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The Desolation Of Smaug - An Analysis

Tuesday 10 December 2013, 16:30

Mark Kermode Mark Kermode

The second of the three Hobbit films is released this week. I decided to investigate just how such a short book could take up so much screen time - here are my conclusions.

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    Comment number 61.

    Other people have already noted that there is more in the films than just the book. I would go further and crystallize it thus: the problem with the Hobbit films is the title. If they were called something else, and had the stated aim that they would *include* the events of The Hobbit, it would wipe out this whole question instantly. Having said that, I have no idea what the films *should* be called. No strong candidate title is springing to mind.
    This is not to say that the films don't have problems (so far). They do. Just not this one.

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    Comment number 62.

    I didn't agree with this. Then I went to see the film. There were two utterly unnecessary additions which were not necessary or desirable. Whilst I think three films is fine, they do not need to be three hours plus each.

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    Comment number 63.

    5.08 of my life I'll never get back :-/

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    Comment number 64.

    Hi Mark.

    On the issue of frame rate (I have just listened to your 5 Live podcast review of TH TDOS), I think the negative response to 48fps was entirely predictable.

    I am a photographer/videographer by trade, and I own and operate a Canon 5DmkII, the camera which has democratised the production of cinematic visuals. The camera comes preloaded with a few frame rate options: 24, 25, 30, 50 and 60 fps respectively. I learned early on in testing that, ironically, the lower the frame rate I shot with, the higher the perceived quality of the footage. This phenomenon is entirely psychological I believe. Television cameras shoot at 30fps traditionally, where as film have always been shot at 24 or 25 fps, depending on which side of the Atlantic you reside. This means that we have been trained that less frames = more quality. This being the case I only shoot in 25fps, because I know the effect this has on the way the footage is consumed.

    I understand the arguments about mitigating the short falls of stereoscopy, but I think Peter Jackson and co. have under estimated the power of this psychological phenomenon, to the point where the higher frame rate can even act as one of your 'Brechtian alienation devices' with people detaching from the narrative to whisper to each other and ask why, 'the picture looks weird'.

    In your review of Nebraska, when speaking about the use of Black and White grading and grain over sharp digital footage, you likened it to recording music in a modern studio, and then degrading it on purpose to give it the 'feel' of vinyl. In this case I think film is actually doing this. We have cameras which can shoot at 20, 000 fps, but more is not really 'more'.

    The same is happening in the photography field with programs being released all the time to give your images the colour, tonal depth and even grain of organic 35mm film. There will always be, not only a nostalgia for these 'lower quality signals', but a subconscious link between these signals and the best examples of these mediums we have in our minds.

    I believe higher frame rates may catch on, but not in the near future. Something about the way it conveys 'movement' will always seem too sharp and precise, telling us we watching a low budget production rather than settling in to watch an epic made by the 24fps celluloid behemoths which have produced the cinematic master pieces we grew up with.

    Just my two cents.

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    Comment number 65.

    Hmm, perhaps Peter should re-visit the Lord of the Rings. It's about time we had a foreign language remake of that!

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    Comment number 66.

    If you wanted to be a bit more scientific about this you would still have to compare the Hobbit with the previous 3 lord of the rings instalments. From a "relativistic" point of view i'd expect the Hobbit to be about 1/4 or the time spent on the lord of the rings... If we measure everything by how long it takes to read/narrate the book then all movies would be 8 hours long at least... We could also start painting pictures at 1:1 scale etc...

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    Comment number 67.

    They should have never made it into three movies! The character of Tauriel is the most transparent attempt of filling some of the time the second movie has to occupy and not only makes no sense but is also extremly badly acted!
    But the real problem with the second movie is, that it lacks a proper finale! There are three different conflicts going on in the end (as it is now normal in this kind of epics) and NONE of them goes anywhere! The worst offender is probably the conflict involving Smaug himself, which could have literally been left out without making a difference (dramaticly speaking, I mean... every second with Smaug is actually a joy to watch). This just shows, that the book doesn't have a dramaticly fitting place, where you can finish one movie and start another one.

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    Comment number 68.


    If you cast your mind back to 2012 when the trailer for the first Hobbit film was released, the film series was still a two part series. Then after the trailer was released it was announced the Hobbit would become a trilogy. So much of the story from the first film appeared in the second instalment. For example in the very first trailer we see a shot of Bilbo and the ring after the spider attack in Mirkwood. We also see Gandalf's visit to Dol Guldur, which now appears at the end of a three hour second instalment. Interestingly the scene where Gandalf has a sword fight with a foe have been aren't present in the Desolation of Smaug (despite it been shown in the very first Hobbit trailer last year and in the trailers for the second film this year). The orc leader Azog is shown at the barrel chase in the trailers, however in the film he is summoned back to Dol Guldur.

    Although this would never happen, I would like to see the story as it was originally intended; in two parts.

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    Comment number 69.

    I think people are really missing the point. Just look at the Bond franchise, that stopped having anything to do with the original books ages ago, now it's simply about the characters. For me it's the same with LOTR/The Hobbit, if they want to carry on cracking out a film once a year based on Middle Earth and its inhabitants then you won't get any complaints from me.
    Gary Beaumont


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