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‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’ visual effects nominated for a BAFTA Award

ldlce-extrasve59Nominations for the British Academy Film Awards were announced today. The BAFTAs ceremony will be hosted by Stephen Fry on Sunday, February 8 in London. “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” received a nomination for special visual effects with Joe Letteri netting two nominations — one for his work in “The Hobbit” and the other for “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”:

DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Erik Winquist, Daniel Barrett
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY Stephane Ceretti, Paul Corbould, Jonathan Fawkner, Nicolas Aithadi
THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton, R. Christopher White
INTERSTELLAR Paul Franklin, Scott Fisher, Andrew Lockley
X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST Richard Stammers, Anders Langlands, Tim Crosbie, Cameron Waldbauer

Source: BAFTA

Posted in Events, Headlines, Other Events, The Hobbit, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’ receives Costume Guild nomination

HBT3-fs-340682.DNGNominations for the 17th Costume Designers Guild Awards were announced today. “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” received a nomination in the category for Excellence in Fantasy Film:

Guardians of the Galaxy – Alexandra Byrne
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – Bob Buck, Lesley Burkes-Harding, Ann Maskrey
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 – Kurt and Bart
Into the Woods – Colleen Atwood
Maleficent – Anna B. Sheppard, Jane Clive

Congratulations to the team who worked on “The Hobbit” for this recognition! The winner will be announced at a gala event on Tuesday, February 17th at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

Source: Awards Daily

Posted in Events, Headlines, Other Events, The Hobbit, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’ receives 2 Critics Choice nominations

wpid-the_hobbit_the_battle_of_the_five_armies_thranduilNominations for the 20th annual BFCA Critics’ Choice awards were announced this morning. “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” received 2 nominations in the categories for Best Hair & Makeup and Best Visual Effects, where they face tough competition:

Guardians of the Galaxy
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Into the Woods

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Edge of Tomorrow
Guardians of the Galaxy
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Congratulations to the talented crew who worked on “The Hobbit” for these deserving nominations.

Source: Critics’ Choice

Posted in Events, Headlines, Other Events, The Hobbit, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’ music advances in Oscar race

1 howard shore OscarFor the upcoming 87th Academy Awards, “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” has qualified and is eligible for nominations in the Best Original Score and Best Original Song categories.

114 film scores made the cut, including Howard Shore’s score for “The Battle of the Five Armies”. 79 songs qualified in this notoriously difficult category, including “The Last Goodbye” written by Billy Boyd, Philippa Boyens, and Fran Walsh. From these lists, final nominees will be selected and voted on. The Oscar nominations will be announced on January 15. View full lists of all eligible films for Best Score or Best Song.

Posted in Events, Headlines, Other Events, The Hobbit, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’ nominated for a SAG award!

Hobbit cast posterNominations for the 21st annual Screen Actors Guild Awards were announced this morning. “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” was recognized in the stunt ensemble category with a fairly elective mix of fellow nominees:

Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture
“FURY” (Columbia Pictures)
“GET ON UP” (Universal Pictures)
“UNBROKEN” (Universal Pictures)
“X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST” (20th Century Fox)

The televised ceremony airs on January 25, 2015. It’s worth noting that “The Desolation of Smaug” and “An Unexpected Journey” were not nominated so this marks the only SAG nomination for any “Hobbit” film. Congratulations to “The Battle of the Five Armies” stunt coordinators and performers for this worthy nomination!

Source: Awards Daily

Posted in Events, Headlines, Other Events, The Hobbit, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

The Hobbit in contention for the Oscars

Bilbo stingThe awards season is upon us with almost daily news about a critics group or association announcing nominations or awards. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have announced the 10 contenders that remain in the running for a Best Visual Effects nomination at the upcoming 87th Academy Awards. The contenders will present an effects reel to Academy branch members who are eligible to vote on January 10, 2015. The final Oscar nominations will be announced on January 15. This is now the 3rd time that “The Hobbit” has made the short list. It was previously nominated in 2012 and 2013 for “An Unexpected Journey” and “The Desolation of Smaug”. “The Lord of the Rings” took this Oscar home in 2001, 2002 and 2003.

“The Battle of the Five Armies” is up against stiff competition with the likes of “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” and “Interstellar”. Here’s the list of the final 10 films:

Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Guardians of the Galaxy
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb
Transformers: Age of Extinction
X-Men: Days of Future Past

Yesterday, the Grammy nominations were also announced. “The Desolation of Smaug” was recognized in the category Best Song Written for Visual Media for Ed Sheeran’s “I See Fire”. Congratulations to Ed Sheeran for also being honored with Album of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Album nominations for “X”.


Join us in Los Angeles in February at The One Last Party

one last party logo We’re hosting a Party of Special Magnificence next February — a final toast to all SIX movies, both The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit trilogy.

We’re inviting you to join us and make it happen through our Indiegogo campaign — so we can all celebrate Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth movies together!

Visit our campaign page and find out how you can get involved!

Posted in Events, Headlines, Other Events, The Hobbit, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Prancing Pony original craftwork inspired by Middle-earth

Prancing Pony mugsWe’re getting closer to the “One Dragon, One Party”! As part of this special event, we’ll be holding a live auction and raffle with unique items we hope all attendees will enjoy. We’re excited to highlight a generous auction donation from talented artist Sean Robinson.

For our party, Sean has donated one 20 ounce green mug and one 24 ounce brown mug featuring a Prancing Pony medallion. Both mugs are dishwasher, oven and microwave safe. They are thrown with a mid-fire stoneware clay and the medallion is washed with iron oxide to bring out the details.

Posted in Creations, Events, Fans, One Dragon, One Party, Oscar Parties

Visual Effects Society Nominations Announced

headThe Visual Effects Society have announced their nominations for the 12th annual VES Awards. “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” has earned 5 nominations and will going up against its toughest competition “Gravity”. “Gravity” received 8 nominations over “The Desolation of Smaug”. Although, the mighty Smaug is the likely favorite to win Outstanding Animated Character in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture. Has there ever been a more magnificent dragon on screen before? See below for “The Desolation of Smaug” nominations or view all of the nominations.

Posted in Events, Headlines, Other Events, The Hobbit, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’ receives 2 BAFTA nominations

Desolation of Smaug Poster The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) announced their annual award nominations this morning. ‘The Desolation of Smaug’ picked up 2 nominations. Peter Swords King, Richard Taylor, and Rick Findlater are nominated for Best Make-up and Hair. They are nominated alongside worthy contenders ‘The Butler’, ‘Behind the Candelabra’, ‘American Hustle’, and ‘The Great Gatsby’. Each film has its own unique style or time period, whether set in Middle-earth or a fantastical version of the roaring 20’s. The overall awards buzz (and love) for ‘American Hustle’ might swing momentum its way even in this category.

Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton, and Eric Reynolds are nominated for Best Special Visual Effects. In this tough field, ‘The Desolation of Smaug’ is going up against ‘Pacific Rim’, ‘Gravity’, ‘Iron Man 3’ and ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’. Smaug the Mighty is facing the most competition from the groundbreaking effects in ‘Gravity’, the odds-on favorite. ‘Gravity’ has the most nominations with 11 overall including for Best Film and Director. Following behind are ’12 Years a Slave’ and ‘American Hustle’ with 10 nominations each.

See the full list of nominees.

Posted in Events, Headlines, Other Events, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

“Out of the Shire”: Wonderful Art Show Tribute to Tolkien’s Middle-earth

Artwork by Ted Nasmith I’ve always found it fascinating how J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth continues to captivate generations of artists around the world. has proudly produced 6 art shows over the years, shining a spotlight on both professional and fan artists alike. I was delighted to attend the opening reception of “Out of the Shire”, a new gallery exhibit in tribute to Tolkien and his inspiring work.

Nucleus is an art gallery and store located at 210 East Main Street in Alhambra, California. It’s a charming space that sells various art books, crafts, t-shirts and more. The gallery side is perfectly set up for exhibits with fantastic lighting. The artwork was laid out in such a way that it allows each piece to stand on its own to be admired. And there is some truly incredible artwork on display!

Out of the Shire I Am No Man

Over 30 artists are on exhibit, showing a wide variety of styles – from paintings to illustrations, paper craft to sculptures, and more. I especially loved pieces that were original interpretations of beloved characters, not inspired by images from the Peter Jackson movies. You could see how the artist interpreted a character based on the writing of Tolkien himself, just as you do in your mind’s eye when you read “The Hobbit” or “The Lord of the Rings”.

Bilbo Meets Gandalf The Smallest Person Out of Trouble

Stand outs include the whimsical watercolors of Justin Gerard, an incredible fossilized Balrog by Tohru Patrick Awa, the lovely paintings by Caroline Hadilaksono, and a charming acrylic of Bilbo meeting Gandalf by Erik Krenz to name just a few. A special treat is the gorgeous artwork on display by TORn favorites Donato Giancola and Ted Nasmith. Keith Noordzy, who took part in our “An Unexpected Art Show” last February, is also part of the exhibit.

Ents and Orcs Embers of the Darkness

If you’re in the Los Angeles area, I’d highly recommend you check out this special exhibit in person. It’s well worth a visit. “Out of the Shire” is free and runs until January 12, 2014.

Posted in Artwork, Creations, Events, Exhibits

Mithril’s Review of ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’

Editor Note: Our latest staff review comes from Mithril… A friend of TORn since its beginnings, Mithril became a staff member in 2013 after The One Expected Oscar Party for which she created 20-foot-tall Dwarven and Elven banners. She is a moderator of The Great Hall of Poets, and you can oft times find her escaping to Middle-earth by writing poetry herself or slipping into one of its characters through cosplay. In the real world, she is an art director and designer, and her work appears in the film “Ringers: Lord of the Fans”.










Although Peter Jackson takes us on a non-stop wild ride from the edge of the wilds to the Lonely Mountain in “The Desolation of Smaug”, this fan did not always agree with the twists and turns it took. Besides prefacing my following remarks by saying I did not read any other reviews before writing this, I also want to say that I was not opposed to most of the changes that were made to the canon in the Lord of the Rings trilogy films. I welcomed the addition of Arwen to the greater part of the story and the changes that were made to accommodate her. I thought most of the changes worked well. I am not a Canon-Or-Nothing fan.

I know it is a movie, which ultimately and necessarily needs to be different than the book, but, IMHO, DoS goes too far.

The opening scene of Gandalf’s meeting with Thorin at The Prancing Pony was a welcome addition to the film. (Peter’s overt cameo made me laugh.) I have been fascinated with the Quest for Erebor and how it explains the origins of the Dwarves’ journey, and it was fun to revisit the Pony. But the next scene left me scrambling to place where the company was and remember where the last film had left us off. We get no view of the Eagles’ eerie or even that famous Tolkien landmark The Carrock.

Mikael Persbrandt rocked Beorn, which somewhat surprised me after all the negative speculation about what he would look like. His voice and movements were incredible and really gave the character stature and an almost other-worldy quality, but our stay with Beorn is much too hurried. It was such a magical episode in the book, and I wanted the film to recapture that more. Having seen the sets for Beorn’s house in person at The Book of New Zealand, I know they are beautifully detailed, but the span we spend in the house is so short, we don’t get to appreciate them enough. Even one Dwarvish song or tale there would have done wonders for me.

Herein lies the reason why I think DoS deviates so much from the original story. Though I disagree, critics had complained that “An Unexpected Journey” was too slow, especially the beginning, and so Peter (or the studio) felt the need to add more action to speed things up. This left no time for lingering on some of the more magic moments from the original Hobbit. I missed Bombur falling in the stream in Mirkwood and the tense moment when the deer leaps overhead. (Though the plausibility of the Dwarves carrying him would have been questionable, I am not sure his antics in the barrels makes up for it.) But the Elven feasts and will-o’-the-wisp fires in the woods I sorely missed. The trippy scenes of the disoriented Dwarves were effective at explaining why they left the forest road but did not support the reason the Elves were unhappy with them. Thankfully, Bilbo was not robbed of his heroism in freeing the Dwarves from the spider webs. (My greatest grievance about the LotR movies was that Frodo was robbed of the strength he displayed at Weathertop and at the crossing of the Ford). How he gets to hear the spiders is great, lending weight and meaning to the Ring. As does the excellent moment of him struggling with his emotions attached to it. When he climbs above the treetops is one of my favorites in the film.

WETA once more creates a spectacular Elven realm, more haunting than I ever imagined, and this time the cameras did linger to give us time to catch our breath in awe. As to its inhabitants, Lee Pace brought Thranduil’s haughty, immortal nature to full fruition. He looked and sounded amazing. And I was thrilled to have Orlando back as Legolas, and to me, it makes perfect sense – I think his absence would have needed to be explained. And I like that we got to see more of his character revealed.

And then to Tauriel. I want to say that I welcomed her into the story from when she was first hinted at. Of course there would have been female warrior Elves. Tolkien just forgot to mention them in The Hobbit. With hundreds, even thousands of years to train, they would have been every bit as skilled as their male counterparts. Tauriel does not disappoint. Her fighting skills and mannerisms are great. I do not mind her interest in Kili (Hey, he’s one hot Dwarf!), but I wish that it had been left at curiosity and not grown so quickly into emotional attachment. The love triangle that is developing robs all three characters. But I relished when she was speaking to him of starlight. It was one of the moments of the film that gave me chills. Her musings opened up the story to the wider wonders of Tolkien’s universe and hinted at backstory.

Gandalf’s travails at Dol Guldur do this as well. And it works because there is not an exact description of what happens there in the Appendices. Though in my mind, the preview we saw of Gandalf at the High Fells with Radagast was scarier than what we actually saw in the film and scarier than what happens at Dol Goldur. The device of the flaming eye was cool, though the battle with Gandalf’s bubble of light perhaps drawn out too long without enough substantial interaction between Gandalf and Sauron, but it will help people who do not know the history to make the connection between the Necromancer and Sauron. But when we see Gandalf caged and the wargs and orcs massing below, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Orthanc.

Once again, I was so thankful that Bilbo was allowed to have his moment when he rescues the Dwarves from their cells and helps them escape. There had been rumors that Tauriel would help him do this, and I am glad they were unfounded. I minded not at all that the Dwarves were not sealed in the barrels, for where would the fun have been in that on-screen? And the Orc attack made sense given that we know they were being tracked all along, and it made for good action. I was dismayed that Kili was shot, but did not imagine at this point that it would bother me even more later in the film.

I liked Bard’s appearance and the assistance he offers the Dwarves, and the entire sequence from when he first meets them to getting them into his house felt true to the story and introduced Lake-town and its characters well. Luke Evans was well cast – grim but not unlikeable. The Lake-town set and how it was filmed truly brought it to life. It was more real and gritty than I envisioned it when originally reading the book, and it felt completely right. Stephen Fry is admirably sleazy as the Master and Ryan Gage was good as Alfrid, though in my mind, too reminiscent of Wormtongue. I wish the townspeople’s reactions to the return of the legend of the King Under the Mountain had been more enthusiastic. I would have liked to see more spirit and heard at least one of the songs that were sung about the Dwarves’ return. That way the contrast when Smaug attacks would have been even more poignant.

From here on out, I am not sure I can reconcile what I would have liked to happen with what did. I can not believe that the four Dwarves would be willing to be left behind in Lake-town under any circumstances. It especially did not ring true to me since it just seemed like an excuse to show Kili and Tauriel’s growing romance. The Orc invasion into Lake-town and the arrival of Legolas and Tauriel felt out-of-place. Though I understand the sequential logic and the opportunity to let Legolas display some pretty epic fighting, it will rob the moment of surprise when the bad guys show up at the Battle of Five Armies. But when Tauriel takes on the role of healer… when she goes into Elvish trance talk and begins to glow JUST LIKE ARWEN…. I actually threw my hands up in the theater. The manner in which it was shown felt too similar to how Arwen was portrayed, diminishing both Elves. Throughout DoS, I felt the film was often riffing off LotR. I am not sure if it was meant to be an inside joke, but to me, it just seemed repetitive.

As the remaining Dwarves continue on, the discovery of the stairs was like a bludgeon to the head. I think it was meant to feel epic, and I hope it does the next time I see it, but at the first viewing it just seemed so obvious that they all should have seen it. Gone the nail-biting climb across the narrow ledge and the hauling up of supplies. This felt more like an afternoon jaunt than the final stretch of the quest. I hardly minded that it was the moon and not the sun that lit the keyhole. It even makes more sense and was more mystical, especially since the runes could only be read by the light of the moon. This was another place in the film that sent chills up my spine.

Bilbo’s entrance into the cave started off well. The shifting, endless mountains of gold and the way they sounded were stupendous. His first nuanced realization of Smaug was wonderful. But once he takes off the Ring, I started to question what was happening. Now that Smaug can see him, why doesn’t he kill him? OK, so he’s toying with him. I guess I can believe that. The way Smaug looks and sounds and moves is spectacular. BEST. DRAGON. EVER! I love how his belly starts to glow before he is going to breath fire. I did miss the jewels on his belly, though a plausible explanation was given of why he had the unprotected spot on his breast – that a black arrow had previously pierced him and a piece lodged there. Yet this may detract from Bard’s heroic take-down of him. (If this is indeed what happens.)

From here on out, all Mordor breaks loose. I could have accepted the Dwarves encounter with Smaug. I could have lived with them being chased through the halls of Erebor. But what made me cry out upon leaving the theater “I want a do-over!” was the Indiana Jones escapade that they were taken on. Not only was it completely outrageous, but it was confusing and unbelievable. Start the forges? What? Melt millions of gallons of gold in minutes? What? Stand on the nose of Smaug “Oh, greatest of calamities!” and not get eaten? WHAT!!?!?!?!????! And all the while, they are missing four Dwarves who might have made the action sequence more plausible and added some lightheartedness.

There were only two moments in the whole sequence that really worked for me: When Bilbo enters what I think Thorin calls “The Hall of Kings”; the contrast of little Bilbo lost in its vastness was an awe-filled pause. And the sight of Smaug bursting into the sky shaking off rivulets of gold was glorious. But I would have traded that image’s weight in gold to have just seen him spout fire into the night sky.

The critics of “The Unexpected Journey” wanted more action. They got it. The studio wanted better reviews. They’ll get them from the critics. I have heard speculation that the sequence in the mountain was a time filler which came about when two movies were made into three. But from this Tolkien fan’s perspective, there were better ways the time could have been filled.

Having written out all my thoughts and calmed down a bit, I’m sure the epic, tumbling pace of the film will grow on me. I have my doubts that the escapade inside the mountain will ever truly find its way into my heart, but I am looking forward to seeing Desolation again. Now that I know what happens, I’ll be able to focus on the incredible magic all their own that Peter Jackson and WETA always create.


Well, I saw “Desolation of Smaug” again last night. Over my initial shock, I went in telling myself to keep an open mind, sit back, relax and enjoy. And I really did. Because the vision of Middle-earth that Peter Jackson, Richard Taylor, WETA and all the crew bring to the screen blows me away. And somehow I have to accept the changes they made to the original story in order to be privileged to step into that incredibly detailed and vast world.

Many of the things that bothered me the first viewing seemed now to fit into the overall story. Granted, the overall story is not Tolkien’s story exactly. The story I am talking about is the one that began in “An Unexpected Journey”. And that story, I already agreed to go along for the ride on.

To detail some of the things that seemed less bothersome to me on the second viewing:

Perhaps Beorn is standing on the Carrock when he first appears, it’s just different than I envisioned it. And we definitely spend enough time in his house to linger on the amazing details. The changes to the barrel ride are a crowd-pleaser for sure. Bombur gets the biggest laugh in the film. Plus, all that white water looks amazing in 3D HFR. Dol Guldur felt much scarier to me this time – I even jumped in my seat, and the people I was with who had seen LotR were still asking me to explain the shape inside of Sauron’s Eye and why it was at Dol Guldur. Even though it seemed very over-the-top to me. This time the shiver I got was when the people of Lake-town realize who Thorin is. The Dwarves final trek up to Erebor seemed more epic on the second viewing. I got misty-eyed when Thorin and Balin first step into the mountain.

Most of the pieces fell into place, and in places the story is richer than the book which is more descriptive in a general sense than delving into character development. But how can you have a movie without strong characters? Perhaps now I see why the writers felt the need for changes to bring those characters to life.

I still am not happy with how the love triangle was portrayed. Nor am I completely OK with how unbelievable some of the action inside the Lonely Mountain is. But Smaug is absolutely and undeniably stupendous, and getting to spend that extra time with him is almost worth it. BEST. DRAGON. EVER!!!

And I think I’ll leave it there because I could pick DoS apart ad infinitum, or I can just sit back and enjoy the ride. I think I’ll do the later.

Posted in Hobbit Movie, Media Reviews, The Hobbit, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Ostadan’s Review of ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’

Editor Note: Our latest staff review comes from staffer Ostadan… who himself calls this a “grouchy non-review” of ‘The Desolation of Smaug’. So you may want to take that as a word of warning or proceed to read with glee! This review also contains major SPOILERS. If you are avoiding spoilers of any type, please click away now!










Cartoon by Tim Kirk

I give up; I can’t review this thing coherently. Gene Siskel said that as a critic you should fight the temptation to write about what the film should have been about or obsess on the way you wish the characters would have responded in an ideal world. Review the movie that’s there, Siskel insisted. Not the movie you wish they would have made.

And I wish Jackson had made an adaptation of The Hobbit that was at least as close to the source material as the Rankin-Bass cartoon. Instead, he made a Hollywood Blockbuster; it reminded me of Tim Kirk’s cartoon in ‘Mythlore’ issue #1, illustrating an article about what a movie of LotR might be like. A director is explaining, “OK — After Steve Reeves and his vikings rescue you from the forest outlaws, you set out to rescue the princess from Sauron, who’s holding her for ransom.” When I explain the last half hour as, “While Thorin and the other dwarves are fighting Smaug by melting huge amounts of gold, back in Laketown Fili and Kili are rescued from Bolg and his band of Orcs by Legolas and Tauriel, who uses athelas to heal Kili’s poisoned wound. Meanwhile, Gandalf has a magical battle with the Necromancer and is caged in Dol Guldur,” I feel like I’m in Tim Kirk’s cartoon; and that is without even mentioning the Kili/Tauriel sorta-romance.

It’s not Tolkien. It’s not even an extension of Tolkien, it’s a downright contradiction to fundamental aspects of Tolkien’s world, not merely world building details. Whatever happened to the Istari who were forbidden to match Sauron’s power with power? For that matter, whatever happened to hobbits who were unexpectedly resistant to the corrupting power of the ring? After wearing the Ring twice, Bilbo is already going into ‘mine!’ (precious) mode. After sixty years, what will he be like? (The real explanation seems to be that Bilbo needs to be reluctant to wear the Ring, so that there’s an excuse for him to take it off improbably, since we’ve got this established ‘ring world’ visual that would not sustain well in Smaug’s lair; by contrast, he’s just fine wearing it at length in Thranduil’s palace.)

So, there is no point to reviewing this film as an adaptation. That’s not the movie that’s there, disappointing as that may be. This has to be reviewed as a Hollywood blockbuster, and I am not particularly an expert in such things. Nevertheless, as long as you insist on reading this anyway…

There are a lot of things that keep it from being immersive for me, starting with the really cheesy 3D in-your-face bumblebees at the beginning of the film. (come on, what year is this? “Coming at Ya” was 1981) Please, don’t remind me that I am watching a movie. When I saw ‘Iron Man’, when Tony Stark tried out the flight rockets in the lab and was smacked into the wall without injury, I was ‘taken out’ of the film experience. Unfortunately, there were too many moments like that here. The following are random observations that explain why I’m kinda grumpy about DoS.

There are certainly more than a few times that I was distracted by plot points that make little sense, even on Jackson’s terms. The tag-team pursuit of the dwarves by orcs is particularly clumsy and unbelievable. Bolg catches up with Azog (somehow) and they BOTH divert to Dol Guldur, where the Necromancer appoints Azog as his general, and then Azog sends Bolg back to pursue Thorin and company. And bless ’em, they find the dwarves – and where are they looking? On the downstream side of Thranduil’s realm. Damn, these trackers are good! Just imagine: Bolg knew that Thorin was detained by Thranduil. But then, Azog had managed to track them across the Misty Mountains somehow in the first film, and even being carried some distance by the Eagles didn’t put him off their tail, so I guess Thorin’s carrying a GPS transponder. Of course, the orcs know Thorin’s final destination anyway, but for some reason never do anything to head them off at Laketown or ambush them at Dale or… oh never mind. What is the point of switching Azog out for Bolg, again?

As in the previous film, Jackson’s ability to convey (or understand) matters of time and distance is extremely limited, and sometimes distracting; we are not even given visual cues to the changing seasons until it is suddenly winter in Laketown (Thranduil’s crown of fall leaves from the book does not appear here). The tag-team Orc handoff is one example of time compression; Gandalf’s ride to the ‘High Fells of Rhudaur’ (presumably back across the Misty Mountains) and then back again to Dol Guldur is another. I hope Gandalf’s horse got home to Beorn OK; I think the wizards are riding the bunny sled back from the high fells. Expect the arrival of Dain and other dwarves to be similarly mystery-timed in the next film.

Thorin is an idiot. I mean, these dwarf guys are basically merchants, and here’s expert negotiator Thorin with Thranduil. “I’ll let you go free on a promise of the return of our own treasure from Smaug’s hoard.” “I can’t trust you!” Thranduil is an idiot. His reply should have been, “Spider poison has rattled your brains. I am not asking you to trust me, stupid nogoth! I am not even asking for a hostage for surety of your promise as any sensible king would do!” Thorin is not just being proud; he is being stupid. Thranduil is stupid too, but he has the luxury of holding the keys.

The spider scene was pretty good, though I have begun to weary of Jackson’ constant vertiginous drops. But the spider speech was, in the end, disappointing. Bilbo (and we) only learned that the spiders wanted to feed (duh), and that his sword hurt them (duh). Instead of ‘I shall call you Sting’, Bilbo gets that word from a spider, and just shrugs and says that it’s a good name. This should have been one of Bilbo’s high points as the nominal hero of the story. But it has been undercut by his using Sting to attempt to rescue Thorin in the previous film, and so the moment goes flat. Note that the ‘Eagles are Coming’ moment in the battle of the five armies will almost certainly go flat for similar reasons. Rather than being a eucatastrophic moment in which the heroes are rescued from certain defeat by an unexpected and unlooked-for joyous turn, we’ll have Gandalf whistling for the Eagles again with a convenient moth (does anyone still doubt this?), telegraphing their arrival in advance. Bless me, what do they teach them in film school nowadays?

Bard tells Bilbo about Smaug’s weak point, not the other way around. Bilbo seeing the weak spot for himself is therefore inconsequential, except as an unnecessary reminder and confirmation to the audience. No ravens need apply.

Jackson could not resist a toilet joke; admittedly, the small fry in the audience seemed to like it. Of course, we must consequently infer that the entire population of Laketown fills the lake with raw sewage on a daily basis.

When Bard gets the Black Harpoon, sorry, Arrow, Alfrid and his security cronies (who are remarkably oblivious to the arrival of a band of warg-riding orcs and a pair of elves) pursue and arrest him. Why? The original motivation was that Bard was fomenting revolution against the Master of Laketown; but that revolution was successfully quelled with Thorin’s appearance. Even Alfrid can’t explain. By the way, I was pleasantly surprised by Stephen Fry’s turn as the Master of Laketown. I could easily forget that I was watching Stephen Fry, which is often difficult to do with high-profile guest stars.

Galadriel’s telepathic cellphone seems to work only one way. Gandalf sends Radagast with a message rather than just magically contacting her. Jackson will spend time giving us an otiose explanation of Beorn’s back story, but leaves things mysterious when, well, they make no sense (Galadriel’s disappearance in the first film is another example. And Thranduil’s magical disappearing scars, there for shock value, but again making no sense from a storytelling standpoint).

Why does Smaug repeatedly refer to Thorin as ‘Oakenshield’, a name acquired long after he left Erebor? Has Smaug been reading the New Orc Times?

Thranduil doesn’t like hand-rails any more than Elrond.

The barrel escape was good, and Bilbo’s realization that he had no obvious escape was delightful. The whole sequence was marred by increasingly improbable action, though. Which leads me to…

Superhero elves. I have a friend who, I predict, will love Legolas and Tauriel’s fight scenes. He will say something on his YouTube channel like, “In this film, Legolas is a bad ass!! He and this new character Tauriel are just kicking orc butt left and right! It’s awesome!” My friend is a comic book fan. Look, Legolas’s stair-surfing and oliphant-slaying in the LotR films were over the top (and criticized at the time) but were only a small portion of the actions in which they took place. Here, he and Tauriel are at the center of the action, and constantly doing this stuff, A little goes a long way, and to me it just feels cheesy, more like a comic-book film than a fantasy set in a supposedly real world. Are we really going to have an army of Thranduil’s elves who all fight like this?

Turning Tauriel into Arwen doesn’t help.

Big fight scenes or battle scenes are like the fantasy-film equivalent of car chases and explosions. They have their place (and are kind of obligatory), but it is too common to overdo them.

Doesn’t Gandalf already know that the Necromancer is Sauron? He seems to tell Radagast so (only Sauron can summon the Nazgûl). So just what does he intend to accomplish in Dol Guldur? By himself? “It is certainly a trap.” Well, then, what’s the point of going in there? Again, we get a comic-book confrontation, like fans asking, “If Sauron battled Gandalf, who’d win?” Putting Sauron/the Necromancer on stage, with melodramatic dialogue, once agains cheapens the character.

Waste of a bloody brilliant dragon, if you ask me. From the purely technical standpoint, Smaug was the unquestioned ‘star’ at the film. Much of Bilbo’s dialogue with Smaug was retained, pleasingly (but Jackson or Bilbo should look up ‘enormity’).

My reaction to the whole is, “Well, it’s OK. Maybe on a par with Man of Steel or Iron Man. But nothing special; we’ve seen it all before.”

PS. Rereading this, it may seem that I am being fault-finding and negative. I really did find the film OK on the whole. I have taken for granted that everyone knows that Jackson does immensely well with art direction, scenery, and so on. And by and large, these continue to be excellent in the present film (though there are some CGI lapses in technique that are actually rather surprising). Generally, the craftsmanship and cinematography are excellent. As always.

Posted in Hobbit Movie, Media Reviews, The Hobbit, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug