The Hobbit: The Desolation (and Subjective Pronunciation) of Smaug

Desolation of Smaug

Watson and I abandoned the children to my husband’s care Saturday night so that I could finally see The Desolation of Smaug.

Most of you have probably seen it already and/or read all the reviews, and/or just absorbed the unavoidable reactions to and opinions about it via sheer proximity to other human beings/Wi-Fi hotspots.

This has never stopped me from sharing my own reactions and opinions, and it won’t now.  The blog must be fed, people.

But if you haven’t seen this movie and still want to,* you might want to watch out for mild spoilers below.  I generally try to be careful about those, but unlike Unexpected Journey, which, with only a few exceptions, was taken from stories Mr. Tolkien actually wrote, Desolation, like the Dwarves in Mirkwood, ventures far enough off the source-material path that I can’t take the Librarian High Road and say with a sniff that my post can’t possibly spoil anything for anyone who’s read the book(s), which I’m sure you have, yes?**

So I’m going to lead off with something that I hope will earn me your forgiveness, if I do end up mentioning something you wish I hadn’t.

No matter what I say about this movie, any scene in which Smaug appears is worth the full price of admission and I cannot take that away from you, even with a frame-by-frame break down of those scenes.

Same goes for the Spiders.


There’s a lot of good stuff in this movie.

The Dwarves, who are outgunned (or at least out-Orc’ed) for most of the flick, remain impatient, endearing, infuriating, competent, clumsy, stubborn, and undeniably badass (I’m looking at you, Dwalin and, oddly, Bombur). Thorin continues to wallow gorgeously in brooding refusal to make sane, reasonable decisions about almost anything, because his head is apparently also made of solid oak—but at least it was carved to look like Richard Armitage, so thank you, movie.   Bilbo is troubled, determined, smart, and irresistibly huggable in that special Martin Freeman way and Gandalf manages a couple of badass—if ill-advised—moments himself.

Beorn is played with great power and heartbreaking gentleness by Mikael Persbrandt, whose accent adds both beauty to his words and a certain weight of history to his character. Bard the Bowman is noble and angstridden—Luke Evans has the perfect face for this—as behooves a man who aches to Fix Things, but can’t get enough support from his downtrodden, complacent neighbors.  And Stephen Fry’s Master of Lake Town is so sodden with privileged discontent and brandy that you can smell the rot, and so perfectly jealous of his power over a place he hates that it’s a joy to detest him.

King of the EyebrowsIt was nice—if technically unnecessary, for reasons I’ll explain later—to see Legolas again; he’s decades younger and far more arrogant here, but still as pretty as a sharpened stiletto.  His childhood friend Tauriel—whose necessity is discussed a little further down—seemed natural in a way Arwen Evenstar never really managed.  His father, King Thranduil of the Disturbing Eyebrows—who is necessary—is the ethereal and far more hygienic flip side of the Master of the Lake.

The Necromancer did a good job of scaring the holy crap out of the audience—or at least this member of the audience—and the Orcs were . . . plentiful.***

And Smaug . . . Oh, Smaug.^

In fact, there’s enough good stuff in here to make three movies . . . but only one of those movies is  The Hobbit.

Look, I’m not a purist. I wouldn’t have minded if Mr. Jackson had kept the script strictly to what happened between the covers of The Hobbit—if nothing else, there would have been fewer parts and a shorter wait to see the whole thing—but since he already made LOTR, and a goodly percentage of the whole world watched it, I have to admit that it might be weird from a continuity standpoint if Legolas didn’t show up at the Wood Elves court or the Ring didn’t have at least an indication of the same terrifying effect on Bilbo as it did on Frodo.

I say “might,” because without the second of the three, merged minimovies, which is undeniably a prequel to Mr. Jackson’s hit trilogy, it probably wouldn’t have mattered as much.

Tolkien’s two or three sentence explanation about a necromancer hiding in the woods never quite did it for me, motivation-wise,^^ so it’s not that I don’t appreciate being offered a solid and beautifully filmed reason why Gandalf reluctantly abandons Thorin’s Gang of Thirteen at Mirkwood, just when a wizard would have come in handy—plus a more detailed account of what prevented him from returning until the penultimate chapter of the book.

And again, LOTR is a thing that exists—a fixed point in time, to jump franchises for a second—and cannot be ignored, lest the Goddess of Continuity be angered, even if Mr. Jackson was the one who evoked her in the first place.

It’s still not The Hobbit.  But it works.^^^

So, really, the only minimovie in the amalgamation that gave me real problems was the third one, and here’s where I’m going to drop spoilers, because Tolkien didn’t write it and it messes with what he did write, and that annoyed me.

I’m talking about Kili in Love.

I have nothing but admiration for Evangeline Lilly, who takes what could have been a token love interest/catalytic part in The Rise of Sauron and makes it goodAnd heaven knows I’d happily watch Aidan Turner eat sandwiches for three hours, if there wasn’t a semi-decent script available.  These two have undeniable interspecies chemistry—enough to make Legolas realistically jealous, which he is, which may even have been the point—and their scenes together are enjoyable and bittersweet.

But in my opinion, those scenes don’t belong in this particular flick.

I’ve been told that Tauriel’s existence isn’t Peter Jackson’s fault—according to rumor, the studio insisted on a female elf and a romantic subplot involving Legolas, either because without Galadriel, they were afraid of backlash from the gender imbalance, or they thought audiences wouldn’t go see a Middle Earth movie without the prospect of a possibly-doomed romance between two sentient bipeds.°

Fine.  A little insulting to movie-lovers and Tolkien’s work, but the flirtation of Tauriel and Legolas doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world, et cetera and so forth and fine.


I’m not sure whose fault it is that Kili became the unlikely third corner of an elf-majority love triangle or that his involvement ends up changing things about the plot of The Hobbit (remember The Hobbit? It was in here somewhere . . . ) in ways I can’t personally condone, especially when those changes were specifically made to promote the romance.

I’m guessing that whoever it was figured that Tauriel by herself wasn’t enough to get Legolas moving along the Path of Good Guydom in time to join the Fellowship, so they decided to add some hottie Dwarf incentive for Legolas to Impress the Girl, flipped a coin, and Dean O’Gorman lost won chose heads instead of tails.°°

And to be absolutely truthful, these scenes were brilliantly filmed.  There’s a quiet, emotionally-wrought moment here that made my shriveled old heart melt.  It was beautiful—really, really beautiful, see compliments to actors above—but it doesn’t belong in this flick.

The thing is, Desolation has three great parts, but it isn’t greater than the sum of them.

But Smaug is. 


Trust me.

*I’m not sure why you’d be tuning into this blog if you’re the kind of person who didn’t and don’t, but you’re welcome anyway and feel free to explain in the comments, if you like, or not.

**To be honest, I don’t feel guilty spoiling things that are directly from The Hobbit, because it still shocks me that there are literate people out there who haven’t read it—I’ve been known to mail copies to people who claim they haven’t.  Oddly, I also don’t mind spoiling the bits taken from The Simarillion, even though it still shocks me that there are literate people out there who read that thing for fun—but  anyone who’s already read or seen LOTR knows the score anyway.

***Seriously—a band of thirty Orcs split up and the Dwarf-chasing half was killed right and left and never seemed to get smaller.  They were like the fantasy equivalent of thirty continuous shots with a pair of six-shooters.

^There is, by the way, nothing like hearing the collective reaction of a hundred-plus fellow movie lovers the first time this dragon is called by name on screen:


It totally trumped the reaction to all the extra syllables the LOTR cast put into Mordor.  I’d personally agree that UK audiences have a prior claim on the official pronunciation of Tolkein-produced vocabulary, but Americans really aren’t feeling the Sm-oww-gg.  Sōrry.

^^Even after I started writing stories of my own and realized that sometimes there are perfectly legitimate plot- and page count-related reasons you wouldn’t want to bring a perfectly good wizard to a dragon fight.

^^^ And regardless of how one feels about Mr. Jackson shoehorning The Rise of Sauron into the movie he was supposed to be making, his retro-plotting still beats the hell out of the first three chapters of Star Wars.  So there’s that.

° Rather than a doomed relationship between a brooding dwarf prince and a giant diamond—or a simple Hobbit and his precious  golden ring.


I see what you did there


Poetry Wednesday: Much, Much Ado

I’m in the mood for Shakespeare today—but not for any of his 154 sonnets.

Even the painfully honest one.

I’d much rather talk about his plays, which are poetry to our modern ears anyway, in rhyme and in rhythm—and also, sometimes, in confusion.

Anyone who’s been forced to read Romeo & Juliet or Midsummer Night’s Dream  or Hamlet or MacBe The Scottish Play in high school or college knows how difficult it can be without an annotated script or a handy copy of the OED.

That’s partly because language doesn’t like to sit still and more than three hundred years ( and the occasional ocean) separates our lingo from Shakespeare’s, and partly because plays are written to be performed, preferably  by people who understand what they’re saying, so that they can communicate the meaning to the audience, even without a program.*

But even then, some things can still stutter in translation.  The cultural differences alone can make it tough going, even without the language: biting one’s thumb at someone—like Sampson did to Gregory in Romeo & Juliet**— is fairly easy to figure out, especially in context, but other things . . . like the motivations of characters, and some of the jokes, aren’t.***

I have a theory that the closer a staging of Shakespeare is to our time, even if the language remains Elizabethan, the easier our understanding will be.

Archetypes aside, maybe that’s why people can’t stop messing with his stuff . . .  Then again, theater doesn’t much like sitting still, either.

One of my favorite versions of Much Ado About Nothing^ is Kenneth Branagh’s film, which is set in an Italian villa in the time period in which the play took place.  Because this is a Branagh production, it is ruthlessly accurate, full of gorgeous pageantry, and includes—or so I’m told, as I don’t watch these things with my Folger Library copies handy—every blessed line.

And it does work.

Benedick and Beatrice are tricked by their friends into admitting they love each other, Don John is evilly manipulative—and wooden, ‘cause Keanu—Hero is slut-shamed at her own wedding for something she didn’t do (and never has done), Claudio is guilt-ridden, Leonato is vengeful, Dogberry is an ass, love triumphs over all and there’s a Hey Nonny Nonny village spiral line dance at the end.

And Scene.

If some of the lines aren’t entirely comprehensible—looking at you, Mr. Keaton—they’re certainly lovely to hear in those pretty accents.

But now I’ve seen Joss Whedon’s version.  Which is set as a kind of modern black and white noir piece in the highest of political, social—and possibly not-quite-legal—circles.  With guns and paparazzi and photo ops and dear Lord, the social drinking:

The lines have been trimmed a bit—nothing major—but the language is the same, if spoken in unapologetic American accents.  And the plot remains.

And it makes sense to me in a way that the previous version doesn’t, even though I know this play pretty well.

The backstory for Benedick and Beatrice’s mutual verbal abuse is given more support and their scenes together play off this history—they can hurt each other, and have, and they protest(eth) too much because their pride and defense mechanisms won’t either of them be the first to cry pax.

Their affair, for which there were only personal repercussions, helps change Hero’s alleged crime from the loss of her virginity to the shocking indiscretion of  sleeping with another man the night before the wedding—and makes her claims to still be a virgin a defense (“I’ve never slept with anyone, much less this mystery man”)  instead of reassurances of a still-intact prize.

This is an interpretation that works really with the more modern (and heavily wet-barred) setting.  Of course, Claudio is still a young, ineffective jerk who reacts badly and all too publically when he assumes, without confronting her—and/or immediately storming up to her room with that gun he’s packing—that Hero has betrayed him.  He wants to punish her, and he does.

I’m still not sure that’s love, but I can’t say it’s not realistic.

And I really appreciate Leonato’s reaction to his daughter’s supposed behavior in this one.  It’s less of a traditional (and physically violent) rejection of Hero and more the explosive rant of a powerful, loving father caught between the severe damage this public embarrassment will do to him politically and sheer, disbelieving heartbreak.^^

The minor characters have their adjusted motivations, too:  Dogberry is a cop who thinks he’s far smarter than he is, but is honestly trying to do a good job and is deeply hurt when Conrad (a woman here, which gives her devotion to Don John a much different interpretation) disses him. ^^^

Even Borachio has a more . . .twisted . . . motivation than a spear-carrier (ahem) playing a practical joke.

Not that Mr. Branagh messed up—he absolutely didn’t—-but this is an interpretation that makes sense to me, all the way through, plot points to complicated speeches—no OED required.

Sure, a little more common sense from Claudio would be nice, but that’s just a pet peeve of mine and would change the source material perhaps a tad too far.

Just to add a touch of  “standard” poetry to this post (your standards, as always, may vary), here’s the “Sigh No More” poem from the play, which Emma Thompson read—beautifully—as a sort of foreshadowing prologue to Mr. Branagh’s film:

Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more;
Men were deceivers ever;
One foot in sea and one on shore,
To one thing constant never;
Then sigh not so,
But let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny;
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into, “Hey nonny, nonny.”

Sing no more ditties, sing no more,
Or dumps so dull and heavy;
The fraud of men was ever so,
Since summer first was leavy.
Then sigh not so,
But let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into, “Hey, nonny, nonny.”

And here is Mr. Whedon’s film’s interpretation:

It’s nice to have options, isn’t it?

Have you seen Whedon’s version, yet?
What did you think?
Or will you now?


*Samuel Beckett excepted, as I doubt anyone who has ever performed Waiting for Godot has understood their lines.

**Yeah, I had to look them up, too—I thought Tybalt was involved, but no, just spear-carrying (thumb-carrying?) servants giving each other the 17th Century version of the finger.  Regardless, this does illustrate the baseline maturity levels of most of the characters in this story.  You don’t have to be a teenager to embody this level of passion, drama, and blazing stupidity—anyone remember the Jerry Springer Show?—and not all teenagers do, of course, but everything made more sense to me once I paid attention to the ages of the MCs: Juliet was thirteen and Romeo was about seventeen.  I don’t care how much the mortality rate and cultural differences shifted the age of majority—this is not a play for, or about, grown-ups.

***Which is why most schools don’t start with, say, Troilus and Cressida, because day-umn.

^ Aside from a Victorian-set production I saw in Stratford, Ontario maybe fifteen years ago, where Benedick and Beatrice were each about sixty or so.  It was an amazing performance, and at the end, when each was given the love sonnet the other had secretly written, they both stepped forward and pulled out reading glasses.  It brought the house down and earned them a standing ovation.

^^Full Disclosure:  I’m in deep, abiding brainlove with Clark Gregg, but even if I wasn’t, I’m pretty sure I would have cried over this scene, because his performance was perfect.

^^^He also enunciates and doesn’t rush.  I’m just sayin’.  Good job, Mr. Fillion

Playing Iron Man Hooky

I had the day off today and while I did spent the morning on my WIP, thank you, I completely blew off writing a blog post this morning to go see Iron Man 3 at the $5.00 early matinee with Watson.

I’d apologize for being so late, but honestly?  I regret nothing.

For once, the trailers and posters actually didn’t spoil the best parts of this movie and I’m not about to start here—if you want a discussion of plot, find a real review or e-mail me.

Iron Man PosterBut I will say that one of the reasons Tony Stark is among my favorite superheroes is that while he surrounds himself with self-built Deus ex Machinas—which is an important point in the movie—he himself is as flawed as a genius billionaire, former-playboy, philanthropist with the requisite crappy childhood—resulting in the usual high ego/low self-esteem— can be.

For every moment that his technology saves the day in a brilliant display, there are two that send him flying backwards into the wall, propelled by premature calculation syndrome and a highly amused law of physics.

And then, he picks himself up and fixes the problem.  Even when the problem is himself.  Even when he doesn’t have the first clue how to start.

like that in a hero, even if that hero isn’t channeled through the brilliant Robert Downey, Jr.

Watson says that I watch movies with my entire being, and I’ll admit that there were several points in this movie where I laughed out loud, gasped, and/or whispered things from Awwww! to Called it! to BOO-yah! to  Wait, What?!  No WAY!

And, in one shining moment that may be a tiny bit of a spoiler, Holy cow—forty-TWO!

I invite you, after you watch this movie, to guess when that was.*

I won’t say the movie is perfect, because it isn’t.  But it’s close, and it’s fun and it’s acted brilliantly by almost everyone.  It’s also a reminder that while the worst villains create the best heroes, it works the other way around, too, and Iron Man is still paying the price for being pre-revelation Tony Stark.

Plus, it has some of my favorite characters being themselves, or even better.  Any movie where Pepper is allowed to be more than a . . . well, spoilers, sweetie, so never mind, but JARVIS**  is as perfectly snarky as a literal Deus ex Machina is allowed to be.  Even Happy, who frankly deserves better from this franchise than to be the plucky, ineffective sidekick, has his moments.

It’s definitely worth seeing more than once, even if that means skipping a blog post or two.

So there.

Now go see it already so I can talk about it.  Okay?


*There’s also a puppy-in-serious-danger moment, early on, that hurt my stomach, because I am that big a Marvel fangirl.   you are invited to e-mail me about that one, too.

**On whom I’m braincrushing like whoa, though that’s partially Paul Bellamy’s fault.

Hansel and Gretel Grow Up

My Monday continues.

The power went out just as I started drying my hair, which signals to the cat that his breakfast is due, so he began hollering at me to hurry it up and then screaming abuse because I kept blindly kicking him down the hallway—he could see perfectly well and didn’t know what on earth was wrong with me.

But I’d rather talk about Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters.

I had no real expectations going into the theater.   I’d been told that it was an unrepentant B movie with Troma* leanings and no redeeming qualities, but I wanted to see it because I enjoy fairy tale adaptions, steampunk-ish anachronisms, and Jeremy Renner in generic historical leathers.

Still, I was pleasantly relieved when it turned out to be a decent B movie.

There’s an actual story.  It’s not a complicated story, by any means, but there is one and it makes sense.

There are moments where things could have ventured into Men in Tights slapstick—the milkman putting out bottles with missing children notices tied on them with string was one—but this movie takes itself a tad more seriously.  Not Van Helsing seriously, thank heavens, but there are some non-gratuitous dark moments,  self-discovery and actual character growth.

And there are rules. They aren’t breathtaking, intricate rules, because this is neither Avatar or Inception, but the movie never breaks them.  When Hansel and Gretel discover something  important about their past that could very well be a Deus ex Gamechanger, the movie doesn’t play it that way.  Instead, it’s an emotion-based World-View Changer, and allows both of them to accept assistance from a source they wouldn’t have touched before.  This movie doesn’t cheat.

I respect that.

I also noted that there were none of those awkward moments when the audience laughs or groans or roll their eyes in unintended places.  Tommy Wirkola did a pretty good job of  putting us where he wanted us.

The acting was a big help too—the actors were far better than a B-movie usually deserves and most of the characters who have more than two scenes and three lines were fairly well-rounded.  The one exception is the Sheriff, played by Peter Stormare , who was fully aware that he was supposed to be a Big Bad Misogynist Cardboard Obstacle and, since the movie didn’t give him much room to do otherwise, did his job and earned both his paycheck and his inevitable demise without once showing us the politics or self-esteem issues that made him a #4B-Class Woman-Hating Angry Man in Power.

H&GBut Hansel and Gretel are played very well—siblings who were abandoned as kids without explanation and then attacked, who saved themselves and decided that no other child was going to suffer like that on their watch.  They’re strong, but not super-powered—the only “natural” advantage they have is that dark magic doesn’t work on them for reasons that become clear later—and they work for their victories.  Their lifestyle and dependence on each other don’t help them interact well with others, but  you can see glimpses of who they might have been if they hadn’t nibbled at that candy house.  Gemma Arterton plays it stoic—A Woman Doing a Man’s Job—until it’s safe for the character to crack a little.  And Jeremy Renner is absolutely natural as Hansel, no matter what the movie makes him do—believe me, that’s skill.

The wannabe witch hunter fanboy character is great, too—I like him even better than the one in Galaxy Quest, probably because he isn’t so hyper about it and clearly has a Tumblr-level thing for Gretel that half-embarrasses him to death.  Hansel’s personal fan, Mina, does her best to hit Hansel—who has problems dealing with her because he’s been all about the witch killing since before puberty and she’s, you know, a pretty girl who shows up at the most awkward times—with a clue stick until he actually listens to what she’s saying, which is, thankfully, more than the obvious fact that she’s a sure thing.  And even the Troll emotes like Henson has something to do with it.

The witches are Evil—you could tell because The Stereotypical Ugliness Curse of the Wicked had set in, swapping moisturized skin and normal eye-colors for  the linked compulsions of eating children and using insidious amounts of hair goop —but at least the three Generic Germanic witches had individual personalities and Famke Janssen looked like she was having fun getting paid.

I will admit that, even with the Troma warning and the R-rating, I hadn’t expected quite so much gore, even though I’d seen the trailer and knew it had been shot for 3D audiences, something that guaranteed blood spatter and the occasional thrown limb.  I’m not a huge fan of gratuitous cinematic bodily fluids, but the soft gore horror, as Watson put it, really doesn’t get in the way of the story—plus it’s telegraphed pretty well, so I was able to blink slow in a few places and miss it.


While no one is going to have to angst over which Oscar clips to showcase for this film,** I enjoyed it.  I’m probably going to see it again, because my friend Cha Cha couldn’t go with us and Watson and I are bickering about one of Hansel’s lines.***

It’s a simple, uncomplicated, well-acted, somewhat violent, and occasionally blood-splashed flick that isn’t pretending to be something it isn’t.

It’s entertaining.

Seriously—what more do you really need?


*As in Troma Studios, whom we can thank for such classics as Cannibal:  The Musical and The Toxic Avenger, a movie I saw three times, though in my defense, I was seventeen and the local movie theater didn’t card for R-rated movies.  Though I was unnerved to discover during a quick fact-check (hush, it happens) that there were five movies in the series . . .

** Kudos, though, goes to  whoever conceptualized and/or designed the Desert Gila Witch at the end—they need recognition.

***She thinks he’s saying, “Unleash hell!” and I think he’s calling the weapon “Michelle”  in the French manner. Either, we agree, is possible in context.

The Hobbit: A (Not-Entirely) Unexpected Journey

Watson and I Hobbited today.  This is not a euphemism.

It was my day off (working tomorrow—come on in and ask me where the Tolkien books are) so we’d made plans to see Peter Jackson’s latest third of a story at the 2D matinée showing  for all kinds of reasons having to do with children, money, crowds, lack of stereoptic vision, and so on.

There’s a lot that has already been said, but that’s certainly never stopped me before.   Spoilers might, but seriously, if I can spoil this movie for you, then you really do need to ask the nearest librarian for a copy of the book before the second installment.  If you’re really worried, bookmark this for later, though I’ll try not to be too specific.

I can be specific in this:  I enjoyed it.  A lot.

Here are some random opinions I have about An Unexpected Journey:

The Hobbit movie as a whole is staged as a LOTR prequel—Bilbo is writing his memoirs (by hand with a quill) between the time Frodo takes off to meet Gandalf in the beginning of  Lord of the Rings and the time they arrive at Bag End*—which isn’t how the book is written.  The book was originally a story for Tolkien’s kids, and when it was done, he blinked a couple times and said, “Huh.  What if  . . .?”  and started in on Bilbo’s birthday party.   This isn’t a problem for me at all, but it is a difference.

The Dwarf Dinner Party is amazing. The by-play, the dwarves, Bilbo reactions, the songs, the washing-up, Bilbo’s conflicting emotions, the bloody-minded arguments, Gandalf being manipulative as unapologetic hell . . . it’s perfect.

Whoever designed the eyes of the Orcs and Goblins was a genius—they all have an unearthly beauty that remove them from the less magical characters (I include Gollum in this—his eyes, to me,  are the exaggerated CGI version of Elijah Woods’, because he has been touched by magic).  They’re closer to the Elf end of the spectrum in shape and color, which is as it should be—I also noticed that the Pale Orc looks like Lady Galadriel’s twin brother,** if Sauron had stared at him a bit with that Eye of his like a malevolent child with a white crayon and a magnifying glass on a sunny afternoon.

There are a lot of pony problems in the Hobbit, book and movieit appears to be the fantasy plot-helper equivalent of flat tires and/or wonky cell-phone service in more modern settings.


DwalinWatson’s go-to dwarf is Thorin, because he’s the Character-Arc Dwarf, and I can’t say Richard Armitage doesn’t work it hard—and gorgeously so—but of those few who were allowed to have personalities rather than single defining qualities, I preferred Bofur and Dwalin—though I admit this could be cheating, as I might have already developed small crushes on James Nesbitt and Graham McTavish*** before they were even cast in these movies.

KiliFiliNot to say that Fili and Kili aren’t gorgeous Pin-Up Dwarves, because they are.^  Particularly Kili, who is played by Aidan Turner—he’s not my type in Real Life™, but I can’t deny that the craftsmanship is exquisite and the camera clearly wants to have his babies.  I kept thinking that Fili looked familiar, especially the way he strode around—I was relieved to find out that I did know him: Dean O’Gorman played the Young Aeolus in the Adventures of Hercules/Young Hercules franchises.  Anyone?  Are those crickets?  Fine.  Moving on.

Radagast the Brown is far better here than Tom Bombadil would ever have been in LOTR, but that’s not saying a lot.  His scenes were terrific, and I loved the rabbits so, so much, and the hedgehog and the hinky mushroom references, but this is a place where Mr. Jackson was explaining LOTR instead of filming the Hobbit and while again, I do understand, I wanted to get back to Bilbo a bit sooner, please.

On the other hand, watching Saruman try to pooh-pooh the danger signs that both Radagast and Gandalf are reporting is fun.  But the byplay between Galadriel and Gandalf is odd—can someone tell me if this is Silmarillion compliant?  Because if it is, I might give it another go.

ThorinThe Rock Monsters were entirely gratuitous.  Characters have slipped off narrow ledges and dodged rockfalls in full-out rainstorms without any of that Made-for-3D nonsense.  I don’t care if there are two sentences about it somewhere in the source material(s)—and don’t tell me that Thorin needed another reason to be irritated with Bilbo, because it was already established that he’s handsome, noble, uberstressed, and a bit of an arrogant jerk.

Similarly (not Silmarillionly, which would be. . . meh, never mind), the escape from the goblins went on about five minutes too long in my subjective opinion.  I don’t know if it seemed shorter in the other theater, where all the rocks and timbers and goblin-pieces were bouncing into the audience, and I fully admit that car chases also bore me.

But I adored the Goblin King.  He was erudite, clever, ruled a sort of Bronzepunk kingdom, and had a lovely voice, pretty eyes, and a completely disgusting wattle that was difficult to ignore.

The Riddle Scene.  I won’t spoil it, but this is the Hobbit I know and love.

BilboAnd I adored Bilbo.  Martin Freeman has great talent both as an actor and in choosing roles that allow him to use his essential Martin Freemanness to best advantage.  Bilbo’s arc isn’t quite the same as in the book—his experiences are slightly different from the get-go and so are his motivations—but it works.

And, finally, Smaug is going to rock.

Anyone else want to chime in?


*As if some of us don’t feel inadequate enough about our daily word count.  Sheesh.

**I’m not saying she did, though I only made it through the Silmarillion once, a few decades ago, so anything’s possible.

***Who should always play roles that require him to wear Braveheart-type clothing and loft double-bladed weaponry and/or claymores, because hmmm.

^Louis Peitzman of BuzzFeed went so far as to arrange the dwarves from least to most attractive.  It’s all very subjective—there’s someone for everyone in this weird world and I personally think Balin deserves better—but fun.