Episode 213: The Desolation of the Hobbit

December 20, 2013


Featuring Matt Anderson and Ben De Bono

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3 comments on “Episode 213: The Desolation of the Hobbit

  1. I have had the exact opposite reactions to both An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug than the two of you.

    After this one, I nodded my head in agreement, yet with weariness. I then went back and listened to Episode 98, cleverly titled Tolkien About the Hobbit. I shook my head in disagreement, completely baffled. It was like listening in to the SFC in the mirror universe. Not to mention, Ben was at his calmest I’ve ever heard him.

    I was initially excited for The Hobbit when I first heard stirrings of it. Then, as I imagined it, I realized there was no real way The Hobbit could live up to those three golden years from 2001 through 2003 that gave us the twenty-first century’s greatest film trilogy.

    When I heard that The Hobbit was going to become a film trilogy, I feared for Peter Jackson and the LOTR cinematic landscape’s legacy.

    When I saw trailers, my fears were confirmed. The color saturation was increased, the goofy dwarves and their overdone makeup jobs felt like they were pulled from a live Disney World stage show of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. The feel was drastically different. It felt more childish, too colorful, and I felt a strong, gut-wrenching sense of commercialization.

    I saw the movie in 3D and underwent one of the worst movie-going experiences of my lifetime. I sat there in dread of the underwhelming three hours of perpetual nonsense pretending to stand aside the real trilogy. Its length was obnoxious, its pace was pretentious. I cared more about the trip to the restroom in the middle of the spectacle than I ever did about any of the characters on their vague quest. And Ben wanted it to be longer!?!?

    In short, I found An Unexpected Journey to be excessively indulgent, overlong, bloated, and unjustified. Personally, I believe it is nothing short of moronic to enjoy The Hobbit more than the brilliance that was The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. In #98, Matt said LOTR was “dark”. This is shallow wording to encompass the entirety of the trilogy in. Try “deep”. And The Hobbit doesn’t go deeper than the 3-foot kiddy pool full of toddler excrement.

    When the sequel rolled around, I was surprised you two weren’t prepared for what it was. I found it more entertaining than the last film, and I enjoyed watching it in a nice (2D) theater with the company of friends. But for those with an artful loyalty to the original trilogy, there is a profound disconnect one must have while watching The Hobbit. In other words, one must sellout to enjoy it. The Hobbit is essentially a guilty pleasure. But in reality, it is an extreme atrocity when one is conscious of The Hobbit’s majestic predecessor.

    Also, An Unexpected Journey had a crude reference with the certain male components. Not as stupid and offensive as the bit in The Desolation of Smaug, but it was there.

    In contrast to The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit is a cruel joke. The drastic shift you’ve taken on the series since the first film is befuddling to me.

  2. The two minor-ish bits I disagree with:

    I was excited for Cumberbatch’s performance, but he is barely recognizable in this. His voice was excessively altered.

    Martin Freeman was better in this than he was in Part 1. He’s finally acting like a Hobbit. At the release of the first Hobbit, I took for granted how Hobbit-y the five main Hobbits from the LOTR trilogy were. Frodo, Sam, Pippin, Merry, and Ian Holm’s Bilbo were not playing humans. Freeman played a human in part 1.

    The big thing I disagree with:

    Adaptations are free to do whatever they want. If it makes a good movie, then additions and omissions from the source are good. Now, in the case of the Hobbit flicks, the additions and omissions generally lead to crummy movies. But if the same number of changes had been effected, and to the same degree, and created a good movie, then those changes would be good.
    For example, many fans complained of the film version of Faramir. The movie was better for having a slightly deep-thinking jerk Faramir than it would have been for having an exhaustive re-creation of the book’s Faramir, whose disinterest in the Ring would have undermined the whole point of the film series.
    If the Hobbit movies were better, and deviated just as far from the book, then the changes would be good. That doesn’t mean I would hold Hobbit movie higher than Hobbit book. It just means that if I wanted to hear the story of the Hobbit book, told exactly how it was told in the book, and featuring characters painted exactly as they were in the book, then I would read the book.

    • Ben De Bono Jan 3, 2014

      I don’t disagree that adaptation choices are legitimate and necessary. My argument certainly isn’t that they should have put the book on screen verbatim (nor have I heard anyone else make that claim).

      But I also disagree that adaptations should feel free to do whatever they want. I believe adaptations have a responsibility to bring to life the story they are adapting. That doesn’t mean no changes. On the contrary, it may mean several. The adaptation of The Prestige was enormously different from the novel, but faithful in tone and providing and telling an equivalent story in a different format. The book’s author, Christopher Priest, described the film as being an incredibly faithful adaptation of his novel that was different in every detail.

      On the other hand, the miniseries version of the Shining (not the Kubrick film) is an example of an adaptation that is terrible despite changing almost nothing. Everything in that film is so flat that the tone and intensity of the novel are completely lost along the way.

      The issue with The Hobbit isn’t that changes were made, it’s that the final product in no way resembles the original story. Jackson doesn’t understand the novel’s themes, messages or tone. What’s on screen contradicts the book at nearly every turn. If he’d sold it as a film trilogy loosely based or inspired by The Hobbit that would be one thing. He didn’t. He sold it to us as an adaptation of the novel – which it almost never is. When the source of an adaptation is unrecognizable in the final product, that’s a problem changes or not.

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