Bracing for “The Desolation of Smaug”

It’s that time of year again. I, and many other fans, await not-so-patiently the release of the next Hobbit movie. Depending on your tickets, we have minimally four long days to slog through. So what should we do to prepare?

This summer, a fellow Grey Havener, Katy, posted an insightful piece regarding the nature of the Tolkien fandom: Battle of the Mavens. To divide ourselves so neatly, while expeditious, does a disservice however. Not all of us are pure CM’s or MM’s; most fans of Tolkien’s work (whether as originally presented or through the eyes of the filmmaker) are lodged somewhere between the two extremes, and some even flow back and forth along the scale.

Now, if for some reason you have not picked up on this yet, I am somewhat more of a “Canon Maven.” I hold Tolkien’s original works in the highest esteem, and often find the changes that have been made to the source material cringe-worthy. That being said I still have enjoyed Peter Jackson’s films (though at times it’s a struggle), and fully intend to attempt to do the same for DoS.

The “Movie Maven,” those who love the films, has it easy. They can sit down the next few nights and treat themselves to a full (or extended) theatrical marathon and get hyped up that way.

So for the rest of us, cleaving to the books, between, and somehow appreciative of both the written and filmed, here are some recommendations I will be using to gear up for the film event of the year:

Read, or better yet reread, The Hobbit. Personally, I would not recommend this option for the purely Canon Maven at heart, it will only make it that much more difficult to enjoy the movie. It’s better to let the details be a bit fuzzy on the first viewing, allowing the Canon Maven to easily skate over the minor to moderate changes with ease. This will not ease the burden of mangled cherished scenes, new additions or gross misinterpretations, but it can help. I will save rereading for the second or third viewing, when I will be viewing with a more critical eye.

The one exception I might make to this moratorium would be to read “Inside Information,” particularly the riddle game between Smaug and Bilbo. If the Riddles in the Dark sequence of AUJ is an accurate judge, this scene will be truly stupendous. I for one would like to pick up on all the nuances; as this looks to be the crowning scene of the upcoming film.

Get a better understanding of the meaning of adaptation and interpretation and reset your expectations. This helped me immensely last year to enjoy AUJ. I will be rereading this post by the Tolkienist, and if you struggle to pry off that analytical hat, I recommend you do the same:

Why the film purists and the book purists will never understand each other on how not to appreciate Peter Jackson’s work.

Here are my thoughts on the matter, upon successfully enjoying AUJ:

The Hobbit: AUJ Third Time’s a Charm

Avoid reviews and spoilers. I’ve already broken this suggestion, but I would recommend limiting your exposure to reviews and possible spoilers as much as possible. While general statements to the quality or enjoyment of the film are good and heighten anticipation, anything more leads to speculation and built-in bias. I have enough to be wary about, I don’t need more. That being said, the TORN.net review does a fair job getting me excited, while largely skirting the issues of controversy. The level of divergence is concerning. However, there may be an upside there. Unlike An Unexpected Journey, which at times closely matched my imagination only to veer off course, making for a jarring ride, the scale of this divergence (as described) may make it easier to separate myself from the source material and see this for what it is: a Hobbit inspired film rather than The Hobbit.

Two things I know for sure: Howard Shore’s music will still awe me, and the visuals should stun as well.

So here I am, with many of you, counting down the days; the days to what hopes to be an amazing film. And, without fail, sure to be fodder for future discussion.

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