Editor Note: Our latest staff review comes from staffer and second half of the Happy Hobbit team, Fili. The Happy Hobbits were TheOneRing.net official representatives at the ‘black’ carpet premiere of ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’ this past Monday in Hollywood, CA. (You can see the unedited video coverage in our uStream archive)
As a word of warning, Fili’s review is filled with SPOILERS from the very beginning. If you are avoiding spoilers of any type, please know — you have been warned!
Our third staff review comes from Sarumann, host of our LIVE Weekly Program ‘TORn Book Club.’ He will be hosting a special early discussion at 11am PST today (all timezones) at our LIVE event page as a follow-up to this review. Please note, the LIVE event will be spoiler-free and allow participants to ask those burning questions about the film. As for the review, he notes clearly where spoilers begin in the review:
Let me state for the record right away that I thoroughly enjoyed The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. I found it to be a fun thrill ride with tons of spectacular visual and technical feats that go beyond anything we have seen thus far from these films. While there certainly are things I wish were done a little differently, my overall feeling as I left the theater was one of genuine satisfaction and excitement for the next film.
Having said that, I also feel that I fall within one of two “camps” that are likely going to arise among fans: Those who love it and accept the myriad alterations within it, and those who can’t stand it and feel that Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens have finally gone too far with their artistic license. I fully expect to meet as many fans who agree with my assessment of the film as I will fans who believe I am crazy and delusional. Hard lines will be drawn in the sand, and many a heated debate will rage for months and perhaps even years following the release.
I was asked, on a scale of 1-10, how much did Jackson and Company diverge from the text, and I can best put it this way. If the more controversial divergences from The Lord of the Rings (Faramir taking Frodo and Sam to Osgiliath, Frodo sending Sam away, etc.) were to rate a 5 or 6 on this scale, then The Desolation of Smaug clocks in at about an 8 or a 9. There are alterations, expansions, completely new plot threads and, of course, an entirely new main character. How fans react to this is going to be varied and loud. I can’t discuss those too much without getting into heavy spoilers, so I’ll save that for later. For now, I’ll focus on my general feelings without getting too specific.
Let’s begin with the few things that I didn’t care for. While An Unexpected Journey felt perhaps a bit bloated and padded at times, The Desolation of Smaug suffers most to me from the exact opposite problem. I felt that there were many pieces missing here. That isn’t to say that I wasn’t able to follow what was happening, but there were definitely a number of moments where I got the distinct impression that something that would have helped contextualize or round out a scene was cut.
Another thing that I felt was a drawback was a number of foreshadowing of moments in The Lord of the Rings that felt like very heavy-handed fan-service callbacks. While some were definitely there as actual plot points, there were more than a few that felt unnecessary, and may have been better suited for the Extended Edition. They never felt as overblown or pandering as moments like these felt in, say, the Star Wars prequels or Star Trek Into Darkness, but I wasn’t a huge fan of them overall.
The film did excel for me in many places, and in a few others, exceeded some already very high expectations. Smaug in particular is a wonder to behold, and will no doubt be one of the crowning achievements of this trilogy. There are amazing action sequences that are true thrill-ride quality, and many insights into the characters and the overall story that I never would have seen otherwise. Ultimately, this movie worked for me on many more levels than it didn’t, and next December can’t come soon enough.
From here on out, I’ll be going into mild spoiler territory. Consider yourself warned.
We’ll start with the barrel-riding sequence. While some may feel that this sequence is overdone, and feels more like a video game, I still enjoyed it immensely. It is action-packed and full of great visual comedy moments right along with some truly impressive stuntwork. Keeping spoilers to a minimum here, I will give a little tease and state for the record that Bombur is now my hero.
The big controversy among fans from the outset was the addition of Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), a Sylvan Elf character who was not in the book or any of Tolkien’s ancillary work. It seemed to me that fans warmed to her once we started to see her in action in the trailers, and continued to warm when Lilly spoke publicly about being a big Tolkien fan herself. Now that I’ve seen her fully realized and integrated into the story, I am 100% on board with her inclusion. Tauriel is a forward-thinking character who is able to see the bigger picture of what is happening more than her own King, and she is willing to put words into action without hesitation. Lilly’s performance is also some of the best I’ve seen from her (and this is coming from somebody who watched Lost all the way to the bitter end).
On the subject of her King, Lee Pace is pitch perfect as Thranduil, the King of the Greenwood. He is intimidating, regal and clearly stuck in his old ways. His conversation with Thorin brings some fantastic insight into why he abandoned the Dwarves of Erebor in their time of need. His cool elegance may be the best Elf performance I’ve seen since Cate Blanchett’s Galadriel in Fellowship.
The last Elf I will talk about is, of course, Legolas. While not specifically in the book himself, his inclusion is not something that feels wholly outside of the realm of possibility. Having said that, Orlando Bloom’s performance here felt somewhat lacking to me. Even though he is Thranduil’s son and a Prince of the Woodland Realm, he comes off feeling more like just another soldier in his army, albeit a high-ranking one. He is still able to pull off some incredible stunts, and he handles a bow and sword as well as he ever did in The Lord of the Rings, but this is also a very different Legolas from what we saw before. He is just as closed-minded as his father, and it seems to me that Tauriel will play a crucial role in his transformation from what he is now to what he will become in the future (or the past – it’s all wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey prequel stuff).
While I would love to go through all of the performances of the main characters in this, there just isn’t time. I’ll simply focus on some of the stand-outs for me. Richard Armitage and Martin Freeman both turn in exceptional performances as Thorin and Bilbo. The big theme with both of them in this movie is corruption – Thorin by the Arkenstone and Bilbo by the Ring. As the Company gets closer and closer to the Lonely Mountain, we see Thorin’s growing desperation to claim the Arkenstone. We also see Bilbo starting to slowly lose control of himself as he uses the Ring more and more. Both of them portray their individual slides with exceptional subtlety.
Ian McKellan, as always, is just the perfect Gandalf. This film dedicates more time to him and Radagast (Sylvester McCoy) investigating the possible dark power that was uncovered in the first movie. Without giving away too much, it does build up to a very intense and powerful reveal.
There is also the introduction of Luke Evans as Bard, and this movie does a fantastic job of fleshing out his character beyond what we see in the book. He is a man who holds the protection and preservation of Lake-town above all things. He also has an excellent backstory that helps emphasize why he is the way he is, and how his own family history is tied to Smaug.
Two characters that I felt received some short shrift in this movie were the Master of Lake-town (Stephen Fry) and Beorn (Mikael Persbrandt). Neither of them have as much screen time as I was hoping, especially when they both are portrayed so compellingly. I do hope that we see more of both of them in the Extended Edition.
Lastly, and most importantly, we come to the dragon Smaug. With nearly two full movies building up to his encounter with Bilbo, expectations for this character were undoubtedly very high. For me, these expectations were exceeded in the most glorious way. Smaug is so wonderfully designed and animated that he more than lives up to his reputation. Add to that the amazing voice of Benedict Cumberbatch, and you have a villain who is truly worthy of all the buildup. Smaug may be the best CG character I’ve seen in these movies since Gollum. His conversation with Bilbo is so breathtaking and sinister that I didn’t want it to end.
While this movie does diverge from the source more so than any other Lord of the Rings/Hobbit movie to date, I personally did not feel that it detracted from the story in any way. None of the movies have ever been slavishly faithful to Tolkien’s written word, but they have all made for compelling and entertaining movies that tell tremendous stories masterfully, and The Desolation of Smaug is no exception.
I can see, however, many fans walking away from this movie feeling that this franchise has gone off the rails and into the world of self-indulgence. We all have our opinions and expectations, but I personally do not hold to the idea that Jackson, Walsh and Boyens have gone too far. One thing that must be remembered overall is that this is just one interpretation of a 75-year-old story. Do I think it is a good interpretation? Absolutely! Can I see how others may not see it that way? Of course. Seeing another’s interpretation of a story is fascinating, and can oftentimes provide insight into the text you may never have seen yourself despite multiple readings. Interpretations can also provide insights that you may personally feel are incorrect, and I have no doubt that fans will discuss their own personal reactions to them at great length. And that’s as it should be. I’m much more pleased by a movie that sparks heated debate than I am one that just paints by numbers and leaves the audience shrugging in apathy.
For my part, I see the passion the filmmakers have for this project exploding off of every frame of these movies, and it draws me in every time. While we have a glut of movies that seem to be made by people who almost resent that they have to do it in first place – either through studio mandate or the promise of a big payout and reputation boost – it’s refreshing to see a big budget film made with love. Whatever else may be said about the cast and crew of these movies, their love for Tolkien and this world cannot be denied. And to those who will ultimately take to the internet decrying that this movie has ruined the book, I say this: Nobody is going to the publisher and forcing them to pulp all existing copies of The Hobbit and replace them with a new version based on these movies. The book is still there, and will always be there. Our imaginations create our own vision of what we read, and no movie is ever going to be the perfect match to that – unless you’re making it yourself, of course.
I won’t say how far into the story this film takes us by the end, but I will say that the year-long wait between this and the third installment, There and Back Again, is going to be interminable. Most second-part installments in trilogies have the problem of starting in mid-stream and ending on a particularly dark cliffhanger. While The Desolation of Smaug certainly does both, it is ultimately a thrilling ride that left me walking out of the theater fully satisfied and eager for more.
[Editor's Note: Fear not, dear readers, TORn staffer Quickbeam presents our first official review of DOS *spoiler-free* until loudly noted in the later section (with plenty of buffer space) where inquisitive minds may read further with spoiler-iffic abandon.]
The Great Schism: Splendid Smaug Splits Fandom?
Hobbit Version 2.0: Jackson Does it Differently
I know it’s been a long year to wait. Ringer fans are going into ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’ with high hopes for another thrilling chapter in the ongoing saga adapted by our fellow fan, Peter Jackson. Indeed it is thrilling. And indeed it bears all the hallmarks of a P.J. film, replete with energetic action set pieces and gorgeously realized creatures and places that only cinema can properly provide to our senses.
Be forewarned Book Fans, because of the extent DOS deviates from J.R.R. Tolkien’s original, you can bet your bottom dollar there will be a very vocal fan reaction, if not an outright scream of frustration from one or two up in the balcony. The filmmakers have certainly delivered the goods; it is a very enjoyable movie that pretty much blows the audience away with well-crafted storytelling. It is by turns breathlessly paced and frightening and funny and gorgeous (Smaug especially has much of his “muchness”). But by the end credits, it no longer resembles the book you read as a kid, not by a long shot.
Which is something I must mention up front because of the laborious efforts towards fidelity in ‘An Unexpected Journey.’ In fact, much of the LOTR Trilogy was a concentrated effort to (mostly) honor the source material. True, there were odd bits that didn’t ring true to Tolkien; like Faramir dragging the hobbits to Osgiliath and Frodo sending Sam home (piffle) but what happens in DOS is just completely off the rails, especially in the third act.
You guys certainly got a ton of fan-service with AUJ — you got to linger in Bag End for nearly an hour before the adventure begins, you got Dwarven singing, Chip the Glasses merriment, you got yourself a perfect Riddles in the Dark sequence and more geeky exposition from the White Council. THAT was all fan-service; and undoubtedly those were the highlights of AUJ for me. I guess that tells you what kind of Ringer fan I am; the meandering and pleasantries that others complained about, well, I was grateful for. Last year I called AUJ “a leisurely Sunday drive, with the top down.” But the reverential approach has now left the filmmakers, evidently, as P.J. has been quoted in Empire as saying “I’m quite enjoying deviating from the books!” But I was still a bit surprised at how far afield things actually went here… This stuff *really* deviates. I also found some repetition of things we’ve seen in LOTR that gave me pause.
What’s best about the 2nd Hobbit installment? A script teeming with incident and great characters. An opening prologue that makes you want to read the Appendices in LOTR again. The confident hand of the Editors and the Director while taking these characters deeper into peril. Fabulous acting from several new performers (especially Luke Evans as Bard, Stephen Fry as the Master of Lake-town, and a returning Orlando Bloom, looking beefier actually). A really good and ultimately too brief turn from Mikael Persbrandt as Beorn. Spiders attacking with superb “gotcha!” moments. A rollicking water flume ride with Barrels Out of Bond, executed with precision. Particularly intriguing are Dol Guldur, the Elven-king’s Halls and certainly the Lake-town environments; which are all realized with ass-kicking verisimilitude.
There is so much to enjoy here from the technical side — the cinematography, music, effects, sound design. You know WETA has the Midas touch — and all that gold Bilbo walks around on within the halls of Erebor really indicates that Richard Taylor and artists such as Daniel Falconer have perfected their craft. The incredibly appealing atmosphere of Thranduil’s halls; the way shafts of light dance among “tree columns” while the rushing Forest River flows right under extended walkways; the noticeable difference between how Dwarves live underground (Moria) versus how Elves do it — these are the great aesthetic pleasures to be savored.
Special praise where it’s due: the animators who worked on Smaug deserve a new award we haven’t invented yet. As much fun as we had seeing him on the side of Air New Zealand’s jet, the cinematic experience of Smaug is unforgettable. His silky smooth Benedict Cumberbatch-fueled voice is delicious. Witness the greatest ego Tolkien ever created — and then witness Martin Freeman walking around the dragon’s hoard like a tiny mouse. Yet Bilbo has a great deal of pluck and that’s why we love him. Again, when he is offscreen you really want him back; the more of him the better. The Dwarves are still getting dialogue at the same level as in AUJ (mostly Thorin, Balin, and Bofur). Alack, poor Bombur has no lines (but a nice shining moment or two) and Bifur doesn’t even give us any ancient Khuzdul. Drat….. I really like what William Kircher has been doing.
I was already comfortable with the addition of new female elf Tauriel (a winning Evangeline Lilly) but I didn’t expect the story to go where it did. Her confidence is different than Legolas’ bravery, and her willingness to listen to someone from a different walk of life seems to be the key to understanding her raison d’etre. Spoilers will be discussed after a break — but I expect an eye-opening conversation/ argument will rage within the ranks of Tolkien fandom after this film’s release. If you can relax and enjoy the ride — you’ll be fine. The filmmakers confidently take us into uncharted territory, yet still within Middle-earth. How far are you willing to go on this unexpected detour?
DOS is the litmus test that will separate Book Fans from Movie Fans more distinctly than anything before it, or I’ll eat my knickers. Casual movie fans will embrace this film rigorously. It’s a slam dunk for them. Those Ringers longing for a properly buttoned-up faithful adaptation of ‘The Hobbit,’ one that resembles the printed page, may have a different response. I quite enjoyed everything I saw (up to a point) and then admittedly found myself distracted by the story changes — which I suppose couldn’t be helped considering my deep involvement with Tolkien since I was young. I had to stop reacting to it like “What a perversion of the story!” so that my thoughts could be more “The Dude abides, and so does Smaug.”
If it sounds like I am of two minds about ‘The Desolation of Smaug’ I probably am. The Smeagol side of me was delighted over and over again while munching popcorn and spilling drinks on myself when action scenes caught me off gaurd (Gakk! Spiders! Aghhh!). But the Gollum side of me came out during the final 20 minutes because of so many deviations. I found myself wondering where the heck we will end up in the final film: ‘There and Back Again.’ Anything… and I mean *anything*… is possible. Peter Jackson and Co. have shown chutzpah by swerving so far around the bend and being so unafraid to take liberties with the text. But your level of pleasure with what you get may be directly determined by your ability to be flexible.
An interesting time to be a Ringer, that’s for sure!
Much too hasty,
Clifford Broadway, contributor and Senior Staff to TheOneRing.net, co-hosts the weekly live webcast TORn TUESDAY, featuring live chat with stars, special guests, and fellow Ringer fans. Follow Quickbeam on Twitter @quickbeam2000
This ends the spoiler-free section of the review. Scroll down for more.
STOP READING NOW IF YOU DON’T WANT SPOILERS.
*Last chance!* Do you want to enjoy the movie fresh on its own terms or not? ……. LAST WARNING BEFORE SPOILER CITY
Okay here we go. This is where I can really talk about some of the specific glories (and problems) that a Tolkien fan will encounter while watching ‘The Desolation of Smaug.’
This might sound a bit stream-of-consciousness but bear with me.
The opening prologue features Thorin Oakenshield arriving in Bree and getting a fire lit under his arse by Gandalf. It’s purely from Appendix A: Part III, DURIN’S FOLK, pp. 358-359 in the Houghton Mifflin “Red Leather” single-volume edition. This scene surprised me because of all the cool prologues we have seen in P.J’s films, this one was dialogue-heavy and quiet. No climactic flashback of a falling Balrog. Then it cuts to the exact spot where we left our characters at the end of AUJ with a title card: “12 months later.” This was a really nice bit. There’s the same cute black cat in The Prancing Pony as you saw in FOTR but Barliman Butterbur is certainly not there (nor would he be at that time).
The arrival of Beorn in gigantic angry bear shape is quickly escalated to a mini-chase scene: Thorin & Company are quite dangerous over short distances, as any fan knows, they are natural sprinters. They run right into Beorn’s house and bolt themselves in for safety. So here is the first of many deviations from the book; wherein you’d get a chuckle at the slow two-by-two introductions of the dwarves as engineered by Gandalf. We see Beorn-as-bear protecting the house all night as the bloodthirsty Azog and his pack watch intently from nearby trees. We get to meet him in human form the next morning – and the brevity of his transformation back to human seems, well, too brief for my taste. I was hoping for something less subtle. He is a really cool character and I wanted to see more of him. I had no fear of “the mullet” that we were warned about many weeks ago, he looks like a towering man with a crazy mane of hair/fur down his back. The over-sized bumblebees are wonderful too.
We move quickly on to Mirkwood which is also splendidly realized. As Gandalf takes his leave of the Company, I expected a lot more angry blowback from the Dwarves, but strangely they don’t seem to protest at all. As Gandalf finds the Elf-path and carefully inspects the surroundings, he also finds the Eye of Sauron graffiti from Orcs that have recently desecrated the Elvish sculptures nearby — a very tantalizing foreshadowing. We don’t get the bit where Bombur falls into the Enchanted Stream and falls asleep — although I have been told by certain unnamed persons that that was indeed shot — eventually to be cut for the theatrical release. Everything about how Mirkwood and the spiders were handled was a thrilling joy. Especially noteworthy is how Bilbo’s use of the Ring imparts upon him a sudden understanding of the spiders’ speech.
When Bilbo drops the Ring and then has to fight his way to the forest floor to retrieve it, something alarming happens. A giant centipede-looking thing comes out from under the tree to attack, and then Bilbo goes sort of berzerk. He attacks with blinding ferocity, staring at the downed creature, retrieving his Ring and saying but one word: “Mine” with a desperation that’s palpable. Seeing where they are going with this early influence of the Ring is cool.
Thranduil, King of the Wood-elves.
Enter Lee Pace and his drop-dead gorgeous eyebrows. Actually more interesting is the how the art department came up with a feeling of breathable, hospitable, and artful surroundings in a subterranean area that has been molded by centuries of Elven craftsmanship married to the natural lay of the land. This ain’t your typical Dwarven underground hideout, that’s for sure. A strange thing happens to Thranduil’s face as he leans in close to interrogate / toy with Thorin — he describes his own familiarity with dragons as half of his face “seems to dissolve” showing a horrifying wound, as if half of his face were completely scarred and gaping, yet he seems to possess some kind of “glamour spell” that makes him look untouched.
Tauriel shows up and we get explicit dialogue letting us know that Legolas wants to get all gooey and sugary with her, but Daddy won’t allow it. Reminds me of how a young J.R.R. Tolkien was forbidden by his Catholic priest foster father to start a courtship with Edith, who was Protestant. As Tauriel gets a little closer to Kili (ably played by Aiden Turner) things get radical. The fact is that nothing has ever existed in Tolkien’s works suggesting a romance across the races of Dwarves and Elves. We do see very clearly two cross-racial romances between Beren and Luthien to be echoed later by Aragorn and Arwen. But being in this particular zone of strangeness might make some purists cry foul. The two characters get a lot of dialogue while Kili is in his prison cell and she comes to him for extended visits, perhaps all this screen time puts them in danger of upstaging Aragorn and Arwen! It eventually becomes the big romance/friendship (hard to tell exactly) of the whole movie. Legolas is seen eavesdropping on their budding romance, which sets his jaw on edge.
On the other side of Mirkwood, we get into a really interesting bit where Gandalf intrepidly investigates the ruins of Dol Guldur. We see him casting spells in a way never before seen, and learn that Azog gives orders to his son Bolg like any other soldier. There’s extraordinary art design and execution of visual effects here, as our Grey Wizard accidentally bumps into the Necromancer. His physical form doesn’t seem to be corporeal or humanoid at all, rather like a flying, attacking wisp of black nothingness. Then suddenly he is morphed into his real persona, the Lidless Eye, wreathed in flame, with a distinct Sauron shape appearing in the pupil. Super coolness galore in how they reveal him! It begs the question, however, that a face-to-face encounter with another Maiar spirit like Sauron would not result in Gandalf’s death (just the destruction of his staff) but instead he is left hanging in a cage to watch the newest armies of the Enemy marching away. Of course, Gandalf’s still left alive for someone to rescue him in film 3.
The Barrels Out of Bond sequence is just the BEST THING. What a standout action sequence! Guaranteed gasps and laughs before it’s over. Go #TeamBombur! I notice how several “gentle and quiet” moments from the book have been transformed into heightened chase scenes with the Action Volume cranked way up. So many Orcs get killed / decapitated in such funny and innovative ways. The excitement is only somewhat curbed by the fact none of our heroes die. Again a difference between LOTR and these Hobbit films is the lack of any single character facing mortality.
Wait, I spoke to soon, after we arrive in Lake-town a certain arrow wound that Kili suffers is revealed to be poisonous. He will be the one character who’s story here actually brings him closest to death (even the others fare better against Smaug). In what seems to me a bit of a needless parallel with Frodo being rescued and healed after Weathertop, this subplot eventually brings Tauriel to Lake-town (amid Azog sending his son Bolg to hunt them all down and Legolas fighting them outside) who then heals Kili with the *athelas* plant. We even hear Bofur repeat the same lines that Sam has: “Kingsfoil? Aye, it’s a weed!” She replies as Aragorn did, and uses it to heal Kili with a floating white light around her just like Arwen had. I am convinced that it might not be such a good idea to recreate exact repeats of the same memorable moments from the LOTR Triilogy. Why doesn’t P.J. just keep making new memorable moments that belong solely to ‘The Hobbit?’
There’s also an eye-opening decision that Thorin & Company are split up! Only 9 of the Dwarves leave Lake-town to go north to Erebor. Fili, Oin and Bofur stay behind (mostly to tend to Kili who is so sick, Thorin refuses to let him come any further). I warned you, this adaptation takes some radical departures. I stopped being miffed by these changes by the time the Company found their way up the secret stairs outside the Lonely Mountain. It made me think to myself while watching: “Ok, just roll with it. This is Hobbit Version 2.0 and it will work out fine.”
Well, we do get the best of all possible movie dragons, I have to admit. A great and altogether convincing creature of cinema history, this is a Smaug for the ages. But what made me crazy was the “alternative dragon catching plot” that is somehow concocted by Thorin. Instead of Bilbo learning more useful information and sharing it with the thrush as the dragon flies away, all 9 of the Dwarves elect to go right inside and see what’s up while Smaug and Bilbo are still inside. They engage in several minutes of cat-and-mouse dodging while the great fire-drake tries unsuccessfully to fry them all, and then comes a whole crazy scheme involving the lighting of great forges, hundreds of thousands of gallons of molten gold, quick-flash bombs hastily assembled using Dwarven chemistry sets, Thorin running around with his “heroic wheelbarrow,” and an attempt to make Smaug the Golden a 100% literal statement. Yes, imagine a gilded gold dragon. It’s a large and complicated set piece that left me scratching my head. I mean, nobody saw this coming, I never could have imagined Thorin himself openly speaking to Smaug and taunting him with “slug” and other such insults.
Better check your head at the door, because this last one is the kicker spoiler: Smaug does not die at the end of this film.
DOS is a film that is eager to show how different it is than ‘The Two Towers’ just by the editing at the end. There are no swooping camera shots to go back and visit with all our characters before the closing nor is there a weeping string section and angelic voices. There is no big, teary monologue from Sam or another character giving us gallons of sentiment, shot in slow motion, feeding us a reason to believe in the Goodness of the Cause. Instead this climactic ending is structured like an action-picture cliffhanger, going and going and going right to the very last shot of Smaug flying away — Bilbo looks up at the sky appalled and says: “What have we done?” and then BAM — cut to black. Roll end credits. The audience has just been coaxed to the very edge, only to be forced to wait til next year to see if they even kill the damn thing. A rather frustrating ending for me. I’ll admit that seeing the dragon meet his demise was something I felt the story needed for a really satisfactory ending. That was the experience I wanted and expected but evidently it’s all about defying expectations.
Perhaps it was the shrewdest thing the filmmakers and Warner Bros. could have possibly done. Throughout the whole year of 2013, Smaug was kept super secret seemingly forever right up to the film’s release, until we got such a frightening glimpse in that second trailer. Well, now, for next year it’s clear the studio will have all the images of Smaug they want available for marketing purposes. So that’s why he is alive I guess.
So for TABA next year, I am going to throw all expectations out the window. The filmmakers have boldly declared they don’t mind the risk of alienating Purists or Book Fans by pulling and stretching ‘The Hobbit’ on a taffy machine until it’s almost unrecognizable.
Let’s wait and see what mischief they cook up in December 2014.
As some of you may have noticed – something rather unexpected happened today.
While reviews for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug were expected to
begin getting published this coming Sunday – the embargo was lifted early and we began getting reviews today! TORN staffers, who have been lucky enough to see the film already, will be reviewing the film soon enough. First up will be our own Quickbeam, who is currently finalizing his thoughts. In the meantime, however, we thought we’d post a couple of the early reviews for your reading pleasure. (more…)
I’m certainly no poster child for the Peter Jackson fan club, but a hatchet job review of the Extended Edition by Fred Topel over at CraveOnline is full of such over-the-top hyperbole that I cannot let it pass. It reeks of clickbait. And, as someone who makes a living working in advertising, I know clickbait pretty well. Yet its headline, and conclusion, is so at odds with the calibre of the evidence in support that I simply cannot let it pass without comment.
(In the spirit of not rewarding clickbait, I’m not even linking the article here. I know that’s a bit fraught, but if you do really want to read it, here’s Google search. It’s not hard to find.)
Let’s take Toper’s conclusion, and ultimate claim about the EE (and The Hobbit film trilogy as a whole):
“We are witnessing the dawn of a cinematic train wreck.”
What a fun movie! Dominic Monaghan (Meriadoc Brandybuck) came on board to be our wonderful narrator! Actually this film is a time capsule of many decades of pop culture history — giving us the full story on how the world has embraced Tolkien’s masterpiece THE LORD OF THE RINGS over 50 years and more!
Winner of the Outstanding Achievement Award at the Newport Beach Film Festival, RINGERS was produced in association with TheOneRing.net — this remarkable little film was forged BY fans and FOR fans, just like our website, with the production/writing talent of Clifford “Quickbeam” Broadway (who hosts TORn TUESDAY every week), Jeff Marchelletta, and supercool director Carlene Cordova. It was executive produced by X-Men/Transformers guru Tom DeSanto.
With a wonderful rock-driven score and detailing all the outpouring of love bestowed on Tolkien over many generations, this film is a must-have for your digital collection! Get it on iTunes now for only $9.99!
From the original Sony Press Release:
“RINGERS is comprehensive, entertaining and informative pop culture history.” – The Toronto Star
“…Will always be a salient part of ‘LORD OF THE RINGS’ history…
See it, absorb it, love it.” – FilmThreat
Winner of “Outstanding Achievement” Award at the
Newport Beach Film Festival
FASCINATING DOCUMENTARY CAPTURES THE HISTORY, INFLUENCE AND PHENOMENON THAT IS LORD OF THE RINGS
CULVER CITY, Calif. (September 12, 2005) – Sony invites you to return to the Shirewith the release of the feature-length documentary RINGERS: LORD OF THE FANS,direct to DVD.In association with the popular fan-site TheOneRing.net, Carlene Cordova produced, directed and wrote this award-winning film with executive producer Tom DeSanto(X-Men, X2: X-Men United and Transformers), which charts the incredible influence and ripple-effect that Lord of the Rings has had on worldwide pop culture over the past five decades.Whether you are a fan or first timer, critics agree, RINGERS, stands as the most comprehensive film documenting the ongoing impact of J.R.R. Tolkien’s literary achievement.
Dominic Monaghan (star of ABC’s Lost and the Academy Award® winning Lord of the Rings trilogy) narrates the documentary as it looks behind the curtain between Lord of the Rings andhow it inspired so many artists of different mediums.The film moves beyond “cult classic” and through different generations unearthing the way legendary rock musicians, filmmakers, professors, actors and authors all unite under the banner of ‘Ringer.’Interviewees included in the film are Lord of the Rings trilogy filmmaker Peter Jackson as well as Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellen, Sean Astin and David Carradine.Infused with a dynamic rock-driven score, irreverent cut-out animation (á la Terry Gilliam), and a centerpiece audience sing-a-long, RINGERS is a genre-busting documentary that shows how a single literary work continues to spark the minds and hearts of millions.
RINGERS continues the momentum of the motion picture trilogy Lord of the Rings, a winner of 17 Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director for Peter Jackson, who made history as the first person to direct three major feature films simultaneously.
From the official synopsis:
Ringers: Lord of the Fans is a feature-length documentary that reveals the ongoing cultural phenomenon created by The Lord of the Rings. Very funny and often moving, Ringers shows the hidden power behind Tolkien’s books — and how after 50 years a single literary work continues to spark the minds and hearts of millions, across cultures and across time.
Shot with groundbreaking new digital technology in 24P, Ringers explores the real foundations of Middle-earth; a community of true fans who share a common bond. Moving beyond “cult classic” and over several different generations, the film unearths academics, musicians, authors, filmmakers, and a plethora of pop junkies — the people gathered under the banner of ‘Ringer.’ From the hippie counter-culture to the electronic age; from the Bakshi animated film to Jackson’s epic trilogy; this documentary brings together extensive footage from across the globe. With units in Los Angeles, San Diego, Atlanta, Salt Lake City, Bonn, Germany, Wellington, New Zealand, and Oxford, England, our cameras capture the most fascinating “Ringers” and Lord of the Rings events.
What began as the private amusement of a tweedy Oxford professor has now become a new mythology for the 21st century. Ringers: Lord of the Fans shows how an adventure story published in 1954 has had dynamic ripple-effects through Western pop-culture. Ringers carefully pulls away the veil between Tolkien’s book and the creations of art, music, and community that have been inspired by it.
Attention NZ fans! You can now get a chance of watching the 30 minute live webcast sneak peek at ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,’ hosted by Peter Jackson, if you pre-order The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey from these stores The Warehouse or The Mighty Ape.
There are a limited number of access passes from both websites, with The Warehouse ending this offer at 12pm on 22/03/13. There are a limited number of 500, so pre-order soon.
The webcast will be held on Monday, March 25th at 8am! NZTime.
“Weta Digital has grown to now define state of the art in visual effects worldwide. Its dedication to storytelling and realizing director’s visions has lead to the company working with some of the best directors in the world. For The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Weta Digital continued to employ its exquisite attention to detail into helping to tell the story of the fantastical world of Middle-earth.” [Read More]
“Travel along, if you dare, with Bilbo Baggins in “The Hobbit” — either in J.R.R.Tolkien’s beloved 1937 novel, or through the first installment of Peter Jackson’s film trilogy based on the book. If you do, you will, essentially, be traveling in a world constructed on Christian principles, says Devin Brown, a professor of English at Asbury University, a Christian liberal arts college near Lexington, Ky.” [Read More]
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