The Hobbit: The Desolation of My Patience

December 23, 2013

The short review:  Oh, dear.  On the other hand, I would like to nominate Lee Pace for the part of Elric of Melnibone.

The longer review: (SPOILERS AHOY, BUT YOU KNEW THAT, DIDN’T YOU?)

The bloat from the first Hobbit movie came from other bits of Tolkien.  It felt like other bits of Tolkien, so I was willing to go with it and quite enjoyed a bunch of it.  The bloat in this one was  pointless.  The one that really pushed me around the corner into aggravation rather than just annoyance:  My favorite, favorite bit of the film was Bilbo creeping into the treasure horde and talking to Smaug.  This is one of the most celebrated scenes in all of fantasy literature, and I was enthralled.  The massiveness of the treasure horde, the moment when the coins cascade down to reveal the great scaled eye, the glimpse of coins shifting all the way on the other side of the room because as huge as that room is, Smaug fills it.  It was wonderful!

And then we cut away to some bullshit subplot about politics in Laketown and the sequence my friends have taken to calling Elf Hospital.  The best part of the movie, and the pacing and atmosphere were chopped into pieces for no good reason at all.

And that’s not even the worst of it, because we all know what happens  next, because like I said, this is one of the most iconic scenes in all of fantasy literature:  Bilbo steals a bit of the horde, Smaug — even surrounded by all that gold — senses the theft, and in a fit of rage bursts from the mountain, attacks Laketown, and is killed by Bard’s perfectly place arrow.  So there I am, waiting for Smaug to finally burst out of the mountain in a fit of rage.  And it doesn’t happen, because instead we get forty minutes of the Dwarves playing Mazes and Monsters and rigging up some ridiculous Rube Goldberg scheme to kill Smaug — which we absolutely know isn’t going to work because Bard kills Smaug with an arrow, which we know is going to happen because they so carefully set that up back in Laketown.  That whole forty minutes might be clever and technically interesting, but the entire time I know it isn’t going to work.  In terms of building suspense, it fails, and is pointless.

Two more things:  1) So that bit when Bard and his son take the spear and run off, and Bard says, “You distract them and I’ll go load the ballista,” and then they don’t actually split up and a minute later Bard says, “You take the spear and guard it with your life, and I’m going to go get myself arrested so we can have another contrived obstacle that will hopefully force the audience to feel some kind of tension?”  That right there is what we call bad writing.

2)  Sometimes a token female character is worse than no female character at all.  I have a prediction:  Tauriel will die, probably saving Kili, and Legolas will blame all Dwarves forever, which explains why he’s so mean to Gimli in Lord of the Rings, because apparently “Elves and Dwarves don’t get along” wasn’t a good enough reason.  I sure hope I’m wrong about that.  (Wait a sec — is Kili one of the ones who dies in the Battle of the Five Armies?  Wiki says yes. I got nuthin’.)

There’s a reason I’m only talking about the last hour or so of the film:  I don’t remember enough of the first two hours to talk about them.  Oh, the herd of pinto draft horses was really pretty.

As frustrated as I am with this movie, I’m going to go see the third one when it comes out.  It feels like a pilgrimage where the path is wide and easy, so there’s no real danger in continuing on.  But there’s a cold drizzle raining the entire way that is sucking all the joy out of the experience.

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15 Responses to “The Hobbit: The Desolation of My Patience”

  1. James Says:

    Spoilers etc. Yeah – Kili and Fili both die with Thorin in the Battle of Five Armies. My assumption was also that Tauriel will die bravely with Kili etc etc “Eyes meet across the battle, Kili is maimed by a giant Orc, Tauriel yells defiance, charges Orc and after epic battle is mortally wounded but kills Orc, falls to ground with Kili and dies holding hands *blergh* *yawn* *tokenism* *yawn*

  2. WanabePBWriter Says:

    I’d like to comment, but the Tolkien purist rage feels like I may choke to death in trying to get it out.
    To think I almost broke my vow not to go and see it.

  3. carriev Says:

    We felt that the extra stuff might have made a good movie — in some other movie. Or in a TV series: “The Further Adventures of Kili, Sexiest of the Dwarves,” for example.

  4. bkwins Says:

    What I found most annoying about that “Mazes & Monsters” section is that they decide they have to kill the dragon because they’re trapped in the mountain. But wait–what about that secret passage they all came in through? Did I miss something? At least in the book they’re trapped in the mountain after Smaug leaves because he smashes the secret door before heading to Laketown. Yes, altogether disappointing writing in many areas.


  5. I saw it twice, and felt it was better upon second viewing. At the same time, though, I completely understand your frustration, since I found it disappointing the first time round for similar reasons. All the same, I’d give it a 4/5, though only just.

    Although one nitpicky thing that still drives me nuts even after a second viewing: that has to be the ugliest bear I’ve ever seen, to the point where it looked more like a bear/boar hybrid.

    I think part of the problem is that you and I, as well as most of the others commenting here, have read the book and so know what’s going to happen. My mom, on the other hand, who hasn’t read any of Tolkien’s stuff, found this movie to be much better than the previous one.

  6. Griggk the goblin Says:

    I fell asleep during the last hour of the movie. I think my dozing dreams were actually more entertaining.

    Never really understood why people who are only five foot high would build palaces with enough ceiling room to allow a dragon or a balrog free reign.

  7. David Bowles Says:

    As usual, I’m pretty much in agreement with Carrie.

  8. B.P. Bland Says:

    I super agree. Count me as another who dozed a little. I had zero interest in Gandalf’s little side quest. The Hobbit is its own story. It doesn’t need to be bolstered by its association with The Lord of the Rings. The Gandalf scenes felt like the Star Wars prequels in their pointlessness. It all felt like pad.

    Also, Beorn in the movie looked nothing like he does in my mind but I guess that’s often the case when books make the leap to the screen.

  9. Adam. Says:

    I suspect the main “blame” is in trying to get as much movie out of the Hobbit as was previously extracted from the Lord of the Rings.

    The sheer madness of this is obvious if you just look at your bookshelf. The real-estate difference between the two sets of source material is quite marked…

    The definitive post-printed-word version of the Hobbit is Nicol Williamson’s Audiobook anyway (I’ve got a largish collection of swords at home that says I’m right :), which by way of being an abridged version has also done all the work necessary in cutting the book down to a film.

  10. Adam. Says:

    Note “cutting the book down to a film”.
    Not “bloating the book up to three films”.

  11. kylec Says:

    Not the Tolkien of my memory. An example of something external to the books that is, is the amazing J. Cauty LoR poster from way back when. Why do they spend so much on CGI and so little on the story? Why not both? Where are the mossy aromas, the dirt, the density of country outdoors life intruding on all? In E.g., in Tolkient clothing did not have scotchguard and might get dank and dirty. I only saw trailers for #2; nonetheless the Smaug of my memory was not shiny and sparkly and brightly lit like in CGI. And if had the time and energy I would go back to the books to see if Tolkien’s characters were really THAT wooden.

  12. Kathryn Says:

    The annoying thing is, I was all for filling in the gaps of where Gandalf disappears off to, and neatening up some of the loose ends inherent in the fact that Tolkien retconned The Hobbit when he came up with LOTR. It makes total sense for Legolas (who hadn’t been invented yet when Tolkien wrote The Hobbit) to be present in Mirkwood.

    But no-one needs a 40 minute action sequence that was clearly going nowhere (did anyone think that plan was going to work?!) or an invented cross-species love sub-plot. Legolas certainly doesn’t need additional motivation to dislike dwarves.


  13. […] well. Fantasy author Carrie Vaughn has written a nice post focusing on this part of the movie, “The Hobbit: The Desolation of My Patience.” My feeling is that if you’re going to invent non-textual sequences, they have to do more than […]

  14. JRStern Says:

    What you said. I think they messed up the Bilbo/Smaug thing by keeping them both in the frame at the same time and it went on a little long. But my major problem with the film is that they left EVERYTHING hanging at the end, there was no point at all to the 2:45 of special effects. Any movie should stand alone, and this one doesn’t even try.

  15. Pabkins Says:

    I was so disgruntled by this movie that it puts me in a state of agitation beyond words. You covered much of it for me thankfully. I feel cheated out of my money and would like those 3 hours of my life back so I could have curled up with a book instead.


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