NOTE: This was written in December of 2013, and never published. It was a year late then, so its now two years late. I remember wanting to add a little about the actors who play Thorin and Bilbo, as well as something about the Unexpected Party scene. Never got around to that stuff, then forgot about this entirely. I don’t give a fuck, got my kitty to my right, pup to my left.
Without further ado, below is last year’s review of 2012’s Hobbit movie.
I have not yet seen The Desolation of Smaug. I am very excited to see it, although not expecting it to be good. At all. Kind of a weird combo. But actually, that combo’s existence is the key to Peter Jackson’s success. Nobody I know is expecting this movie to be good, and yet anyone with a nerdy bone in their body will see it.
I recently purchased the extended edition of An Unexpected Journey, and have watched it 20+ times in the last month*. I realize that sounds excessive, but I’ve mainly just had it on as white noise while I work at night. Still, a lot of viewings. Too many, really. I believe I finally have my thoughts on this movie in order.
*I bought Pacific Rim at the same time I bought The Hobbit (Cyber Monday on Playstation network, dweebs). Watched it 10 times, probably. Its a solid movie, but I’m not sure why I keep watching it. I think Howard Hughes used to do this?
I’ll start off by saying I still enjoy seeing any Tolkien onscreen. Peter Jackson, Ralph Bakshi, Bass and Rankin, it all gets watched repeatedly in my cluttered bachelor abode. So, in that way, I am still very much looking forward to seeing The Desolation of Smaug. No matter how bad it is, I’ll be like a kid in a candy store the first time I see it. I was recently postulating that there would likely be a remake at some point in my 40s and 50s. Definitely looking forward to that. Plan is to get all stoney and go see them solo.
Lets talk about Peter Jackson, and why he sucks. Because he definitely sucks, there can be no mistaking that now. Feel free to check out King Kong some time if you have any doubt of that. I now refer to that movie as “Exhibit A.”
His success is easily explained. He was handed the best and most popular source material in fantasy history and given an unlimited budget. Your grade school gym teacher could’ve made hundreds of millions of dollars directing LOTR. Regardless of how good or bad they were, legions of people were going to see those movies multiple times. What I can’t explain is how Jackson got the job, or how he got a contract giving him a %. The spin is that nobody knew if these movies were going to make any money. That can’t possibly be true, so I’m left wondering what the real answers are. They gave him this job coming off The Frighteners? Did they not bother checking that one out beforehand? What, were they big fans of his B horror movies?
There actually is one thing Jackson does very well, and its an important thing. With very few exceptions, he nails the look and feel of Middle Earth. Really exceeded expectations there. Bag End, Rivendell, Moria, Minas Tirith, Erebor, it all looks great. Just as it should. Most of the characters as well, at least in the trilogy. Dap where dap due, dude do deserve dap for that. The Dwarven history flashback scenes in The Hobbit were incredible.
Where Jackson fails, repeatedly, are in his deviations from the source. That was true in the trilogy, and its doubly true in The Hobbit. His original additions are embarrassing, and his changes are infuriating. It makes me wonder how many times he’s really read these books. I’m sure he has read them, and I’m sure he likes them, but I don’t think this is someone who daydreams about kingdoms referenced in The Silmarillion. If you take my meaning.
I’ve tweeted about this several times, but seriously, why all the wargs? What is his obsession with them? Radegast’s chase scene was a strange addition*. Much like the warg battle in The Two Towers. Completely fabricated scenes, based on nothing. For whatever reason, Jackson saw fit to spend significant time on both. Yet the one actual warg scene in the Trilogy, the attack on the camp as the Fellowship heads south, he did not include. Thats weird, right? To always be adding warg scenes, but then not include the one actual warg scene? Fucking wargs, Jesus. I can’t even believe I’m talking about this. He could not have fastened on anything less interesting.
*Radegast’s depiction was particularly disheartening for me, as he is a character I’ve been fascinated with since I was 12. Barely referenced in the books, and never actually encountered, we were left to wonder and imagine what he might be like, and what his powers would entail. I’ve been thinking about this for literally 20 years. And now here is onscreen and, Oops! He’s a silly little man with bird-poop in his hair and bugs in his mouth! Tee-hee! This is fun! What else can we destroy?
The Hobbit movies are going to be worse than the trilogy, I think we all realized that going in. The fact that there are 3 is totally ridiculous. When I first heard about Jackson’s decision to split in into two movies, I saw it as a money grab, but supported it. I figured he’d be able to spend some time on the backstory, flesh out the White Council’s actions a bit, and include Beorn. All good things. 3 3-hour movies for a 310-page book is insane. There is no reasonable explanation for that, and the resultant filler is obvious. I’m convinced even someone who hadn’t read the books could tell what was actually in there and what was original.
The bonus features of An Unexpected Journey focus heavily on the 13 dwarves, and the actors who play them. I would not recommend watching that. Jackson, Phillipa Boyens and Fran Walsh focused HEAVILY on these dwarves, specifically the process of differentiating them from each other. To that end, I would say they succeeded. They managed to make each one fairly unique, at least if you watch the movie more than once. That can’t have been easy.
Their creative process though, yikes. Like seeing how sausage is made.
Lets just say it all makes sense now. And no worries ya’ll, these movies were never going to be good! Because none of these people are great at this, and they don’t give a fuck about the source material! Just chillax and enjoy the show, brosephinos! Plenty more where this came from. And all for the low low price of $14.95.
Bring on Desolation of Smaug. As long as its only a little worse than Unexpected Journey (inflation being what it is), we’ll be good to go.