Movies: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

The reviews of this movie didn’t impress us enough to go see it in the theater, as we did the first installment. But when we were shopping recently for a DVD player for a friend, we saw both the first two installments on DVD at a good price, and there was no question about whether we were going to want to own all three eventually.

So the question was just whether to go ahead and watch the second movie, or first watch again the one we had already seen to refresh our memories. Since I hadn’t actually seen most of the first movie (we watched in 3D and I spend most of the movie feeling nauseous, listening to the movie with my eyes shut and hoping it would be over soon), I opted to watch it first.

I enjoyed actually seeing the first movie this time. Even parts that I had watched (at the beginning before the nausea hit, and scenes where there wasn’t much movement and watching felt safe) surprised me by having scenes I didn’t remember. I hadn’t realized we had bought the extended edition, but I guess we must have because Jon and Zach didn’t recognize some scenes either.

It was a weeknight, so we didn’t get through the whole movie in one evening. But the second evening was Friday, and we finished the first movie and watched all of the second movie. It could be partly because we stayed up so far past my bedtime, but I was somewhat disappointed with the second movie.

Reading reviews of the movie later, I found that I was not alone in my reaction. Apparently a lot of fans were disappointed that the first movie did not have enough action, so Jackson packed a lot of action scenes into the second. And many of those who like action movies thought it was better. But I didn’t want to see an action movie; I wanted to see The Hobbit.

I guess the problem is that I wanted to see Tolkien’s The Hobbit. This review says that viewers need to accept the fact this is Peter Jackson’s work and not Tolkien’s, and enjoy it on its own terms. Tolkien wrote a children’s book. Jackson produced a movie filled with the kind of content audiences expect to see in action movies today.

There were a few good scenes, especially the escape down the river in barrels. Apparently this was one of Tolkien’s favorite scenes in the book, so Jackson made sure it was one of the best in the movie also. Here is a video of how they made the impressive sequence.

One part that I did not think much of was the journey through Mirkwood. As a child, I found this the scariest part of the book. I don’t remember what I thought of the giant spiders, but just being lost in a dark forest, and the danger of the stream that would cause forgetfulness, made it memorably frightening. On the other hand, the scene with the spiders was lightened by Bilbo’s taunting of them.

In the movie, the forest doesn’t seem all that dark. There is no Bombur falling in the river and falling into a magical sleep (though according to this, it does briefly show him being carried by the other dwarves, raising the possibility that the extended edition will have him falling in also). There is none of the amusing interplay between Bilbo and the spiders – a scene which even my eighth grade English teacher’s adaption of the book into a school play did better than Jackson.

(If you’re interested in more criticism of this nature, here is a whole list of ways in which Jackson’ The Hobbit fails in comparison with the book.)

The big problem, according to many reviews, is that Jackson is trying to turn this story into a prequel to the Lord of the Rings, which Tolkien’s story was not (though he later rewrote a few parts to remove inconsistencies between the two). This review points out that besides trying to substitute lots of action for meaningful action and character development, Jackson tries to make the dwarves’ quest seem important (like LOTR). But he fails, because you can’t make something epic just by dressing it up that way.


If I want to watch epic, I’ll watch Lord of the Rings. But if I want The Hobbit, I’ll reread Tolkien’s book.

One Response to Movies: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

  1. Peter L says:

    ~Spoiler alert~ If you were unimpressed by the first two movies, don’t bother watching the third. Way too much action. But since it it “The Battle of Five Armies”, there had to be a lot of action sequences. However, there is too much of Jackson and not enough of Tolkien in it.

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