Monday, December 16, 2013

The Desolation of Smaug

I enjoyed it very much. I thought it was better than part one by quite a bit — and I’m willing to predict its being the best of the three. Without spoiling anything, I enjoyed most of Peter Jackson’s additions to the story, and the ones I didn’t enjoy so much were at least not particularly annoying. I can think of several changes to The Lord of the Rings in his adaptations that bothered me much more. It was exciting, beautifully shot, and once again, the high frame rate was pretty amazing. Especially for Smaug!

And that’s about all I feel compelled to say at this point. Well over 300 messages — and still counting! — have been posted to Facebook and the Mythopoeic Society email list, some of them by me, and that’s not to mention private conversations. That is surely overkill enough to render Bard’s black arrow unnecessary.

I will say one other thing: de gustibus non est disputandum. Feel free to share your opinions here, and even argue with each other, but let’s keep it civil. And as for me, I don’t intend to argue with anyone. :)

26 comments:

  1. I have seen some of those emails ;)

    Well, I didn't like it (except for Smaug, the Stupendous and to my surprise, Bard) but that won't be the biggest of issues. I think that because of massive changes in media consumption and the continuing prevalence of multimedia entertainment (simple) books as such (generally speaking) and titles like "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" will be superseded by even more overwhelming marketing strategies and even more audiovisual bombardement in about 10-15 yrs time when someone else puts those stories on the big screen again ...

    But that's for future research to determine *g*

    I am just sick of lines like ...

    " ... dusted off old Tolkien ..."
    "PJ, master of the Tolkien universe ..."
    "They made those books palatable to our times ..."
    "We could have been worse off with another director" ...

    or, my favourite,

    "Tolkien would have been forgotten by now if not for PJ."

    All of which are nonsensical and seemingly repeats from press junkets and film booklets without actually thinking about what they are saying. But that's good marketing and first class press work ;)

    I still believe that the millions of copies sold of LR in Germany during the LR film trilogy where copies bought by desperate parents to get their kids to read - but the kids chose to watch the films instead. Nobody has any reliable figures on this so I'll stick with that *g*

    Ah, the power of discourse ...

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    1. Wow, I hadn't seen any of those quotes before. How disheartening!

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  2. I have been so flabbergasted by the admiration among both mainstream film critics and some Tolkien scholars for this terrible, terrible movie that I feel like Sam faced with Rosie's chiding: "This was too much ... It needed a week's answer, or none." And I won't have the week for a while, so I've kept my comments few and brief.

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    1. Fair enough! Though I’m not sure which Tolkien scholars you mean when you say they admire the film. I wouldn’t use that word myself.

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    2. I admire at least many aspects of the film. But then, I don't particularly consider myself a "Tolkien scholar" (though I have been called that, as well as worse things that that).

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    3. There’s something worse than being called a Tolkien scholar?! ;-)

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    4. Yup, I feel the same way. Posted my own review on my blog today...

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    5. Hi, Deniz. I read your review. You made one particular criticism that really stuck in my mind: “The river to Esgaroth is all rapids — um, how are they supposed to use it for trade if you can’t paddle up the river?”

      That’s a very good point! :)

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    6. Please, Doug – Jason asked us to keep it civil ;-)

      I'd agree that this one is much better than the first of Jackson's Hobbit films – though of course it is even further from Tolkien (I suspect that there is a connection here ...)

      The plot, to my eyes, was more coherent and had at least a semblance of logical progression, which I missed with the first.

      I found that the ‘she-elf’, as some call the Tauriel character, actually worked quite well in Jackson's story, and was a very positive element in his story, though I would have preferred a few more women to go with her (and for them to talk of something other than men-folk).

      Smaug is well-nigh perfect! The only small blemish is that the realization doesn't really fit the name all that well – I wonder if it is still all those Dwarves he ate that swells his belly.

      The special effects are in general just wonderful, while I am not too keen on some elements of modern filming (I am suspecting that the visual language of computer and video games are creeping into films, but I do not always think it works on a big screen, and I even dislike playing in 1st-person mode on PC display). This, however, seems a general trend in modern film-making that has nothing to do with Jackson, and which I suspect he might feel obliged to comply with.

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    7. Thanks, Troels! I appreciate your comments very much, especially because I know you might have said much more but held yourself in check and tried to be positive where you could.

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  3. Jason

    I totally agree with you position. Some things I liked some less so. It's an adaptation and I enjoyed watching it and have neither the time nor inclination to indulge in long debates. Riddles in the Dark through Mythgard Institute is fun because we explore what could be and how PJ might use the text. But clearly PJ has other ideas and is drawing from Tolkien's soup of collected and invented legend and lore for his vision. Great - when I got home from the screening I re-read The Quest of Erebor and a chapter in History of the Hobbit - and that is not a bad thing - perhaps other movie goers will go back to the texts - and that is a comforting thought! Looking forward to the third part next year! Back to the thesis! Hope to meet you at Kzoo or Mythcon in 2014 Andyx

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    1. Thanks, Andy. Are you coming to the States for Mythcon again? It’s still a long time away, but I am hoping to be there. Kalamazoo, though, is very unlikely; it is just too expensive for what I’d get out of it.

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  4. I have not seen it yet, I'll be going this Friday. I have been enjoying all the reviews and discussions. When I was telling my wife about some of the discussions she said "you people are all crazy it's only a movie" I suppose she may be right.

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    1. What for some people is “just a movie” is for other people an existential threat to the the entire legacy of a literary legend. But for my part, I think your wife is a wise woman, Gerry. Let us know what you think when you’ve seen the movie. :)

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    3. Maybe I'm wrong but I don't recall seeing Beorn's Carrock at the beginning of the film and I was looking forward to a better look at the movie version I saw in the first film. Some how I thought perhaps that was where it would begin after all in the last installment it seems that was where we left our heros.

      There is no use in lamenting how "that did not happen in the book" anymore. The movies are a version of some one else's story, and that is what they shall always be.

      Martin Freeman does make a good Bilbo, for the most part I think the casting in the films has been good. I think some of the dwarves are either too exaggerated or not really how I imagined them. Unfortunately Smaug looked fake to me.

      The scenery in all the films is very nice and much of it does give one a feeling of Middle-earth. The incredible acrobatics, well I never pictured that while turning the pages of my copies.

      All in all I am glad we have these films. I enjoy seeing them with my wife and having a night out, which we do way to infrequently. I like that they introduce people to the world of Middle-earth even if imperfectly.

      I really would have liked to see more of Mirkwood. My wife who is not a big admirer of Tolkien like myself had a couple comments and I found them very interesting. One how ridiculously huge and hairy Bilbo's feet were in the see my feet shot, to which I recalled my impression of clown feet and totally agreed. And secondly she felt bad they had made the character Bilbo a "comic figure" as she put it.

      It does seem that in the three movies the one book is being made into, we could have seen a lot more of those wonderful images the book can conjure up as opposed to incredible dueling battles down raging rivers.

      Gerry

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  5. Sounds like you might enjoy this :-) http://youtu.be/0Z7oZB7onK4

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  6. "I will say one other thing: de gustibus non est disputandum."

    An author I admire once wrote, "'There is no disputing about tastes', it is said--foolishly, for we must dispute about them."

    Merry Christmas!

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    1. I disagree. There is no reason we must; some people just enjoy it. I like super spicy curries, but I don't look down on my wife because she prefers a mild pad thai.

      Merry Christmas!

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    2. Fair enough. The author in question, by the way, is Tolkien. But I don't always agree with him either!

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  7. I am still conflicted about this movie. 1. I was younger when the LotR movies came out, and I of course had read the books first, but there was certainly an element of "growing up" with the movies. 2. I didn't get as involved with these newer movies--I didn't want to have anything spoiled, but I know this led me to not caring as much about them as the first trilogy. 3. One of my friends walked out of the Hobbit movie and is writing a letter to Peter Jackson. She and I both see it like this: 4. Tolkien's story is wonderful, so why try to put so many different stories together? And why try to add to the story (with a female Elf)? I can see Jackson's reasoning behind the girl Elf: 1. he needed to set up Legolas more 2. he needed to show a conflict/connection between elves and dwarves and 3. he needed to put in some pretty people to appeal to some audiences. In short, I think A. Jackson is trying to do too much, even in 3 movies, and it distracts from The Hobbit story and B. These movies are appealing to a Hollywood audience much more than Tolkien audience, and why would Jackson do that? He knows there are tons of people who would see it anyway. In shorter short, Tolkien wrote because he loved his story, he didn't even write to get published. Jackson should have just kept making these movies because he loved them (like he did with LotR) instead of trying to appeal to so many people. When you do what you love, it's appealing. When you try to appeal, it's appalling.

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    1. Rebecca, I think that Jackson very much did make the movie that he loved, rather than making the movie that he thought that others (e.g., Tolkien fanatics) would love

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