Let ‘forge the golden dwarf’, join ‘jump the shark’, and ‘nuke the fridge’ in our lexicon for describing when a once-great creative force reveals itself truly spent.
The Desolation of Smaug, and the Hobbit trilogy as a whole, only makes sense as the world’s most expensive satire on the vast canvas of a contemporary film industry increasingly supported by so-called ‘tentpole blockbusters’. In true Kiwi fashion, the trilogy achieves this through an amazing capacity to laugh at itself… but quite literally at the audience’s expense.
In this satire, Bilbo – the ‘everyman’ protagonist – represents the average ticket-buying punter. The punter is convinced by some marketing wizard suggesting that in December 2012, and again in December 2013 and ‘14, that they will have a chance to join in an adventure. There is then an interminably long period of waiting – the only excitement being the occasional expository video blog laying out how the adventure will be undertaken.
On the announcement that the duology will become a trilogy, our punter expresses doubt that the source material can support three films, but is quickly trolled on the internet by fanatics of the first trilogy (‘fan’ is of course derived from the word ‘fanatic’). To be clear, in this case fanatics are those people who probably own elf ears, refer to the director as ‘PJ’ as if he is as close to them as their favourite pair of pyjamas and who, like trolls, would in all likelihood turn to stone if they were ever exposed to daylight.
There was a little Rivendellian hope in the early trailers for the first film, trailers that gave the impression that there had been no drop off in quality from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Optimism was briefly restored.
The adventure finally got underway proper when, at long last, our punter made his way to the local multiplex in December 2012. Cue three hours of anaemic and contrived drama intercut by rock transformers, CGI goblins and computer game physics, with the main abomination being the Great Goblin of 48fps, which while hyped, proved utterly anti-climatic. Our punter is left with a ringing in his ears, and senses he’s had a different experience of the film from those around him when the lights come back on. He notes that they all have beards and look as though they spend a lot of time underground. These are the fanatics, and he realises with a sigh that they’ll be with him for the whole journey.
Following this first film, our redoubtable punter watches the fanatics climb trees to escape the snarling pack of critics whose opinions they deem below them anyway. However, recognising they were outnumbered, the fanatics avoid a fight and instead fly off to concentrate on how awesome the next film will be.
Enthusiasm for the second film is then notably down, with the prognosticators bearish about its prospects. Ever the true trooper, our everyman ignores the warnings and regardless, returns to the cinema in December 2013, along with the fanatics. But already alarmed by his experience in the darkness of the cinema in 2012, he quickly discerns that there is some strange power afoot. Clearly, the once fresh and new ‘Wellywood’ has now aged, becoming a place where the writing team repeat themselves from the earlier successful trilogy, and are clearly lost with regard to what and who the film is about, and who is the films’ intended audience. The murkyness that has descended on the story-telling capacity of once great filmmakers may have its source far away, in an old fortress – Hollywood – where a powerful eye looks outwards from MGM-Warner Bros-New Line.