The Desolation of Shane Halbach

One of the movies we watched while the kids were gone was the Desolation of Smaug. It would have been hard to be more disappointed with a movie.

I don’t know if I would say The Hobbit is my favorite book of all time, but it’s certainly the book that I’ve read the most times. I still remember the summer afternoon when, desperately digging through my mom’s old books for something interesting to read, I pulled out her old copy of The Hobbit. Finding that book simultaneously sparked a love affair with fantasy fiction that I’m still experiencing today, and changed my worldview (“Mom used to read good books??).

This was as opposed to the Lord of the Rings books, which I would never count among my favorite books. The Lord of the Rings were too long, too flowery, and just…too long. I read them, multiple times, and they were alright. The Hobbit on the other hand was short, funny, full of action and adventure, and clearly intended for a much younger audience (since it is, yanno, a children’s book and all). The Hobbit is easier to chew then the full Lord of the Rings trillogy, and to me, that was its major strength.

On the other hand, I really loved the Lord of the Rings movies. I had been waiting my entire life for someone to make a legitimately awesome fantasy movie (well, waiting ever since I had read The Hobbit). I own them all on DVD. I love them. You can imagine how excited I was when it was announced that Peter Jackson was going to make a movie of the Hobbit!

And then it became 3 movies. And the rest, as they say, is history.

I didn’t dislike the first Hobbit movie. It was enjoyable. I didn’t like the changes they introduced, but it was alright. This second installment, however, was not alright. Not alright at all.

As I said, the brevity of the book was its greatest asset. This movie is so full of unnecessarily drawn out fight scenes and added content, it would make George Lucas blush. You could remove entire hours (yes, plural) from the film and not affect the storyline whatsoever. And why not? The movies at this point have deviated so widely and thoroughly from the source material, I have to wonder why the writers even started from an existing story in the first place?

In case you are not familiar with the book, I would like to point out a few things (spoilers ahead). This is a kids’ book. There are no beheadings (I think there were at least 4 or 5 in the movie). There are no orcs trying to assassinate the dwarves. No fighting from river barrels. There is no love triangle between elves and dwarves. The dwarves do not fight Smaug. I repeat, they DO NOT FIGHT THE DRAGON. So that whole, inexplicably complicated and confusing 45 minute scene at the end? Totally made up. All this retconning to make the movie fit into the Lord of the Rings movie? Bogus.

There are two problems with making changes to the original story:

  1. You’re sort of implying you know how to tell a better story than J.R.R. Tolkien. Stop it. He didn’t need all these extra villians and wizards and love interests. There’s a reason this book is a classic, and a reason you wanted to make a movie out of it.
  2. The more you change, the more you have to change. Let me give you an example: you want to make the barrel scene more exciting, so you add orcs to fight. It’s not realistic that so many orcs would fail to hurt the dwarves in any way, so you have Kili get shot with an arrow. Well, you know that you’ve added a big fight scene with the dragon, and surely Kili can’t fight with an arrow wound (and what the heck, let’s make it a poison arrow!), plus you need to set up a love scene with this new elf  you added into the mix, so I guess Kili’s not going to be able to go to the mountain with everybody else. But wait a minute, now we’ve got the dwarves splitting up! So that means we’re going to have to change… It just goes on and on, and the more you change, the farther you get from the text.

I want to speak to Peter Jackson for a minute.

Peter. I love you man. Not the now you, the you from before you made LOTR. The guy who made Dead Alive, a movie that was as seminal to my development as The Hobbit was. Dead Alive is possibly the greatest zombie movie of all time, and I don’t say that lightly. Back then you were just a guy who liked Tolkien, who wanted to make the movie because you were a fan, and only a fan could do it right, man. What happened to that guy? What happened to doing it right?

As a Hobbit fan, and as a Peter Jackson fan, I am your target audience. It doesn’t *get* any more target audience than me. If I am bored out of my skull by your movie, you are not. doing. it. right.

The Hobbit is not Lord of the Rings.

You’ve lost me on this one, buddy. Next time, do the right thing. Maybe we can still be friends.

A Disappointed Fan
Whose Childhood You Just Crapped On For Profit

One thought on “The Desolation of Shane Halbach

  1. It’s been over 20 years since I read the Hobbit so I went into that movie like someone who doesn’t know how to read. I didn’t think it was that bad but that was probably because I took the skewed plot lines for truths I couldn’t refute. Like, I remember there was something about barrels but say for sure if there was a cornball fight the whole way down. Now you’ve got me angry.

    I will say Peter Jackson does have a great talent for drawing things out to infinity. I never fall asleep during movies but I fell asleep during King Kong and Black Hawk Down, twice. The two may seem unrelated, but with the 3rd movie going to be a 3 hour war, I had better bring my pillow.


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