What are my thoughts on The Desolation of Smaug? Well, I haven't seen it.
I had a chance to this weekend; one of my friends asked if I wanted to go to the theater and watch it, and I said no. I'm not really sure how to express what a big deal that is to me; I had the chance to go see the new Hobbit movie, and I said no. And I meant it, too; the more I think about it, the more I realize that I don't want to see this movie.
It's not just that I think it will be bad, or that I won't like it; Bakshi's animated take on The Lord of the Rings does maybe six things well over the course of two hours, and I've watched it multiple times. It's not just that I'm getting too old for midnight showings; we were talking about going to the Sunday matinee. And it's certainly not that I've lost my interest in the source material; for reasons both personal and literary, Tolkien's writings remain something that I return to, time and again, and his tales of Middle-Earth resonate with me as strongly today as they did before I'd ever heard the name "Peter Jackson."
But when I think about what he did with An Unexpected Journey, I find that I can't even hate it. It was a muddled mess with no discernible connection to The Hobbit besides some names. The people putting that movie together didn't get it wrong; they simply didn't get it. Well, not the it that matters to me, anyway--the it which is Tolkien's love of words in all their forms, his faith in his readers (and attendant lack of pandering), and his ability to write about adventure, action, and battle without ever reveling in violence, or forgetting what's most important--the characters caught up in all of the above, and the costs which they bear.
So I'm not mad. When I started seeing reviews which praised The Desolation of Smaug as being better than its predecessor because it's not so slavishly devoted to the source material, I gave a mirthless chuckle (if the first movie was "slavishly devoted" by comparison to this one, then I imagine it would be easier to count the ways in which it doesn't stray from the tone, plot, values, and so on), but I didn't pop a vein in my forehead like I might have a couple of years ago. When I saw trailer after trailer full of Dramatic CGI Excitement, albino orc, and Tauriel (because what this story really needed was a fiery, anti-authoritarian
Together with Tolkien's other writings about Middle Earth, The Hobbit is one of the most important books--for me, personally--which I have ever read. They're making a movie about it. And I don't want to see it.
We went and saw the new Hunger Games movie instead, by the way. Neither the books nor the movies really wowed me, but then I'm outside the target demographic, and that makes a difference. Catching Fire was, as I had heard, better than the first movie--which surprised me, because I thought the books got progressively worse through the trilogy. It was pretty faithful to the book, too; it had a fair bit of compression, even at almost three hours long, and there was some simplification of character roles, but it was very much in the tone of the original.
I really wish someone would make a movie version of The Hobbit with the same attitude that went into Catching Fire. I would still find plenty to grouse about, of course, but I think I'd genuinely enjoy the end result. At the very least--even if it was an absolute train wreck--I'd still want to go see it.