On a recent 10½-hour flight I watched The Desolation of Smaug. Now we have to work out how to punish Peter Jackson for this travesty.
The movie extends from just after our heroes’ arrival at the Carrock to where Smaug decides to leave the Mountain and make trouble. Only Jackson took out a whole bunch of plot points that might have made excellent cinema, replacing them with bafflegab written by someone much less competent than J.R.R. Tolkien.
OK, there are one or two good things: The palace of the Woodland Elves’ king, the heaped treasure under the Lonely Mountain, Smaug himself, and Stephen Fry as the Master of Lake Town. But these are not enough to earn Jackson respite from his well-deserved punishments.
I · Not in: Bilbo and Smaug smart-assing each other; the conversation full of fear, loathing, and amusement.
In: Bilbo has no issues with looking Smaug straight in the eyes.
Punishment: Peter Jackson is turned over to the Great Goblin’s guards, who have good taste in movies; they drag him off to a dungeon far beneath the Misty Mountains and he’s never seen again (and more important, doesn’t release any more Tolkien flicks).
II · Not in: Beorn being bear-like, black-haired and beefy (hm, he’s a confirmed bachelor too, maybe that sort of bear); Instead, he’s presented as sort of a Lesser Ent.
In: Repelling Smaug’s attack by stoking the Lonely Mountain furnaces and coating him in molten gold.
Punishment: Peter Jackson gets a face-full of dragon-fire; not just ordinary fire, but morning-after-a-dragons’-night-out-in-Tijuana fire, white-hot and toxic and noisome too.
III · Not in: Gandalf smooth-talking his and the dwarves’ way into Beorn’s joint.
In: The elf-dwarf-elf love triangle featuring Legolas, Kili, and Tauriel. No, really.
Punishment: Peter Jackson encounters a giant spider who trusses him up and hangs him from a tree, giving him time to consider his cinematic failings and the excellence of Tolkien’s actual story, the one he mostly discarded; then liquifies his body contents.
IV · Not in: Bilbo baiting the spiders in rhymed alliterative verse while dancing them away from the dwarves.
In: Gandalf assaulting Dol Goldur after consultation with Radagast.
Punishment: Peter Jackson is stuffed in a sack and sat on by a severely-unhygenic troll butt. Then taken out and invited to watch a competent book adaptation of a movie (say The Dead or Catching Fire), before being squashed again.
V · Not in: Thorin Oakenshield having an amusingly pompous long-winded streak.
In: The barrels they escaped from the Elvenking in being open-topped so they bob down the river with their heads sticking out.
Punishment: Peter Jackson is sealed in a barrel (like in the book) with only a waterproofed edition of The Hobbit for company and sent drifting down a river, but nobody remembers to come get him out.
VI · Not in: Thorin strides into the Laketown feast and (discovering his rock-star streak) proclaims himself King Under The Mountain.
In: While they’re floating down the river with their heads sticking out of open barrels, elves in a wholly extraneous and irrelevant orc-fight scene go prancing across their heads.
Punishment: Peter Jackson is cast in a cell by that shallow venial Elf-king Thirion, there to be left to rot for a century or three, with occasional visits by an Arts professor from Mirkwood Elf U, who lectures him on basic scriptwriting.
VII · Not in: Slogging through Mirkwood, growing weary and discouraged and hungry, carrying a disabled companion.
In: Still on the barrels: Concealing the dwarves with fresh-caught fish.
Punishment: Peter Jackson gets lost in a poorly mapped forest, plagued by giant insects and hostile elves, their moves co-ordinated by the vengeful spirit of J.R.R. Tolkien, then dies by inches of starvation and exposure
VIII · Not in: The lost dwarves stumble into the elves’ bacchanal and it goes up in a flurry of sparks and smoke, then darkness falls.
In: Kili being shot with a “dark arrow” and coming down with what any Tolkien reader would know was the Black Breath.
Punishment: Peer Jackson stumbles across a creature like Gollum somewhere subterranean in LA who turns out to manage a hip video-rental boutique, and who applies the Gollum “squeeze” to him.
IX · Not in: The struggle to get across the Mirkwood river, the retrieval of the boat, the sudden interruption and dwarf fallen in the deadly water.
In: Athelas presented as swine fodder; with an actual swine to help make the point.
Punishment: Peter Jackson gets cornered in a tree by warg-riding orcs and burnt to a crisp, while the Great Eagles, who have good taste in movies and mythology, circle above sneering in disdain.
X · Not in: Beorn’s joint being a hippie-vegetarian sanctuary, full of light and good food and music.
In: The Arkenstone written in as a drearily-obvious talisman on which the whole plot swings, not emerging as a nearly-fatal surprise.
Punishment: Peter Jackson is outmaneuvered by his devious Sackville-Jackson cousins who manage to strip him of the Tolkien-movie residuals. The Sackville-Jacksons become popular heroes when they re-route the money into the hands of a director with good taste who actually likes Tolkien.