Monday, December 23, 2013

The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug

If you're worried about spoilers, just leave now.

I want to talk about The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug, but at the same time I don't know how to talk about it. Perhaps the easiest way is to talk about the characters a little, as groups or individuals, and their interwoven stories. This is not about comparing the book to the movie (though there are times that is unavoidable), it is about weighing a film on its own merits.

Would I recommend seeing it? Yes, absolutely yes. But don't expect the text verbatim. Book:Film doesn't work that way.

It was a beautifully rendered movie. It was a beautifully acted movie. The writing, in places, was brilliant and not so much in others.

Gandalf, as far as I am concerned, is the face-to-watch for the bits of the movie in which he appears. Sir Ian McKellen tells a lot of Gandalf's backstory with his eyes. Pay attention. If you think you see a soul burdened with thousands of years of stuff, you're right. He's seen things, man.

The dwarves were dwarfy. (I would like a Barrel Bombur action-figure please.) And since this is THEIR story (Bilbo's too), it could always use more dwarf.

Bilbo. He could've gotten a little more development time. I'm a little annoyed that there was no conversation about the Ring with Gandalf. It would've tied in so nicely to the stuff going down in Dol Guldur (which Jackson did NOT make up, by the way - that stuff is stuff Tolkien wrote).

Mirkwood:  Spiders - ew! Yay! but ew!  Elves. Yay! Elves. Sigh.

I accepted the changes that went down in regards to Azog & Bolg. I accepted that there would be an invented elf added to the story. I accepted that Legolas would be more than a cameo. I accepted a lot of things would be different from the texts; it is simply the way film works.

What I have difficulty accepting is poorly executed changes, whatever their intent. What I speak out against is poor storytelling.

Tauriel. Nevermind the lore-issues that could be discussed (red-headed elf).

What I won't excuse is the shoe-horning in of a female character who is used entirely as a plot device and an object (moreover, for a romantic subplot that was entirely unnecessary and in many places ruined the pacing of the story). Thanks for the gesture, but ultimately I found it to be a condescending and/or patronizing one.

You can tell me all day what a badass she is, you can tell me "But she's Captain of the Guard!"  So what? What elf with a name isn't a badass? And why does it matter if she's Captain of the Guard? It is pitched to me like that is some kind of achievement for a girl. And that is what makes it worse. "You should be happy there's an empowered female in the movie!" No, not really. Not when she's a walking cliche machine.

She comes off as a token female, and for me that's worse than no female at all. (I'd actually have been fine with no female 'main character' because this is the story of the dwarves & their hobbit bro. Their story. There were plenty of opportunities to people the land with individuals - the whole "strong woman" issue is a whole other can o' worms not for this post...)

Ultimately I have two gripes and they don't take away from the movie overall, for me.

1 - The romantic subplot was:
poorly written
poorly developed
poorly executed

2 - This is really a result of the poor writing/execution of the unnecessary and poorly developed romantic subplot; the misuse/abuse of Morgul Blades. This is probably the closest I get to having an issue about divergence from the texts. Morgul Blades were Very Important in the Fellowship. In Desolation, they are this footnote, throwaway plot device to put Kili in danger and motivate the Love Interest to come save him.

If you know what a Morgul Blade is, then you know a random orc is NOT running around with arrows tipped with the stuff. It's just not happening. So, bad storytelling begets sloppy storytelling.
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