Dec 23 2013

The 6 Most Pointless Scenes in The Desolation of Smaug

Published by at 11:54 am under Uncategorized

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It’s become a cliche bit of criticism: The Hobbit movies are just too damn long.

I disagree. Don’t get me wrong; they ARE too long, but that’s more to do with the fact that the stories are horribly paced, the narrative through-line is almost non-existant, and the adaptation from book to screen has basically rendered the story as a bunch of shallow vignettes.

That’s what really kills Jackson’s latest Tolkien adaptations — not their length, but the sheer amount of superfluous scenes crammed into these things to GET to that length.

And here are 6 of the most pointless elements of this past one.

BEORN

beorn

You know, The Desolation of Smaug could lose its entire opening sequence, from the flashback with Thorin all the way through breakfast at Beorn’s, without actually LOSING anything. But let’s focus on Beorn, because if I have to list everything this movie wastes time on it’ll take me about… oh, probably two hours.

So, Beorn. Why is this guy in the movie? I mean, yes, I get that he’s in the book and they wanted to include him. The problem is that he does absolutely nothing FOR the movie other than check a box for people playing “From the Book” Bingo.

The only things of any consequence that happen in Beorn’s house are… um… okay, nothing of consequence happens, unless you count sleeping and eating breakfast as consequential. Which… okay, I went to college too, but we shouldn’t apply the same rules to our fantasy epics.

And sure, some of you might argue that Beorn sets up the danger our heroes will soon face in Mirkwood, but I would argue that dark twisty forests sort of speak for themselves. Sometimes even literally, in this universe.

THE CLIMAX

climax

It’s always a bad sign when the climactic sequence of a story is something that doesn’t actually affect that story at all. Fortunately, these sorts of occurrences are vanishingly rare. In fact, I’m struggling to think of another movie where the final gesture is something this pointless (suggestions welcome below).

Our own Nick Verboon alluded to the superfluous nature of Smaug‘s final sequence in his review, but since the movie’s been out for a week now, let’s get spoilery.

Desolation of Smaug concludes, with a confrontation between Bilbo and that titular dragon. Bilbo looks for the Arkenstone, Smaug wakes up, the movie actually bothers to utilize some of Tolkien’s writing… things are looking pretty good. Better, in fact, than they’ve looked during any of the five hours preceding this one.

Then, the dwarves show up. Smaug loses it. Our heroes lead the dragon on a merry chase through Erebor, lighting the furnaces, melting down some gold, you know the drill. Wait, you don’t know the drill, because we’ve never been here before and nobody explains the point of any of this? Oh.*

After what feels like quite a long while, the goal of the dwarves’ plan is revealed: In a great hall draped with the banners of history, Smaug is faced with — drumroll — a GIANT GOLDEN DWARF. Which, uh… Anyway, it promptly melts and drenches Smaug in molten gold, which he then promptly shakes off before escaping.

Uh, what? What was this supposed to accomplish? That’s a massive, massive scene to go absolutely nowhere.

LAKE TOWN POLITICS

THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG

You know, this is the kind of thing that people ate the Star Wars prequels alive over. Why does this movie take a side journey behind the curtain of Lake Town’s political system?

As the title indicates, most of these additions are inexplicable, but what was the motive for including this awkward bit of political satire? Was the greed parable not clear enough already? Did we need the extra Lake Town politics in order to care about Luke Evans’s Bard?** Is this going to somehow matter when a dragon shows up to blast the place off the face of Middle Earth?

Please don’t tell me it’s just an attempt to make the story more “relevant.”

The 99% issue is entirely beside the point of anything that happens in The Hobbit. Greed is timeless. The Hobbit‘s symbolism and metaphorical approach to the subject works just fine. Shoehorning in a heavy-handed bit of political satire is rather gilding the lily, in this case. Actually, in this case it’s more like throwing a CGI lily around for ten minutes before Legolas shoots it with his bow while upside down on a trapeze and it’s SO AWESOME I SWEAR IT’S LIKE HE NEVER MISSES.

Ahem.

THIS LINE OF DIALOGUE***

gandalf

Gandalf:  “There is a concealment charm on this place… *dramatic pause* … which means our enemy does not yet want to reveal himself.”

Yeah, thanks for that, Gandalf. We are four years old. But hey, going back to Legolas…

THE BARREL FIGHT/SCENE/CAR CHASE

HBT1-fs-307593.DNG

Again, I know this is from the book. Well, the idea of dwarves floating down a river while hiding inside barrels is from the book. I could be misremembering, but I think Tolkien managed to draw a line before writing a scene where dwarves float down a river hiding inside barrels, and then a bunch of orcs jump out to stop them, and then Legolas and Tauriel jump out to stop the orcs, and then a bunch of stuff flies through the air, and then Legolas does sixty awesome bow shots while jumping, and then David has to think really hard about walking out to get some air.

Iron Man 3 writer Drew Pearce threw out a great phrase on the commentary for that movie: “A hat on a hat on a hat.”

It’s tempting to compare this sequence to the Brontosaurus stampede in Jackson’s King Kong adaptation, but… well, that’s probably not a terrible comparison. Except in this case replace that hilarious Brontosaurus traffic jam with a digital Orlando Bloom standing on things that are hard to stand on.

Also — and this is just a little thing, but it’s the kind of little thing that’s so incredibly bizarre that it sort of becomes a big thing — did anybody else notice the two POV shots in this sequence that looked like they came from a GoPro? What the hell was up with that?

Hoo boy. Okay, one more and then I’m done.

THE TAURIEL/KILI ROMANCE

THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG

Yeah, you knew this had to be on here. Honestly, it’s hard to put into words how completely contrived this gem of a subplot truly is. As far as I could tell, these two characters simply… start flirting for some reason. Because they’re both pretty, I guess? They talk for like thirty minutes while Kili’s in a jail cell and then they’re soul mates.

It’s not some throwaway story element, either. Tauriel’s crush on Kili is literally her entire motivation for appearing in the back third of the movie. Because if Tauriel’s not in love with a pretty dwarf, what reason could she possibly have to help save the dwarves from being viciously murdered by orcs? Other than hating orcs and not being a terrible person, I mean.

Also, in the context of the larger Middle Earth film series, these two having a thing for each other totally cuts the legs out from under the progressive friendship between Legolas and Gimli in the LotR movies.

And no, I’m not checking to see if Kili is the right dwarf to be talking about here. I’ve seen two movies with this guy in it now, and I never had trouble distinguishing Merry from Pippin in the other trilogy. I will not take any responsibility for being confused.

At least this subplot answered the question from the last movie of, “Why doesn’t this guy even look like a dwarf?”

Also, now there is literally a small penis joke in the adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic fantasy novel The Hobbit

…wait…

WHAT THE FU-

*feed cut*

FOOTNOTES:

*Contrast this with Return of the King‘s “lighting of the beacons” sequence, with its clear stakes and simple escalation, to see the difference knowing what the hell is going on makes.

**Non-ironic highlight of the movie, by the way.

***I’m paraphrasing. I tried to look up the quote and couldn’t find it, but the point is that Gandalf identified a concealment charm and then went on to explain that people who use them are waiting to reveal themselves. The first movie was way worse about these types of redundancies but this one really made me laugh out loud.





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28 responses so far

  • cypher20

    Well, in fairness. Beorn is supposed to come back in the third movie I believe, so giving him some background makes sense. We clearly know how dangerous he is now, even the Orcs didn’t want to mess with him. The flashback, yeah, don’t know why this is in the movie except maybe to remind moviegoers what this movie is about??

    The climax – I won’t argue with you there. Cool, but confusing and ultimately, utterly pointless. Although Smaug himself was absolutely amazing.

    Lake Town politics – It didn’t offend me as much but yeah, I’m with you.

    Gandalf’s line – Honestly, don’t care one way or the other.

    Barrel scene – filler or not it was fantastic, I would never take it out of this movie.

    Love triangle – In fairness, there is deep animosity between Elves and Dwarves so there is no reason for Tauriel to help Kili without love motivating her. 1) Elves hate Dwarves 2) The King expressly forbade them leaving the forest.
    That said, the love between them is completely unbelievable. She takes one look at him while rescuing him from giant spiders and that’s it? She’s already interested in this tiny dwarf who was completely useless? Oh, then they have a nice conversation together while he’s rotting in a jail cell, es amore! For this she will defy her king and abandon her homeland?? Ugh. As long as the movie is, they could have given us something more believable to work with then that. Especially as this is an incredibly incredibly incredibly unlikely romance.

    And yes, the fact that it is tough to tell the dwarves apart is troublesome, although, there are a ton of them so it makes some sense. Still, it detracts from the film when I’m worried about some dwarf dying to Smaug or something but can’t even remember his name to know which dwarf I’m concerned about.

  • Whistler

    For me, this second part went down faster, or at least faster paced, than the first. After “Smaug” ended, I started taking out all the dull moments from AUJ that could have made it faster and nicer as its sequel. Having said that, let’s discuss this article shall we?
    1. The extended edition sure’ll have more Beorn. It’s a shame that he got so cut because it’s an interesting story, but as far as I’m concerned, he appears again on the third, so we needed the backstory. I liked the Thorin flashback, it showed how vulnerable he is when alone.
    2. The climax is 50/50 for me, but I liked it. It’s adventure-y and it shows Thorin’s determination to succeed, but he’s not the right leader. Who in its right mind thinks molten gold will defeat a dragon with metal scales? A bad, mad king, that’s who.
    3. Even though I adore Stephen Fry and more of him is always great, I agree with you 100%.
    4. Loved the barrel scene, it’s one of the greatest action sequences of the year. If the whole film would have been this, I would have been great.
    5. The whole Legolas/Tauriel appearances were unnecessary. Tauriel was nice and everything, but there was no single reason other than to avoid failing the Bechdel test. I’m scared of her changing Kili’s role in the Armies battle, but I liked seeing more Kili and also the devotion of Fili to his brother. That was a nice side of the subplot.

  • Blame Me

    If you like whimsical adventure like i do, these movies aren’t long enough.
    The only criticism i agree with are the lake-town scenes, and the odd romance.

    However, I’m baffled as to how anyone can dislike the barrel scene?
    scenes like that are why adventure/quest movies exist.

    • Brian Sleider

      Because the scene was fine as written by Tolken.

      • sanch

        Although i am a die hard fan of Tolkien.. in the case of Hobbit it had a lot of shortcomings ..specially if it had to appeal to all ages.. otherwise an animated version would have been fine

  • Bepo

    The whole film is a pointless scene… :/

    I didn’t mind Lake-town politics that much, probably because Bard was around, and it came right after the damn barrels (and Legolas standing on people’s heads WTF), so at least it was a change of pace. I’m just disappointed they didn’t have a Baldrick-y peasant following that faux Blackadder guy.

    Tauriel, I just can’t with this character. If they really, REALLY, desperately needed a badass female character they could have just made Kili a girl. His gender is completely inconsequential in the book, and the way he is now, he doesn’t look much like a dwarf anyway. Would it make sense in the context of what we know of Middle Earth to have a female dwarf coming along? Maybe not, but it would sure make more sense that Thorin’s niece wants to participate in his quest than have an elf suddenly fall in love with a dwarf for no reason.

  • MegaSolipsist

    The problem with the hobbit movies is that they try to shoehorn humour in when the LOTR movies were more serious. Stephen fry can be funny but he was completely the wrong person to have in the movie.

  • Alec

    You know, in a way it shows how far movies have come that a film like this would receive so much criticism. I’m not saying it’s all unfair, just that even 10 years ago it would have completely blown everyone away. 20 years ago people would have been lining up to see it for the 10th time. Anyway, stray thought.

    Regarding this article: as we’re likley to see Beorn again, I also agree it makes sense to introduce him here. Plus, this is a journey movie. You could argue that every scene before reaching the mountain is extra with much the same logic.

    I sadly have to agree with you on the Climax. I loved the dialogue between Smaug and Bilbo, but it should have ended without the 20 minute game of Dwarf hide and seek. Still, awesome dragon.

    I actually thought the Laketown politics had a pretty clear purpose. Again, we’ll be seeing these characters again and they are the contrast to Bard. Mostly though, it’s needed to explain why the Master is willing to welcome and outfit the dwarves. Wouldn’t that have seemed odd otherwise?

    I don’t remember the line from Gandalf but your argument seems sound and I’ll agree it probably wasn’t needed.

    Like others, I loved the barrel scene. That was just plain fun action and
    sometimes you have to just go with the flow (see what I did there? :)

  • Igor Jukić

    I see that you all share similar view about that “romance”. I see it completely different, not as an romance between them two, but rather as her way to show Legolas that she is in love with someone else ( even though she loves Legolas). If you remember, Elf king said to her something like “Do not give him hope as there is none”. She was trying hard to show him that there is no hope for them.

    If that is not the case, then I’m with you on this.

  • Jeffrey M. Donato

    Beorn will have a pivotal scene in the next movie. The “Smaug the Golden” scene was unnecessary, however fun. The Laketown politics are going to set up Bard’s being declared king. The barrels out of bond scene was one of the best sequences in the movie, I thought. The Tauriel/ Kili thing was completely out of place and stupid, I agree.

  • http://rottenvaginaz.tumblr.com/ Valeria Kementari

    I’d rather watch the movie again than read another one of your “reviews”

  • harry

    you won’t find the Gandalf quote because the book barley mentions the necromancer story and that being hte reason Gandalf leaves the party. You find out more about the Necromancer stroyline and that he is in fact Saruon in The lord of the rings.

  • LockHood

    Three movies wouldn’t have seemed too long , even for the Hobbit , if they didn’t cut off scenes from the book that would have lent perfect sense to everything , instead of replacing those with the pointless scenes that are very well mentioned here . Although I think Beorn is not pointless . He adds to the magic of the world and some mysterious things originally happen which in his house in the books (If I remember right) . Like Beorn meets up with some other shapechangers ? Hunting orcs ? Speaking to Gandalf etc ? Adding those in the movie would have made sense for when Beorn turns up for the final battle .

  • RhovanionGirl

    It was better than the first, but I agree with basically all of your points. Going into it, I was very irritated that Tauriel even existed. *Why* add her in? Coming out I could readily admit she was a badass character, but the romance they threw in with Kili ruined it and seemed waaay to forced. *sigh* these films could have really been wonderful if handled differently. I still enjoy them, but I don’t line up at midnight for them like I did Lord of the Rings, and I won’t be buying them on dvd when they come out either.

  • Troy

    This is the dumbest post iv ever seen. This post is more pointless if anything.

  • Christine Golden

    A reviewer who actually understands literature and has not been captivated/distracted by a bunch of “let’s show off our CGI special effects.” How refreshing.

    I agree completely with you and would only add that the entire Orc chase led by Azog who has been dead for 150 years destroys The Hobbit’s concept. It’s a quest, not an “over the river and through the woods of Middle Earth” chase scene, worthy of a Fast and Furious film.

    • sanch

      Had Tolkien not mentioned Azog in the appendices you would have had no problem would u ? .. The revival of Azog enhances cinematic value even if it deviates from Tolkien..

      • Brian Sleider

        You mean if the author and creator of this universe had not of killed off this antagonist, yeh I doubt people would care. As it is though Azog is long dead, resurrected to give the film a sense of constant danger and pacing. The Hobbit, as written by Tolken does not have the sense of danger these movies have had thanks to their inclusion of a constant orc hunting party.

  • sanch

    ok let me contradict you point by point as gradually you will be provided how callous u are both in terms of movie knowledge and the actual book :- (I HOPE U ARE READING THIS )

    1. Beorn- First read the book and know Beorn’s significance in the final battle of Five Armies which is due in the third part. Since this is a trilogy it is quite important to set up the background and certain traits of an character because they appear in the story at some time or the other . So its not pointless

    2.The Climax- Although not in the Book , the cinema required a confrontation between the dwarves and the Dragon .. coz the entire story was about the dwarves and bilbo to get rid of the dragon and then the dragon simply flies away .that is too anti-climatic. Plus its very Tolkienish to show a great forge of the greatest Dwarf empire. The motif of the dwarves drowning Smaug in Gold and even then not been able to defeat Smaug as he turns “SMAUG THE GOLDEN ” not only shows a great scene but also represents the strength of the beast

    3.Laketown Politics- Its the prime motivation of Bard going for the Battle of Five armies and why the people follow him and not the master and why he is the people’s protector and champion ? If u fail to see this i dont think u have watched enough movies

    4.I dint find anything wrong with the dialogue of Gandalf. Its a drama film after all .. and such pauses are done by an actor who knows when to do what better than you or me

    5. Barrel Scene- You come to watch an adventure movie and dont appreciate the adventure part which is the best created among the other adventure films, then you are the looser

    6.Tauriel’s presence is another motif both for the third film and the cultural differences between an elf and a dwarf and those scenes are really powerful scenes in the movie

    • Jamie Parsons

      2. No, it did not. Book didn’t have it and worked fine. They already had a built-in climax with Smaug attacking Laketown. The whole point of the dwarves is they are not supposed to be big damn heroes.
      5. There was great adventure in LOTR without being silly. The barrels were silly pointless action not ‘adventure’.
      6. Just no. Tauriel is pointless.

  • Brian Sleider

    Could not agree more, all the things listed jabbed at me more because for every wasted minute I could not help but thinking, “ehh need to pad the time to justify the third one”. I had fun with the movie but it should have been ~40 min shorter.

    Also if I’m not mistaken the Kings-foil scene was from RotK right?

  • Mark Cicotte

    Nit-picker. It was a fun romp in a fantastical world. Not the book, but there will never be a book that a movie copies exactly. For crying out loud. If you are a nerdgeek who enjoys fantasy, just enjoy it for what it is.

  • Tall Saint

    PJ’s Desolation of Smaug is just a bad fanfiction! He proved that more is less. Sadly Hollywood doesn’t care about high quality movies, they only care about crap with a bunch of eye candy. The only thing that makes DoS sadder than any other fantasy
    movie is that the writing was already there but still PJ had to drop every penny into the CGI department. Where is the beauty of language and expression that made Tolkien´s writings what they are today? They made this movie for the largest possible audience and that means writing a script
    that the majority of people will have no trouble at all following. That’s why fanboys will love it!

  • John Hoge

    A few of your points are valid. Most are not.

  • Dan Chamney

    Did you forget that Beorn has an important role in the next Move?

  • Oskar RT

    OK, you sir are very accurate in your comment, and all in all, i share the same feeling about those scenes. I am not saying that i hate the movies just for the sake of present myself as a literate Tolkien purist, because as i love the books, i am glad that PJ have manage to film this story too, whit all its flaws. Now i just invite everyone to take the time and watch the Extended Editions, because those editions will add some cohesive sparks to a very rushed and fragmented film.

  • Battle Mage

    The Beorn sequence was useful even if only to add complexity and life to the world itself. I was very pissed off they left out Tom Bombadil in the LOTR trilogy. At least with Beorn we get to see some of the strange magical character of Middle Earth .

  • sanch

    You morons did not see the final chapter .. so get lost

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