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January 1st, 2014

Lake men, or I'm a lizard

I do not like New Years Resolutions. I never much have. I believe they have failure built in because they are predicated upon impossibilities. No one day is a clean slate. No lasting change is a single act. Every day, we are who we were yesterday, trying to become who we will be tomorrow, and if the day after tomorrow we are different from the day before yesterday, it is only because each day between we changed ever so little, as much as we can in a day trapped between yesterday and tomorrow.

Nevertheless, I made a New Years Resolution. A perfectly crafted thing, specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timed; decided and declared yesterday. One that would let me feel a sense of achievement and confidence come February when everyone starts throwing out their exercise equipment in despair.

I would see The Desolation of Smaug on New Years Day. And hey look at that, I did it. Mission accomplished.

I saw it in 3D, since I still had the glasses from when I saw An Unexpected Journey last year and once again the show time suited me better than the 2D showing. I'm happy to say that apart from a few lovely fat bumble-bees, there was very little gimmicky, throwing-stuff-at-my-head nonsense. This time, I went in expecting Part Two Of The Gigantic Prelude To The Existing (And Also Gigantic) Films, so I was a lot less annoyed. Not completely un-annoyed, but a lot less annoyed than I was last time.

Once again, I will note that I am a pretty casual example of a Middle Earth Fan.

So here is the good. Thranduil was cold and arch towards his prisoners. He was beautiful, Lee Pace was perfectly cast. Smaug's voice was, as I expected, rich and laden with threat and venom. Benedict Cumberbatch has a splendid voice and apart from a couple of lines where he sounded more petulant than menacing, I can think of no one better. I was glad that the Dwarves have a little more gravitas than in An Unexpected Journey. The disenfranchisement of the Dwarves by Smaug was a great tragedy, and most of these Dwarves have been shown to carry the living memory of that terrible event, of course it is heavy upon them.

As ever, the scenery was worth the price of admission. The most exquisite eyecandy.

The scene of young, arrogant, racist Legolas seeing the photo of his future husband was very good. Which brings us to the imperfect-but-still-good, of course, because what was Legolas even doing there? But I suppose the Dwarves had to be captured by someone, and he is Thranduil's son so it's not a huge leap. I was happy to depart from canon for Tauriel, who was wonderful, because there were never any women in the Hobbit and that is just not good enough. In a world overfull of stories about great men, and average men being great, stories in which there are no women, it is simply not good enough to say "well there were never any women in this story so that's how it should stay." It is simply not good enough to send girls and women into cinemas to see one of the most influential and best-loved stories of our time, and tell them by omission that they have no place in great tales, that they are worthless. I was glad of her inclusion, and Evangeline Lilley made a glorious Elven warrior. Throw me over your shoulder, Captain, and carry me to Aman.

Of the Imperfect But Tolerable, I always pictured Bard the Bowman as having darker skin than Luke Evans has, he was always a brown man in my head, but hey my headcanon is mine and not yours. I do think he should've been more grave, more solemn and blunt. Also I would've liked Smaug to be a little more red. A little brighter. Stephen Fry's Master of Laketown was a perfectly horrible, wretched, douchebag, as is right and good, but if anything not quite oily and underhanded enough. Thranduil's eyebrows thickened and darkened noticeably from one film to the next, do Elves' eyebrows Intensify with age?

In the Okay But Basically A Letdown, the party's stay with Bjorn was a bit compressed and unsatisfying, though Bjorn himself was pretty good. The creature design of Smaug was generally not enough like Tolkien's depictions, particularly the short, blunt face.

On a personal level I do wish they'd not continued to make Fili and Kili so incredibly loveable because they are going to die and I will be sad.

In the Liberties Taken For Which I Do Not Care, the stint in the dungeons was Quite A Bit longer than that, and there was no need to rewrite Thranduil's dialogue so much. It was unrecognisable, I mean what the shit. The barrels were sealed all the way to the shore by Lake Town, and that wasn't just a liberty taken with story it was a liberty taken with the whole concept of floating. The Elves did not notice the escape. Where did all these fucking Orcs come from anyway? The conversation between Bilbo and Smaug could've been left alone, too.

Sending Bilbo into the dragon's lair to look for the Arkenstone, when he was basically sent on recon and that was it, didn't annoy me as much as all the footfall foley. The POINT is that he can walk silently. What's with these loud slappy feet noises and all the rustling coins and shit?

In other OH FOR FUCK SAKE GUYS COME ON, Martin Freeman's Bilbo is starting to get on my tits a bit. This is the portion of the story where Bilbo's thoroughly gotten the hang of adventure, where he is clever and tricksy, where he teases spiders and frees his friends from an inescapable dungeon, figures out ancient riddles and matches wits with a dragon, but instead of that he's still completely wet. I mean, COME ON. TITULAR CHARACTER ETC.

And what was all this bullshit with lighting the Dwarven forges and dousing Smaug in molten gold? I mean, pretty, and gosh what a great action scene, but also WHAT. Just WHAT.

Of course, Smaug detecting the Ring about Bilbo's person was a big tell. Because that's what these movies are about. Not the titular Hobbit, but the Ring And How It Got To Bag End. Which is what I shall henceforth call these movies: The Ring And How It Got To Bag End.

The moment when I almost stood up and yelled NO IT BLOODY DIDN'T (of course there was one) was when for some reason the moon-rune message on the map referred to the light of the last moon of Autumn. Not the last (sun) light of Durin's DAY as it always has before.

Still hanging about from the previous, and continuing to shit me, is that the Goblins were not a distinct race from the Orcs, which I didn't swear about in my previous post on the subject but since I rewatched An Unexpected Journey yesterday (and enjoyed it a great deal more than on the first watch, having long since given up on this being an adaptation of The Hobbit) I thought I'd throw that in here. If you want to take me on over this, first ask yourself why "Orcrist" translates as "Goblin-Cleaver" and if you still think they're different we can go to war.

Finally, also. And especially given the amount of additional crap being shoved in to draw this out. How exactly are they expecting to cram the destruction of Esgaroth, the defeat of Smaug, the siege of Erebor, AND the Battle Of The Five Armies into one film?

Anyway, here's a short video of Orlando Bloom being adorable.