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"The Hobbit" the desolation of Tolkien

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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug


I never read The Hobbit (1937). I read most of The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955), but never got around to finishing The Return of the King. That could have something to do with my family being obsessed with J.R.R. Tolkien's writing and always hoarding the books. So, while I do not have expansive firsthand familiarity with Tolkien's work, I have been provided a substantial history lesson on The Hobbit and the disconnection between the book and the trilogy of films.

When rumors of The Hobbit being made into a major motion picture first arose, there were plans of it being a two part project. In my opinion, this seemed like a practical decision. The Hobbit is a shorter book than any one of The Lord of the Rings, but Tolkien's writing is generally so detailed and content-filled it justifies splitting the story into two movies, but not quite three. Making three movies for The Hobbit requires adding filler tangents and only exemplifies the fact that the production system in Hollywood is all about making money.

The first installment did not turn out so bad. It certainly had its excursions, specifically the focus on the orcs that are in pursuit of the fellowship of the dwarves, but it took its time in developing and was pretty faithful to the original story early on in the film. In the case of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013), the story seems to become so convoluted with excess material that the tale of a hobbit traveling in the company of dwarves is lost amongst elves and orcs and meaningless action sequences. Like I said, I am not expert on the writings of Tolkien, but I did, however, find this article that discusses the faithfulness of Peter Jackson's films to the book. I would recommend looking that over, but then also considering the source and thinking about what I wrote in the second paragraph of this review.

Storyline aside, The Desolation of Smaug was still not very impressive. For such a grand scale of production there was a lack of visual stimulation. The action scenes were sloppy and difficult to watch, while the cavernous plethora of gold within the Lonely Mountain did not appear quite as lavish as one would expect. The digital imposition of Smaug the Dragon looked decent enough, but it was not any more impressive than the special effects used to create creatures such as the Balrog and Fell-beasts that were so stunning over ten years ago.

The film certainly did not have a disappointing opening weekend, grossing over $73 million in the U.S. alone, but based on adjusted inflation, only had a better opening weekend than The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001). Also, based on unadjusted total gross and current movie-going trends, the second Hobbit installment is on pace to make the least amount of money than any of the Tolkien adaptations of the 21st century. Even with more positive reviews than its predecessor, it seems that The Desolation of Smaug is starting to turn Tolkien fans against Peter Jackson. It will be interesting to see if the third part of The Hobbit trilogy will redeem the series or leave audiences desolated at the conclusion of these film adaptations.


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