Raise your hand if you’re a Tolkien fan and still like the Hobbit movies!
The first reader review that came up when I checked out the IMDb page about The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug was a 3/10.
The Hobbit Suited Best for Video game Enthusiasts, not Tolkien Fans
This is not a movie for devoted Tolkien fans. Or even for true fans of “The Hobbit.” This is Peter Jackson’s fan-fiction “re-imagining” of Tolkien’s first book. He’s known for taking liberties with the source material. It worked well 90% of the time in the extended editions of the LOTR films. But the reverse is true with this prequel series (so far.) His changes and additions are jarring, annoying, and pointless.”
The next one I read was even harsher: 1/10:
In summary this is not The Hobbit. It is some film that Peter Jackson made up as he went along with what (conservatively) is less than 40% parts of the books story. If you are a fan of Tolkien you will undoubtedly be let down by this excuse of a movie.”
And so on. There are quite few of those and I’m sharing it with you because a Tolkien fan I find them a bit annoying. People make themselves into spokesmen, either of what the author “really” wanted or of the fandom connected to his works. All I want to say to those who speak on my behalf is: “Thank you very much, but I actually like this film quite a bit! It probably won’t end up in my top 10 and it’s not something that I’ll return to over and over again, not like the LOTR movies. But I enjoyed the ride A LOT while it lasted!”
The Tolkien Professor
I’m not the only one. Before making claims about how true Tolkien fans hate Peter Jackson’s adaptations I suggest that you listen to a few episodes of the podcast The Tolkien Professor, where Corey Olsen, who is an English professor with a Ph.D in medieval literature, discusses the movie with his students and fellow scholars.
His counter arguments against this kind of nonsense are eloquent and insightful in a manner that only someone with a big heart for Tolkien in combination with a PhD is capable of.
For instance he talks about one of the most frequent objections, the one about the movies being much darker than the original book and the idea that this somehow is against Tolkien’s intentions and a violation of his work. It turns out that Tolkien actually was dissatisfied about the childish tone in The Hobbit. He even started a project to rewrite it, in a manner more similar to The Lord of the Rings. He abandoned the idea after a while, but it’s wrong to assume that Tolkien would have objected to it being less of an innocent fairy tale and more of a heroic adventure tying into the war story.
Yes, of course there ARE differences between the written work and the film adaptation. But, as the professor says, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. The changes can offer a lot of food for thought and make you look at the book in a new light. Besides (my own conclusion) I think a movie that page by page followed the book probably would be a lot less entertaining and exciting.
The introduction of Tauriel
So what about the most obvious changes that have been made, such as the introduction of a completely new character, the female elf Tauriel? Isn’t that just too much? Not necessarily if you ask me. To be honest, as much as I love those books, female characters was never their strongest feature so to say. The addition of one to cater to a modern audience feels justified. My only complaint is that I wished they had refrained from making Tauriel into a part of a love triangle. They should have left her alone, letting her remain a cool, tough elf who happened to be a woman. Not a love interest.
It’s been said that the film resembles to an amusement park where Bilbo and the Dwarves are tossed into various rides. There is something in this, but it’s not necessarily a negative thing. Who doesn’t want to go for a fun ride once in a while? As fun as it is to see them bouncing down the waterfall or swinging in the melting devices under the mountain, my favourite part is the one where Bilbo confronts Smaug. This is the equivalence of the riddle-game with Gollum in the first movie, a pure joy to watch and listen to.
All in all, I was satisfied. I even thought it was a little bit better than the first movie and I wasn’t quite as bugged by the bright and clear image as I was by the first movie. Either they’ve made it better this time or I’ve started to get used to it.
I’m actually glad they made it into a three part series. Those movies have premiered around my birthday every year and I consider each one of them a great gift to enjoy.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Peter Jackson, 2013) My rating: 4/5