The Hobbit: 5 Lessons From The Desolation Of Smaug That Will Make The Third Film Great
5. The Appendices
Unlike in the first film, the inclusion of material from the appendices works in tandem with the main quest of Bilbo and the Dwarves. Why? Because the structure of the movie is utilized to match Hobbit-proper material with Appendices-material. In the first film, the rhythm of the material was uneven. After a good 45 minutes was spent introducing Bilbo, the dwarves, and their quest, the movie promptly veered off in order to spend an elongated chunk of time with Radagast the Brown and his assortment of pets. There was a similarly huge problem during the first council of Elrond scene, in which Gandalf, Saruman, Elrond and Galadriel have a long discussion about Sauron. While this was Jackson's attempt to set up a sense of brooding doom for the events to come in Lord of the Rings, it just played like a less important version of the same scene from Fellowship of the Ring. But in Desolation of Smaug, the appendices material actually serves to punctuate and build the main story. This is accomplished mainly through improved editing and purposeful cross-cutting. Rather than featuring extremely long appendices sequences, the extra material is sliced up into shorter portions, blended in at times that nicely mirror or contrast with the actions of the main story. For example, when Gandalf meets Radagast in the tomb of the Ringwraith, there's a looming feeling of dread, and the scene arrives as a contrast to the new sense of relief felt as Bilbo and his companions safely arrive at Laketown. The cut to the tomb serves to prevent us from lapsing into any sense of false calm, reminding the audience that no one is safe from the coming reemergence of Mordor. Here the departure from the main story serves as an important contrast, while later on it serves as a mirror image. Bilbo's climactic encounter with Smaug in Erebor is trumped only by Gandalf's encounter with Sauron at Dol Guldur. Here the clumsy puzzle pieces set up in the first Hobbit pay off as the Necromancer reveals himself to be the dark lord of Mordor in the most exciting battle with Sauron since Fellowship's prologue. The scene packs a wallop on its own terms, but is made all the more effective by its pairing with Bilbo's confrontation with Smaug. Both Bilbo and Gandalf separately reach the conclusion of their journeys, while possible doom and destruction is laid out on both counts - and both sequences proceed with palpitating action and suspense. The two scenes serve as an example of fine cross-cutting. Had this fight with Sauron come at a different point, or been drawn out like many of the confrontations in the first film, the scene wouldn't have packed the punch it did. This Sauron scene builds up to the Battle of Five Armies in the third film. That's where the main quest of the Dwarves and the side quests of the appendices will finally intersect, and hopefully give us the most cohesive Hobbit film yet. Judging from the result of Desolation, Jackson has figured out how to utilize his two sources separately, finessing them to match one another. Now all he has to do is bring them together.
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