We streamed The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug last night. You may recall that I had sworn not to watch it until I could fast forward through all the Peter Jackson bits. Despite all my friends and relations assuring me that it was a lot better than the first one, I held out.
I was right, of course. It is a lot better than that first installment, but it is still overlong and still too full of Jackson’s signature whizbang/stupid crap. Did I call it with the barrel escape from Thranduil’s realm? I did.
Jackson is not alone in loading down his movies with whizbang/stupid. It was Roger Ebert, I think, who railed against car chases that did not advance the plot, and that has spoiled almost every action film for me since. What is the point of having the orc squad make it all the way to Laketown when we know it won’t make one difference in the plot? If Jackson were a bold storyteller, he might have killed off those children and/or a dwarf or two. Not the pretty one, of course, we need him for the hot dwarf-on-elf romance (and for the remake of Poldark, YOU GUYS!) but surely his brother was expendable.
Likewise, the entire romp with Smaug through the halls of Erebor was just a time-waster, almost inexplicable in its complexity, completely without purpose. After all the business with the molten gold, the end result was that Smaug shook it all off and flew off to Laketown, which he was going to do anyway. Not very evil or clever to allow himself to be distracted from his purpose in that way, I thought.
Here’s the worst part: the entire third movie will be action/fight/battle sequences. All of it. Every single CGI frame of it. A quick check in my copy of The Hobbit shows there are only five chapters left in the book: Smaug attacks Laketown and is destroyed; Thranduil marches on Erebor and besieges it; Bilbo sneaks out with the Arkenstone; Battle of the Five Armies; the good guys win but Thorin dies; Bilbo goes home. The End.
Now imagine that three hours long.
My worst fear is that, like Éowyn’s scene with the Nâzgul in Return of the King, Jackson is going to screw up the ruin of Smaug, one of the more thrilling paragraphs in all of Tolkien. I’m betting Radagast will be involved.
So here’s my unsolicited advice for Peter Jackson: hire someone, pay someone huge sums of money to sit in story conferences with you and your team, and the moment one of you says, “Ooh! You know what would be cool?”, that person says, “No.”