fiction chapter about Azog's friends being killed by our two elf heroes. Note that Bolg is able to attack the dwarfs because Jackson changed the escape from Mirkwood scene in order to allow for more combat.
After our craziest bloodbath yet, we have an overly long scene introducing another Jackson creation: Bard, the Barge-Sailer who apparently got mixed up with Bard, the Captain of the Guard. You see, the former makes a whole bunch of claims that are actually true about the latter. Why do we need to mess up the Lake-Town sequence? If you guessed "To set up another impossible bloodbath", give yourself a vacation to a combat zone. This round of combat is only after we leave four dwarfs behind because one of them got the Witch-King's knife disease that Frodo got in Fellowship but this time it came from an arrow fired by Bolg who has absolutely nothing better to do since Azog took all his screen time. Of course, Kili is saved by Tauriel, Captain of the Guard of the Woodland Realm who somehow has the same healing capability as Lord Elrond Half-Elven, wielder of one of the three Elven Rings of Power and a direct descendant of the Kings of the Noldor. It is rather fortunate Tauriel is there, because otherwise, Kili would have to wait for the next movie to have his deathbed dialogue, provided Jackson even sends Fili and Kili to Erebor where they're supposed to be. I'm all for the suspension of disbelief, but this doesn't even make sense in the fantasy universe.
And don't forget the dragon. In Lake-Town, the viewer is reminded multiple times that Smaug can only be killed by a special ballista-bolt, strangely called an arrow, and only in one tiny spot on his stomach. In the mountain, Bilbo points it out again. But Peter Jackson apparently pays no heed to the script with his own name on it and gives the viewer a 30 minute "Let's Kill the Dragon Sequence". Take a guess who doesn't die in this sequence. If you said Smaug, the Fire- Breathing Dragon, you are more qualified to direct this movie than Peter Jackson.
I loved the Rings film trilogy and, with the exception of Azog, the first Hobbit film. This film though, has almost no plot development, almost no consistency with the timeline given by Tolkien, almost no attention paid to its own script, and entirely too much combat. I remember Jackson being criticised for the warg battle in Towers but that did not require any plot change except for the location of the death of Hama (a very minor change) and the whole Aragorn-cliff- dream-thing which serves to heighten the tension before a battle that is done far better in the film. The warg battle helped to make a good fantasy film. This film seems like it is trying to see how many people can be killed before it gets an R rating from the MPAA. Deviations from the book are good if it enables better cinema but not when it allows for "Let's Kill Everything We See: The Movie".