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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Discussing Published Hooks & Books » Desolation of Smaug

   
Author Topic: Desolation of Smaug
legolasgalactica
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Went to see it last night. Really enjoyed my time immersed in Middle Earth, but...

Well, without any spoilers, can I just say: wow did they change stuff up! Some of the changes were improvements to Tolkien's tale. However, about 30 minutes seemed totally superfluous or wasted on lavish but pointless deeds. Honestly, I liked it but given the choice over again, I'd wait to watch it until the final instalment comes out. I won't complain too loudly,seeing as I get an extra 3 hours in Middle Earth, but they could/should have cut some of the fat and done the Hobbit in two, not three movies. This one had lots of sidetracks and a frustrating cliffhanger.

[ December 17, 2013, 02:11 AM: Message edited by: legolasgalactica ]

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legolasgalactica
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quote:
Originally posted by legolasgalactica:
Some of the changes were improvements to Tolkien's tale.

To me, at least, some of the added explanations or twists in history and prophecy were helpful in making various aspects more understandable or reasonable.
The love interest was quite a surprise, despite the trailers. I kinda liked it.
Spiders totally creeped me out. And Bilbo has a ridiculous habit of taking off the ring at the most unlikely of times.
All of the events surrounding Beorn, the Elven king, Lake town, and Dolgoldur(SP?) Were shockingly unfamiliar--some completely new or different, others just not how I expected to see it.

Anyway, that's my two cents while trying not to spoil it for everyone who hasn't seen it.

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Robert Nowall
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Was planning on going to see it sometime in January---if it's still around---right now I haven't got the time to watch movies on video. I won't be put off if someone posts spoilers, though. For movies I like to have some idea of what I'm getting into...
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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And yet, Beorn, the Elven King, Laketown and Dol Guldur are all in THE HOBBIT, though Dol Guldur is also in the LOTR appendices from which some of the "new" and added stuff comes.
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Robert Nowall
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Well, in The Lord of the Rings the movie, everyone mostly went where they had gone in the book. There were several scattered exceptions, like draging Frodo and Sam and Gollum to Osgiliath, or having Elrond show up in Rohan to give Anduril to Aragorn, or having The Dead go all the way to Minas Tirith. For the most part, though, the events happened about as they happened.

But, often, the dialog and detail around the events changed drastically. I supposed that The Hobbit Part Two of Three will be much the same---as was Part One.

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Jed Anderson
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I didn't like the Hobbit: Part One. It was too damn long and Jackson threw in stuff that wasn't in the book. I'm hesitant about seeing the second movie because of what I've seen in the trailers. Legolas has no part in the Hobbit. Plain and simple.

I've learned that I'm not a fan of Peter Jackson's movies because he take too long to tell a story. The Hobbit is not a nine hour film. In 1977, a cartoon Hobbit was released and it covered everything that was vital to the story, and did so in only 90 minutes. .

In this guy's view, Peter Jackson should've left The Hobbit alone. Make a movie out of sure, but leave the extra stuff out. If he wanted to cover that stuff, then he should've made a movie about The Silmarillion.

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Merlion-Emrys
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quote:
Originally posted by Jed Anderson:
I didn't like the Hobbit: Part One. It was too damn long and Jackson threw in stuff that wasn't in the book. I'm hesitant about seeing the second movie because of what I've seen in the trailers. Legolas has no part in the Hobbit. Plain and simple.

I've learned that I'm not a fan of Peter Jackson's movies because he take too long to tell a story. The Hobbit is not a nine hour film. In 1977, a cartoon Hobbit was released and it covered everything that was vital to the story, and did so in only 90 minutes. .

In this guy's view, Peter Jackson should've left The Hobbit alone. Make a movie out of sure, but leave the extra stuff out. If he wanted to cover that stuff, then he should've made a movie about The Silmarillion.

Much of the stuff in these Hobbit movies that wasn't technically in the Hobbit isn't from the Silmarillion; the White Council's raid on Dol Guldur took place during the Hobbit and is even eluded to...it's the "pressing business away South" Gandalf tells Bilbo and the dwarves he has when he leaves them at the eaves of Mirkwood.

I personally have no problem with this material being in the movies; in fact it makes me quite happy simply because it means we get to see Gandalf, Galadriel, Elrond etc in action.

I also don't have a problem with some things, most of them minor, that I think are inserted to reconcile the fact that the Hobbit was written before the Lord of the Rings and before certain other aspects of the lore were fully solidified, especially as regards the Ring itself. The most major of these types of things is the presence of Legolas, who within the canon of Tolkien's work would have been living in his father's realm at the time of Bilbo and the dwarves visit there. I guess the argument could be made that he might not have been present right there at that exact time but...
Likewise there are a number of small scenes and moments foreshadowing the nature of the Ring Bilbo finds, which wasn't hinted at in the book but which in overall context fit and make perfect sense.

Now of course, disliking these elements presence in the movie is totally and absolutely your privilege but its inaccurate to indicate that they are foreign to the story of the Hobbit or that they'd belong in a Silmarillion film.
I myself am not a "only what's vital to the story" person; I often enjoy the things that aren't as much or more than the ones that are.

I grew up watching the '77 Rank and Bass animated Hobbit and I agree it is a spectacular telling of the story, and a piece of film that helped shape my personal mental landscape.
And there are things Peter Jackson has thrown into his Tolkien movies that I wholeheartedly dislike, because I view them as both specifically inaccurate to the source material and unfitting to the themes and nature of Tolkien's world, such as the alterations to the confrontation between Gandalf and the Witch-king at the gates of Minas Tirith in the Extended cut of the Return of the King. He must have been snorting Kiwi seeds for a moment there to think the Lord of the Nazgul would under any circumstance be able to break Gandalf's staff.
But overall I think his treatment of the material is a lot better than we could have gotten.

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Crystal Stevens
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My husband and I went to see this movie this afternoon just hours ago, so it's still fairly fresh in my mind. I will admit that it's been decades since I read The Hobbit, and I don't remember everything in the book with crystal clarity.

Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. Everything fit and flowed nicely from what I saw with nothing added that didn't belong. For me, it was much better than the first installment and left me eager for the final installment. Very well done as far as I'm concerned... but I might not feel that way if I dug out my copy of The Hobbit and reread it [Wink] .

Like I said; it's been awhile since I read the book, but I don't remember Gimli from The Lords of the Rings as one of the 13 dwarves in The Hobbit... or am I wrong?

[ December 21, 2013, 05:12 PM: Message edited by: Crystal Stevens ]

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Merlion-Emrys
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quote:
Like I said; it's been awhile since I read the book, but I don't remember Gimli from The Lords of the Rings as one of the 13 dwarves in The Hobbit... or am I wrong?
It's his father, Gloin. Who appears briefly in LOTR during the Council of Elrond. Gimli's name isn't mentioned in the Hobbit book as it is in the movie, but I think timeline wise he probably would have been alive at that time.
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MattLeo
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I saw the second HOBBIT movie last night and on the way out I heard a man tell his companion, "That's got to be the worst movie I've ever seen!" Now I think he must be exaggerating. It certainly is well-made movie with an excellent cast (Martin Freeman, Benedict Cumberbatch AND Stephen Fry), and absolutely top-drawer production values. It is brisk paced and unencumbered by exposition, the bane of many fantasy stories.

The place where it falls down is in the writing.

There's a reason that writers struggle with exposition. Exposition does so many important things in a novel. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but occasionally a caption helps you understand what you're looking at.

One of the advantages of film is that if actors are good we see things intuitively without elaborate exposition. As with the LotR movie THE HOBBIT 2 takes advantage of an excellent cast to bring minor characters to life. Unfortunately the one character the movie fails is Bilbo, and this is entirely the fault of the writers. They've reduced him to almost a secondary character.

THE HOBBIT is a deceptively simple book. Despite its literarily disreputable fantasy genre, THE HOBBIT is a finely crafted novel about Bilbo's personal journey from being a parochial prig to becoming a wise hero. Tolkien plays him off the secondary characters with considerable dexterity, but this sophistication is lost in a movie that's all about impressive but silly action set pieces.

Take Bilbo's interaction with Cumberbatch's motion-captured Smaug. The writers get Smaug's character right, and the movements and presence of the dragon are awe-inspiring. Yet somehow this scene falls short. In the book the threat of the dragon isn't merely physical. Smaug *tempts* Bilbo. That gives the book scene a whiff of horror which is missing from the movie, and this is entirely the fault of the writers, who don't seem to care much about what's going through Bilbo's mind.

The most controversial element in this film is the addition of the non-canonical chracter Tauriel. She is in the movie to provide a corner for a love triangle with Legolas and Kili, of all people. This didn't bother me. Tolkien had a deeply romantic streak in him that didn't make it into print in his lifetime. He was a man with his own personal mythology, and central to that mythology is the love story of the mortal Beren and the elf-maid Luthien. The love of a mortal for elven-kind is one of those crypto-catholic motifs that lurk in the background of Tolkien's works; it's all about the love between the flesh and spirit. The non-canonical scenes between Tauriel and Kili might well be the most Tolkienian aspect of this movie.

The weak leg of the triangle is Legolas, who as conceived of by the writers is little more than a pretty killing machine. There is at once too much of Legolas in this movie, and at the same time not enough. A movie *about* the adventures of Legolas is an intriguing idea. A movie *almost* about Legolas is not.

I think Christopher Orr from The Atlantic nailed this movie in his review when he called it a work of fan-fiction. But I don't take the position that fan fiction is somehow contemptible. Tolkien created a new mythology. For a mythology to live other people must embroider it, even add to it. Orr has it precisely backward. The problem with the movie's addition to Tolkien's canon isn't that this they are fan-fiction, but that they are commerical fan fiction. Tolkien's cultural promise won't be fulfilled until his work is in the public domain, if that ever happens.

THE HOBBIT 2 is not a bad movie, but the writers don't have enough confidence in Bilbo to let him carry the story. THE HOBBIT doesn't get much respect from LORD OF THE RINGS fans, and it is evident in their treatment of the source material that the writers don't love THE HOBBIT the way they adore LORD OF THE RINGS. They're less interested in telling the story of THE HOBBIT than they are extending LORD OF THE RINGS.

That's too bad, because THE HOBBIT is a very good novel in its own right and deserves the same loving treatment.

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Robert Nowall
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Fifty or a hundred years from now, someone will film The Hobbit on its own terms---this version is, after all, the second movie version---and maybe have better luck with it as art. (As a commercial property, it seems to have been a great success.)

But I liked the first movie, and I look forward to catching the second movie when my schedule clears up post-Christmas. I'm even looking forward to the third movie. But I'd like to think I have no illusions about what might have been...

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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by Robert Nowall:

But I liked the first movie, and I look forward to catching the second movie when my schedule clears up post-Christmas. I'm even looking forward to the third movie. But I'd like to think I have no illusions about what might have been...

It's an entertaining movie; I didn't mean to suggest I didn't enjoy it. But it doesn't do justice to the book, not that many movies do.
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legolasgalactica
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It was definitely a fun movie. I would have changed some things, but I liked it. I just wished I wouldn't have watched it until right before the final installment. Unlike the first part, it really left me hanging.

Matleo, I especially agree with your analysis of Bilbo's demoted role: " Tolkien plays him off the secondary characters with considerable dexterity, but this sophistication is lost in a movie that's all about impressive but silly action set pieces.
...
the writers don't have enough confidence in Bilbo to let him carry the story."

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History
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SPOILERS
Just returned from seeing The Desolation of Smaug. I paid extra for the IMAX 3D experience which proved to be worth it since I found the visual elements (the cinematography, special effects, and renderings of the fabulous creatures and settings of the story) the best part of the film.

In regards to the story, I was overall disappointed. I found it the weakest of the five (to date) Peter Jackson Tolkien films; not as much for all the extraneous material padding the story (both that derived from the LOTR Appendicies, and that completely invented by the writing team) but for the short-shifting or abrupt deviation from the story as actually told within The Hobbit. The new material is far more extensive than in any previous film, and overwhelms what little original story remains (which was often distorted).

My favorite moments in the film were the small nostalgic ones: the large bees of Beron's hives; Bilbo climbing above the forest canopy of Mirkwood and feeling the fresh air on his face and seeing the butterlies; Bilbo's first interaction with Smaug; the thrush knocking at the hidden door...hmm, that is about it.

Of the new material, I did like the Tauriel-Fili pre-love story, but could not find a reason (except movie industry requirements) to include it. Legolas was pretty much a bore--but, boy, can he kill orcs.

The Beorn story as told in the novel by Tolkien was not even attempted, nor Bombur's fall into the Enchanted River; nor Bilbo's taunting of the Mirkwood spiders. Everything from the escape from Thranduil's Halls to the invented Dwarven battles with Smaug under the Mountain I found overdone, pandering to an imagined need for constant fighting/action in order to engage today's ADHD movie audience.

Gandalf's venture to Dol Guldur and the threatening hordes of orcs everywhere seemed an over-reaching contrivance to tie the film to the earlier LOTR movie trilogy--a desire, perhaps, to create a single hexalogy. This makes these The Hobbit movies much darker and oppresive in tone than the book and, as has been said, detracts from the original Bilbo-centric There and Back Again story. It is no longer a "Hobbit" story but a "Middle-Earth" ending of an Age history--a LOTR trilogizing of Tolkien's original beloved children's novel.

Part 1 of Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy I found superior to this one. Despite the first film dragging at times, Bilbo's story and character development was much clearer and was central to the film. The extra development of Thorin's tragic yet strong character as, partly, an antagonist to Bilbo was well done and made their reconciliation at the end of that film a satisfying stopping point. None of that is present in this second film. Bilbo undergoes no further character development. He changes not at all. And we have only a hint of Thorin's coming fall under the now suggested arcane sway of the Arkenstone, Peter Jackson's new "One Ring" for this Hobbit film trilogy (and this again deviates from Tolkien, since it was one of the Sauron-corrupted 7 Dwarven Rings of Power that corrupted Thorin's grandfather, not the Arkenstone). This bothers me, because Thorin's fall in the novel is due to a personal failing and not one due to some external power that corrupts him. The failings of normal (not supernatural) greed is a better lesson for the reader and is one in important counterpoint to what occurs in the LOTR with the One Ring.

Anyway, I will second that the 1977 Bass and Rankin animated adaption of the novel, despite its pandering to a juvenile audience, is less pretentious and more faithful to Tolkien. Yet, admittedly, the two adaptions are intended for two very different audiences.

There's my two...or seven...shekels. [Smile]

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

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Robert Nowall
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Spoilers don't bother me...sometimes I'll turn to the last page and see how things worked out...but in the movies, I don't mind having some idea what's going to happen.

In this case, the "some idea" comes from reading the book...even if they've changed things it seems the basics are still there.

*****

Looks like I won't get to seeing it till somewhat later in the New Year...I'd hoped to go Monday, but I'm being dragged in to work on what should be my holiday this week. (I may rant about that later, somewhere else.) I'd go after work, but if go I might just fall asleep in the theater seat.

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mfreivald
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SPOILERS ABOUND

I hated the first one. It was utterly cartoonish from beginning to end. The delightful scene with the trolls in the book was reduced to sophmoric slapstick, and the scene where Bilbo "proves himself" by killing the warg was absolutely ridiculous and cheaply contrived. But the things I hated were endless in the movie. By the end I was on the theater floor in a fetal position with Hot Tamales and Dots clinging to my cheek and my arms sticking to the floor.

An interesting note made by one of my siblings is that CGI has now mostly degenerated from the art of making the unbelievable believable to the art of making action (and other things) completely unbelievable. For example, the bringing alive of the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park was absolutely breathtaking because it made the unbelievable believable to the eyes. But in the Hobbit the plummeting falls and caroms of the characters off of stones and down endless crevices with no injuries and no loss of life was just stupid. It was so overblown it was uninteresting and unbelievable. CGI basically made a live action film into a cartoon. Or more likely, they made a cartoon and used CGI mixed with actors to make it look like live action. Come to think of it, Martin Freeman would make a handsome Yogi Bear.

The second one was better, but it was still mostly a silly cartoon to me. There were so many ham-handedly written scenes when compared to the book that it continuously jolted me out of the narrative. Bilbo's time among the wood elves and their subsequent barrel escape could have been much more interesting, and the one scene I had hope for--the verbal sparring with the spiders--was completely left out and replaced with a poorly done and unconvincing action scene. The scene with Bilbo and the dragon was trite and uninteresting, though I really liked the visuals. The movie was so cartoonish, my sibling and I expected the giant gold dwarfking to become animated and fight the dragon. Yes, it was that bad--yet still so much better than the first.

I was very much taken in by the first LotR movie because it brought a bunch of old friends to life. Jackson did a superb job with it. And in spite of a few unforgivable turns with the Frodo-Samwise-Gollum love triangle nonsense and with the trashing Faramir's nobility and manhood, all in all that trilogy is a great work compared to anything else that comes out of hollywood. But this Hobbit series doesn't bring them alive to me at all. It reduces the Hobbit to some bizarre cross between sword and sorcery video games and Wallace and Gromit claymation.

I need to reread the books just to purge.

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Osiris
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quote:
Originally posted by Jed Anderson:
I've learned that I'm not a fan of Peter Jackson's movies because he take too long to tell a story. The Hobbit is not a nine hour film. In 1977, a cartoon Hobbit was released and it covered everything that was vital to the story, and did so in only 90 minutes.

Let's all be honest, the only reason The Hobbit is being told in three movies is to maximize profits. There is absolutely no reason this couldn't have been a single movie that would've been three times as good as any of the three. And in order to expand a one-movie-book into three, a lot of time is spent on flashy action scenes that dilute rather than enhance the power of the story. Token service was given to the relationship between the ring and Bilbo.

While I enjoyed the movie, I'm tinged with sadness when I watch it because I feel that a book most dear to me (The Hobbit was the first novel I ever read) is being excessively exploited.

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Robert Nowall
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Well, The Hobbit is fundamentally more light-hearted than The Lord of the Rings...
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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by Robert Nowall:
Well, The Hobbit is fundamentally more light-hearted than The Lord of the Rings...

While this is true, it's got surprising depths.

For example, one of the remarkable things about THE HOBBIT is that it doesn't just wrap up after the dragon is killed. Killing the dragon only complicates things. It's like going in and knocking out the Ba'ath party. Everyone's happy that Saddam is gone, but that doesn't mean they waste any time starting up the old Shia/Sunni and Arab/Kurd feuds again. Everyone is glad Smaug is gone, but they immediately prepare to fight each other.

What's more the parties to the post-Smaug debacle are incapable of extricating themselves from the mess. It's a stroke of good fortune (or divine grace) that saves them: the orc attack. This removes Thorin from the picture, who while initially more sympathetic was well on the way to setting himself up as a second Smaug.

This is a very nuanced view of the world for a children's book. The elves, men and dwarves are all basically good people who are momentarily blinded by greed, fear and pride.

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Robert Nowall
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The Lord of the Rings was much the same way...why there was a point to having the story go on past casting the Ring into the Cracks of Doom. Sometimes it takes some thought to understand what a story is about.

I remember seeing the Rankin-Bass Hobbit way back in 1977...seemed problematic in a number of ways (particularly the non-Tolkien songs), but it had its moments. I liked Orson Bean as Bilbo and Brother Theodore as Gollum. As I look at the credits on the Internet Movie Database, I'm intrigued by some of the other vocal casting, something that made no impression on me at the time.

Ever see Return of the Ring, more-or-less the Rankin-Bass sequel to the Ralph Bakshi Lord of the Rings? That was dreadful beyond belief, though it used some of the same vocal talent as their Hobbit.

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Robert Nowall
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Well, I hope to go see it today, January 20th. It's already finished its run in the nearest theater. And the first showing in the further-away theater isn't until four-twenty. But I'm off this morning, so I can rest up, and I figure it's now or never. Wish me luck.
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Robert Nowall
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Quite by chance, after I posted the above, I found a theater just a little further away (I'd never been before, but I knew where it was) was having an eleven-twenty-five showing---much better for my sleeping habits than four-twenty. So I went, I saw, and enjoyed it. (So did about two dozen other people---well-attended for a movie that's starting to drop out of circulation.)

Pretty good. Some of the non-Tolkien elements were disconcerting---but they seemed to work better here than in the first movie, and some of them allowed better development of the characters involved. Tolkien's concerns as articulated in The Lord of the Rings do play a greater part here than I expected. I do regret the absence of certain elements---and one crucial Tolkien plot point has disappeared entirely, making me wonder if it'll be there in the third and (hopefully) final Hobbit.

I enjoyed it, and I look forward to its Blu Ray release so I can enjoy it again at home.

(Also I didn't stay for all the credits, like I usually do---guys my age don't have bladders that can take it, mostly. It was easier in the days when two-plus hour-long movies had intermissions. I'll pick of some of it on the Internet Movie Database, I suppose.)

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