The Epic Shoehorning of the Hobbit Part II

12/16/2013 Stephen Colbert 0 Comments

I'm really losing patience with Peter Jackson.  He is not a good story teller.  He's done some impressive things on the big screen.  I love everything visually about all of his Lord of the Rings movies.  King Kong is also one of my favorite movies.  He's done some really cool things, but every time I go to see a new LOTR installment I am more disappointed than the last.

I'm not going to tiptoe around spoilers, so don't stick around if you care.

I'm a big fan of the books. I've read them all many times, but I also recognize that some things need to change in order to translate it to the big screen.  I'm sick of reading stuff like "not everything has to be JUST LIKE the book!  It's not like they can make a 5 hour movie!" on social media and on review comments, but my problem with this movie is not what they left out, but what they added.  I already complained about the shoehorning of the first one, so I'm not going to spend all my time railing against the same things, but it was full of very similar problems, plus some new ones.

This movie could have been an hour shorter and been better for it.  Peter Jackson doesn't seem to know how to tell the difference between a significant plot beat and throwing a bone to fans as he throws both around haphazardly.

First, in an effort to make the story more engaging (and I'm sure to fill time to stretch it into a trilogy), there is so much wasted time.  It seems like every time someone does something it has to have a jump scare thrown in.  Literally, to the point of it bordering on slapstick.  Gandalf is walking up the stairs to the Ringwraith's tombs and the step breaks.  Bilbo falls out of the trees to get caught by spiders, Bilbo drops the ring, Elves suddenly appear, Bilbo frees the Dwarves, but gets stuck behind, the elves block the barrels by closing the gate, Kili gets shot with an arrow while courageously opening the gate, Bard is being watched by the men of Laketown, Orcs arrive to Laketown, the Dwarves get split up, we discover Kili was shot by a Morgul arrow, the Dwarves and Bilbo can't figure out the door with the last light of Durin's day riddle and the dwarves promptly march off, the key gets dropped, but Thorin steps on the string to save it, Bard gets locked up, Smaug chases the Dwarves around, they cover him in a lake of molten gold, he goes after Laketown, ending in a cliffhanger.  It's like we can't have a steady smooth plot development and have to go from the frying pan into the fire followed by an epic chase through every single scene.  Just give me a second to breathe!  There are characters here.  I want to know how they feel and what they are thinking about!

There's more, but you get the point.  It's like nobody can make toast without some sort of slow motion scene of an object getting dropped and tumbling to the ground to thwart the toast making effort.  By the time Bilbo drops the key in front of the Door of  Durin I actually laughed out loud in the theater.  It was laughable.

Second, they introduce continuity questions with the way many elements were covered.  Look at a map of Middle Earth.  Dol Guldor is in Mirkwood.  The source material didn't have the Wringwraith's die, but that's been altered.  No big deal.  They're buried in Angmar.  Where's Angmar? Way north back over the Misty Mountains.  Somehow it's too far for the Dwarves to go around Mirkwood, but Gandalf can teleport the same distance over the mountains nearly immediately.  So the timeline is jacked.  Unless they changed the map, or something.  It's just weird.

I also had issues with the Morgul arrow.  Does every Orc poison their arrows, or is it just that one Orc and the Nazgul blades?  Was the blade Frodo was stabbed with cursed, or coated in poison?  Having to watch the "Athelas?" "Kingsfoil, it's a weed!" bit again was another groaner.

Then there's the fight with Smaug.  We are introduced to Smaug when he completely decimates the Dwarves at the height of their power in The Lonely Mountain, yet he can't catch even one of the Dwarves+Hobbit during a chase scene that felt like it was an hour long.

Smaug even refers to "Thorin Oakenshield" at one point, but according to PJ's added mythos, Thorin didn't acquire the "Oakenshield" moniker until after Smaug was hibernating in the mountain.  He should have no knowledge of that name.  Just another example of Jackson making plot changes and not being able to stick to his own alternate continuity.

Just about the entire last third of the movie could have been cut and it would have improved it for me.  I don't mind the cliffhanger ending, just cut to that from the confrontation with Bilbo.  Also, there are several near run ins with Gollum during this part of the story.  How does Peter Jackson not take an opportunity to insert Gollum into a movie, when he is explicitly written into the book?  It's like reverse psychology.  If Gollum wasn't written into the book, PJ would have added him, but he leaves him out for the sake of "original inspiration" or something.

Third, They have left WAY too much on the plate for the third movie, which worries me that they are going to cut too much out.  We have 1) Smaug vs. Laketown, 2) White Council Assaults Dol Guldor, and 3) Battle of 5 armies.

This trilogy has taken the opportunity to throw out so many intimate character moments in favor of some sort of chase/action scene, I can only imagine what happens when you put 90% of the action from the book into the third movie.  The battle of Dol Guldor isn't covered in the book, but it is 5 Wizards and Galadriel vs the Necromancer (maybe Nazgul and Orcs also), which is just awesome.  The battle of 5 armies is likewise intense (as suggested by the number of armies involved) including the first time we have had the opportunity to see an army of Dwarves.  There's cool stuff to come, but based on the way Jackson and co have told the story for the first 2/3rds of this trilogy, it's hard to have much hope that it will be any good.

The movie looked great.  I saw it in 3D HFR and it was one of the most realistic films I've ever seen.  The Middle Earth aesthetic is awesome.  Costumes are great, creatures are great, environments are gorgeous.  The one character exception is I love Bilbo's character.  After having to deal with how weak and useless Frodo was for the entirety of the previous trilogy, this is a very welcome portrayal.

I would like to see some original fantasy of similar quality from Peter Jackson, but this isn't original, it is adapted from a much loved source material and it is difficult to watch one of the best stories ever told be re-imagined by someone who is not a quality story teller.

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