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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Movie Discussion: The Hobbit:
Three is company?
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Chen G.
Bree

Feb 8, 5:59pm

Post #1 of 28 (2878 views)
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Three is company? Can't Post

After having discussed the subject of the faithfulness of the adaptation that is the trilogy as a whole, I feel like we can delve into a more controversial subject - that of the split from two to three films.

While being the main source of outcry as far as this trilogy is concerned, is it really a problem? or it is the way Michael Winn Johnson put it: "These films are awesome. What are you trying to say? you don't like more awesome?!"

I wouldn't put it as bluntly, but I will say, knowing how the story was going to be divided over two films, I find that the trilogy as a whole works better, even if not all of its individual pieces does.

First, since film adaptations should serve the film over the source material, there is nothing inherently wrong with splitting an adaptation into several parts. The number of pages in the novel is immaterial. Case in point: each of the three Hobbit films, has more than enough setpieces to justify a feature-film: the comaprison to The Force Awakens, a reasonably well-paced film, will reveal that clearly. The Force Awakens has 1) Jakku; 2) The Star Destroyer escape; 3) Rathtars; 4) Maz's Fortress; 5) Starkiller Base; 6) Finale.

An Unexpected Journey: 1) prologue and framework story; 2) Bag End; 3) The Battle of Moria; 4) Dol Guldur; 5) Trollshaws; 6) Warg Chase; 7) Rivendell; 8) The High Pass; 9) Goblin-town and Gollum's Cave; 10) out of the frying pan; 11) finale
The Desolation of Smaug: 1) prologue; 2) The Wilderland; 3) Mirkwood; 4) The Woodland Realm; 5) The Forest River; 6) The High Fells; 7) Laketown; 8) On the Doorstep; 9) Dol Guldur; 10) The Treasure Hoard; 11) The Forges
The Battle of the Five Armies: 1) Sack of Laketown; 2) Battle of Dol Guldur; 3) War Preparations; 4) The Battle of the Five Armies; 5) Ravenhill; 6) finale.

Also, The Force Awakens has two principal characters, one villian, and four or five supporting characters, whereas each Hobbit film has about six principle characters, two or more villains, and literally dozens of supporting characters. Lastly, The Force Awakens is a linear film (one storyline) whereas the two later Hobbit films are none-linear with as many as five storylines told simultaneously. So, are they to stretched out?

To my mind, the only film that got the short edge of the stick in the split to three films was An Unexpected Journey. If we look at the entire trilogy as a three-act script, An Unexpected Journey is comprised almost entirely of the first act: its all set-up and little payoff. Parts of it are vey episodic: there's some nice planting and-payoff in the Trollshaws sequence, but in and of itself, it does little to forward the quest. The action constantly stalls as we are told about Radagast, and later when we meet him, or when we arrive at Rivendell. Really, only as the second hour of film concludes does the film find its footing.

But since this trilogy was written and shot simultaneously, these films can only be judged as part of a bigger whole, and so within the context of the entire trilogy, and certainly the entire sextet, its not such a big issue, especially on the small-screen where a long screen-time isn't nearly as overbearing.

Its certainly a bit of a shame because you want the first film to "hook" you into the story. I would have enjoyed of these films, for a change, to have been just two-hours long and serve as a more accesible "entry" into the series for new audiences.

But on the other hand, the other two films I enjoy as they are and I think they are very well paced, and I would have hated to have seen them chopped into a duology, and I'm willing to pay the price of a slower first film.

Discuss!

(Next subject: Production woes, before diving into the films individually)


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Feb 8, 7:12pm

Post #2 of 28 (2831 views)
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If the change from two to three films was controversial... [In reply to] Can't Post

...it's probably because we already saw what began with a relatively slim children's book re-conceived as a duology both to avoid condensing the story for the screen and to allow for expanding into events covered more thoroughly by Tolkien's greater legendarium. That seems as though it should have been sufficient, but Peter Jackson's original additions and changes pushed the narrative into a three-film structure. Whether one sees that as a problem or a mistake might depend on how one feels about those changes and additions.

"I may be on the side of the angels, but do not think for one second that I am one of them." - Sherlock

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Feb 8, 7:13pm)


Chen G.
Bree

Feb 8, 7:48pm

Post #3 of 28 (2822 views)
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But! [In reply to] Can't Post

I think people saw the two-film concept as reasonable, because anyone who have read The Hobbit knows an incredibly packed novel. Well, if two are reasonable, why draw the line on three?

Really, of the setpieces I mentioned, few were the pure invention of Peter Jackson: most of them were from the book. Yes, some of them were embellished, but sometimes embellishing is what is necessary for an adaptation: the action setpiece of Moria are embellished in The Fellowship of the Ring, which is to say nothing of the flight to the ford.

Again, I do believe An Unexpected Journey suffers for it, but the other two I enjoy just about as they are. I would have hated to have seen them chopped up, mixed with bits of An Unexpected Journey and served as two films. If anything, the sluggish pace of An Unexpected Journey is the very reason that The Desolation of Smaug is allowed to flow as well as it does.

So I got two films I love (one of which has to go down as one of my all-time favorites) and one film I like, instead of two films that I would have probably just liked. Seems like a good trade, to me.


(This post was edited by Chen G. on Feb 8, 7:50pm)


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Feb 8, 8:04pm

Post #4 of 28 (2817 views)
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Three films just seems padded (some might say). [In reply to] Can't Post

After the original plan to adapt The Hobbit as a single movie with a follow-up "bridge film" filling in other events, it was Guillermo del Toro that broke the book down into individual sequences and decided that, fleshing them out, the novel would work better as two films. To my mind, that still leaves plenty of room for including the more detailed look at Dol Guldur and the White Council that we see in The Lord of the Rings, a flashback to the Battle of Azanulbizar (Battle of Moria), and for including Legolas who Tolkien had not invented yet when he wrote TH.

I can live with some of Jackson's changes, some I even like. I do not approve of the way in which he added the Ringwraiths with the new element of the tombs in Rhudaur. I don't particularly like the almost-romance between Kili and Tauriel--although I don't have much of an issue with the character of Tauriel herself. I intensely dislike Jackson's casual attitude toward matters of time and distance in the story and I hoped for more of a feeling for the passage of time as the journey proceeds. If it weren't for the chunks of ice floating in the water of Long Lake, I would have had no idea that the Company is arriving in Lake-town in the last weeks of October (instead of on September 22--Bilbo's birthday--as in Tolkien's legendarium). I know of viewers who were not even aware that they had passed the end of summer.

I also understand wanting to ramp up tension and the sense of urgency, as well as making the journey feel less episodic.

"I may be on the side of the angels, but do not think for one second that I am one of them." - Sherlock

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Feb 8, 8:18pm)


Darkstone
Immortal


Feb 8, 9:57pm

Post #5 of 28 (2797 views)
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Originally one film for The Hobbit. [In reply to] Can't Post

A second film was planned to "bridge" the gap between The Hobbit and LOTR, but it was quickly subsumed to serve The Hobbit narrative.

So one film became two, then two films became three.

I suspect if Jackson had had more time The Hobbit would have evolved into a tetralogy.

******************************************
I met a Balrog on the stair.
He had some wings that weren't there.
They weren't there again today.
I wish he would just fly away.





Kilidoescartwheels
Tol Eressea


Feb 9, 9:36pm

Post #6 of 28 (2728 views)
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I'm kind of the opposite [In reply to] Can't Post

I really enjoyed "An Unexpected Journey" specifically for the set-up and the slower pace. I have the most problems with "Battle of 5 Armies" (and truly not a major problem, as I liked it quite well) because of the chaotic storyline. I've said this before - in my opinion, PJ had enough footage for about 2 1/2 films, and I think some stuff was just thrown in there to bulk up the trilogy. Then again, I also think Warner Bros. insists on a 2 1/2 hr runtime, which possibly also forced a 3-film split. (I find that baffling, since FoTR ran 3 hrs in the theater, and NOBODY complained about the runtime!) I mean, I would have probably liked two 2 1/2 hr films well enough, but I shudder to think how much of the stuff I truly loved would have ended up on the floor. No, you won't hear me complaining about 3 Hobbit movies, I've probably watched them all hundreds of times by now. And honestly, having seen 3 movies I just can't imagine a two-movie split - the problem with that kind of retro-thinking is such a concept has already been spoiled in my head. I'd be too busy saying "no, I want to keep 'this' scene or 'that' scene," you know?


To those who didn't care for the trilogy, I don't honestly think they'd have liked a 2-movie split (or even a single movie) any better. PJ has a film style that not everyone cares for. Plus, the inevitable comparisons to the first trilogy will have many people saying "he's ripping himself off" or "it's just not as good as the first one." Well, there's probably some truth to that, but I don't think it's a fair comparison. Of course people will like the first trilogy better - they saw it first, and that's always going to have an impact. IMO, the Hobbit movies are as good (or nearly as good) as the LoTR series; but I suppose that's another discussion.

I'm not scared to be seen, I make no apologies - this is me!

from The Greatest Showman




Chen G.
Bree

Feb 9, 11:11pm

Post #7 of 28 (2717 views)
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Theatrical/Extended [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I really enjoyed "An Unexpected Journey" specifically for the set-up and the slower pace.


That's the funny thing: The Extended Editions are crafted with the understanding that the pacing requirements of the small-screen are different to those of the big screen. But, in the case of An Unexpected Journey, the extended edition features the least meaningful new material. That means that too much was put into the theatrical cut.

If we had a tighter theatrical cut (no Trollshaws, shorter Rivendell), and the Extended Edition kept as it is, I can't help but feel the movie could have been accepted much better.

On the small-screen, for as slow and at times episodic the film is, the quality of the characters, the level of craftmanship and the way its shot - can keep the audience engaged. We just needed a much tighter theatrical cut.


Silmaril
Rohan


Feb 14, 1:28pm

Post #8 of 28 (2568 views)
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In my opinion AUJ is clearly the best of the three... [In reply to] Can't Post

it had much heart and and for the most time the right feeling, which got a bit lost in the other two films.


Chen G.
Bree

Feb 14, 2:44pm

Post #9 of 28 (2559 views)
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It felt more like "The Hobbit", yes [In reply to] Can't Post

But I would argue that the sense of foreboding in the other two films makes it feel like there are bigger stakes, and makes them more compelling.

I can't say that they have no heart, because some of the most moving moments of the trilogy are found here: I love how the Dwarves behold the mountain from across the mists of the long lake. Very touching!


(This post was edited by Chen G. on Feb 14, 2:48pm)


Silmaril
Rohan


Feb 14, 3:23pm

Post #10 of 28 (2548 views)
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I did not say that there are no touching scenes in DOS and BOTFA... [In reply to] Can't Post

in fact almost every scene with Bilbo or Gandalf is amazing, but chapters like the Smaug chase/golden dwarf statue made me so upset that I could not enjoy the movies. All action scenes were too long and over the top for me, a lot of them without any meaning for the story.


Chen G.
Bree

Feb 14, 4:37pm

Post #11 of 28 (2538 views)
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I was thinking more along the lines of Thorin and the Dwarves [In reply to] Can't Post

Most of what I think of in terms of the trilogy relates to Thorin and the Dwarves. Just about every moment that I think of as particularly emotionally resonant has to do with them, and not necessarily Bilbo: Thorin and Balin setting foot inside the mountain again, Dwalin confronting Thorin, Thorin confronting the company before they charge out of the mountain, the final confrontation on Ravenhill, the funeral...

The action finale of The Desolation of Smaug does tie into the story of the Dwarves, I think. If you consider the book, its kinda lame that Thorin not only isn't the one to actually kill Smaug, but doesn't get so much as a chance to confront him. The filmmakers realized this, and manufactured such a confrontation for the film.

That's par for the course as far as an adaptation is concerned: If something in the source material doesn't work, either on its own right or in the context of filming it, you change it. The adaptation has to serve the film over the source material.

I do think that some of the shots of the liquid gold don't look as good as they should, but in terms of meaning to the story - I would argue its very meaningfull.

It also gives some of the individual Dwarves a chance to affect the story: Bombur uses his weight to operate the bellows, Balin mixed flash-flame, Ori and Dori throw them at Smaug, Gloin drops buckets on him, etcetra.


(This post was edited by Chen G. on Feb 14, 4:42pm)


Silmaril
Rohan


Feb 15, 7:50am

Post #12 of 28 (2495 views)
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Smaug destroys whole cities... [In reply to] Can't Post

and cannot kill 13 dwarves and a hobbit!? That's pretty lame...and that statue looks really cheesy in my opinion.


Chen G.
Bree

Feb 15, 9:38am

Post #13 of 28 (2483 views)
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Well, heís a big dragon [In reply to] Can't Post

Itís like in Die Hard where John McClane manages to evade a larger group of adversaries because the building offers him a lot of places to hide. The same is true of the design of Erebor: Smaug is time and again impeded by narrow passageways and bars, and the small size of the Dwarves and Hobbit whom he chases helps explain why they manage to avoid him. Not to mention the fact that there are NOT thirteen of them at this point. Thereís also Thorinís line: ďyou have grown slow and fat, in your dotage.Ē Its also apparent that he likes to toy with his prey.

That said, I would have liked to see that battle end with a little more consequence on the side of the Dwarves: like seeing Gloin badly bruised or something along those lines. I donít think I would go as far as killing another Dwarf that wasnít killed in the source material, though.

Nevertheless, the narrative significance of the sequence is obvious, even if the CG isnít terribly well cleaned-up at times.


(This post was edited by Chen G. on Feb 15, 9:49am)


Silmaril
Rohan


Feb 15, 10:13am

Post #14 of 28 (2477 views)
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I understand your arguments... [In reply to] Can't Post

but for me Smaug loses much of his dangerousness/intelligence by falling into that trap, which he had in the conversation with Bilbo.


(This post was edited by Silmaril on Feb 15, 10:19am)


Chen G.
Bree

Feb 15, 11:18am

Post #15 of 28 (2455 views)
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And I see what you mean [In reply to] Can't Post

Like I said, I think it would have been appropriate for at least one of the Dwarves to be, at the very least, seriously injured in the process.

Nevertheless, what I think helps is that Smaug himself isn't featured that prominently in the sequence: its mostly shots of the Dwarves enacting their scheme.

Peter Jackson pointed to Hannibal Lecter as an inspiration for Smaug's character, and its a comparison that is apt in many respects, not least of which being his screentime: If you breakdown how much screentime Smaug has within the running time of the trilogy, its very short, which keeps us the audience from becoming accustomed to his presence.

Anyhow, Smaug more than recovers his air of menace when he obliterates Laketown, not a few minutes thereafter, so all is well. But if the movies, as they set-up Thorin's animosity for Smaug, would not have given him so much as a shot at killing the dragon, I would have been pissed out of my mind.


(This post was edited by Chen G. on Feb 15, 11:23am)


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Feb 15, 3:01pm

Post #16 of 28 (2431 views)
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I understand. [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
But if the movies, as they set-up Thorin's animosity for Smaug, would not have given him so much as a shot at killing the dragon, I would have been pissed out of my mind.

That works well enough in the book as part of a children's bedtime story; however, it doesn't play as well from the perspective of a broader readership. The only agency at all that the company has in the demise of Smaug is Bilbo inadvertently motivating the dragon to seek the ruin of Lake-town. And then Smaug is slain by a character introduced only moments previous to his arrival at Esgaroth.

"I may be on the side of the angels, but do not think for one second that I am one of them." - Sherlock


Chen G.
Bree

Feb 15, 4:51pm

Post #17 of 28 (2415 views)
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Yep [In reply to] Can't Post

The issue is that, originally, Tolkien had devised a completly different ending that was very much in line with the conventional episodic bedtime story that the rest of the novel amounts to: He would have Bilbo stab Smaug with sting, no Laketowns burnt, no Thorins killed.

So, when he revised the ending, he had to introduce Bard very much as a deus-ex-machina because there's no set-up to his character before the moment where the plot needs him. He is plot contrivnce in the form of a character.

Tolkien's revised ending takes the adventure story and subverts it: Instead of ending with the (literal and proverbial) dragon slain and "everybody lived happily ever after", the aftermath of that event includes a refugee crisis, political intrigue, and muddled morals from main characters - in other words, it turned into a political thriller.

And this, returning to the subject of the split to three films, is the main reason for why The Battle of the Five Armies is its own film: because its very existence as a feature film, opening with the dragon's death, serves to underline the subversive nature of Tolkien's work.


(This post was edited by Chen G. on Feb 15, 4:55pm)


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Feb 15, 5:22pm

Post #18 of 28 (2402 views)
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Spear [In reply to] Can't Post

As I recall from reading The Annotated Hobbit, Bilbo would not have slain Smaug with Sting, but with a spear taken from the dragon's hoard. I do agree with Tolkien's reasons for rejecting that plot development.

To Tolkien's credit, despite how Bard is introduced, he does become more than a deus ex machina as the story builds towards its climax, and he is used well during the siege of Erebor and the Battle of Five Armies.

In the films, I don't believe that Bard needed to be given a family in Lake-town, though that does provide him with even more of a stake in bringing down Smaug. We do know that Bard at some point married and sired a son who grows to succeed him as King of Dale; other children were at least possible. And I completely agree with the decision to bring him into the narrative at an earlier point. I do not think that he needed to be made a bargeman smuggling contraband into Esgaroth, but it works for the story that Peter Jackson wants to tell.

You're right, even if the films stayed closer to The Hobbit, there is a lot that happens after the company escapes from Thranduil's realm: Gandalf and the Council are finishing their business in the south of Mirkwood about the same time that the company arrives in Lake-town; the Necromancer/Sauron withdraws from Dol Guldur back to Mordor; Thorin & Co. rest and recover in Lake-town and continue on to the Lonely Mountain; Smaug is disturbed, attacks Esgaroth and is slain by Bard; the death of Smaug kicks off other events leading to the Siege of Erebor and the Battle of Five Armies; the aftermath of the battle followed by Bilbo and Gandalf's return to Bag End (plus their stay with Beorn for the winter). I can easily see how that became a movie unto itself.

"I may be on the side of the angels, but do not think for one second that I am one of them." - Sherlock

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Feb 15, 5:25pm)


Chen G.
Bree

Feb 15, 5:31pm

Post #19 of 28 (2390 views)
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Bard's family is the representation of Laketown as a whole [In reply to] Can't Post

An audience can't hang onto a populace as a whole, they need individual characters. That's the role of Bard's children.

Philippa Boyens also said that it helps make Bard something other than an Aragorn 2.00, and I can't say I disagree. How many heroes in these kinds of films are family men? Its refreshing!

As for making his a bargman, that serves two narrative purpse: making him be the one to meet the Dwarves and smuggle them into town, and providing tension to his early scenes because in the early scenes he seems like a very questionable fellow, in part because of the nature of his profession.

As for Battle of the Five Armies: its not just what happens in the book, its the idea behind those final chapters: to take this adventure story and turn it on its head. The trilogy underlines this idea by having an entire film play out after the dragon is slain.


(This post was edited by Chen G. on Feb 15, 5:45pm)


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Feb 15, 6:27pm

Post #20 of 28 (2375 views)
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Bard the Bargeman [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
As for making his a bargman, that serves two narrative purpse: making him be the one to meet the Dwarves and smuggle them into town, and providing tension to his early scenes because in the early scenes he seems like a very questionable fellow, in part because of the nature of his profession.


There's no particular reason why the company needed to be smuggled into Lake-town. In the book, they enter quite openly. It was only Jackson's narrative decision that they should be sneaked in and that we should be initially unsure of Bard's intentions that drove that particular plot-point. Of course this also led to Bard having a more complicated character arc than he might otherwise have had.

"I may be on the side of the angels, but do not think for one second that I am one of them." - Sherlock


Chen G.
Bree

Feb 15, 7:26pm

Post #21 of 28 (2365 views)
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It has a narrative purpose - it adds conflict [In reply to] Can't Post

If the Dwarves were welcomed into Laketown, the film would grind to a halt. By making their presence in Laketown a matter of secrecy, you have tension to drive that section of the film.


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Feb 15, 8:01pm

Post #22 of 28 (2363 views)
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Okay. [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm still not convinced that Jackson needed to double down by adding not only the tension of the company having to lay low in Lake-town, but also artificially imposing an imminent deadline of having to reach the Mountain and find the Secret Door in mere days. (actually too few days to realistically even reach the Mountain, if the truth be told). I suspect that one or the other might have been enough.

"I may be on the side of the angels, but do not think for one second that I am one of them." - Sherlock

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Feb 15, 8:02pm)


Chen G.
Bree

Feb 15, 8:07pm

Post #23 of 28 (2355 views)
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Nah [In reply to] Can't Post

One is the overarching tension of the second act, the other is specific to Laketown. Standard screen-writing. Some people find the Laketown scenes too slow as it is.


Laineth
Lorien

Feb 18, 4:58am

Post #24 of 28 (2222 views)
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Yes [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
And this, returning to the subject of the split to three films, is the main reason for why The Battle of the Five Armies is its own film: because its very existence as a feature film, opening with the dragon's death, serves to underline the subversive nature of Tolkien's work.


This is actually talked about extensively in the film appendices (starts at 3:04): https://www.youtube.com/...8wowC2-fI&t=184s


Laineth
Lorien

Feb 18, 5:13am

Post #25 of 28 (2218 views)
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Smaug [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Like I said, I think it would have been appropriate for at least one of the Dwarves to be, at the very least, seriously injured in the process.

Nevertheless, what I think helps is that Smaug himself isn't featured that prominently in the sequence: its mostly shots of the Dwarves enacting their scheme.

Peter Jackson pointed to Hannibal Lecter as an inspiration for Smaug's character, and its a comparison that is apt in many respects, not least of which being his screentime: If you breakdown how much screentime Smaug has within the running time of the trilogy, its very short, which keeps us the audience from becoming accustomed to his presence.

Anyhow, Smaug more than recovers his air of menace when he obliterates Laketown, not a few minutes thereafter, so all is well. But if the movies, as they set-up Thorin's animosity for Smaug, would not have given him so much as a shot at killing the dragon, I would have been pissed out of my mind.


I don't think Smaug is ever dumb; not only is he very angry, he's very big. The dwarves can get in small spots - and Smaug fills one of those spots with his fire. What's so great is that we see beyond any doubt that Thorin has already fallen completely (which has been building since Laketown) - not only is he being reckless and making questionable decisions, he's using the same type of 'weapons' as Smaug - fighting fire with fire with insults, etc. The Company has to save Thorin's butt a few times.

Also, we have a giant gold statue of a gold sick king, his gold sick grandson does a big reveal and stays by it, and the gold sick dragon stares at in enthralled. Clearly, everyone is gold sick. The film does a great job showing that you can't fight fire with fire, or greed with greed.

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