The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Raise your hand if you’re a Tolkien fan and still like the Hobbit movies!

with 22 comments

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

Written by Jessica

January 11, 2014 at 1:00 am

22 Responses

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  1. Raising my hand.

    Those True Tolkien Fans create their own definition of a fan. Surprisingly this definition matches exactly themselves. If someone doesn’t match it he may be a fan but not a True Fan. This logical fallacy is known as the True Scotsman argument.

    Changes are not only unavoidable, they are often even needed. E.g. to omit Tom Bombadil was a very good idea. A completely out-of-story character in the book with no major role that only was put into the book because Tolkien couldn’t sell this pet peeve otherwise. Thank you for not even mentioning him in the movies! Even if some True Fans complained. Well, it gives them the chance to distinguish themselves from the only-movie-fans, if they need to…

    The actress playing Tauriel, Evangeline Lilly, originally only accepted the role under the clear condition that there would be no love triangle. This was accepted and there was none – in the beginning. But when the decision to make it into three movies was made some scenes had to be reshot half a year later. And then, suddenly, there was this triangle and she couldn’t back out.

    They should have made more roles female. Even some of the dwarves. Most of the dwarves are superfluous now, they are not complete characters, just there to make it to the “13” argument. And optically it wouldn’t have made any difference. Hm…. maybe some of the dwarves ARE female right now ;-).

    Hauke

    January 11, 2014 at 1:46 am

    • And just today morning I get to read this: http://www.lastwordonnothing.com/2013/12/18/one-weird-old-trick/

      Hauke

      January 11, 2014 at 10:08 am

      • What a wonderful post! I love this approach! Literature isn’t sacret scriptures and if you can make it more enjoyable by such a simple switch, why not? Thanks for sharing. I’ll spread the link.

        Jessica

        January 11, 2014 at 10:18 am

    • Yeah I heard that story too about Evangeline Lilly. It’s really sad that she as overrun. Re Tom Bombadill: I’m the first one to agree that it’s good that he was cut out completely. It’s not that I don’t love that part in the books. I do! It’s a lovely, dreamy world that you enter. But it’s like a side story that easily can be cut out. Sacrifices needed to be made unless they’d make a 7 season TV series out of it.

      Jessica

      January 11, 2014 at 10:20 am

  2. Excellent, I don’t think the movies could ever ruin the books. They give us exceptionally crafted movies for those who want them and get more people reading the books anyway.

    Marc

    January 11, 2014 at 3:15 am

    • Exactly my point. It’s not one thing or the other. It’s perfectly possible to embrace both.

      Jessica

      January 11, 2014 at 10:21 am

  3. I also quite enjoyed the movie. Loved hearing Cumberbatch saying those classic Smaug lines that I remember from the earlier cartoon and imagine were in the book though I don’t remember for sure. I didn’t have a problem with Tauriel, but I did have a problem with rehashing the Mordor blade angle, it didn’t feel like it added to the story, it felt too much like it was there because it was also in Lord of the Rings. Same with the Sauron cameo, but aside from those two minor parts, I liked it better than the first one. I said it before and I stick to it: there’s an excellent 2 hour movie in there, but instead it’s a really good 2 hour however many minutes movie.

    Bubbawheat

    January 11, 2014 at 4:53 am

    • If there was one thing in it I’d complain about it’s the strange meeting that Gandalf arranges up up the mountains. Why does he need to put it in such a dangerous place? It didn’t make sense to me at all.
      But overall I don’t mind the darker parts, connecting it to the other film series.

      Jessica

      January 11, 2014 at 10:23 am

  4. Hand raised. You know what? This film did make my Top 10 much to my surprise. I never expected it to. But when I posted it there sat The Hobbit. Loads of fun.

    keith7198

    January 11, 2014 at 6:56 am

    • It’s lovely when you can surprise yourself as you make your top 10, isn’t it? *shaking hands up in the air*

      Jessica

      January 11, 2014 at 10:23 am

  5. Although I have reservations about Jackson making three three-hour movies, I’m not as troubled by the fact he’s making another trilogy (a three-part series with two-hour films might have suited though). But, I do think it is important to differentiate the films from the book because, importantly, what works in literature doesn’t always work in film – it’s the reason why the best Stephen King novels are made by directors who went with their own vision, often to the annoyance of King himself. So, having not read The Hobbit, Jackson’s own creative flourishes don’t bother me. had I read the book, I think I would be glad he’s used his own discretion to create something that works so well for cinema. I enjoyed part 1 and I’m looking forward to seeing part 2.

    Dan

    January 11, 2014 at 4:14 pm

    • I couldn’t have said it better, though I personally have nothing against the the choice to make three movies.

      Jessica

      January 12, 2014 at 9:43 am

  6. My hand is firmly in the air! I was keen on the lethargic pace of the first film but I still really enjoyed. For part 2, Jackson has cranked the pace up considerably and it works much better. Very exciting stuff and the invention of Tauriel was a good move. It’s good to female a strong female character in middle earth.
    I wasn’t to sure about the decision on a trilogy after seeing the first but after this, I’m now convinced its a good move.

    Mark Walker

    January 11, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    • I’m of the philosophy that the more we get from Middle Earth, the better. It will get very empty though when this series is finished. I can’t see how he could return there again, regardless if there are unused appendixes that could be milked for more. This will be it.

      Jessica

      January 12, 2014 at 9:42 am

  7. Hand raised here as well (although my True Fan status might be put to question). I liked this one a lot better than the first, which we rewatched the night before. And if amsuement park rides are as enterianing as the one in the mountain, I’m all for it 🙂 I also really liked the the introduction of Tauriel but had doubts about the love triangle. I would have liked for her to save Legolas in Water Town instead of tending to her fallen hero.

    Sofia

    January 12, 2014 at 11:46 am

    • Yeah, I have doubt about romance at all in the Hobbit films, love triangle or not. Sometimes and adventure could just be… an adventure. I don’t think people primarily go to see this to get a love story. They’re in it for a ride, so let’s stick to that.

      Jessica

      January 12, 2014 at 12:30 pm

  8. Never read the book so I enjoyed the film a lot, more than the first one. Don’t think you should be comparing books to movies…they are different media that require a different approach.

    Nostra

    January 14, 2014 at 1:29 pm

    • When you’re writing about film I’d almost say it’s an advantage not to have read the book, even though I as a Tolkien fan of course recommend anyone to read this particular one. 🙂

      Jessica

      January 14, 2014 at 9:35 pm

      • Probably won’t do it as I’d rather watch a movie ☺

        Nostra

        January 14, 2014 at 11:10 pm

  9. Yep, right there with you. I think Jackson is doing a bang-up job of expanding the stories, using the background material and adding elements like Tauriel that still fit in really well with the world. As a friend pointed out on a podcast not long ago, these films are really best seen as a full-blown prequel trilogy to LotR rather than an adaptation of the book The Hobbit. Jackson’s goal is clearly to make a new trilogy that fits with the tone and world of his LotR trilogy, and he’s succeeding.

    Jandy

    January 14, 2014 at 8:07 pm

    • That’s a very good way to put it I think. And from what I’ve learned from the Tolkien professor, it’s not really against the intentions of Tolkien.

      Jessica

      January 14, 2014 at 9:29 pm

  10. […] The Hobbit: The desolation of Smaug A little bit better than the first one, partly thanks to Tauriel, badd-ass elf woman. […]


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