We love The Hobbit: The Desolation of being two-thirds in and not knowing what the next Tolkien movie will be
It’s the time of year when we turn off the cynicism, loosen the protective armor of irony, regard strangers with something resembling affection, and wish peace and goodwill to all humans. We don’t mean the Christmas season, we mean the annual opening of a Tolkien adaptation directed by Peter Jackson. The tradition began in 2001 with The Fellowship of the Ring, and after a break of several years resumed last year with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
Jackson, who reprises his cameo in Bree from FOTR, has already answered the obvious question: How can you turn a children’s book half the length of Fellowship into a trilogy as long as the entire Lord of the Rings series? You expand, you develop minor bits, you throw in the back story of the characters and the history of Middle Earth from the LOTR appendices and The Silmarillion. (Is The Silmarillion going to be adapted for film? Can we buy our tickets now?)
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was a fun ride capped by the brilliant Riddles in the Dark sequence with Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and Gollum (Andy Serkis, who is in the Desolation credits as Second Unit Director). Lots of chase scenes, tomfoolery, pratfalls and singing. Free of the burden of exposition, The Desolation of Smaug goes to a darker place. This is no longer an adventure to steal a dragon’s treasure; it is a quest to reconquer the lost homeland—Exodus to Erebor—and the exiled Dwarf King Thorin (Richard Armitage) is prepared to sacrifice his comrades to achieve his goal. There’s a chilling moment when Thorin urges Bilbo on to almost certain death.
Thorin is no grumpy-but-lovable Dwarf, and the Elves of Mirkwood are not as benign and noble as their cousins in Rivendell. Legolas (Orlando Bloom) has always been a badass, but here, his younger self has a bit of a mean streak. You’d be mean, too, if your father was Thranduil (Lee Pace), the arrogant, preening Dwarf-King who tells the lovely Elf Captain Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) she is too lowborn for his son.
Meanwhile, Gandalf investigates the weird goings-on at Dol Guldur, and encounters a familiar foe. Well, familiar to those of us who saw the future first (But then Merlin in The Once and Future King explained that wizards live backwards). Was that an hommage to The Exorcist? Works for us. And we like the bits that connect The Hobbit to the LOTR movies: the medicinal properties of athelas, the behavior-altering properties of the precious, and so on.
We had many questions: Was Legolas in the book? (We haven’t read it in ages.) Was Thranduil so pretty and creepy? Was there a Dwarf-Elf attraction? (The Legolas, Kili (Aidan Turner and Fili (Dan O’Gorman) love triangle you’ve been waiting for—kidding.) Were some of the Dwarves left in Dale? Was Sauron at Dol Guldur? Did Bard have a family and an ancestral failure to redeem? (Was Stephen Colbert in the book and are those his kids?) One of the strengths of The Hobbit movies is that they can veer away from the canonical Tolkien, and we don’t just keep our forked tongues between our teeth but actually approve of them.
Here’s a pressing question: Who’s the fairest? Is it Tauriel with her pronounced resemblance to Arwen, the lovely but creepy Thranduil, the more muscular Legolas, the intense Thorin, Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans) or Kili the hot dwarf?
And we haven’t even mentioned Smaug. Let’s discuss.