The Titular Devil, With Hand

The Titular Devil, With Hand

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Hoo Boy Is Desolation of Smaug Gonna Bite

If you follow this blog, you know that I had grave reservations about the first Hobbit installment, and I feel I was completely vindicated by the film that we got. An Unexpected Journey turned into something very, very awful long about the forty-minute mark, and the only really good sequence, the Riddles in the Dark bit, came way too late and didn't last long. The following February, John Corradin, who runs Days of Knights, the local gaming emporium here in Newark, DE., held a Hobbit post mortem and gabfest, and I was happy to attend with my friend Sam Tomaino (who would've played Bilbo in my never-to-be realized teenage movie of The Hobbit, scuttled by Tolkien himself). I'd actually ducked out at the end of a Days of Knights screening of  Journey, because I couldn't bear to speak to anyone who actually liked the thing. But I shouldn't have worried; I should've had vastly more faith in John and Co; at the gabfest John made it pretty clear early on that he didn't like Journey one bit, and when he asked all the assembled Tolkien fans if any of them were looking forward to Desolation of Smaug, nobody raised their hand.

Yep, that's right. You heard me. Not a single person was looking forward to it.


Frankly, even though I'd hated Journey, I was totally knocked out by this. Mr. Jackson had built up quite a reservoir of goodwill with the LOTR movies; even though they weren't perfect, they delivered some genuine satisfaction to some genuine Tolkien fans, such as myself. But none of the people I talked to at the post mortem had anything nice to say about Journey, aside from the Gollum stuff; all of us were pretty much in agreement, except that a few folks had perfectly valid criticisms I hadn't thought of. We all thought it was horribly padded, and tried to get by mostly on huge gobs of blitheringly idiotic action, all the while doing astonishing violence to the story. The birdshit drooling down the side of Radagast's face would've said it all...if the trollsnot glistening all over Bilbo's face hadn't already said it.

Okay, so, time's been flying, and we're coming up on Part 2, and man, everything I've seen makes it look like it's going to be an even bigger shit sandwich, although maybe I shouldn't use that term...perhaps Mr. Jackson in his wisdom (which is so superior to Tolkien's) will actually depict one for us, in 3D and 48fps!

First off, you can tell from the trailers that everything is horribly wrong.The movie's going to be lousy the same way the first one was, except...I suspect it's going to bear even less relation to the source material, if that's possible. You get scene after scene in which you can't recognize what scene it corresponds to in the book...there are all sorts of wacky settings  (which I guess represent Thranduil's kingdom and the inside of Erebor), and big goofy-looking action set-pieces and really fake-looking special effects. The effects in the first film were crummy, and the ones in this film look terrible too. Everything is overlit, garish, badly designed, hopelessly unreal. We get a bit of a glimpse of Smaug---he's not a good idea. The trailers alone are going to make it very hard for me to drag myself to this thing.

But there's more. There's a website called where the purveyors apparently have an in with Peter Jackson....maybe they're simply shills, I don' t know. They refer to Gandalf and Radagast and Thranduil as "Gandy, Raddy and Thrandy", and for that reason alone they should be gassed. But these folks are also revealing tidbits about the new movie, and they're truly cringerworthy, all the more so because they seem to be grounded in reality. And if this information is reliable, even more of the story is being trampled on than you'd gather from the trailers, and that's saying something.

First off, the dwarves break into Beorn's house, and he attacks them---chuck that whole business about Gandalf fooling him. Then there's apparently a scene where Beorn captures an orc and tortures him. The orcs follow the dwarves into Mirkwood. The thing with Bilbo and the butterflies (one of my favorite bits from the book) might wind up on the cutting-room floor, but we are going to have Bombur falling into the sleepyhead stream and then being carried around, which will certainly be sidesplitting, given what Jackson dwarf-humor is like. There's going to be loads and loads of spider-action, which is then going to end with a bunch of elf-vs-spider action. There's going to be a PC elf-warrior chick (how groundbreaking) who figures in the whole rest of this ridiculous mess, and either Fili or Kili is going to be romantically involved with her, although she might be in love with Thranduil...when we get to Rivendell, Bard is going to introduced at the gitgo and might be something of a it goes.

Then there's the whole Gandalf-Radagast-Necromancer thread. Gandalf's perambulations in southern Mirkwood  in and around Dol Guldur will be right onstage in this thing (yep, more luscious Radagast, with the birdshit still on), complete with investigations into the "King's tomb," the king here apparently being the Witch King, a conception which diverges pretty radically from Tolkien, seeing as how the Lord of Nazgul just became a wraith and never died...some of this might be cool, except that we've seen what's happened with Mr. Jackson since LOTR, and it hasn't been pretty, and probably all this cobbled together and improvised stuff won't be too pretty neither...

I wonder how many Rhosgobel Rabbits will be on view.

I really should stop now. I'm just making myself madder, and...well hey, maybe I'm going to be completely mistaken, and this thing will be swell. But even though I'm going to go see it, I don't know if anyone in my family will be willing to join me...

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