Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Desolation In Gold: A Hobbit Review, Part 1

  I held off on my review of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug for good reason, feeling like (not just because I'm a Lotr/Hobbit fan) I had to watch it a few times before I could really pass off a solid opinion. And I'm glad I did, and by this point, I am really ready to share why I love the movie. But, I'm finding out, it will have to be told in more than one part. Here, I will just share what the story meant to me.

  First and foremost, it showed how much the relationship between Bilbo and Thorin has changed, much for the better, if not tried by the end. There is a faith there. A subtle dependence on each other for hope and expectation. Bilbo wants Thorin to have his home back, and Bilbo again and again gives Thorin the chance to keep believing that they will succeed.  In this way, they are holding on for dear life. What is life, if there is not hope? That is what I love most about the movie, this relationship.

  To put it concisely, this story was about having a fighting chance for what you believe in, hope for. Discovering how far you're willing to go--how hard you can hold on. Bilbo and Thorin and the dwarves, we know what the cost is for them.
laketown pics
bard the bowman
But I appreciate that the writers have brought in the hopes of the people of Esgaroth more personally--I feel it more acutely, I feel, than I did in the book.
We get to know Bard and his family enough that I care about them, wish them better than the hardship they have, along with their fellow men. And of course, that is contrasted well by The Master and his sniveling aide. Their very existence makes me think of a  nasty snotty rag filled with sick. These people, the people of Esgaroth, need hope. And the coming of Thorin and his warriors bring them that. Yet Bard knows the cost may be their undoing. He is the unclaimed champion of the people, a true leader--but like many before him, few listen to him.

tauriel and legolas screencap
Another aspect is in the hope of Tauriel, whose creation was subject to much skepticism. My own opinion of her is mixed, as I don't perceive her quite as a captain--she always seemed just to be one of Legolas's men. She didn't give me the impression of someone who was the captain of men. But perhaps in the next movie I will see improvement on that. What I did perceive, and what I loved--was that her great strength is her kindness. Her love of what is good. Not always do we get to see that in a person, their kindness giving them the strength to kill. I appreciated that she impersonated a worldwide concern for the evil growing around them.

tauriel pictures
It did create an interesting addition to the story though, in that she knows Thranduil is cutting their people off from the rest of the world. Her best remembered line, "Since when did we allow evil to become stronger than us?" is well deserved. Her love of what is good and beautiful in the world is what makes her a good character. It is also reflected in her developing love angle with Thorin's nephew, Kili. Many have said that he's the heart throb of the story, but--well. People can have their opinion. I did like what they shared while the dwarves were hostage, the simple sharing of things they held to be beautiful. They both were better than letting cultural differences and old hatreds form their perceptions of individuals. And of course, it was also rife with humor. Amusing to see Legolas get a little jealous over a dwarf that was "admittedly taller than some, but no less ugly". However, I did not really feel that their love story was that strong. Still, that is just my thought. It's something that I can overlook, and I do wonder how it will end in the final course of the story. Tauriel hopes to see good fought for in the world, to see it protected. Kili hopes, as stated later, that she could love him. Still, I find his hope for the fulfillment of the quest more believable.

thranduil desolation of smaug
Contrasting is Thranduil--who, with a supremely creepy performance, made it perfectly plain that he was interested having the white jewels that he counted his to begin with. And he is willing to wait however long is necessary. His performance I couldn't tell at first whether I found it just strange--but then I realized something. He very may well be under the same sickness that ran through Thorin's family. After all, the gems were part of the treasure that made others whose possession it was in'm just saying it would explain a lot, and this theory has me excited to see what will happen next. His character was in equal measure creepy, weird, and interesting. I saw glimpses of the strong leader I expected, along with an intriguing mental aspect to him. 

gandalf desolation of smaug
  Further, the stakes are raised when Gandalf, early in the story discovers what is really behind the Necromancer. And it fully unmasks itself in the end, in a truly climatic, fiery confrontation that I will never forget. Never have I seen Gandalf so out of his depth--and his only hope that Radagast can get word to the High Council in time. Because nothing was as it seemed--they had all been blind. (Not that we who are fans of the book were surprised, but it was filmed with incredible brilliancy). One of my favorite scenes in the entire film.

the dwarves desolation of smaug

  In the story hope within reach is symbolized physically, and dually by getting to the Doors of Durin in time and opened, and the regaining, most importantly, of the Arkenstone--but in striving for that, the dwarves and Bilbo truly waken The Dragon. And what I liked most about this portion of the story was that not only was it a physical threat with a presence that shadowed over everything--it was incredibly psychological like a relentless nightmare. Vain, mental, and almost seductive in his magnificence and smartly woven words, dripping like patronizing venom. Smaug is a true impersonation of the classic serpent--and I will never forget his golden magnificence.

smaug screencap

  Smaug was everything we could have hoped for. And what escalates the story is that Thorin almost sacrifices Bilbo to finally get back what he wants most--it has become an obsession. Everything is turning to madness, leaving us knowing that something truly devastating this way comes.

Until the next part (where I continue to spill my guts)...

~E.C. Shore


  1. Pretty much totally agree. The Thorin-Bilbo thing is one of the best parts...though given very short shrift.

    Other thing - perhaps it's a matter of preference, but I wish Gandalf could remain as all-powerful and all-wise as he was in the book. Sure, it makes sense that he'd come out the worse facing down the Necromancer, but Gandalf is the spiritual adviser of The Lord of the Rings, the closest connection we have to the religious underpinnings of the story. Trying to humanize him is a little troubling. And yeah, we have the Balrog scene in TFOTR, but that is shocking because it destroys Frodo's faith in Gandalf's omnipotence, which is something carefully cultivated both in the Hobbit and the first half of FOTR. Um, but to conclude this epistle, I guess I just think to tamper with Gandalf's mystique should not be taken lightly.

    Otherwise, it was kind of a cool scene. :)

    1. Yeah, I understand where you're coming from. I always question how powerful someone really is--I can't really believe in omnipotence, I always believe that there is always something else to challenge your strength, and had wondered how the Necromancer bit in the book challenged Gandalf, but that wasn't really addressed in the book. I always felt he must have grown in some way from the experience, and he knew he wasn't invincible. He was afraid of the Balrog, and he knew that facing the Witch of Angmar was not going to be any light thing. And he would have been defeated, I feel, although he would have given a heck of a fight. But I do like that the story gives us enough about him to actually be able to debate views--it proves that there is much to him. And yes, of course, in Hobbit--it was a AWESOME scene.