An Unexpected Desolation

With just a few short weeks to go before the release of the third and final instalment in the Hobbit Film series, I’ve decided this week to spend a few moments considering the previous instalment.

It was my wife’s birthday a few weeks back, giving us an ideal opportunity to pick up the Extended Edition of Desolation of Smaug. For a film that was already excessively long, the very notion of an extended edition was a bit dubious, but I have to say, I was remarkably impressed.

For one thing, despite its great length, the Theatrical cut of Desolation left out several elements from the book – the arrival at Beorn’s house in stages being a notable example. Although the order is slightly reversed, the arrival in dribs and drabs, Gandalf’s flailing and hesitation, and Beorn’s irritation and suspicion are portrayed nicely.

BomburSadly, our copy of the Hobbit (book) is on loan to someone, so I can’t check, but I like to think it’s a direct card-game reference when Gandalf tells Bombur – “you’d best arrive separately, as you count as 2!”

The other area of the film which changes significantly in the first half, is Mirkwood. In the theatrical cut, the wandering through Mirkwood felt a bit rushed, and too brief to properly capture the endless, stifling nature of the forest. This time, there’s a more of a sense of the suffocating atmosphere of the forest, more explanation for how they come to leave the path, and Bombur being rendered unconscious by the enchanted stream.

There are some more minor tweaks: I don’t think the barrel-riding fight scene is longer, but it has more “in-barrel” camera angle stuff, whilst the Master and Alfred get a bit more screen time as well, to develop their rather unpleasant characters, provide some more exposition, and generally plot the downfall of a certain bargeman.

Crazed-CaptivePerhaps the most surprising change, is when Gandalf visits Dol Guldur, and is attacked by the half-mad Thrain, who has been held captive there for many years – its rather reminiscent of the ‘crazed captive’ from the Nightmare version of Escape from Dol Guldur. Picking up on a line inserted in the prologue, it is revealed that Thrain held the last of the 7 dwarven rings, and that Sauron has taken this from his. Despite trying to escape with Gandalf, Thrain is sucked up by the some black smoke from the Necromancer, leaving it ambiguous as to whether we shall see him again.

There are a few missed opportunities – most notably the failure to remove Kili’s “I could have anything down my trousers” line, which is so far from Tolkien in tone and style, as well as basic plot, that it baffles me how it ever made it into the film, but generally I think this is an improvement on what we saw in cinemas last year.

As the blogs have basically been review-only for a little while, I wanted to create a few custom cards based around the film:

Since watching the film for the first time, I’ve felt that there were some opportunities for a new card or two. Fili and Kili, good as they are for the dwarf-swarm deck, always felt like they warranted hero rather than ally status, probably getting more development in the books than any dwarf aside from Thorin and Balin.

I love the scenes where the dwarves are being captured by Thranduil’s guard, and they keep finding endless knives of Fili, which gave me the idea for his hero card:Fili-Front-Face

Kili is somewhat trickier: from the film, it’s hard to do anything that doesn’t theme around Tauriel, but as the Tauriel card I made is entirely unplayable, I didn’t particularly want to go down that path. It seemed simplest to add something along the lines of

“Whilst Kili is in play, you may exhaust a unique Silvan character you control to heal up to 2 points of damage from a unique dwarf character.”Kili-Front-Face

I decided to add the ‘unique’ requirement, to stop people just using Silvan Refugees as cheap healing, although it doesn’t get round Hennamarth Riversong. Given that I also wanted the two brothers to have a certain level of stat synergy, there is a danger of this ability becoming overpowered. However, given that these are new versions of characters already in existence, the lack of access to ally Kili/Fili seems a good drawback to balance them out.

Lastly, I decided to add Thrain’s ring. The seven rings of the dwarves are not as powerful as the Three of the Elves, but should nonetheless be significant artefacts, ideally offering some major choices for the players. Based on the line that the ring needed gold to breed gold, I’ve gone for the following. (Some of you may recognise this as the ring I entered in the competition over at Tales From the Cards and Hall of Beorn).

Thrains-Ring-James P

Used carefully, there’s potential to generate a lot of resources here, but you need to be careful that the dwarvish lust for gold isn’t awakened, causing you all to threat out in a matter of rounds.

Hopefully in a few weeks, I’ll be able to post some thoughts on the final instalment of the Hobbit, maybe even a custom card for a Dwarvish Windlance…

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