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Non-Review Review: The Hobbit – The Desolation of Smaug

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug represents a considerable improvement on The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Some of the same problems still lurk at the edge of the frame: the pacing needs a bit of work; the movie is about half-an-hour too long; it feels a little too consciously like one extended prelude to The Lord of the Rings. And yet, despite all these flaws, The Desolation of Smaug accomplishes a lot of what it sets out to do.

This is very clearly the same Middle Earth that viewers remember from The Lord of the Rings. Even the least obsessive viewer will still recognise the occasional familiar landmark or setting from the early film. It’s not just the New Zealand locations that shine through; great care has been taken to establish a geography of this fictional landscape. Viewers who have yet to memorise the names and routes on Tolkien’s meticulously-prepared maps can see that this is the same world.

It’s just being seen from a different perspective. The Hobbit isn’t really an adaptation of that much-loved adventure tale, at least not exclusively. It is instead being crafted as a companion piece, with the heroes’ quest providing a handy travelogue of a world in turmoil.

The gold standard?

The gold standard?

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Watch! The Full 1985 Version of The Hobbit! In Russian!

Okay, since there’s no subtitles this is sort of a bit of a niche thing, but I found it and thought I’d pass it on.

Below is the full 1985 version of The Hobbit produced for Russian television. It is… a little less impressive than Peter Jackson’s adaptation, and not just because it’s in less than 48 frames per second and two dimensions. Still, I kinda admire the ambition of it, even if the results are less than spectacular. Check out how they take down Smaug, for an example, or the way that the action cuts back to the “narrator” before any expensive shots are required.

The whole thing calls to mind the sort of stuff the BBC were doing with Doctor Who at the time, and I can’t quite hate it. After all, the matte paintings are great and at least it seems committed to an idea that would have been technically quite difficult for a big-budget movie of the time, let alone state television.

Check it out below and let me know what you think!

Non-Review Review: The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey

I always feel a little embarrassed to admit that I prefer The Hobbit to The Lord of the Rings. Don’t worry, I know that by any objective measure of craft The Lord of the Rings is a far more impressive literary accomplishment, but I never really connected with the characters at the heart of that sprawling epic in the way that I empathised with Bilbo Baggins. As such, it’s a massive relief to me that Peter Jackson turns in an endearing and enjoyable, if padded and indulgent, first instalment in his Hobbit trilogy. The technical advances and the somewhat cynical structuring of the film tend to garner a great deal of discussion and debate, but the heart of Tolkien’s introduction to Middle Earth is still here. The only problem is that absolutely everything else is as well.

And that's just the script to Part I...

And that’s just the script to Part I…

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