Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Tolkien

Posted by Benson

So the next installment of the Hobbit trilogy is hitting theaters this holiday season.  I wasn't a particularly big fan of the first one, and I expect that I will really dislike The Desolation of Smaug.

Now, before you think I am just a movie curmudgeon, I really do like movies.  I like a lot of movies.  I also enjoy very many film adaptations of my favorite books.  I absolutely love the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and although creative choices had to be made in order to adapt the books, I think those choices were understandable, made sense, and made for good movies.  I did not agree with all of them, but no one can really say those those were not good movies and beautiful adaptations of Tolkien's work.  And my wife says that the new Hunger Games movie is a wonderful adaptation.

I also think The Hobbit is great material for a film adaptation, and Warner Brothers did an excellent job of it with its The Hobbit animated film adaptation back in 1977.  The Hobbit has a trim, focused story told with a brevity that allows plenty of room for artistic interpretation.  It is a clean story for children with sophisticated subject matter that captures the imagination of adults as well.

The Hobbit can be a light children's movie, a dark and chilling film, or a swords and sorcery adventure tale, depending on how you want to treat the material, and you can easily do any of that with a faithful adaptation that preserves the essence and character of the story.

Without going into much detail, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey failed to deliver, and it looks  like The Desolation of Smaug will be even worse.  Why you ask?  Well when I saw the trailer I noticed something that encapsulates the essence of why these movies are terrible adaptations.

You see that?  Look closely.  Why are there arrows in that barrel?  Forget that the dwarves are sticking out of the barrels for a minute.  Why are there arrows in that barrel?

Apparently the arrows are the reason why Thorin is also rising out of his barrel swinging his sword like a madman.  Chapter 9 of The Hobbit is titled Barrels out of Bond.  It describes how Thorin and company escape from the clutches of the elf king of Mirkwood by hiding themselves in empty barrels and floating down the river to the men of Laketown.

Now, when I saw the trailer I hoped that maybe what I saw was just some creative editing to make it look like a cool fight scene.  But today I saw Games Workshop's December product list, which has a box set called Barrels out of Bond.  Games Workshop makes wargames and releases products that allows you to recreate the 'iconic' battle scenes from the Tolkien movies.  In other words, not only is Barrels Out of Bond a fight scene in The Desolation of Smaug, it is a long, drawn out, iconic, and probably climatic battle scene...

You can read the text of the relevant chapter from The Hobbit here.  In a race against time, Bilbo collects all thirteen of the dwarves from separate prison cells scattered around the elf king's palace, sneaks round and round about the palace all the while his train of grumpy and incredulous dwarves grows louder and more difficult to manage, and stuffs them all into empty barrels just barely before a bunch of servants come down to toss the barrels into the river.  Bilbo, being the one doing the stuffing, has no barrel himself, and nearly drowns trying to stay afloat as the barrels bob, spin, roll, bounce about and crash together as they course down the river.  The dwarves are bashed, bruised, tossed about, nearly drowned, and finally emerge from the barrels sodden, shivering, aching, bedraggled, and destitute.

Now that could be a scene packed with suspense, humor, and action aplenty without having to throw in anything that doesn't fit with the story. Three paragraphs of text could easily become 20 minutes of romping fun screen time with nary an arrow loosed nor sword drawn.

Instead, they decided to go with this:

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