Review: “The Desolation of Smaug”
Posted by gandalf30598
Now I have seen it.
And I have just one word for the second installment of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit:
That is all.
O.K., several people have asked me for more than one word. If you like mindless action scenes that go far beyond anything you can even remotely believe as actually happening, you will love it. The dragon is good. We expected Jackson to get that part right. But he just can’t leave the story alone, not when he can show Legolas killing more orcs than Sauron and Saruman together ever bred.
It is no longer possible even to discuss with a straight face the commonly urged defense that adaptation to a new medium requires changes. Of course it does. In Jackson’s LOTR, the dropping of Bombadil and the conflation of Arwen and Glorfindel fit this category. But the necessity of changes begs the question of what changes. The effect of these in the second Hobbit is that all the charm of the original story is gone. How, for example, is the way the company gets into Beorn’s house an improvement on the original–or even an adaptation of it? You could not have found a better way to induce Beorn to kill first and ask questions later. That he doesn’t, that Bilbo wakes up to find him having a civil conversation over breakfast with the dwarves, is unmotivated and unexplained. Jackson sacrifices everything to the excitement of one more orc chase.
It has been said that the main flaw is Peter Jackson himself. We can accept that verdict and make it more specific. It is the fact that he is in love with what he can do with CGI for its own sake as opposed to for the sake of the story. And he is in love with his own ideas, not with Tolkien’s story, which to him is just raw material. That is why the more you love Tolkien, the less you like Jackson.
The ultimate indication of how far the film is from the book is the marginalization of Bilbo. The Hobbit is about the growth of Bilbo as a character. In the movie, he is merely an appendage to, or perhaps an excuse for carnage between Legolas/Tauriel and the orcs and a gratuitous love story between Tauriel and Kili. I would like Tauriel if she were in her own story in a different world. Here–she doesn’t belong.
Will we ever get a good adaptation? I think it unlikely in the near future. It would require someone with Jackson’s talent and funding, but without Jackson’s hubris. And human nature dictates that most people who have the former are also likely to have the latter. But if it did happen, and only attracted people who complain about Jackson, it would have a substantial audience!
Dr. Donald T. Williams is R. A. Forrest Scholar at Toccoa Falls College. Check out more of his writings at
About gandalf30598Theologian, philosopher, poet, and critic; minister of the Gospel who makes his living by teaching medieval and renaissance literature; dual citizen of Narnia and Middle Earth.
Posted on February 3, 2014, in Children's Literature, Donald Williams, J.R.R. Tolkien, Middle Earth, Movie Reviews, The Hobbit and tagged Adaptation, Bilbo, J. R. R. Tolkien, movie, Peter Jackson, Smaug, The Hobit, video game. Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.