The Tolkien Professor reacts to “The Desolation of Smaug”, the second movie in Peter Jackson’s increasingly epic adaptation of “The Hobbit”. Parts one and two can be found here, or on iTunes.
This is my first ever comment on your podcast and also the first in general for this episode I am surprised to see.
Thanks for your analysis, I enjoyed it, and also liked to listen to a ‘monologue’ type episode again! I got used to that format when – retroactively – listening to all your old recordings of your classes for the hobbit, LOTR, silmarillion, leave by Niggle etc this summer. I personally enjoyed the riddles in the dark and other similar discussion type episodes less, due to the increased verbosity. Though I sometimes enjoy the extra jokes, laughing etc, I prefer to have some more actual content . I also really enjoy your voice most, which is also not unimportant for podcasts.
Concerning the actual content of your reaction to ‘The Desolation’, I wanted to respond to your remark about a wooden wheel barrow floating on a stream or river of gold being very unlikely, as it would incinerate. I would ofcourse fully agree, however when I saw the movie I saw the wheel barrow that Thorin was pushing as an iron wheel barrow. Especially after seeing all other stuff in Erebor, like the little stone carying carts on the chains, which I also immediately imagined as metal objects. I gues wood and steel would both float on gold, justa s they float on water. Floating requiresan object to have the correct shape to profit from Archimedes’ law. A steel barrow might still be melting during the ‘trip’, and perhaps within a few seconds, a metal version requires considerably less suspension of disbelief .
PS Gold even does have a lower melting temp. (1060 C.) then steel (1510 C.) when I looked it up online http://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/melting-temperature-metals-d_860.html
Furthermore, steel also has a much lower density (8000 kg/cu.m) than gold (19320 kg/cu.m) , so it would even float without a boat or barrow shape, further favouring Jackson’s visuals: http://www.simetric.co.uk/si_metals.htm
Still the sequence remains much too unlikely for my tastes. As does the flying orc-squashing barrel in the barrel escape. Just as the escape and fall in the Goblin King’s cave in part 1. Jacksons seems to have taken the more childlike feel of the Hobbit booka s compared to LOTR and in the movies transposed this to much higher kevels of physical implausability (if I disregard all Legolas’ stunts moments from LOTR for a moment).
But I enjoyed most of the rest of the movie, as I did part 1.
With regards to the shelled creature that Bilbo attacked to reaquire the ring, I fully agree with your ibservation: it isn’t a spider! I watched the movie a second time after listening to your two reaction podcasts, and looked carefully, and it is pink! More crab like or something. And definitely not a baby spider. I’m already imaging hearing Weta workshop’s Richard Taylor’ in his strange and loud Kiwi accent giving us some explanation int he extended edition DVD ‘Peter wanted the fight for the ring by Bilbo to stand put out from the earlier spider fights, so we replaced the initial spider with a hardshelled crustacean creature, bla bla…’
Knowing Peter Jackson he might have come with a change like that two days before the film was released, and made designers and animators work two all ighters in a row .
With regard to what you say about criticism that some elements of the film appear to have marketing motivations behind them (that this fact is not, per se, legitimate criticism of the film), I would add this observation: If we are going to seek out elements of stories that appear to have been added for marketing reasons as evidence the story is not good, what are we going to say about Tolkien’s putting into The Hobbit the bit about how in the old days the people of Dale were legendary toy makers?
One could dismiss it as crass marketing, or one could say that good storytellers know their audience and craft their stories appropriately. But there’s no justification for applying one standard to Tolkien and the opposite one to Peter Jackson.
In defense of critfic: IMHO, when a critic notes a deficiency by saying, for example, “Action scene X is thrown in to pander to teenage boys,” or, “Bikini scene Y is thrown in to pander to teenage boys”, they are often just observing the Gricean maxim of quantity. Most readers can readily infer the sort of excessive, superficial action and/or pneumatic cleavage sequence that would appeal to teenage boys. In this sense, such “critfic” statements can sometimes be taken as a simple shorthand. I’m not excusing every case of “critfic”, but I feel that there is a difference between examples such as those above and uninformative cases such as “The Hobbit’s a bad film because it’s a moneygrab”.
My $0.02 anyway!
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