Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

A small snapshot taken from the Estate's legal investigation
into that whole "electronic gaming" issue.
In the year that has passed since the first instalment of Peter Jackson's misguided trilogy adaptation of The Hobbit hit the screen, I had some very mixed thoughts. Part of me naturally assumed that I simply ought to write off the rest of the films and spare myself. Another told me that, with my expectations as low as they were after "An Unexpected Journey" a healthy dose of spoilers would prepare me enough to allow me to enjoy the second film without becoming excessively frustrated with the changes from the source material. It was in this mindset that I went to see "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" and as such I feel as if I am capable of critiquing this film according to various categories. In brief, how does the film succeed as a typical brainless Hollywood CGI-fest action film? It would be enjoyable if it was about forty to sixty minutes shorter. As an adaptation of Professor Tolkien's classic adventure novel? Surprisingly adherent in terms of the plot progression, but needlessly inventive at other times. This is a film infected with the same neoliberal disease which is destroying modern culture year after year. As a prequel to Peter Jackson's earlier works? In this category the film probably fails the most, feeling cartoonish and impressively unrealistic for a fantasy film. So let's do a recap. I saw the film in 3D like last time, but also High Frame Rate, unlike last time. It looked like a pre-rendered video game cutscene. The 3D added nothing apart from perhaps one bit where I thought a large bee was getting awfully close.
Forget about your worries and your strife.
We begin in Bree to explore Thorin's initial encounter with Gandalf, although the first thing we get is a devastatingly unsubtle cameo from Peter Jackson munching a carrot much like in his adaptation of "The Fellowship of the Ring." But Hitchcock he ain't, and this opening scene is typical of this adaptation's urge to make everything more intense. Thorin's being watched by shady characters and Gandalf actually wants Thorin to round up all the Dwarves and attack the dragon! Does he want them to all get killed? The Arkenstone's McGuffin level has been drastically enhanced from the presentation in the book, however, and apparently Thorin's best bet is to sneak into the mountain and grab it - so that he can command the "Seven Armies of the Dwarves" (presumably a pseudo-reference to the Seven Houses of the source material) and march them all to their deaths at the hands of Smaug and his flame breath of maximum desolation. For this he will need a burglar.
This is how I felt.
So, appropriately enough, we cut to our actual hobbit, Bilbo peering out to see that they're still being chased by Azog the should-be-dead bionic Orc and his warg-riding chums from the end of the previous film. Gandalf, who in these films seems to have developed a habit of constantly saying sinister-sounding double-edged things, advises them to flee to a nearby house, the owner of which will either help or kill them. So off they trot to Beorn's house, where he chases them as a bear and they have to shut the door of his own house in his face. It's nap time for all good Dwarves and Bilbo has a play with his Ring, as we must establish its corruptive properties. Azog's son Bolg, replaced from an interesting red-bearded practical effects design which appeared in early promotional material with a boring CGI appearance shows up to summon Azog and friends to Dol Guldur. In the morning Beorn's all smiles (more or less) although now he too has been given an angsty backstory - apparently his family was tortured and killed by Azog, and only he escaped. They instantly borrow his ponies and vamoose, Beorn shadowing them as a bear. There was a chance here for Beorn and his bear buddies to have an awesome dust-up with some Orcs like in the book (although Bilbo never sees it happen) but sadly it was not to be.
"Legolas, fetch the struts for my eyebrows."
Now in the books upon reaching Mirkwood Gandalf pisses off because he has to meet up with the White Council to attempt to oust Sauron from Dol Guldur, but because the films haven't caught up to that point yet he inexplicably receives a long-range telepathic communication from Galadriel telling him to go to the "High Fells", a made-up location. He promptly does so and the Dwarves get a move on in the opposite direction. As they wander around and around a small Mirkwood set becoming disoriented things get a bit heated, and as every group of protagonists seems to have to do these days all the Dwarves start getting into a shouting and shoving contest with each other. Bilbo climbs a tree for a breath of air, reasonably closely evoking an actual scene from the book although I can state with the conviction of a proper nerd that the butterflies are the wrong colour (they should be black). Back downstairs the Dwarves have been trussed up by giant spiders much like the book, but Bilbo gets a chance to shine and cuts them free with newly-named Sting. Also because we need to further see the Ring's corruption we get to see him stab four or five shades of shit out of an unruly creepy-crawly before Legolas and that lady from Lost show up to help out. Kind of diminishes Bilbo's heroism a bit - they're mostly saved by the malign influence of the Ring and the timely intervention of a popular Elf character from earlier films - but I didn't mind the way they showed Bilbo's horror at his own actions, because his attacks on the spiders do seem rather brutal. Off the Dwarves trot to the halls of the Wood-Elves, Bilbo in invisible pursuit.
Scene Not-Appearing-In-This-Film
In the dungeons of the Elvenking the Dwarves get put under lock and key, although all within spitting distance of each other rather than far apart. Thorin has an interview with Thranduil himself, who is pure ham and cheese and looks like he would get neck pain from the weight of his eyebrows alone. He slithers around like Voldemort and reveals that he has some kind of hidden dragon wound or something. Who knows. He offers to let Thorin go in return for some jewels he's keen on, but our resident Dwarf king in exile is having none of it due to that stupid thing that happened in the prologue of the previous film where Thranduil showed up riding on a moose and then tilted his head when the dragon was attacking, so Thorin too is thrown in the dungeon, although not clapped in irons. Resident made-up-by-the-writers female character du jour Tauriel has a chat with Thranduil where there's some implied classism or racism between the Silvan Elves of Mirkwood and their adopted Sindar rulers, which was an interesting nod to the source material if not an especially accurate one. Thranduil basically doesn't want Tauriel hooking up with Legolas because she's a commoner for all intents and purposes. Tauriel goes and has a chin wag with Kíli, one of our "handsome Dwarves" on board for the benefit of the ladies and their chat is nice enough, if a little cringeworthy, but I'm missing Bilbo.
"It's in the Spirit of Tolkien. We had a seance and everything."
Reappearing, Bilbo nabs the guards' keys straight away and lets the Dwarves go. They all jump in barrels and escape from the cellars into the river somewhat like the book, although now the barrels are open so that they can have a big fight while escaping. Martin Freeman plays all this reasonably well, and some of his physical comedy when he realises he's accidentally left himself behind is amusing, and at this point I was finding everything reasonably engaging. Unfortunately for me, however, the boring Orc pursuers show up again. After the first film I've become deeply sick of the film cutting away to these Orcs speaking their made-up Black Speech. Azog's been in Dol Guldur arguing with Sauron on a podium above a pit like he's Darth Vader and Sauron's the Emperor in Star Wars V. He sends Bolg to go find the Dwarves now because apparently Sauron needs him to sit around in Dol Guldur twiddling his thumbs in preparation for a big war Sauron's supposedly brewing up. What a dick. Anyway after spying on Thranduil's Halls for a bit Bolg's now offing the Elves guarding the outer river-gate, and Kíli gets shot with a poison arrow so we can have a big angst-up over him even though we know he's going to die in the Battle of Five Armies anyway, assuming you've read the book, and you should have. The Dwarves plunge down the river, occasionally in first-person, like the log flume ride, but manage to procure enough weapons from the Orcs to be able to attack their pursuers on the bank while they're in barrels on the water, rarely tipping over and never sinking. This is helped by a bunch of CGI-Elves running around like monkeys jumping off branches and shooting arrows everywhere and a funny bit where Bombur goes kill crazy in his barrel. Eventually, however, the Dwarves get away, despite more and more and more Orcs constantly showing up.
The Lovechild of Thorin and Legolas.
Downriver the Dwarves hitch a ride with Bard the Bowman, who has been adapted as Bard the Bargeman and Bard the Smuggler, a rough-talking, scruffy bad boy dude to add to Thorin, Fíli, Kíli and Legolas as more oestrogen bait to keep the girls watching. I guess all the CGI action is for the blokes, but mostly if by 'bloke' you mean 'easily-pleased culture slave.' Bard floats them down to Lake-town and sneaks them in after much hilarity involving fish and a new character called Alfrid who is basically Wormtongue-lite and a bit where Dwalin climbs out of the toilet. Bard has been rewritten as less of a grump and more of a dangerous "people's hero" who is persona non grata in Lake-town, under close watch from the Master of the city who is played with typical bluster by Steven Fry, in his element wearing pseudo-Renaissance costume and a silly moustache. Thorin's not satisfied with Bard's provision of naff improvised weapons and resolves to break into the local armoury for some proper gear. This plan goes balls-up, however, due to the wounded Kíli, and they get caught and taken to the front of Steven Fry's house, where Thorin gives a big speech about gold. Bard's sussed out that Thorin's the heir of Durin and is probably going to go to Erebor and piss Smaug off so much that he kills them all, so he shows up to confront the Dwarves. The Master sides with Thorin however, seeing a good opportunity to curry popular favour with himself and against Bard, which I thought was a more or less decent compromise of the situation in the book with the film's expansion of Bard's story. We have, however, unfortunately lost focus on Bilbo again, Bard somehow assuming the role of our temporary protagonist as Thorin becomes less sympathetic. In a bit of weird inaccurate fan-wank, we hear about how Bard's ancestor Girion, the Lord of Dale, tried to kill Smaug during his original attack and failed. In this version the Black Arrow isn't Bard's personal weapon but apparently special ammunition for some kind of device called a "Dwarven wind-lance", the last of which is now on top of the Master's house. These are apparently like heat-seeking missiles for dragons, except they do jack.
Peter Jackson's summer home.
The Dwarves all get in a boat to head for the Mountain, Bilbo amusingly appearing in a pointy hat and ear warmers. Kíli's all pale and bordering on the Fellowship-film Frodo infection stage of gasping and moaning, so Thorin leaves him behind to get healed. Fíli sticks with his brother, and we get a nice mention of how Fíli is Thorin's heir, which I liked. Óin stays behind too to look after the situation because he's been turned into the Dwarves' resident healer for some reason and James Nesbitt aka Bofur gets left behind because he's Irish and therefore always drunk. Bilbo and the other Dwarves piss off. One minute they're on the lake, then they're on the slopes, now they're almost at the top of the mountain. We keep getting told that Durin's Day is approaching, which is weird because in the book the Dwarves had forgotten how to calculate it so I don't know how they know it now. Gandalf told the Dwarves to wait for him above the ruins of Dale but Thorin's too cool to wait for Gandalf, whose subplot I forgot to relate. He climbs up some implausible staircase on a New Zealand cliff-face and meets Sylvester McCoy so they can look at some tombs which supposedly belonged to the Nazgûl, one of the more irritating changes from the book. I'll get to that in the changes section. Then they ride off to Dol Guldur, where Gandalf sends Radagast off to get Galadriel and walks into the fortress casting some made-up Harry Potter-esque spell which makes a big light bubble appear which is meant to reveal secret things. It's typical of these films' weird approach to magic, which isn't even consistent with the earlier films. So anyway.
Try not to activate the boulder trap.
Up on t'mountain the light drops and Durin's Day apparently passes. Thorin has a big tanty and throws the key away, the Dwarves immediately abandoning the mission. Only Bilbo remains steadfast, discovering that the last light of Durin's Day is not sunlight but moonlight, discovering the keyhole, which Thorin promptly opens, allowing the Dwarves access to Erebor. Thorin decides to put Bilbo to work and sets him off to fetch the Arkenstone. Bilbo goes down to a hall full of money like an ocean in Scrooge McDuck's wet dream and accidentally wakes up Smaug, voiced by a typecast Benedict Cumberbatch. Bend My Dick Cucumber Patch knows someone's there, but Bilbo pops the Ring on to save his own skin for a bit, except for a point where he freaks out and then takes it off again for no well-explained reason. Smaug doesn't seem to especially care though, because he keeps chatting to him and not roasting him alive, most of his dialogue being a mish-mash of text from the book and made-up guff about Thorin and the Arkenstone and what not. The aspect featuring Smaug using his draconian powers of persuasion to try to turn Bilbo against his friends is only give limited attention, most of it being Smaug getting annoyed about Thorin's impertinence. How does he even know who Thorin is, let alone that he's "Oakenshield"? Does he get a newspaper delivered or something? I could understand him knowing Thrór, who was King when he attacked, but Thrór's grandson?
The Duck of Erebor.
Bilbo ends up narrowly avoiding a singed behind after Smaug loses patience, but Thorin decides to start acting like a prize tool, drawing sword 'pon our valiant hobbit until Smaug shows up in fury. What ensues is an endless runaround as the Dwarves dash hither and thither with their hands in the air trying to escape from the mountain. They find a blocked guard room full of char-grilled hundred year old Dwarven stiffs and Thorin concocts a plan. They flee to the forges where Thorin taunts Smaug so much that his dragon-fire instantly restarts all the foundries in the mountain somehow, and Bombur uses his big fat arse to puff some belows. At this point things really start getting dragged out. There's lots of running around, Bilbo implausibly surviving falling off collapsing masonry, Dwarves assembling makeshift explosives in about five minutes, and absurdity of absurdities, Thorin going into full-on Indiana Jones mode, riding a wheelbarrow along a river of molten gold, swinging on a chain and landing on the incredulous upturned reptilian snout of Smaug himself. I've expressed it briefly here, but it goes forever, especially since we keep cutting away to James Nesbitt floundering about in Lake-town, Bard getting captured and Bolg and his Orcish brethren showing up to harass Bard's kids and the stay-behind Dwarves until Legolas and "Tauriel" arrive to kill them all, apart from Bolg who gets away with Legolas in hot pursuit. Tauriel briefly transforms into film-Arwen to heal Kíli who mumbles some embarrassing things about love and other stuff which bounces off my icy, remorseless heart to put paid to the Lake-town business. Oh, also Steven Fry hits Bard in the face with a big piece of wood, which as we all know is one of Steven Fry's favourite pasttimes.
Bilbo tries to remember to be a good craftsman.
Back in the mountain, the Dwarves pull apart a big mould that is conveniently sitting around in some hallway, revealing a large statue of gold which temporarily enraptures Smaug before melting and covering him in molten metal. Apparently Thorin thought that a fire-breathing dragon would in any way be harmed by having hot metal poured on him. Smaug pops up right as rain and for reasons unknown instead of deep-frying Thorin, Bilbo and friends on the spot elects instead to piss off to Lake-town to exact some revenge by proxy, flapping off into the night and talking to himself. He's gone from a smooth-talking, crafty drake to an idiot who lets himself get covered in liquid gold and doesn't kill the foes right in front of him. Maybe he's read the book and realises Thorin can't snuff it until the next film.
"Production on Series 2 of Vicious was delayed for this?!?"
I forgot about Dol Guldur again! In Dol Guldur, Gandalf gets twatted about the face by Azog's big mace, much like Thorin before him, prior to having a confrontation with Sauron, who is sort of half the big eyeball from the films of The Lord of the Rings and half his armoured form from the prologue to "The Fellowship of the Ring" film. He pins Gandalf to the wall with his dastardly magic and puts him in a cage, but only after a laughably stupid shot where the camera inexplicably zooms over and over again through his head for no apparent reason.
Tears of joy from the toy people.
So anyway Smaug's flapping off to Lake-town to go have a Bard-becue. Bilbo staggers out behind him, covering some pretty considerable ground. As the dragon vanishes into the night, he despairs: "What have we done?" Boom, end titles. That's "The Desolation of Smaug." Is it any good? As I said at the start, if it was shorter. The final sequence in the mountain is way too long and full of absurd theatrics involving Thorin which fail to amuse from my point of view. It starts off well, but loses focus halfway through, not being willing to rely on Bilbo's character arc to carry the film, which in my opinion is a major failing. What's most frustrating, however, is the constant presence of Orcs, wave upon wave, who show up again and again to attack our heroes in various compromised situations in ways that have no bearing on the source material or really much relevance to anything. Why are they so desperate to stop Thorin? Who knows, really. It's boring and repetitive. The action sequence where the Dwarves try rather foolishly to kill Smaug is also tedious. It's all just CGI-fakery and there's no sense of tension or tangible danger. The strongest parts of the film are probably elements of Mirkwood, although the journey through is rushed, and certain bits of Lake-town, along with Bilbo's confrontation with Smaug to a certain extent. Regardless of Martin Freeman's performance - he's much better, naturally, at the comic moments than the serious ones - Bilbo's scenes are consistently the best and most interesting simply because he's the main character, although the film repeatedly forgets this and gets distracted. The filmmakers described a need to give the Dwarves greater characterisation compared to the book, but so much time is devoted to diversions, usually involving Orc-hunts that never happened in The Hobbit, the Appendices to The Lord of the Rings or anywhere else, along with Gandalf's pointless travels, Tauriel and whatever else, that the Dwarves still seem largely to be defined by their collection of silly haircuts. Thorin is boring, Gandalf is wasted, Azog is weirdly fetishized and looks like he's carved from white plastic, Bolg looks crap and Bard spends most of his time staring out windows looking serious when he's not ducking down alleyways looking shifty. Thranduil is ridiculously over-the-top. Legolas is present purely for pointless action. Tauriel is an enigma. If they wanted to bump the story's female presence above zero, why then did they give their one invented female presence a condescending, cliché love story with a Dwarf?
Elvish Magnum.
Even as an ongoing part of a prequel trilogy to Peter Jackson's adaptations to The Lord of the Rings it feels off, relying too much on unconvincing CGI and diverging further from the source material. It feels like if you threw the later, more stylised Harry Potter films really hard at the Indiana Jones tetralogy (yes, it's a tetralogy whether you like it or not) and stretched the end result out over nearly three hours. The action is over the top, many of the effects look dirt cheap apart from Smaug himself who presumably gobbled up most of the budget, and the storyline is full of video-game magic and pointless mystery and suspense. Not only does it feel far removed from Professor Tolkien's own work, it feels pretty far removed from the films of The Lord of the Rings. It's paced better and keeps some of its focus to more or less a superior degree than the first film, but it's still too long and becomes deeply schizophrenic sometime around the middle. Drop almost everything with the Orcs, Gandalf and the Elves, a bit of Bard, and the final silly action sequence in the mountain and you'd have a decent enough film. As it is it feels like Peter Jackson and co were compelled to make it go for so long just to make it seem consistent with the films of The Lord of the Rings. There's an enjoyable adventure piece lurking deep in here somewhere, but just like Benedragon Smaugberbatch you're going to need to shed a whole lot of greedily-hoarded trimming to find it.
My face when people claim that content from The Silmarillion is present.

Story Notes 2 - Some more major changes from the Real Story and the Original Text
1. The Arkenstone Again - This didn't have any kind of magical dwarf-ruling power. It was just a pretty jewel that inspired a great deal of greed.
2. A Chance Meeting - Gandalf didn't go looking for Thorin. Thorin was actually looking for him, and had certainly given up on hearing news of his father by that time. Gandalf didn't suggest Thorin try to attack the mountain, because it would have been a disaster, and as he states in the books, it would have been impossible to gather the Seven Houses of the Dwarves together again anyway. They'd had enough avenging Thrór back in the War of the Dwarves and Orcs, which had broken their strength. Throwing soldiers at a dragon wouldn't achieve anything.
3. Queer Lodgings - Beorn and his family were never prisoners of Azog, who was of course long dead by the time of The Hobbit. He actually had a lot of bear friends who may or may not have also been skin-changers with whom he hung out and apparently did bear dances around bonfires. In the end he came to be the Lord of a community of tough Men named after him - the Beornings - so there must have been other folk about. He certainly never chases the Dwarves into his own house, but is rather there in Man-shape when they arrive. The Dwarves' appearance is staggered by Gandalf so that Beorn doesn't become too annoyed. It's a funny scene that was abandoned in the adaptation.
4. Gandalf - In The Hobbit, Gandalf originally left just because Professor Tolkien thought he was too convenient and competent an ally for Bilbo and the Dwarves to have around all the time. He later embellished this such that Gandalf actually disappeared to assist the other members of the White Council in assailing Sauron at Dol Guldur. There is no such place in Middle-earth as the "High Fells" and the Nazgûl were certainly never entombed there because they were un-dead Ringwraiths who had never died, as I stated in my earlier review. The film of "The Fellowship of the Ring" even shows the Nine receiving their Rings of Power prior to Sauron's defeat at the end of the Second Age, which is when they passed into the shadows with him in the book, so how could they have ended up in tombs? It's a pointless contradiction of Professor Tolkien's story which has no reason to exist. Gandalf didn't investigate with Radagast, who didn't do much at all really, and he was never captured in Dol Guldur. By the time of The Hobbit, of course, he had already been there twice. On the second occasion he had received the key and map from Thorin's father Thráin and discerned that the Master of Dol Guldur was none other than Sauron himself. He almost certainly never had a direct confrontation with the Dark Lord while he was there. Sauron also had no intention of starting a war in the North. He was actually planning on abandoning Dol Guldur, at least in person, and returning to Mordor with the intention of destroying his enemies in Gondor.
5. Radagast - Once again, he had nothing to do with these events. He is mentioned exactly once in The Hobbit, by Gandalf to Beorn, who knew him. His use of the word "human" is again inconsistent with Professor Tolkien's explicit terminology ("Men"), a modern idiom also used incorrectly by Saruman in the previous film.
6. Azog - As established, Azog had been dead for nearly one hundred and fifty years by the time of The Hobbit. The idea that he was some kind of special commander for Sauron's armies has no precedent in the books - Sauron's armies were never commanded by wretched slaves like Orcs but high-ranking generals like the Lord of the Nazgûl. In fact in the books the Dwarves rather decisively destroy Azog's realm in the Misty Mountains, in complete contrast to his alleged prowess as a leader in this film. The idea of an Orc being on speaking terms with Sauron himself is equally unlikely in the books. Sauron was a fallen angel created directly by God Himself before time began. Orcs were a bit beneath him.
7. Bolg - The films fail to mention that Bolg is Azog's son. Like Azog, he had nothing directly to do with Sauron or Dol Guldur. He seems to have ruled the Orcs of the Mountains rather from Mount Gundabad, and set out to attack the Dwarves after Smaug's death to try to steal the treasure and avenge the death not of his father but of the Great Goblin, who was slain by Gandalf. He certainly never hunted the Dwarves on the forest river or Lake-town or anywhere else. He would not have even known any details about their journey beyond what little was discovered by the Great Goblin's people.
8. Flies and Spiders - Bilbo saved the Dwarves from the spiders all by himself without Elvish intervention. Thorin is captured by the Elves first, independently of the others, who are only rounded up later. Bilbo actually spends several weeks living invisibly in Thranduil's Halls trying to figure out how to save his companions. They are sealed in barrels upon their escape, and Bilbo actually spends most of the journey not knowing whether he has accidentally drowned his friends. Incidentally, there is an earlier incident in the forest where Bombur falls into an enchanted lake and enters a long, deep sleep during which he must be carried by the others which is entirely omitted in the film.
9. Butterflies - The butterflies are black in the book, not blue. Did I mention this?
10. Thranduil - He is named simply "The Elvenking" in The Hobbit and his son, Legolas, had not been invented when Professor Tolkien wrote that earlier book, although presumably he would have been present. His mistrust of Dwarves dated back to when he lived in Doriath in the First Age, for he was one of the Sindar, Grey-Elves, the folk of King Thingol. The Dwarves of Nogrod slew Thingol for possession of one of the Silmarils. Incidentally, the Dwarves of Nogrod were of an entirely different House to Thorin's people, the Longbeards, and in any event said conflict had transpired over six thousand years earlier. In the books Thranduil has no history with the dragons of the North and certainly had no inexplicable disguised facial scarring, nor is he recorded as having such massive eyebrows or such a camp demeanour. He is, however, still somewhat proud and definitely a bit greedy.
11. Tauriel - This character is purely an invention of the filmmakers and has no precedent in the book. Incidentally, the idea of an Elf-Dwarf romance doesn't really make sense. Elves and Men could marry and reproduce because their differences were spiritual. Physically, they were both human. Dwarves were made by the Vala Aulë before the First Age began in imitation of the idea of Elves and Men and were only granted free will as a favour from Eru, God. They were not really equivalent in the same way and probably couldn't reproduce together, effectively being two different "species." Gimli, of course, admires Galadriel for her beauty in The Lord of the Rings, but that's about the extent of it. In regards to Tauriel being a "lowly Silvan Elf" this reflects the composition of Elven society in both Mirkwood and Lothlórien, where spiritually "higher" Elves from the West ruled over "dark Elves" of the East. The Sindar were Grey Elves of Beleriand in the far West of Middle-earth in the First Age, who never went all the way to the Blessed Realm of the Valar over the Sea but did live in the light of Melian the Maia and the Silmaril during that Age. Thranduil of Mirkwood and Celeborn of Lórien were both of this sort (probably, in Celeborn's case). Silvan Elves (of which Tauriel was meant to be one) were Elves who only travelled West much later and thus never achieved the same level of spiritual enlightenment experienced by the Noldor or even the Sindar, which may explain how they tended to adopt these wiser and more powerful Elves as their leaders. By the Third Age, however, Elves tended not to discriminate based on such matters. That was more typical among some of the haughtier Noldor in the First Age.
12. Bard and the Black Arrow - In the books Bard isn't some kind of local hero but actually a rather unpopular, grumpy local. He is, however, descended from Girion, the old Lord of Dale, whose family escaped Smaug's fire. The Black Arrow was a personal possession of his which he always retrieved after using it for archery, not some contrived Dwarven dragon-killing weapon. His son is correctly named Bain in this film, although it may be mispronounced. In the books, Bain goes on to eventually succeed his father as King of refounded Dale after the death of Smaug. His son, Brand, fought alongside Dáin Ironfoot in the War of the Ring. Bard's never mentioned as having daughters or a dead wife in the book, incidentally. His son might not even have been born by the time of The Hobbit.
13. Lake-town - The character of Alfrid is made up but this is portrayed somewhat accurately. The Master was indeed a greedy, manipulative politician who sponsored Thorin's expedition largely to keep the favour of the citizens rather than any belief that it would succeed. Despite their ignominious arrival by barrel, Thorin and Company were received in honour and hosted in somewhat begrudging comfort by the Master, during which time Bilbo had a cold. The Men of the Lake were descended from the Men of Dale, whose language was represented by Old Norse by Professor Tolkien, and had a common ancestry with the Men of Rohan, so were probably imagined as having a more early-medieval Scandinavian flavour in design and appearance than the sort of Renaissance Muscovite imagery used in the film.
14. On the Doorstep - All thirteen Dwarves travelled to the Mountain. None were left behind and Kíli was certainly not wounded with a "Morgul arrow." The use of such weapons was restricted exclusively to the Nazgûl regardless, not common Orc archers. What effect it would have had on a Dwarf is questionable also, given that they were not affected by dark power in the same way that Men (and Hobbits) were. Such a wound would certainly have been beyond the skill of a rustic Wood-Elf like Tauriel to heal - observe that even in the films it took all the skill of Elrond himself to heal Frodo's wound! The Dwarves were not actually sure of when Durin's Day would occur, and certainly never thought they had missed their chance and gave up. Their journey up the mountain was also significantly more arduous, involving an outer base camp and a pulley system. They camped by the secret door for some time.
15. Not at Home - Bilbo's conversation with Smaug bears some similarity to the books, but the entire sequence featuring the Dwarves leading Smaug on a chase and trying to kill him with molten gold is purely an invention of the film. Incidentally, it was Bilbo who discovered Smaug's weakness: not a scale knocked away by Girion but rather a place where Smaug's underbelly had not become encrusted with jewels. This information was overheard by a thrush, who communicated this information to Bard who knew the tongue of such birds. Sadly such talking animal goodness is omitted in the films. Bilbo kept the Ring on for the entire conversation with Smaug, who did not know who he was or with whom he had come, and attacked Lake-town simply because, like the film, Bilbo let slip the name "barrel rider" in his riddling. As such Smaug thought he was being antagonised and robbed by Dwarves and Lake-men. He failed to discover the Dwarves, however, because they hid themselves inside the secret door after he himself left the mountain. As stated in the review proper, he didn't know what Bilbo was up to and probably didn't know who Thorin was, just that some of his treasure had been stolen.
16. Sources - Not a reference to the film but commentators upon it - there is no material from The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales or the drafts, notes and essays published in The History of Middle-earth in these films. The filmmakers do not have the rights to these. They remain with Professor Tolkien's estate, managed by his son Christopher. Everything not derived from The Hobbit itself is either made up or sourced in some fashion from the Appendices to The Lord of the Rings. The reference to "Blue Wizards" in the previous film was skirting dangerous copyright grounds. I only state this in frustration that the padding in these films is somehow Professor Tolkien's fault or, in complete contrast, that it's still faithful to other material - it's not from his other works at all, and what is derived from elsewhere (usually the Appendices, to a very limited extent) has almost entirely been distorted beyond recognition, particular in terms of character positioning and narrative time-frame.
Bilbo witnesses 48 FPS for the first time.

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