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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

5 Things That Would Have Made THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG a Better Movie

So I'm in a love/hate relationship with this movie, my friends.  Fortunately, the love outweighs the hate.  In fact, there were many aspects I loved, such as the stunning visuals, the rich character acting, etc. etc.  You know, the same magical stuff we find in all these Peter Jackson Tolkien movies.  And lest you think I'm just a naysaying loyalist with clenched fists around the books, let me add that I liked some of the changes for the movie interpretation, such as the appearance of Legolas and the addition of a female supporting character.  I thought these were fine decisions in transitioning the book for the big screen, but there were also a number of things that just plain bothered me.

I'm going to list 5 changes that I believe would have made this a much better movie.  The list could be longer, I know!  But these are five of the biggest problem areas I personally had with the film.  I know how much you love to hear me complain, so let's get started, and take a closer look into this padded bra of a movie, shall we?

Oh, by the way,
!!!!!!!   SPOILERS   !!!!!!!

1. Nix the love triangle between Legolas, Tauriel, and Kili.

For most people, I assume that this point needs "little," pun intended, explanation.  What were they thinking?  Are you telling me that an extremely attractive, highly successful (captain of the guard) elven women like Tauriel would ever give a dwarf- any dwarf, the time of day?
Now, I know that Kili is handsome, as well as being "quite tall" for a dwarf, but so what?  If height is on Tauriel's checklist, then why is she eyeing a dwarf in the first place?  She has an entire tribe of Orlando Bloom look-alikes to choose from, not to mention Orlando Bloom himself.
So let's take a page from the "Homeless Dwarf's Guide to Picking Up Elf Chicks."  Tell the girl a wiener joke, and then threaten to curse her.  Show the girl a pretty rock, talk about your mother and the stars for a while, and before too long she'll be ready to rock and roll!

I'm not so sure about that.

Can you imagine a ten like Evangeline Lilly hooking up with a dwarf in real life?  I can't either.  Sure, stranger things have happened, but it's still not a believable story device.  This subplot just doesn't sit right with me; it's just not believable!

So let's deep six this whole love triangle thing, shall we?!
A friendship?  Sure, okay.  I can buy that.  It should have been stressed that the dwarves were in that elfish prison for many days, and it's reasonable to assume that a friendship (even a crush on Kili's part) could have grown in that time.  I could believe that Tauriel chased down an injured friend to offer him some help, but a homeless dwarf who made her weak in the knees?  Sorry, not buying it.

2. Extend the Mirkwood scenes.

Now this is assuming that we have to give people a three hour film, which we don't.  But since we're tossing in all kinds of ingredients to make the movie longer, why not extend the journey through Mirkwood?  I would have liked to see the starving dwarves trying to chase down those elf feasts from the book.  I was actually looking forward to seeing this, and then my hopes were dashed when Legolas came crashing into the spider scene like Mr. Weasley's car from Harry Potter.
A lot of people might disagree with me on this one, but I think we could have gotten away with seeing a bit more of Mirkwood.  We didn't have to, but we could have, and the running time wouldn't have suffered by cutting some of the nonsense carnival ride that went on in Erebor (Lonely Mountain) toward the end of the movie.  I'll discuss more of that shortly.

3. Give Legolas his personality back.

Where is the Legolas we all know and love from the Lord of the Rings films?  Does he smile or laugh at all during this movie?  Maybe he does, but not that I remember, and I saw the movie twice.  He gives Gloin a hard time when looking at the picture of his wife and son, which was mischievous and funny, but apart from that, Legolas is an angst ridden, poker-faced git.
The elf I remember is kind, fun loving, dashing, and funny.  I guess he wasn't any of those things until his bromance with Gimli occurred years later, which must have melted his stony heart and taught him that there was actually a bit of fun to be had in life.
No, the hard-faced, dwarf hater we met at the beginning of the Fellowship of the Rings had always been that way until he met Gimli.  No wonder his girlfriend was trying to chase down the dwarves, she wanted to get away from the grumpy old elves.

The romance between Legolas and Tauriel should have been built up better in this movie.  It would have been something we could get behind and believe in.  The struggle should not have come from a forced love triangle involving a cute, homeless dwarf, but rather from the fact that Legolas is a Sindar prince and Tauriel is a commoner, or "lowly Silvan Elf."  This would have given more depth to Legolas' character when Tauriel dies in the Battle of Five Armies (my prediction).  But giving depth to Legolas' character is something that this movie seems bound and determined not to do.

I think a casting call was put out for "generic male elf 3," and Orlando Bloom just happened to be walking past the audition room.  He accepted the part, and then everyone got out their pencil and changed "generic male elf 3" to "Legolas."

4. Turn the "Morgul Arrow" that Kili was shot with into a regular poisoned arrow.

For me, the decision to have Kili shot with a "Morgul Arrow" is probably the most baffling addition in the movie.
I'd always thought that the "Morgul Blade" used to stab Frodo by the Nazgul was some type of a rare, magical weapon.  I thought it was special.  I didn't know that every Tom, Dick and Harry in the orc world was running around with these things strapped to the tips of their arrows.
And why was Kili shot with this thing anyway?  Whether the weapon was rare or not, what was the purpose of Kili being shot with a Morgul blade?  Wasn't the orc trying to kill him before he reached the lever?

Maybe the orc was thinking "I'd better kill that dwarf before he reaches the lever, but at least if I only nick him in the leg he'll turn into a wraith in a week or two."

If Morgul blades are rare, why wouldn't the orcs have tried to shoot Thorin with one?  He was the real target, after all.  On top of that he was a sitting duck floating there in his barrel.  Why didn't the orc just position himself, take aim, wait for Kili to pull the lever, and then shoot Thorin?

Pick me, Teach!  I know the answer, I'll tell you why.  Because Jackson wanted the Kili/Tauriel story to mirror the Frodo/Arwen story.  It was supposed to be one more link between this trilogy and the previous trilogy.  That's the only reason, and it is a STUPID reason.  In fact, it's so stupid that I think George Lucas must have called in to offer the suggestion.  Why Peter Jackson took the bait, however, we'll never know.

5. Give Smaug his teeth back- and dismantle the Erebor carnival ride of  indestructible dwarves and convoluted draco-incompetence.

The cartoon carnival ride at the end of this movie showed us one thing- Nobody needs to be afraid of Smaug.  Apparently, he is completely incompetent and incapable of injuring or killing anyone.
"What have we done?" Bilbo asks at the end of the movie, just after Smaug flies off toward Laketown.
Don't worry about it, Bilbo.  Judging from what we've just witnessed, I doubt that Smaug will even be capable of finding the place!

This movie did an excellent job in bringing the dragon to life!  He looked awesome, he sounded awesome, he was pretty much the most terrifying, organically based killing machine we've ever seen in a movie.
And then... he ran around Erebor for half an hour chasing ten short-legged little dopes (4 stayed behind in Laketown) without managing to singe the beard on a single one of them.
Don't be scared, now.  Don't worry kids, everything will be OKAY.  This dragon might look mean, but he really just likes to talk a lot, run around and knock down pillars, and spout off a bunch of threats that he doesn't intend to follow through on.

Smaug's not dead yet, but if you ask me, his character has already been assassinated.

He clawed and growled a lot on the way to the vet, sure!  But we've successfully had him neutered anyway.  Mom says we need to keep him inside the house until December 17th of 2014 when he can come out and play again.  But not to worry, people of middle-earth, his bark seems to be much, much bigger than his bite!

So there you have it!  Do you agree or disagree?
Like I said, this list could be longer, so now it's YOUR turn.
What bothered you about The Desolation of Smaug?  What is something that YOU would have changed to make this a better movie?  Leave your comments below and tell me what you think!


  1. Wow! I haven't seen the movie yet, but this was a really interesting article.

    1. Thanks Katie. Be sure to let us know what you think after you've seen it. It's definitely worth going to!

  2. The Hobbit is my favorite topic lately (as you can see from the long-winded rant on my own blog), so I'm going to jump right in.

    1.) The Kili/Tauriel thing. I might be wrong about this, and if I'm proven wrong I will be upset. But I don't think Tauriel is necessarily in love with him, and I don't think their relationship is really going to go anywhere. It seems pretty clear from Kili's reaction when she saves his life that he knows she's out of his league...and the fact that she has nothing to say to that, and it's left on that note, seems to me like a hint that this can't work.

    I think for her, this is more an issue of novelty and friendship mingled with just a little "this is exotic and kind of enticing." Remember, she knows in no uncertain terms that she *can't* be with Legolas because his father has forbidden it -- he flat out told her to give him no hope. So she has reason to be pissed at him about that. And I'm going to guess, seeing as she's quite young (in elf years), that this may be the first time she's ever really met a dwarf. Given the historic dislike between Thranduil and the dwarves, she was probably raised with a lot of ideas about what they'd be like -- and when Kili refutes some of those, she gets intrigued. So, yes, there's some chemistry there, but I think Kili's going to end up friendzoned just like Eowyn did with Aragorn.

    (as an aside, I read in an interview somewhere that the reason this love triangle plot even happened is because during rehearsals, the actors just had so much chemistry together that it was kind of unavoidable).

    2.) I think the personality Legolas has here is actually really interesting. He has a whole 'nother movie to develop. I'm looking forward to watching his story arc so we have a clearer idea of how he got to the place he was with Gimli. Again, Thranduil has probably raised his son and heir with some definitive views about dwarves, and this is probably the first time Legolas has ever had any reason at all to question or challenge those beliefs.

    3.) I didn't think Smaug was too incompetent. Bear in mind, this is a dragon who's been sitting on a hoard of treasure unchallenged for decades. He's not as young as he once was, and he's gotten lazy and over-confident. That's all canon. In the book, remember, he actually shows his weak spot off to Bilbo because his hubris is so easily manipulated.

    The entire chase through Erebor was unnecessary and pretty ridiculous, but it was a lot of fun. And I can see why they did it that way -- the book's sequence with Smaug is WAY too talky to work in a film. It does make me a little sad that Bilbo doesn't interact with Smaug more, though, because I think that whole sequence in the book is Bilbo's most heroic moment. It's where his whole character arc culminates and we see his greatest strengths -- a benevolent sort of trickery and a very special hobbity kind of courage. So THAT was downplayed in the film, and THAT makes me sad because Bilbo doesn't have much more chance to shine as a hero, seeing as (in the book at least) he spends the vast majority of the Battle of 5 Armies being unconscious ;)

    1. Good points T.L. I hope what you're saying about the love triangle is true. I kind of expect the studio to head in that direction whether they originally intended to or not, based on public criticism about this aspect of the plot. I kind of expect Turiel to be killed in the Battle of 5 armies, and something to happen to make Legolas resent Kili even more for it. Her death might lesson the impact of Thorin's death though, so I wouldn't bet my mortgage on it. At any rate, I'm eager to see what happens next, so I guess they successfully reigned me in with their little love triangle in that regard.

  3. As you recall the original scene with Smaug in the book required Bilbo to be invisible during the entire conversation, which implied very strongly that to be seen by Smaug is instant death. In the movie, Bilbo manages to appear in visible form without instantly being killed by merely flattering the dragon. This was a major neutering of Smaug right there. Yes, he was visually and vocally impressive, but the movie changed the character of the dragon in a way that made him much less murderous.

    I also objected to the fact that Smaug wanted to inflict some kind of psychological suffering on Thorin Oakenshield by mentioning how he'd react to the Arkenstone. The Smaug I know from the book couldn't care less about any dwarf or human being or any living creature other than himself. He saw himself as utterly invulnerable, completely deadly, and very nearly was so. That Smaug would even know Thorin's name in fact diminished him.

    Recall also that since Smaug never saw Bilbo in the book, the riddle-playing the hobbit engaged in while invisible in fact accidentally gave away a detail about barrels that the dragon cleverly deduced related to the lake men. In the book, Smaug had a legitimate reason to think the lake city was the logical place to attack. In the movie, Smaug actually SEES a hobbit and later dwarves and then still sallies forth against the men on the lake? Not only is Smaug weaker in the movie, he's rather stupid.

    And then there's what I call the "Temple of Doomification" of the story, where slipping and sliding and jumping and hiding become a big part of the plot of the movie, in this case especially in the scene with Smaug. Making the story into an amusement park ride I can live with on a river with dumb orcs, but it TOTALLY lessened the threat and power that is Smaug.

    The other four plot points you bring up I find somewhat troublesome. But the lessening of Smaug is absolutely inexcusable. And I'd go so far as to say that I'd give the movie an overall thumbs down because of its treatment of Smaug (who is in the title of the film for goodness sake), even though I liked many other pieces of the film...

    1. Captain Travis, you pretty much nailed it. I agree with everything you said here. It really is a shame, because Smaug was so darn awesome. It's kind of like buying a new Ferrari only to find out that the thing red lines at 25 miles an hour.
      I was chaperoning my son's elementary school class to the zoo one time, and this lioness really took a disliking to me for some reason. None of the kids seemed to bother her, but she sure hated me. The malice in that animals' eyes was really something else. I'm a big, strong guy, but I knew without a doubt that if that cat hadn't been behind a fence I would have been dead within seconds, and there wouldn't have been a thing I could have done about it.
      This movie really jumped the shark with these Erebor scenes. What a missed opportunity, such a shame.