The Hobbit 3 & Dwimmermount

I forgot to mention yesterday that I saw the Hobbit over my busy weekend because that was how forgettable it was.  But seeing as I run a fantasy & gaming blog, I feel as though I would be remiss for not commenting on it.

Smaug dying before the title drop is just one more sign of the overall flawed pacing of the movies. The second movie’s payoff is delivered in the first moments of the third, so what’s left? A two hour denouement that leaves you feeling kind of empty and blah.

Battle of Five Armies is a movie that constantly feels as though it wants to be more important than it is.   Its dramatic moments end up feeling forced because it knows what it is: a cynical cash-in that only exists in its present form to con the Weinsteins out of money and compete in a world of media in which people watch procedural dramas on Netflix or USA 9 hours at a time. The Shakespearean tragedy of Thorin and his madness is, in the end, completely overshadowed by all of the other ridiculous non-sense that has cluttered the films. Whatever gravitas Richard Armitage brings to the performance is lost in the poorly paced and predictably direction style we’ve become accustomed to in Jackson’s adaptations.

Killing Fili & Kili to make the Elfy Sue feel bad and understand what is love was less awesome than them fighting to the death to protect a mortally wounded Thorin until Beorn showed up to save him (spoiler: Thorin dies anyway). Given all the time devoted earlier to the goblins and that Beorn was even in the 2nd movie, one would think you’d’ve seen more goblins & wargs and Beorn would’ve shown up all super-bear to rescue Thorin.

Between this and the light cavalry successfully charging a line of heavy spearmen in RotK, I’m thoroughly convinced that Peter Jackson doesn’t actually know how to direct battle scenes, even ones that are spelled out explicitly in text.

Even more bizarre are some of the major geographical mistakes in the dialogue used to justify plot stuff. I mean, it’s bad enough that all of Middle Earth is within 20 miles of the Misty Mountains, but claiming that the orcs are after Erebor because it’s the key to reclaiming Angmar(over some 700 miles west of Erebor and on the other side of the Misty Mountains), showing Mount Gundabad (500 miles west) to be within reasonable walking distance for Legolas and Tauriel to go scope out, and Gandalf telling Legolas that he should go into the North (which would’ve sent him into the barren wastelands of the Forodwaith) to look for Strider made me want to pull my hair. Sauron being banished into the East for Dol Guldur I guess I could understand if we look at “East” as ideological or cultural concept rather than a cardinal direction (Mordor was very south and only slightly east), but the others were kind of baffling.

All in all, I think they would’ve done better to cut things off with Smaug’s death and given an American Graffitti style run-down of which characters died and who became the lords of what pre-credits. I find myself wishing that Middle Earth had gone out on a better note.

Now that I’ve crapped on Hobbit 3: Revenge of the Sith, I’d like to take a minute to talk about something that lots of other people have taken the opportunity to crap on: Dwimmermount.

Dwimmermount is finally a thing, and has been for some time, not that you hear much about it. Still, I find myself more curious about it than I thought I might be. While I can say ‘the brand is somewhat tainted by the kickstarter debacle and ensuing “OMG, OSR IS DEAD” drama in the wake of its delays’, I can’t really comment at all on the quality of the final product, and that’s something I’d like to change.

After nearly two years of Dwimmermount being something of a joke in the gameblog community (just google “9 rats 2000 copper”), does JM’s megadungeon deserve a fair shake? I wouldn’t even be wondering this if it weren’t for Jeffro Johnson’s glowing review. Previous things I’d read, based largely on those who’d been backers & gotten preview stuff, had been fairly ‘blah’ on the whole thing at best, with much more enthusiasm shown for the various ‘hacks’ such as Devilmount. So now that someone whose opinion I value in the gaming community has come out and basically said that everything I thought I knew about Dwimmermount is wrong, maybe I ought to give it a chance?

Even if I do end up crapping on it, it’s only fair to give it a chance before I do. I mean, I waited until having seen Hobbit 3: Escape from Fantasia before dumping on it, so I can surely extend Dwimmermount the same courtesy.

A few thoughts on Desolation of Smaug:

I know I’m super late to the party of DoS, but some rough family circumstances kept me out of the theatres over Christmas.  But I finally got around to seeing Hobbit II: Bigger Longer Uncut, and a number of observations were made:

The geography of Jackson’s Middle Earth continues to perplex and frustrate me. There is always a mountain range on the horizon. In every direction, whether they should be visible or not. I mean, yeah, I get that Middle Earth is a Flat Earth, but it looked like they got out of Goblin town and into the valley at most a couple miles south of Ered Mithrim

Beorn might as well have been a deleted scene. While his presence made sense in the book, he feels like a very extraneous part of a movie filled chock full of extraneousness.

Mirkwood felt really… Narrow?

The Silvan Dark Elves were indistinguishable from the rest of Jackson’s elves. Unless Jackson is saying that only Tauriel was a Silvan elf (hence red-head), which I think he does, because I’m pretty sure there was some dialogue suggesting that she was a Silvan elf as opposed to Legolas (and hence Thranduil)*. If Jackson had wanted to pad or elaborate, he’d’ve had a great opportunity here to explore why the elves in the Hobbit were so different from the elves in LoTRs, or at least show that difference. Being dark elves, they would’ve probably been a bit more worldly, more like classic fey, since they’d rejected their gods offer of heavenly paradise on account of it being an insufferably long walk to get there.

Instead of weird ‘different’ elves, we got more orcs to constantly be running from. Action went from over-the-top to cartoon. Like, at this point, the Rankin & Bass Hobbit feels like a much more serious film.

All of the scenes with Smaug were enjoyable, but the rest of movie falls pretty flat.

The obscene death-counts in what are essentially kids movies these days have gone to where they make those 80s ‘omg shocking highest death-counts in film evar’ flicks seem pretty tame.   DoS is a film filled with perpetual and casual violence from beginning to end to the point where you both forget that it’s there in the movie and forget that it’s not there in the books.

*Update: Thranduil and Legolas were Sindar, making them part of the handful of Grey Elves and High Elves who stayed behind during the 3rd age to rule over kingdoms populated by the various Nandor and Avari populations of Dark Elves.  Most of the Elves left in Middle Earth by the Third Age are probably these “Dark Elves” since most of the High Elven Noldor and Grey Elven Teleri prolly died when the entire world west of the Blue Mountains sank.

Ugh!

UGH!!!!

I’ve been fairly forgiving of the Peter Jackson LotR movies, and they’re nice shiny fantasy eye candy, even if they lack in substance.  But seriously?  Introducing a random female elf character in the Hobbit screams awful bad idea.

All of the parts with Liv Tyler’s fish-faced Arwen were the most tedious and groan inducing moments in the original trilogy.  But at least her character was semi-canonical (it’s been ages since I read the books, but I vaguely remember at the end of RotK, some elf lady kind of showed up out of nowhere and Aragorn is all “By the way, she’s with me, read the appendix if you care.”)

Also, I find it amusing the spin they put on her being a “lower” elf .  To really get what that means, you kind of need to be familiar with a lot of First Age stuff and inter-elven racism.  Basically, most of the elves in Middle Earth are “Dark Elves”.  There is a huge flowchart out there on a site somewhere or another that gives all of the details, but basically, there are 2 kinds of elves.  The light elves, who went to Valinor, and the dark elves who didn’t.  Of the Dark elves, there were the Grey Elves who started off toward Valinor but for some reason or other didn’t make it, and then there were the really Dark Elves who said “Walk across two continents AND sail over an ocean? No thanks!” (these should not be confused with the one guy who is specifically referred to as a “dark elf”).

So, um… she’s a “low” elf kind of the way that tribes of Israel who didn’t cross the River Jordan to settle are “low” Jews. It’s a bad explanation that doesn’t really give the appropriate context to idea they’re trying to convey.