I saw Desolation of Smaug tonight. I caught the Tuesday cheap show. I liked it, but not as much as the first one. My main reason for this is because Jackson has taken far more liberties with the story than he did in the first movie, which makes me nervous for the last movie.
I felt the Mirkwood section, including the Dwarves incarceration by Thranduil, went by too quickly, and this was purely for the sake of making time for subplots of Jacksons own design. I understand the need to add additional material in order to stretch the story out to a nine hour trilogy, but for Jackson to give his original storylines more importance than Tolkien’s is disrespectful in my opinion.
In the book, after the party was rescued by the Eagles they didn’t run into the Goblins again until the Battle of Five Armies. In Jackson’s version, they are pursued continuously by the Orcs who attack them as they’re escaping from Thranduil and even invade Lake Town. This was solely for the purpose of adding action sequences to draw the movie out, and I think this was a bad decision. There’s too much action in this movie, and not enough Stephen Fry. Stephen Fry is awesome and I would have liked to have seen more of him. He should have had a bigger role, and the political situation in Lake Town should have been expanded on further.
In the book the Dwarves were given a warm welcome to Lake Town, but in the movie they had to be smuggled in. This is one change I actually agree with since Lake Town is dependent on its trade with Thranduil and logically would not want to anger him by harbouring fugitives. This change is ultimately irrelevant as the Master still decides to support the party because his people believe in the prophecy of the King under the Mountain returning and restoring the area to its former glory. Since this change ultimately made no difference to the plot, I don’t see why it was necessary in the first place, aside for making an excuse for the dwarves to crawl out of a toilet.
I do approve of Bard’s role being expanded upon. In the book he’s given no introduction before Smaug’s attack, and obviously in a movie the guy who’s the real hero deserves a more prominent role. Kili’s subplot added nothing for me, and I do not understand why an elf and a dwarf would fall in love at first sight when the two races are supposed to hate each other. Elves vs Dwarves is pretty much the trope codifier for Fantastic Racism. I also don’t understand why Thranduil has scars that are somehow magically concealed most of the time.
Smaug was awesome. He was actually kind of scary. Giant reptiles are just primordially terrifying. It’s a vestigial instinct inherited from our distant ancestors who lived during the time of the Dinosaurs. So terrifying were the Dragons who once ruled this Earth that even after they’ve been gone for millions of generations the apes who rule the Earth now still have not forgotten their fear of them. That’s pretty awesome.
However, I have the same issue with the party’s attack on Smaug as I do with their entrance into Lake Town. It’s a change that makes no difference to the plot. It’s an action sequence purely for the sake of having an action sequence. They don’t kill or injure Smaug, and he still goes to attack Lake Town like he did in the book when the party did nothing but send Bilbo in to steal something. This change does make Thorin and co. seem less passive, but it’s still action just for the sake of taking up time. Smaug’s belly is also supposed to be jewel encrusted, and I find it disappointing that it’s not. Smaug is supposed to be a fantastic Dragon and he should be bedazzled.
On the whole I did like the movie, but for the most part I disliked it when it deviated from the original story and I’m worried the final installment may deviate even further. Here’s to another year spent in cautious anticipation.
In the meantime, please enjoy Rarity's attempt to get her hooves on Smaug's treasure.