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Jackson's a kid in a candy store -- and we get the diabetes
Peter Jackson's 3-episode interpretation of The Hobbit is turning into a sticky, gooey mess. What a horrid series of films.
This isn't about book purism or Tolkien loyalty or any of that. I understand the difference between writing and filmmaking, and why one can never translate directly into the other (especially when the latter occurs 75 years after the former). My contempt for the Desolation of Smaug concerns filmmaking itself: storytelling, dramatic tension, character development. Even the framing, action and stuntwork do not work in this film.
The root of the problem is PJ does not have an internal filter. He dreams up ideas of increasing ridiculousness, and throws them on the screen whether the story benefits or not. He dreams up wonderful elvish combat maneuvers: they're in the film. He dreams up various orc prosthetics: they're in the film. He dreams up goofy, hammy character appearances: they're in the film. He dreams up immense set pieces and constructs unbelievable battles in the midst: they're in the film. But you can't do filmmaking that way! Good films, even good action films, need to be built on a solid core of character and story.
In fairness, the Hobbit itself is not particularly meaty in those areas: it's a bit goofy, a bit sparse. It was a children's book, after all. But that's what a good screenplay needs to reinforce in such cases. It's what PJ and his writing team did in LOTR! They beefed up the story and added emotional context to the characters to make the audience care about what was happening. When Frodo was confronted by the Witchking in the Two Towers, you were afraid for the guy because the film, up to that point, made you care!
In the Hobbit, however, they are not shoring up the character and story in this three-layer cake at all. Instead, they are slathering on such a heavy coating of empty frosting in the form of goofy action sequences, sticking on gumdrops of forced slapstick comedy, and pouring on a thin crust of chocolate sprinkles in the form of CGI (much of which is poorly done and pulls you out of the film). In the end, you have a cake that's inedible because of all the sugary crud slathered on top. All this "stuff" totally overwhelms the cake in the center, completely obscuring the overall storyline, and smothering the characters of Gandalf, Bilbo, Thorin, and the rest of the poor dwarfs (who mumble along in complete obscurity for the duration of the film). Even Smaug gets short-shrift (he is a marvel of visual magnificence, but is also reduced to a slapstick fool before too long).
What PJ does not have is a filter. You can tell he's gained so much power as a filmmaker that no one is challenging his decisions. He gets away with everything no matter how ridiculous, no matter how distracting, no matter how smothering. He has no sanity check, no capacity to self-edit. And the film suffers for it: it's so overdone in action and set pieces, you become bored with it. I was praying for the movie to be over by the end.
When you engage in any creative endeavor, it's important you get all your ideas on the table, no matter how outlandish. But then you ALSO need to learn how to edit, how to scrape away everything that is not helping you tell your story or portray the vision. It can be a hard thing, giving up that great idea, but if it helps you reach your goal, you drop it by the wayside, and focus on what's important.
PJ did not do that, and as a result, we have a sticky, gooey, sickly-sweet mess of a cake that will surely give us all diabetes.
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