It doesn't matter what I titled this post, because not hating the movie is going to draw the maximum amount of vitriol without any other factors considered.
The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug is Better than the Book It’s Based On |
In the very first printing of The Hobbit, there are a few tiny errors. Inconsistencies in map labels. Misspellings of a few words. And a little thing Tolkien charmingly referred to as “the issue with Chapter Five.” What he’s referring to is that, in the first published version of the story, …
14 Replies to “It doesn't matter what I titled this post, because not hating the movie is going to draw the maximum amount of vitriol without any other factors considered”
I'm not ashamed to say that I LOVED the movie enough to see it Friday night with the whole family and Saturday afternoon with my older daughter (just so we could sit next to each other and talk about it–away from others, of course). I watched The Hobbit I last night as I did laundry, too. We plan to watch the Desolation of Smaug again on Christmas Day with my sisters-in-law, as it has been our tradition to see a LOTR movie since 2002 (or was it 2003? Whenever this century's Fellowship of the Ring came out). We will miss seeing it with my father-in-law this year as he passed away in November. Maybe that's partially why I am a staunch defender of the movie.
Also, somewhere here I started a thread about how I also didn't get canon policing. I kind of get it now, but it's not a thing I subscribe to.
While I disagree in some particulars, +Doyce Testerman, I agree with the majority of your points and with the overarching theme.
One difference between this ending and the end of Fellowship is that the latter the action is over (with a Pyrrhic victory over the local chief baddy and over a hiccup in virtue), and there's a resolute direction for all concerned (Frodo and Sam are heading off on a desperate attempt that at least will keep the others uncorrupted; the Three Hunters are resolved in their own direction, both to save the other hobbitses and to finally deal with the throne of Gondor). There's a chance there to catch a breath, mourn, gird the loins. In H2 it's OMG DRAGON OMG DRAGON OMG WTF DID WE DO?
Ironically, the H2 ending might well have worked better if we (or I) didn't know what comes next (more or less). I'm suffering from Divebombing Dragon Interruptus.
But what an opening the next movie will have. :)
Wow- amazing post. Well thought-out and well argued.
Totally worth all the death-threats that you will receive from Tolkien purists, I'm sure. ;-)
+Alexander Rodecape Actually, it's remarkable how little buzz I'm hearing about it. A few reviews or comments here or there, but not a lot (unless I'm simply not following the right people, which seems unlikely).
I saw it opening day with Melissa. We've both really enjoyed the first two and are looking forward to the third. Seeing Jackson use The Hobbit as an excuse to fill in the Tolkien mythos is a lot of fun.
Two points I want to raise though:
1) Retelling The Hobbit this way may make good film-making and expand what Jackson did with LotR in amazing ways, but it did so at a price. The Hobbit – the novel – is not an epic tale. It is small, like its protagonist. Bilbo is not a warrior. He's not even really a burglar. He's completely out of his depth. When confronted with Gollum, and the spiders, and the elves, and even the dragon he must think his way through them.
This is why he taunts the spiders, and for his story it's important that he does so. If he kills them the way he does in the movie, he will begin to grow accustomed to killing. Moreso if suddenly he's killing orcs too. Novel-Bilbo is completely at a loss to understand what is happening at the battle of five armies. Movie Bilbo will be ready to take up arms.
In the sense of completing Tolkien's work on screen, Jackson is doing a great job. In terms of adapting the novel to the screen, he's failed utterly. Of course, he could not do both, of course, and I like what he's done with the choice he's made.
2) The Ring. Now, I don't claim to be the world's most foremost expert on Tolkien. Not even close. However, I think that by having the ring begin corrupting Bilbo so soon Jackson creates a problem and an inconsistency.
At the start of the Fellowship, the Ring is supposed to be growing in strength, as its master is growing down in Mordor. As I recall, Gandalf comments to that effect. Which means that the ring must be different than it is in the Hobbit. But here BIlbo's had it only a couple of weeks, Sauron's focus is entirely at Dol Guldur, and even donning it for meager seconds is dangerous.
BIlbo is going to have this Ring for what, sixty years? And nothing set up at the start of the Fellowship implied that he avoided using it for fear of temptation. He used it when he felt like using it.
But it's already affecting him, enough to drive him to fury at a creature that could not even wear it.
That, to me, is a mistake. Although I will be happy to hear/read any counterarguments.
+Stefon Mears Bilbo's character growth in the second movie is … well, a mixed bag. I agree with you on "Bilbo as 1337 Special Ops Hobbit Killing Machine". But, honestly, except for the goings-on vs. the Spiders, and a bit at the Keyhole, there's not that much interesting going on with Bilbo (vs the burgeoning cast of zillions).
Speaking bookverse, as Doyce alludes to, Tolkien first had no sense of what the ring was that Gollum gave Bilbo for winning the riddle contest; later, yeah, it's the One Ring, but Tolkien has no problem with Bilbo wearing it for extended periods. I don't recall specifically if Bilbo used it much back in the Shire, but, if so, it was for mostly innocent fun (fleeing the Sackville-Bagginses, e.g.) — and even there, it prolonged his life.
With the rise of Sauron in the movie, I think the immediacy of what's going on has an effect far beyond just skulking at Dol Guldur (thus Galadriel sensing a Disturbance in the Force for one brief shot in H2). To that degree, I think it plausible that if Bilbo is using the ring in a violent situation, its twisting effects are going to come into play much more clearly than back in the Shire using it to give the local hobbitlings an innocent scare at the Autumn Festival.
Thus, I loved the Spider-Spider-Mine-Mine-Mine freak-out, and then post-freak-out freak-out. I think it makes more sense than simply using it as a Ring of Invis +3 for extended periods (Ring-o-Vision cinematography issues aside). I don't know it's been established in the movieverse how Bilbo treats the Ring in the interim — for him it may be something that he treasures but prefers not to be actively reminded of, like Sting.
(Quick side note. Poking into actual book lore, I see that Thrain II, Thorin's father, had the last of the Seven Dwarven Rings, and it was taken from him in the dungeons of Dol Guldur. Though Thorin in the book got dwarvish greed madness, Jackson has played with the Thorin family timeline to date; what are the chances that Thorin's sporting that One of the Seven, and that's going to be part of what's making him such a jerk about the treasure, vs. simply being a stiff-necked dwarf?)
My thought on the ring-corruption thing is that the ring is much harder on its bearer when they're around bad things/people/creatures.
The converse should be true, and I believe that it is – so once Bilbo's back in the Shire, he's in the perfect place to carry the ring for a long time.
The "around evil creatures" idea is interesting, but I wonder if it would make more sense for the ring bearer to be more open to the ring's evil when under stress…
By the way, where did you find that about Gollum giving Bilbo the ring? I'm not questioning it, I've just never encountered that version. In that version, what is Bilbo's winning riddle?
It's the same question: Gollum is just disappointed he can't hand over the ring because he's already lost it (http://www.ringgame.net/riddles.html, http://tolkien.cro.net/tolkien/changes.html, http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Riddles_in_the_Dark)
Wow. That's just bizarre.
Tolkien needed a critique group. :) Oh wait…
My argument on Gollum giving Bilbo the ring would be the point they make here and there in LotR — "The Ring wants to be found". Gollum is never going to get it into Sauron's hands, so once Sauron starts waking up, the Ring hitches the first ride it sees (Bilbo) to get out of the cave. For that crucial moment, it feels like the right thing to do in Gollum's head.
But Hobbits are fundamentally decent folk, and there are no Hobbit Rings of Power, so they're more resistant to its temptations — so Bilbo turns out to be a bad choice, too, dragging it back to the Shire where it gets stuck for the next sixty years, sets Sauron's return to power back considerably, but incidentally keeps Gandalf from realizing what it is either. (And maybe Gollum just goes crazy from longing, or maybe after twenty years or so of sitting around on a Hobbit's mantlepiece, the Ring starts calling to him, to get things moving again.)
There's definitely an "evil calls to evil" theme throughout the stories, though, and that fits your theory neatly. Both of your writeups on this are fantastic.
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