Wed
Dec 11 2013 11:00am

Spiders, Bear Men, Bowmen, and Crises of Elvish Conscience—What We Might See in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Bard, Legolas, Luke Evans, Orlando Bloom

We don’t have to wait much longer for the next installment of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit. While An Unexpected Journey met with some very mixed reviews from die-hard Tolkien fans, it was a box office hit and pleased a lot of people. If nothing else, the adventure and action sequences of The Desolation of Smaug promise to be even more exciting.

The trailer is setting us up for a film that looks more action-packed and suspenseful than the first. Gone are the scenes of White Council debates, to be replaced by Bilbo sneaking through the spiders’ lair and sucking up to Smaug, and where we had dwarves running from goblins, now we’ll have of battles in which the elves gracefully slaughter them bad guys in droves. Helped along by Legolas’s flashy knife tricks. And what else are we likely to see?

Minor spoilers below for things seen in the Desolation of Smaug trailer and The Hobbit book.

 

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Thranduil, Lee Pace

Thranduil

We’re also going to see a lot more of Lee Pace’s Thranduil, likely with the help of added character development compared to what was offered in the book (back when “the Elvenking” was the only name we got), or even what little we have from Tolkien’s other Middle-earth writing.

What we see in trailer suggests that his involvement with the dwarves will be more complicated than questioning them and throwing them in the dungeon. He appears to be offering the dwarves aid, after which we see them in boats, discussing whether they can trust “him.” This hints at an extra complication in the adventure. Maybe its is to do with Azog and his army? Evangeline Lilly’s voiceover coincides with a lot of footage of elves slaughtering orcs and goblins, and Azog does make an appearance. If this is the case, we can suspect that things will not go well for the wood-elves, leading to Thorin and Company’s imprisonment and daring barrel escape.

In the books, the home of Thranduil and his people is the first stronghold to face the return of Sauron, and by the time Bilbo and the dwarves go stumbling through Mirkwood, the once beautiful forest is overrun by darkness and spiders and the evils of the Necromancer. The elves have retreated to a cave fortress in the northernmost part of Mirkwood, guarded by a deep river and “magic doors.” This is given as one of the reasons for the Elvenking’s suspicion and ill-treatment of the intruders.

But there’s even more worldbuilding that can be explored here. The canonical history of Thranduil and his rule over the wood-elves of Mirkwood is uncertain: The Lord of The Rings appendices seem to imply that Thranduil is the founder of his Kingdom, however, the writings collected in Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth tells us that Oropher—Thranduil’s father—was king before him, and that he was killed in the War of the Last Alliance, the same war in which Isildur cut the ring from Sauron’s finger. The Elves of Greenwood suffered heavy casualties during that battle, and it has been suggested by some that Thranduil held a grudge against Elrond, and against Isildur and his men, for the fact that his people had been so decimated in the battle.

 

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Tauriel, Evangeline Lilly

Mirroring The Two Towers Film

The dialogue we get between Legolas and Tauriel in the trailer suggests that the second installment of The Hobbit may very well mirror the second Lord of the Rings film thematically—particularly in highlighting the choice the elves face in the coming war. Thranduil’s old grudge from the War of the Last Alliance is compounded by the fact that the elves of Mirkwood are so besieged, long before equivalent darkness has come to other parts of Middle-earth. He is in a perfect position, therefore, to be the pessimist of this film, much as Elrond was in The Two Towers.

How interesting is it, then, to see that Tauriel—Jackson’s invented female elf—may be fulfilling the Galadriel role in that same plotline.

We know she is trying to convince Legolas to fight, and likely beyond the protection of their home. Just as Galadriel questioned Elrond, tried to convince him that there was still hope, so Tauriel seems to be addressing Legolas, urging the battle that must be fought. Meanwhile, Thranduil is apparently sulkily telling her not to use her feminine wiles to convince his son to buy into all this heroic save-the-world stuff.

I am all kinds of on board for the suggestion that Legolas later joins the Fellowship due to the wise words of a badass red-haired lady elf, but less excited about a possible romantic interlude between them. Besides the annoying suggestion that the only female character must have a love interest, she will likely be ill-disposed of since she cannot be in Lord of the Rings. Worse, in early interviews about Tauriel, Jackson mentioned a possible romance between her and Kili. There is no evidence of this in the footage we’ve been shown, fortunately—it would be a shame if her decisions we’re implied to be based purely on a romantic attraction. We have already seen Arwen and Eowyn make choices centered around love, and besides that, fans know that Gimli is meant to be the first dwarf to inspire love from elves in many years.

 

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Beorn

Beorn

We will see new faces besides the elves, though. Because we have three movies, Jackson can pack as much canon into the films as he wants and still have room for his own added themes and plots. The character Beorn—a man who can transform into a bear—shelters the dwarves after their rescue by the eagles. Will he kick off the film for us? While I imagine he’ll be fun, Beorn is basically The Hobbit’s Tom Bombadil; completely pointless to the story other than giving Tolkien a chance to play with his knowledge of mythic character tropes and make some heavy-handed suggestions that technology is evil and animals are better than people.

He is important at the end of The Hobbit, however—so we should probably meet him now before he shows up in There and Back Again.

 

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Bilbo, Spiders

Spiders

We’re going to get the Mirkwood spiders, which I have high hopes for, considering the fantastic treatment and animation Shelob got in The Return of the King. In my earlier article here on Tor.com, I mentioned that the spiders adventure was one of the best in the books, and the horror of it plays perfectly to Peter Jackson’s directing strengths.

 

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Bard, Luke Evans

The Master and the Bard

We will also meet the insidious Master of Lake-town, as well as Bard the Bowman! Speaking of Luke Evans, he is listed as playing Bard AND Girion—Bard’s forbear, the last Lord of Dale—which means we’re getting more flashback scenes to Smaug’s arrival.

 

What do you think we will see in this film? More of Team Galadriel-Gandalf being awesome? The wood-elves getting drunk? Two hours of Bilbo and Smaug shooting the shit at Baker Street in Smaug’s cave? Because I would watch that.


Kelsey Ann Barrett is a brooklyn-based reader and writer who prefers her stories epic and her narrative verbose. You can follow her on Twitter and read her fiction in Lightspeed Magazine.

16 comments
Jeff LaSala
1. JLaSala
Well said. I also hope Tauriel isn't a love interest for anyone, that the Elves do get drunk (how would that fit with the extended The Two Towers with Legolas outdrinking Gimli?), and that—I'm worried the answer is no—the spiders can talk. But the Eagles didn't, and they should have. Oh well.

Excited for everything, though!
James Whitehead
2. KatoCrossesTheCourtyard
@1JLaSala, I hope the spiders talk as well. Makes them that much more frightening in my book; 'course giant, hairy spiders trying to eat you is bad enough for you to channel your inner Ron Weasley. ;-)

Hoping Tauriel is written well; her scenes look good in the preview and the backstory that she helps 'nudge' Legolas to go to Elrond in LotR works well. I don't have much of an issue with her addition to the story. Just as I had no problem with the Lothlorien elves showing up at Helm's Deep. I know they don't in the book; it was just done so well.

Also, Beorn was very important to the story. Not only as a safe haven for Thorin & company after fleeing the Misty Mountains, but his is a very timely & much needed arrival to the Battle of Five Armies; not to mention that he finds Bilbo after the battle. He just becomes a very minor character in LotR.

Kato
Chris Chaplain
4. chaplainchris1
I was sad that the LOR film trilogy didn't treat us to awesome scenes of Galadriel "throwing down the walls of Dol Guldur", as told in the Appendices; so we'd better get some White Council vs. Necromancer action here, with Galadriel included in some wall smashing.

Other than that, I'm very *meh* to the notion of Peter Jackson once again rewriting these stories and making them his story instead. I'll enjoy the movie so long as I can convince myself it's happening an alternate universe sort of like that of the Hobbit, but definitively NOT.
Colin R
5. Colin R
I think a dwarf-elf flirtation is pretty funny honestly, bring it on.
Chris Chaplain
6. chaplainchris1
Kato @2 - agreed on the spiders. Re: the Lothlorien elves coming to Helm's Deep - it was lame. "I bring you greeting from Elrond of Rivendell." Uh...how's that, Haldir? You're not from Rivendell, you know. How about Arwen showing up with a force *from* Rivendell, of elves and Dunedain of the North? That's *almost* what happens in the book, just using Arwen instead of her brothers Elladan and Elrohir, and would have been far more fitting than Arwen's mysterious and very annoying illness.
Erik
8. gadget
Sounds like another overblown extravaganza that brings the phrase "gilding the lilly" to new hights. I would like to see what an actually adaptation of 'The Hobbit' would be like. Oh, well, sounds like Martin Freeman and Smaug are quite good.
Bill Stusser
9. billiam
@ 6

That's what was supossed to happen in The Two Towers but Liv Tyler was so unbelievable as a bad ass warrior elf that PJ had to scrap that storyline and come up with something else, ie Haldir showing up. Its too bad that PJ couldn't have figured out that Liv was not up to the part earlier and recast Arwen.

Also, I've got no problems with Tauriel being Legolas's love interest as long as that is not all she is. And from the trailers it looks like there is more to her than simple love interset. Nothing wrong with two characters in a movie falling in love as long as that is not the whole reason for said characters. My guess is that she will end up dying in the battle of five armies in the third film, giving Legolas a reason to still distrust dwarves in TFotR movie.
Lee VanDyke
10. Cloric
I haven't even read the blog entry yet, but all the photo makes me wonder is if Legolas killed Inigo Montoya's father.
Colin R
11. EC Spurlock
@10 Cloric: I see I'm not the only one who looks at Luke Evans and thinks "Hello, my name is..."
Joseph Newton
12. crzydroid
I was pretty against Tauriel from the get-go just because it is a pure Peter Jackson addition, and those have been the worst parts of the four films so far. From seeing the first trailer, I'm pretty onboard with her being a badass, but I agree that I'm scared of the love interest talk. Not that I have anything against love, but it does seem rather forced. Maybe if he were making up 13 new female characters, and ONE of them was a love interest...

As for Luke Evans, from the trailer I actually thought Orlando Bloom had two roles in this movie.
Jeff LaSala
13. JLaSala
I have no issue with Tauriel existing. Female elves exist, and they all have names (even if we don't get to know them). I only hope she doesn't drive the story too much or become more central than a non-Tolkien-invention should. I also hope she's no one's love interest. Female Tolkien characters are too few for that trope. That said, I'm expecting good things, and no director's adaptation can be as good as what each Tolkien book fans would imagine is the perfect one.
Rob Rater
14. Quasarmodo
@12 Yeah, I thought that was Orlando Bloom in the first still, until I noticed Legolas was there too.
chris reiser
15. halibulu
I saw the movie at an early screening on Monday. Here's my VERY UNspoiler quick takes:
I had a blast with the movie, the action was really good, loved pretty much every scene that featured an elf especially, but the ending is jarring. The entire theater was buzzing leading up to end and then just went silent when the movie stopped, until you heard several voices cry out variatons of "wait what?? That's it?? NO! You can't stop there!" and then a slightly confused clapping ensued.

Most purists will probably hate it, because, well, that seems to be the thing that purists do lol.

I enjoyed the addition of Tauriel, but I can totally see where some aspects of her story will bother people.

Thorin still rubs me wrong for some reason

Bilbo was FAAAAAANTASTIC (surprise surprise), and his scenes with Smaug were splendid mix of hilarious, chilling/suspenseful, and visually amazing.

I liked the spiders, they completely creeped/freaked out my girlfriend and several other people in the theater, but I won't say more about how they were to avoid any type of spoilers.

In all, I loved the movie, but man, the ending really does jar and leave you unsettled when you remember you have to wait a year for the third movie.

Oh, and the song that comes on with the closing credits might have been my least favorite to date. Certainly didn't help with that unsettled feeling.
Brent Longstaff
16. Brentus
I am nervous and excited about the spiders. I am arachnophobic, and couldn't play Skyrim without modding it to replace the spiders with bears. However, and probably because of my fear of them, they fascinate me and are one of my favorite parts of the book. The ones in Harry Potter were bad enough, but having seen the trailer in 2D and 3D, I can say that 3D spiders are much scarier. A picture of a spider is bad enough, but when it looks like it's really there it's worse. And then we have 48 fps to make creepy spider legs moving look even more real and less like a movie. It's going to be terrifying, although I supposed I can always close one eye to make them 2D if it gets to be too much. Still, I'm looking forward to the spiders more than anything else in the movie (and I'm really excited about the whole movie).
Dixon Davis
17. KadesSwordElanor
I am running off very little sleep and hopped up on caffeine. I’m feeling very opinionated, which is not usually the case. And excuse me if there is a lack of coherence. I saw Desolation of Smaug at the midnight showing in my hometown of Washington, NC; hence the sleep deprived and caffeine comment. I have to say the movie was good, but upon first view, it is my least favorite of the Middle Earth movies. To give some perspective to those interested, The Two Towers was my favorite with Hobbit 1 my second. I was forced by friends to view Hobbit 1 in 3D, and I am honestly glad I did. I was not looking forward to it but loved it. Huge Tolkein fan, but would not consider myself purist. Had no problem with Elves at Helm’s Deep, but thought it would have made more since with Arwen leading (Balrogs definitely have wings) ;)

I feel PJ did well choosing actresses & actor for LOTR. IMHO he choose those with acting chops, who were well known, but not “big-time, bankable” Hollywood stars (More perspective; I would say Johnny Depp, Denzel, Morgan Freeman, Angelina Jolie “big-time, bankable”). The exception might be Ian Mckellen. He probably should be considered “big-time, bankable”.

Sidebar: Though I love her, I consider Liv Tyler somewhat as miscast. I have not read LOTR in a while, though I have read it tons, but I remember Arwen being tougher. I don’t think Liv had the edge to pull “tough” off. The last few years have seen the Silmarillion on repeat on my I-pod. Aragorn & Arwen remind me of Beren & Luthien. My remembrance of Arwen’s toughness may be colored by Luthien, who I consider one of the toughest in Middle-Earth’s history, male or female (Lay of Beren & Luthien screams to be filmed).

To me, it felt as if all the actors/characters (with 2 exceptions) were simply place holders and the action was the actor/actress. I just don’t feel like this was the case with any of the other movies, though I concede that action obviously played a large part. And I remember Thorin being arrogant & proud in the book & 1st movie, but he seemed to be on another level in DOS. I came away feeling Thorin was a complete D-bag of an in-great. I think this is because there was so much action and so little interaction. Martin Freeman was great again. I had no problem with Tauriel and consider her a “show stealer.” She is somewhat PJ’s Androl for you WOT fans. Evangeline Lilly was amazing (Why couldn’t she be Wonder Woman). I thought the scene with Bilbo & Smaug was very well done. But, as was true with the ruining of Faramir, no homage was given to Bilbo’s biggest battle; his battle with courage, in the tunnel, on the way to confront Smaug. I certainly plan to see DOS again, but if I am being honest, for the first time, I am disappointed.

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