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I won't "review" the content of the movie in any detail, but provide
some thoughts about how this film should be approached. I consider
myself a Tolkienist (in fact I saw this movie on opening night because
I secured a promotion deal with the local cinema: I spent four hours
until midnight writing people's names in Elvish writing!) It is to be
expected that many fans of of the original book will perceive this
movie as a bloated, garbled monster version of the written story they
loved. It is important to realize, before going in, that this is not
simply "the movie of the book". This is Jackson's The Hobbit, not
Tolkien's, and they are best appreciated as independent works. They
represent different media, come from different centuries, and have
partly different target audiences. The children's book was written
before Tolkien had any idea of the grand trilogy to follow; Jackson had
already produced his Lord of the Rings trilogy and somewhat
understandably tries to make the prequels resemble it, in tone and
One could argue that Jackson's Hobbit trilogy, when complete, will set
up the LotR film trilogy far better than Tolkien's simple children's
book sets up the literary LotR. (The change in tone from children's
book to grand epic is VERY pronounced, even grating for those who try
to read The Hobbit after finishing LotR.) Incidentally, Jackson's
prequel trilogy apparently will not spoil the LotR trilogy the way the
Star Wars prequels give away important plot points of the original
movies. When finished, Jackson's six Middle-earth movies can be
profitably watched in sequence of internal chronology.
To be sure, Jackson's Hobbit trilogy is "based on" the 1930s children's
book in the sense that the characters have the same names and visit
much the same places in somewhat the same order (though new characters
and places are also added). Their basic motivations are also the same.
But beyond that, one should not expect much "fidelity". There is hardly
anything that isn't greatly embellished and vastly elaborated, mostly
so as to allow for a FAR darker tone and MUCH more fantasy action
(i.e., fights). The spiders of Mirkwood here approach actual horror, as
compared to their rather more children-friendly literary counterparts
(where we have Bilbo insulting them with silly "Attercop" rhymes).
The wizards' conflict with the Necromancer of Dol Guldur, which in the
book happens entirely "offscreen" and is just briefly alluded to when
Gandalf has returned near the end, is here actually shown. This is
understandable; Gandalf would otherwise be completely absent for much
of this movie. Also, Jackson's audience will already know that this is
the start of the war with Sauron, and the all-important Dark Lord could
not well be ignored. Tolkien in his letters noted how Sauron casts just
"a fleeting shadow" over the pages of The Hobbit; in Jackson's movie
the shadow is darker and deeper.
Entire new subplots are freely created and added to the story. The Elf
Tauriel and her unlikely infatuation with one of the Dwarfs is clearly
meant to add a love story where the book has none, and have at least
ONE strong female character (no concern of Tolkien's when he wrote a
story for children in the 1930s).
The continued survival of ALL the protagonists despite their endless
brushes with death doesn't just strain credibility -- it utterly and
completely banishes and eliminates credibility. We are left with
FANTASY action in the truest sense, to be enjoyed for choreography, not
plausibility. If cats have nine lives, a Jacksonian Dwarf clearly
enjoys a three-digit number of lives.
So, viewed as an independent work, is this a good movie? Technically it
is nothing short of brilliant, full of detail that can only be
appreciated on the big screen. Smaug is, hands down, the best-designed
movie dragon the world has yet seen. If I were a teenager instead of a
ripe old 42, this wealth of fantasy action would probably have exited
me no end. It is nice to see Legolas again, even if he is not in the
book. I liked the sequences with the amorphous Sauron. Poor Evangeline
Lily would however look better without those silly ears, which are
simply too big and look just as fake as they are. Also, I'm not sure
the hinted-at Elf-Dwarf romance adds much to the story. All things
considered, I'll award Jackson's re-imagined "The Hobbit" seven stars.
There were also seven stars in Durin's crown, for those of you who can
understand the literary allusion ...
Tags for The Hobbit The Desolation of Smaug Full Movie
, Ken Stott
, Martin Freeman
, Richard Armitage
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