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.



Contributions

Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: hawkse (Mar 09 2014, at 12:38)

Yep, that pretty much sums it up. Same goes for the first part. I just can't wait for the last part to get it over with.

[link]

From: Paul (Mar 09 2014, at 13:35)

Huzzah! Unlike the LoTR, the Hobbit should have been a remarkably easy book to adapt. No backstory required, lots of short interesting set pieces, and a dragon! How it came to this is a mystery indeed.

[link]

From: James (Mar 09 2014, at 17:56)

All great points I agree with; although on number II, are you saying you thought the bear thing was a Jackson addition? He really was a shape-shifter in the book. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beorn

[link]

From: Tony Fisk (Mar 09 2014, at 20:20)

I long ago concluded that movies and novels are two totally different beasts, and that adapations between the two always come out as chimerae of varying quality.

Do recall that Jackson is trying to tie the Hobbit into what happens in (his) version of LoTR. Tolkien wrote the Hobbit with only a vague notion of what came after.

I actually don't mind variations in plot: they add interest. So, I am intrigued as to where the Tauriel/Legolas/Fili thing is going. I am also intrigued that Smaug seems to have a pretty good idea what the *precious* thing Bilbo is carrying. (Given its nature and his, why isn't he avid for it? Is he going to use it as a bargaining chip with Sauron? Does he last that long?) Can this be sorted out in a satisfactory manner?

Having said that, I will say that it is unfortunate that the biggest shark vaulting scene occurs right at the end, where it sticks in the memory. No point to it, other than 'Dwarves Rule!'

<b>Punishment: </b>Sir Peter should be made to take a dip in that golden jacuzzi with Smaug (that btw, is a reference to one of the outtakes you'll find in the Hobbit Blog)

[link]

From: Tony Fisk (Mar 10 2014, at 04:18)

I long ago concluded that movies and novels are two totally different beasts, and that adapations between the two always come out as chimerae of varying quality.

Do recall that Jackson is trying to tie the Hobbit into what happens in (his) version of LoTR. Tolkien wrote the Hobbit with only a vague notion of what came after.

I actually don't mind variations in plot: they add interest. So, I am intrigued as to where the Tauriel/Legolas/Fili thing is going. I am also intrigued that Smaug seems to have a pretty good idea what the *precious* thing Bilbo is carrying. (Given its nature and his, why isn't he avid for it? Is he going to use it as a bargaining chip with Sauron? Does he last that long?) Can this be sorted out in a satisfactory manner?

Having said that, I will say that it is unfortunate that the biggest shark vaulting scene occurs right at the end, where it sticks in the memory. No point to it, other than 'Dwarves Rule!'

<b>Punishment: </b>Sir Peter should be made to take a dip in that golden jacuzzi with Smaug (that btw, is a reference to one of the outtakes you'll find in the Hobbit Blog)

[link]

From: Mano Marks (Mar 10 2014, at 11:06)

In three movies - three for one book! -you'd think he could have gotten the details right.

[link]

From: Jake Munson (Mar 10 2014, at 12:08)

I totally agree with your general premise here. I prefer movies to stick with the book as much as possible. But I think it was a calculated risk because they realize that the majority of the audience won't even know (or care about) the real Hobbit story. And if you look at the success of the movie, I think they were right. It's only geeks like us that care to comment about deviations like this.

One nit pick: The attack on Dol Goldur (and a lot more of Radagast) was described in The Silmarillion. Peter Jackson announced before these movies were released that parts of The Silmarillion would be included in the movies. That said, most of his deviations from the story were NOT taken from the Silmarillion, afaik.

[link]

From: John Cowan (Mar 10 2014, at 19:45)

It's important to remember that Jackson made the Tolkien movies *he* wanted to see. Fortunately for him, lots of other people want to see them too. He did *not* see it as his job to make the movies the Tolkien fans wanted to see.

The movies are now there. I happen to enjoy them while I am watching them. (Watching TH:AUJ led me to speculate on which of the Dwarves are in fact female, consistent with the evidence in the books.) And when I am not watching the movies, the books are still there, unchanged.

Don't stress.

[link]

author · Dad · software · colophon · rights
picture of the day
March 08, 2014
· Arts (11 fragments)
· · Movies (15 more)

By .

The opinions expressed here
are my own, and no other party
necessarily agrees with them.

A full disclosure of my
professional interests is
on the author page.