Monday, January 6, 2014

Kick the Hobbit

Disclaimer the First: The following post contains expansive spoilers for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and, quite frankly, The Hobbit in general. To be read at one's own peril.

Disclaimer the Second: As it happens, I actually have really enjoyed both Hobbit films thus released; the performances are top notch, the attention to detail, in many cases, is extremely admirable and I'd pay any amount of money to return to Jackson's Middle Earth for any length of time.

All of that said; they ain't great adaptations and I intend to illustrate why.



0:00 – 1:30: In Bag End, Bilbo withdraws the Red Book from his trunk, inner monologuing about Frodo very much in the way he does in the finished film, before seating himself at his writing table and scratching out the words "In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit."

1:30 – 3:30: As Bilbo writes, Frodo emerges from a side passage and their scene plays out precisely as it does the movie, ending with Frodo hanging "No admittance except on party business" on the front gate, before departing off for East Farthing Woods to meet Gandalf.

3:30 – 4:00: Bilbo returns to his book and writes the phrase "An Unexpected Journey" across the top, serving as the film's title drop. We flash back to A3 2941 and start the adventure proper; (within four minutes, I might add).

4:00 – 17:00: The next dozen minutes or so play out precisely as they do in the original film; Gandalf and Bilbo banter on the doorstep, dwarves begin arriving at Bilbo's house, they make a mess of his larder, Thorin arrives, the quest for Erebor is revealed, Bilbo faints and everything seems quite ridiculous and untenable for the poor hobbit.

17:00 – 20:00: The Dwarven Song of Old Wealth is sung and, as is describe in the book, the prologue normally viewed at the movie's opening (Erebor, Thror, the arrival of Smaug, the dwarven disaspora) is shown in flashes, revealing this isn't some stupid get-rich-quick scheme for the dwarves, but the reclaiming of their heritage. (Note: With the loss of extraneous material the Arkenstone, the town of Dale and Bilbo's narration, the amount of material shown is effectively halved).

20:00 – 25:00: The next five minutes play out precisely as they do in the film; Bilbo awakens, discovers the dwarves gone, ruminates over the contract and runs out the door. You can even keep the dwarves betting on whether Bilbo would arrive or not, and the scene with the gross dwarven hanky.

25:00 – 42:00: The company arrives at the ruined farmhouse, Gandalf advises moving on, we learn of Thorin's distrust of the elves (possibly a flash or two here to Thranduil, if deemed necessary) and Gandalf disappears. The dwarves contend with the trolls, only to be rescued by Gandalf's sudden arrival. Gandalf can appear bemused at the appearance of trolls this far south, the troll-hoard is discovered, Bilbo receives Sting.

42:00 – 43:00: At the howling of wargs in the hills, Gandalf leads the dwarves down a rocky culvert, into a secret passage. Thorin expresses distrust of this path, fearing where it might lead, and eventually, his fears are proven accurate when the dwarves arrive at Rivendell.

43:00 – 50:00: The dwarves' stay in Rivendell. Almost nothing is changed from this seven minute block; Elrond arrives, claiming to have been hunting wargs that seemingly don't below in this part of the world, the dwarves balk at leafy foods, Elrond appraises both Thorin's sword, Thorin's map and ultimately, Thorin's quest.

50:00 – 53:00: No longer trusting Gandalf, since he's lead the group astray into Rivendell, Thorin and company sneak out of Imladris at dawn, leaving the wizard behind. In Rivendell, Gandalf and Elrond discuss the quest; Gandalf's famous line "Because he gives me courage" is uttered in this scene.

53:00 – 1:33:00: The next forty minutes of the film play out precisely as it does in the theatrical version; the dwarves cross the mountains, things go bad with the Thunder Battle, things go bad with the goblins, Bilbo becomes lost, plays riddles with Gollum, finds the ring, escapes; Gandalf arrives to save the dwarves' bacon, big action sequence on the catwalks and walkways of Goblintown. They flee onto the hillside, where they reunite with Bilbo and Martin Freeman DESTROYS his "you don't have a home" monologue.

1:33:00 – 1:38:00: The sudden appearance of vengeful Misty Mountain goblins, riding the aforementioned wargs, drives Thorin & Company into a nearby pine tree, where they lob flaming pinecones at the goblins. Things look bad, Gandalf dispatches his faithful moth and Bilbo, for all his speech earlier, is terrified and quailing; possibly faints as a recall joke to earlier.

1:38:00 – 1:43:00: A stirring moment comes when the eagles suddenly arrive, decimating the wargs and goblins, snatching up the dwarves and carrying them away to safety. Gandalf HAS A GODDAMN SCENE THANKING THE EAGLES I DON'T CARE HOW DIFFICULT THEIR BEAKS ARE TO ANIMATE and the company looks out over Mirkwood and Erebor's, for plot and logical reasons, not visible.

At this point, we deviate somewhat more strenuously from the theatrical cut of Unexpected Journey, since the Carrock was where the first film ends. Stay with me here.

1:43:00 – 1:48:00: Scrambling down the Carrock, the dwarves arrive at Beorn's home where, informing him they were chased out of the mountains by wargs, the skinchanger subsequently informs Gandalf of trouble brewing to the south, trouble he must attend to. Gandalf departs, with earnest assurances he will return shortly, leaving the dwarves to tackle Mirkwood alone.

1:48:00 – 1:54:00: For the next twelve minutes, the dwarves make their way through the darkened eaves of Mirkwood. Thorin chastises Bilbo for his cowardice in the warg encounter, claiming he talks a big game, but hasn't the bravery of dwarves. They eventually become lost, losing their way on the path and fall prey to...

1:54:00 – 2:04:00: Spiders! Here, Bilbo, separated from the remainder of the company, proves his mettle and names his sword, defeating the spiders who, if you want, take a great interest in the Ring and whisper about how their dark master to the south wishes for such a treasure, la, la, la. Bilbo's heroism is cool and all, everyone's real impressed, until...

2:04:00 – 2:20:00: Wood elves! A party of wood elves led by Tauriel and Legolas arrive suddenly and captures the dwarves for trespassing on their sovereign territory. They somehow miss Bilbo among the company, however, and the dwarves are taken before Thranduil, Bilbo sneaking along with. Thranduil blames them for awakening the forest spiders, until they're thrown in jail. It falls to Bilbo to spring them, which he does via use of the ring.

2:20:00 – 2:30:00: Barrels out of Bond. The dwarves ride the barrels down the river, have the massve exciting action sequence – with giant spiders taking the place of orcs, Legolas and Tauriel being badasses, Bombur's Barrel-Spinning Variety Hour, which ends with them bobbing down the river while the Wood Elves finish tangling with the spiders. As they bob down the river, the dwarves catch first sight of Erebor looming ahead, we pan across the smote desolation of Smaug and, once again, end on the dragon's eye opening amid the hoard of gold. Fin. Credits.


At two hours and thirty minutes, it's still a massive epic, ten minutes shorter than the original cut, twenty minutes shorter than Fellowship and ends at the goddamn barrels out of bond. I understand this is where Jackson originally intended to end the film, when it was simply two movies, but this is still the most logical cutting point between the three films. The first film, An Unexpected Journey, chronicles the entire journey. The second film, The Desolation of Smaug, is pretty much entirely about the history of Erebor, Dale and Lake-Town and doesn't feel the need to hotfoot through Mirkwood to get to the interesting part the film should really be about. With this model, you're free to overdevelop Lake-Town and all its sundry characters, talk about Bard and Alfird and everyone else you'd like. Hell, Thror is a much better candidate for introduction here, rather than sloppily in the prologue of Unexpected Journey.

Did anybody miss Radagast? What about Galadriel? Don't worry – they're both coming yet.

Did anybody miss Azog? Go fuck yourself.


Addendum: Rather than this Phil Collins horseshit, get these motherfuckers back and sing all 27 verses of the Dwarven Song of Old Wealth.


  1. I like Phil Collins, I loved the first Hobbit movie (except i wanted the goblins to sing! fuck you, it was awesome and scary), I thought the second movie was one of the worst ten steaming piles of shit I have ever seen (in fact, maybe top five), and I agree HEARTILY with your proposed revisions.

    That said, it's NOT the purist in me that hated the second film - my favorite thing about Hobbit 2: Electric Boogaloo was Tauriel, although I found the romance angle rushed and contrived. She seemed more consistently written and more in harmony with the plot without straining her character than anyone else, presumably BECAUSE she belongs only in this version. I found Cumberbatch's Smaug overproduced, ridding us of the menace of the actual man's voice. The dragon sequences as a whole were dreary 3-D bait that killed rather than raised suspense (how long a chase and the dragon doesn't even seriously injure ANYONE? that WHOLE SEQUENCE had no point except to look pretty!). The fear of the Ring is overdone by FAR, the Gandalf cutaways retreads of the last movie with more special effects, the travel times inconsistent, a pithy episodic story is now bogged down with asides and complications, the REVERSE of Jackson's reasonably masterful hack job of LOTR....

    Yeah, anyway, the only times I've been closer to walking out of a theater are Ella Enchanted & Jurassic Park 3. The only movies I've seen outside a theater that i loathed more were the Star Wars Holiday Special and In The Name Of The King.

    oh, wait, and Sideways. That's right, I said it.

    I would love to sit in my living room and BS about this with you for hours, man. Do you use Skype?

  2. And Little Miss Sunshine. Man, fuck that movie. Okay, only the seventh-worst movie I've seen.

  3. I totally agree about the depiction of Smaug. More bored, less menacing. That big golden dwarf was really the last goddamn straw for me. The whole need to conflate Thorin's "Aragorn-esque" hero's journey was irritating in the first film, actively grating in the second. And don't get me wrong – I love dwarves; but Thorin's not Aragorn. Never gonna be.

    I do Skype. We should arrange some Skypeness sometime. I feel bad; I've almost come back to Fargo like, nine times since we moved. One of these days, he repeated dramatically. One of these days.

  4. ONE OF THESE DAYS. I'm mandmsmit on Skype; give me a call... you know, one of these days.