The problem of character in The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug

I was in a strange state of excited reluctance when I went to see the second installment of The Hobbit a few weeks ago.

I was excited because, well, I’m a nerd. I love The Lord of the Rings and all things Middle Earth.

I was reluctant because after I saw the trailer I raged about all the non-canon and was thoroughly put-off for several hours. But I came around eventually and decided to go see the film with two good friends of mine. One of these two people is an ardent fan of Orlando Bloom, and so it wasn’t hard to convince her to go.


Official analysis: The plot of the film completely overshadowed any notion of character. This was a timely occurrence because, as a class, we had just decided that the biggest problem with our short stories was plot overshadowing character, turning them into devices of the plot rather than autonomous actors with complex emotions and motivations.

Oddly enough, I thought the most developed character was Tauriel, which made it impossible for me to dislike her.

One question: did Tauriel give up her immortality at the end with her healing magic? My friend seems to think so.

Villains Fall a Bit Flat in Star Trek: Into Darkness


Overall rating: Pretty darn good.

One point of criticism of the film is that the villains were very one-dimensional. They had straight-forward motives making their dialogue and performance fall a bit flat.

With his cowboy gusto and big thumb pointed back at himself, Marcus seemed like a perfect caricature of the corrupt, petulant, war-mongering American rather than a realistic, multifaceted character. The audience fosters no sympathy with him, and so he is distant to us. A stereotypical bad guy with a stereotypical bad guy agenda. Even his problem solving skills were straight-forward: give me what I want or I blow up your ship.

Khan employed some imagination in the problem solving arena, but there was no in-depth, complex psychological manipulation like I’d hoped there would be, maybe turning the crew members of the Enterprise against each other.

I kept waiting for a huge logic battle between Khan and Spock, or a more subtle manipulation technique that would alienate one or more members of the crew. Mostly he acted on the physical plane, using his strength and prowess as a warrior to capture Kirk and briefly hold him hostage to coerce Spock into giving him back his frozen friends. His goal was singular as well: get my people back.

This made the villains one-sided, predictable, and less interesting than I generally hope for. The predictability and lack of depth also leads to a lack of fear. I like my villains to keep me on my toes, it’s part of what makes them so terrifying—you never know what they’re going to do next.

Of course I have other complaints. For instance,  I question the necessity of stripping  a woman down to her underwear for the sole purpose of ogling, and I found the ending rather abrupt. Overall, however, I thoroughly enjoyed the film.

The most complex and engaging character emotionally was Spock. His evolving friendship with Kirk and his relationship with Uhura is well-constructed and beautifully handled. There is a good amount of both humor and explosions. Kirk continues to grow as a captain, acting selflessly to save his crew despite being beat up nearly the entire movie (which I noticed also occurred in the 2009 release.) Nods to the original canon  were well-placed effective. The acting talent is undeniable.

The story is about coming together after a devastating and jarring attack. It’s about facing danger, but realizing that you don’t have to face that danger alone. Everyone has their part, and we must play to our strengths and trust in our friends to pick up the line when we’re confronted with our weaknesses.

What do you think? Let me know if you agree or disagree, or want to bring up something I’ve left out.