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1.31.14 The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Film Comments 2: “Queer Lodgings”)

1.31.14  The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Film Comments 2)

The Carrock (from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, New Line, 2013)

The Carrock (from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, New Line, 2013)

Good Morning, Everyone!

Onward with some thoughts about the latest installment of Peter Jackson’s adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit.

Bilbo & Dwarves at Beorn's Table

Bilbo & Dwarves at Beorn’s Table

As a lifelong fan of Tolkien, except for a couple of quibbles, I’m enormously pleased with the film trilogy thus far; however, acknowledging that some purists have expressed criticism about Jackson’s approach, I think that the films are well-thought out enough to bear a chapter-by-chapter comparison. (Plus, the approach has the merit of critically assessing Jackson’s adaptation while following the narrative line of Tolkien’s book.)

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (New Line Cinema/Warner Bros., 13 Dec 2013)

J.R.R. Tolkien, "Beorn's Hall"

J.R.R. Tolkien, “Beorn’s Hall”

Book:   Chapter VII, “Queer Lodgings”
Bilbo, Gandalf & the dwarves awaken in the eagles’ aerie, are conveyed to the Carrock, and the wizard prepares the company for meeting Beorn (a changeling who lives at the edge of Mirkwood Forest).  Bilbo & Gandalf go to Beorn’s house and – in a scene reminiscent of the dwarves’ initial arrival at Biblo’s hobbit-hole – wizard and hobbit one-by-one and two-by-two introduce the company  to Beorn while he’s in his human form.  Singing and dining in Beorn’s house, and then, upon lent ponies the dwarves travel with Gandalf to the edge of Mirkwood, at which point Gandalf departs them to deal with some “trouble.”

Film:

Gandalf & Thorin at Prancing Pony

Gandalf & Thorin at Prancing Pony

Departure 1:  Opens with Gandalf and Thorin meeting in the tavern of The Prancing Pony, where by meeting’s end, the wizard has convinced Thorin to reclaim his heritage (the Arkenstone and possibly the dwarf kingdom lost to Smaug) by making a quest to the Lonely Mountain (and recruiting a “burglar” along the way).
Departure 2 Shift of scene to the Carrock, where wargs and Azog’s orcs are still pursuing the Company after events of An Unexpected Adventure.  Flight to Beorn’s cottage.
Departure 3:  Azog returns to Dol Goldur to receive new orders from the Necromancer (a returning Sauron); the White Orc sends his son, Bolg, to continue pursuit of Thorin & Co.

Dol Guldur

Dol Guldur

Now, while the essentials remain the same in both book and film versions (the Carrock, Beorn’s House, & Gandalf’s departure at edge of Mirkwood), there are dramatically new dynamics at play here in Jackson’s adaptation:  the elevation of Azog the White Orc from a one-line mention to a full-blown villain, the rise of the Necromancer at Dol Goldur, & all of the other elements that are playing into the deepening backstory to Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy of films (i.e., how did Sauron return after getting the One Ring cut off his finger on the fields of Dagorlad during the Last Alliance of Elves and Men)?

Sauron's Master, Melkor (Morgoth), and Ungoliant (from "The Silmarillion)

Sauron’s Master, Melkor (Morgoth), and Ungoliant (from “The Silmarillion)

Critics who seem to want to see a chapter-by-chapter adaptation of Tolkien’s book are perhaps so well-versed in “matters Middle Earth” that they might be forgetting that your typical audience member isn’t going to know all the back-stories at play in massive mythology Tolkien was building when he wrote The Hobbit back in the 1930s.  You’d have to read works such as The Silmarillion, or The Book of Lost Tales, or appendices in The Return of the King, etc. to get a sense of the millennia that Tolkien’s story covers.  For screenwriters Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, & Guillermo del Toro to have distilled much of that history of Middle Earth into two trilogies of films is quite remarkable and very appreciated.

Next Time:  Things I loved about Chapter VII, Queer Lodgings!

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