The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is a perfect storm of predictability.
If you decide to adapt a single novel into a movie trilogy, the middle story, the bridge, is the hardest one to pull off successfully.
Having the middle story as part of a prequel makes the project a recipe for failure with The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug as the main course.
In the film, a group of dwarfs continue their quest, heading to an abandoned dwarf kingdom hidden under a mountain that contains a massive collection of gold and jewels. The kingdom is now home to a huge, overly-chatty dragon.
On their quest, they cross paths with a bunch of big spiders, angry elfs, and a hunky seaman.
Their goal is to get a precious stone that the dwarf leader can use to bring the fractured dwarf tribes back together and they need the hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, to retrieve it.
There were so many problems with this film, its hard to believe it made it into production. Lets go over a few:
1) It’s a prequel. Most viewers will have read/watched the Lord of the Rings prior to watching this film, which means they know the following:
- The tension between the elfs and the dwarfs gets resolved and end up working together.
- Gandalf is never in danger, since he leads the efforts in Rings.
- Bilbo is never in danger, since he’s in Rings too.
So, three major points of conflict or suspense are diffused.
2) It’s the middle film of a single quest.
- Since the trilogy is really a single quest, you know they make it. You never doubt they will survive the journey.
Which means another major point of suspense is lost.
And there are other problems.
3) The bad guys are computer generated:
- Our brains react differently when two people are involved in a stunt than when two computer characters are. The reason? Danger. It’s why people love car races or watching football. The risk is real. This is the same reasons we love amazing stunts by real people in real places. Your brain can’t imagine how they pulled it off.
- When characters are fighting computer generated bad guys, your brain never worries about them, never tries to figure out how they survived. Your brain becomes passive. A passive audience is a films worst enemy.
- In Rings, the hand-to-hand combat scenes were with real people in make-up (along with some computer generated augmentation for scope and effect). In The Hobbit, the bad guys are 100% fake, which makes their interaction with real actors 100% ineffective.
4) Dragon TMI:
- In the story we learn this dragon can only be killed by a certain type of arrow, which can penetrate his skin. Legend had it that the dragon was nicked by one of these arrows and it knocked off a couple of scales, making him vulnerable.
- Near the end of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug they show two things they shouldn’t have.
1) the dragon does, indeed, have a few scales missing.
2) there is one super arrow left.
- So, what does this tell me? It tells me the dragon gets killed by that arrow. And, as luck would have it, this dragon killing won’t happen in this movie, but in film #3.
- Which means, The Hobbit not only destroyed suspenseful moments in this film, they’ve actually undermined suspenseful moments in the NEXT ONE!
All that being said, you can save a middle film of a trilogy if you leave the audience satisfied by surprising them at the end.
- Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back – “I am your father.” Enough said.
- Hunger Games: Catching Fire – The games were a ruse for a rebellion.
The Hobbit’s ending wasn’t surprising at all. Dragon gets loose and heads to a nearby town, the one with the super arrow. Gee, I’ll talk about for as long as it takes my theater seat to return to its upright position.
But, if you can’t surprise anyone with the ending, then maybe you could surprise the audience by killing off one of the heroes. Someone important, preferably. But, no, EVERYONE survives this movie.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is a shining example of a series of bad decisions made by Hollywood just so they could make money.
1) make a prequel because the Rings made serious $.
2) turn the one Hobbit tale into a trilogy to make serious $.
It shouldn’t surprise us that Hollywood wants to use The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug to make more money. Why should it? After all, nothing else in the movie is surprising either.