UPDATE on 1/12/17

It had been awhile since I published this and read through the comments. One thing that has since become apparent is that the fault of this largely belongs at the feet of Del Toro and the film studio. In a nutshell, the story was built by Del Toro’s team, and when Jackson jumped in at the last moment, he didn’t get time to adjust anything. I still believe he could have made changes and fixed things, but he was in a very difficult situation.

I’ve also tried to clean this up a bit and shorten it.

Regardless, the films ares still a tragedy. This short 6-minute video explains the issues.

As a lifelong devoted fan of Tolkien’s writings, I was intensely disappointed after viewing “The Hobbit – The Desolation of Smaug.” I felt compelled to blog about it, because I feel like it’s important for one simple reason: to help people understand that the large screen adaptation of Tolkien’s work is not Tolkien’s story.


I’ve provided some background and detail on the list, below. If you don’t care about my reasoning or the issues that I feel are important to the movie’s failure, you can cut to the chase and just read the list at the end.

Your Objections

I understand that a movie based on a book  is an adaptation because cinema is a different medium from the written word. While many would consider me a purist, I’m not such a purist that I can’t understand that changes must be made in order to make a movie watchable and engaging.

No, this is not some throw-a-fit session because the movie doesn’t match the book. It’s all about what is the story, and what isn’t. When I complain about things being in the movie that are not in the book, the problem is that’s it’s a worse than being a departure from the real story – it’s generally an addition/fabrication that makes the story worse, or causes us to lose out on wonderful things that were originally there.

A Quick Note on the LOTR Films


Let’s briefly touch on the Lord of the Rings trilogy movies. I think they are amazing pieces of work. They are stirring on both a visual and emotional level, and on many occasions completely exceeded my expectations. As for the adaptation, I can understand and agree with the omission of Tom Bombadil. The changing of Glorfindel to Arwen during the flight to the fords makes perfect sense – especially to bring a more feminine tone to the movies.

Even the extended scenes with Arwen that were written were written faithfully based on Tolkien’s own work in the appendices – and they fit into the narrative of the LOTR stories as a whole. The story of Arwen and Aragorn is a compelling one, and it reaches back to the story of Beren and Luthien in Tolkien’s historical works. How stirring is the scene with Arwen wearing her funeral garb, mourning over Aragorn’s death?



While I would take issue with a small handful of things in the movies, on balance they are a wonder. It seems the only times there’s a bit of trouble is when Peter Jackson puts his writer hat on.

The Heart of the Matter

We are dealing with the most famous work of high fantasy ever written. It was written by a man whose works in worldbuilding are unparalleled, and by a man who frankly created the genre of high fantasy. If you doubt me in this, you might take a moment to read this commentary by a reader on Reddit.

It will help you appreciate the magnitude of what kind of writer Tolkien was – what kind of scholar he was – and what went into the writing of his works. It’s certainly fair to say that Tolkien is one of the greatest writers of fiction of all time. The Hobbit and LOTR are some of the best selling books EVER. The LOTR has sold over 150 million copies, The Hobbit over 100 million.

So the point becomes this: what is the reason for rewriting a major portion of Tolkien’s story – one of the greatest fantasy stories ever written? And when I’m talking about “rewriting” I mean creating things that are not present in the book, and would have no basis for being there. I’m talking about directly changing events, people, and themes when such changes were not necessary to adapt the book to film. 

The DOS goes far beyond adaptation, and that is the crux of its failure. Why would Jackson and his team think that they could write a better version of The Hobbit? Because it is clear that they cannot.


The Hobbit is not a true Prequel to the LOTR

Many of the film’s problems result from trying to force The Hobbit to be much more of a prequel than it really is. Yes, Bilbo finds the One Ring and escapes Gollum, and yes, Gandalf and the White Council force Sauron out of Dol Guldor. But it must be understood that The Hobbit was written as a children’s book for Tolkien’s own children. When it was complete, he had no original intention of writing LOTR. It was only with the success of The Hobbit and his publisher asking for “more stories about Hobbits” that led to LOTR.

When Tolkien wrote LOTR, it went through many, many revisions and it was not written as a children’s book. Yes, it has hobbits, but it’s much, much more than that. To quote Das_Mine, the author of the essay I linked to above:

“Tolkien believed the world suffered from disenchantment: that along with the modernization of the Industrial and Victorian eras had come a reduced sense of wonder at the world, and a diminished willingness to believe in the fantastic and the terrible. In his essay, On Faery-Stories, he explained his views on faery-stories and the importance of fantasy and mythology. He felt that they had been tamed, that the connotation of “fairy” (the spelling was important to him, as a discriminating philologist) had become tamed, something you would meet in your garden rather than a dark forest, something adorable rather than something which should make you tremble. He felt that such stories described the world on a spiritual plane in a way that mundane stories about the real world could not.”

The LOTR is much more than a children’s story. Much of what transpires in LOTR was developed as he wrote it. In The Hobbit, the ring is little more than a magic ring, but in LOTR, it’s the One Ring. There are many more examples one could give, but to avoid writing a novel here, suffice to say that to try and take The Hobbit and make the darker tone of it match LOTR is to create something that isn’t there.


(Image by Jian Guo)

Tolkien Tells Us What the Story is About

The Hobbit is a tale of adventure, and it is primarily concerned with Bilbo. And we know this because Tolkien tells us. The very subtitle is “or There and Back Again.” It’s about Bilbo’s journey and how it changed him. At the end of only the third paragraph Tolkien tells us:

“He may have lost the neighbors’ respect, but he gained — well you will see whether he gained anything in the end.”

This is the guiding principle that Tolkien sets out at the beginning of the book. It is this principle which is utterly lost in the second movie. The Hobbit is full of wonderful moments of adventure, Bilbo’s self discovery and a sense of longing for home. These things are nowhere to be seen in the movie – even though at times Jackson tries to fabricate them out of his new writings.

My feeling when I left the theater was this: I had seen a movie that contained characters in the book The Hobbit, but the movie I saw was not The Hobbit. It was some other story entirely.

The List


1) The Arkenstone is not a catalyst for a gathering of Dwarven kingdoms to reclaim their home.

The Arkenstone was a treasure very specific to Thorin’s heart, but no more than that. Because of this idea that was written into the screenplay, Bilbo’s whole interaction with the Arkenstone has been changed for the worse – beginning with the nonsensical encounter with Smaug (more on that down the list). This mistake will further come home to roost in the third movie.

The concept creates a host of problems. Never in The Hobbit do we read of a gathering of seven Dwarven kingdoms. (Again, I can only imagine what this means for the third movie.) The idea that Thorin was being hunted by men is flat out ridiculous. (Edit: True, Gandalf had met Thorin previously as outlined in Unfinished Tales.) The reason for Gandalf seeking out Thorin was to somehow get Smaug out of the picture so that Sauron could not use the dragon as a weapon (this is revealed in LOTR.)

He knew Thorin would desire a chance to return to the mountain, and Gandalf had met Thrain in the dungeons of the Necromancer, where Thrain had given him the map and the key to the secret door. While Gandalf felt it was a long shot, it was his only idea for getting rid of the dragon.

In Tolkien’s story, Bilbo finding the Arkenstone and keeping it a secret from Thorin is the catalyst that helps avert a war between the Dwarves, Men and Elves right before the Battle of Five Armies. Thorin saw Bilbo as a traitor for it, and they only reconcile at the end. Another vital part of the story that is lost.


2) The attempts to shoehorn The Hobbit into a strict prequel to LOTR.

There are many instances of this, but I think the worst is when Bilbo takes off the ring when confronting Smaug because he sees the Eye of Sauron! The whole concept of the ring as a part of Sauron is completely absent from The Hobbit. The ring had not “awoken” and began to “seek its master” like Gandalf explains to Frodo in “A Shadow of the Past.” in FOTR. Remember also that in FOTR, Bilbo states that he never felt there was anything wrong with the ring itself, only that there was something wrong with himself. Bilbo never once attributed any evil to the ring.

Yet suddenly, in his early use of the ring, he sees the eye and takes it off in fear. This is also an excellent example of losing out on the wonder and sense of adventure of The Hobbit and replacing it with the darker themes of LOTR.

Just as bad are the many scenes with Gandalf and Radigast in Dol Guldor. Gandalf is taken prisoner?! Such a thing never happened (not until Saruman gets him!) We’re not aware of any armies massing at Dol Guldor ready to strike a moment’s notice. We only know that goblins have been multiplying in the mountains. The White Council (mainly Gandalf) only suspected that something was wrong there, and that this necromancer could be more than he seemed. But there was no battle between Sauron and Gandalf – and there’s really no writing of Tolkien’s from which you could extrapolate such a thing.


The whole idea of a direct confrontation between them is ridiculous, especially because we are told in Tolkien’s writings that at the time, “the Necromancer” (who was Sauron) had not fully gained his powers back yet. Because of this, the White Council was able to drive him out fairly easily – something we learn later was only a feint by Sauron to bide time.


3) Beorn’s character lost all it’s charm, danger and delight.

I was very much looking forward to the scenes with Beorn. In the book, we see Gandalf use his wisdom to trick Beorn into allowing 14 people into his home, when Beorn would prefer to have none! Gandalf tells the exploits of the company as they arrive two by two. The whole scene is funny and interesting, and frankly would have been a nice way to recap the happenings of the first movie.

At night, Beorn checks out the story and finds that it is true, and becomes an ally of the company – especially because he loved the fact that they killed the Great Goblin. It would have been wonderful to see this, instead of the wild, nonsensical chase from the Carrock with the made up “magical barrier” around the house. As for Gandalf breaking into Beorn’s house – it’s again ridiculous. Beorn would never stand for such a thing and Gandalf knew it.

Worse, the Company had just escaped the goblins of the Misty Mountains by flying over the mountains on eagles! There could be nobody chasing them so quickly – and indeed, there wasn’t. Speaking of which…


4) Azog is dead. There are no armies of orcs until the Battle of Five Armies. Also, Azog – DEAD.

The mishandling of Azog is disappointing because Azog has been dead for a long time when this story takes place. While he was a powerful enemy of the Dwarves, he was killed by Dain at the Battle of Azanulbizar (which we see in the beginning of the first movie). There was never a massive army of orcs following the Dwarves and Bilbo.

The company had trouble with the goblins of the Misty Mountains, but once they escaped them (via the eagles), they saw no orcs (or goblins) until the Battle of Five Armies. All this fighting and chasing between Azog and his group could have been left out – there is simply no reason for it. And that would have left plenty of time for the wonderful things that are in the book – like the scene with Beorn, for example.

(As for Bilbo fighting Azog in the first movie with Sting, that’s preposterous – Bilbo would have been killed instantly. )

It was at one of these chase/fight scenes that I realized that Christopher Tolkien’s fears about the movies had come true. He said that they would become simple action/hack and slash movies and destroy his father’s work. In this case, he is exactly right – that is precisely what happened in this movie. And it only gets worse as the movie goes on.


5) Mirkwood Mishandled

The chapters that involve the company’s adventures in Mirkwood are some of the most fun and exciting in all the book, and there are some really great moments there – and all are lost in the movie.

While Gandalf does warn them about the path in the movie – he doesn’t warn them enough, and the company doesn’t really heed him. Yet this is a critical issue in Mirkwood. The forest is so dark that you cannot see your hand in front of your face. To leave the path is to die. Yet the company leaves the path almost immediately, with no real reason.

We lost the fun of Bombur falling into the magic river and falling asleep – making the dwarves carry him! The dwarves using the last of their arrows shooting after the white stag for food. Their despair at the dark and the feeling they would never get out, and again Bilbo’s longing for home (something we never get in the movie.)


When Bilbo climbs the tree and looks out, he cannot see the end of the forest (Causing him to despair). He does not see the mountain! (That first glimpse comes later, and is another important moment). And when he goes down to the grumbling dwarves, they are in even further despair – they have run out of food.

When they finally leave the path and meet the spiders, it is a momentous moment in the book for Bilbo. Because it is there he finds his real courage, it is there he leads the dwarves and they begin to change their mind about him. We lost all the fun of Bilbo singing insulting rhymes to the spiders to enrage them, and then their desperate fight to escape the spiders for good – and Bilbo makes it all happen. And he makes it happen using the ring! He even tells them he will disappear!

And it was leaving the path and stumbling upon the elves making merry that led to their capture. That is how Thorin gets separated from the company. All these wonderful moments that could have been in the movie were replaced by fabrications – changing the story and making it worse, not better. Taking out the special and putting in the mundane.


6) The Wood Elves, Legolas and Tauriel, Bard

I actually had hopes that Tauriel might be a good character. I understood the reason to try and add her, but what she ended up being is a disaster. While it might have been fun to see Legolas again (and it even made sense) seeing him as an invincible war machine was disappointing. Action for action’s sake, I guess. When he stood on the heads of the dwarves in the river and continued killing orcs, I could only shake my head.

While in captivity, Thorin is losing heart. He’s about to give in to the Elven King’s demands and tell him about the quest, when Bilbo finds out where Thorin is being kept. Keep in mind Bilbo kept his ring on nearly the whole time he was with the Elves. He did not fear his ring. This is one of those moments when Thorin takes heart and his esteem for Bilbo grows – once again lost in the movie.

But the worst is the insinuated romance between Tauriel and Kili. This is about as unfortunate as it gets. Was Jackson that desperate for a romantic story? There isn’t an Arwen/Aragorn story in The Hobbit, and furthermore, there is no need for one.

As for the idea that a romance would ever blossom between an elf and a dwarf, it’s frankly a joke. Any Tolkien fan can tell you this. Many times in the history of Middle Earth, the elves and dwarves were bitter enemies. Rarely were they on good terms (the friendship of Legolas and Gimli was a rare, rare thing – part of what made it so special!) In addition, they are physically very different, and they see the world from two completely opposite sides of view.

It was at that point in the movie that I knew it had all gone astray.


The escape in the barrels was laughable. I can grant that the dwarves need to be seen instead of hidden in the barrels since it’s a movie, but the crazy battle with the orcs was so unfortunate, and so fake. There was no “Morgul arrow” shot into Kili’s leg. One wonders how there could even be a morgul arrow when the Morgul vale at this time was abandoned – and far, far away from Mirkwood. If such a thing existed (which is never mentioned by Tolkien) it would hardly be used by a common orc of the Misty Mountains. The Morgul blade that Frodo was stabbed with was wielded by the Morgul King himself.

The whole scene looked like a video game. I think the worst part was when Bombur did his spinning dance, destroyed his barrel, then leaped back into a barrel in the river – even though there were no extra barrels. What?!

What we really lost was Bilbo’s first sight of the Mountain as the barrels came around a bend. It was a time where Bilbo wasn’t sure if the dwarves were even alive or what would happen to them, and the mountain looked menacing – another moment lost.

7) Bard the Bowman and Lake Town


So much that went on in Lake Town was boring and unnecessary, and this part of the movie dragged on, and was filled with eye-rolling moments. Yes, Bard is a descendant of Girion of Dale. Because of that, he was no common river smuggler. The idea of the dwarves paying money for passage cheapens their journey. Bard was a doomsayer, and maybe a bit crabby, but he was an honorable man – a captain of the guard. An expert bowman.

The black arrow was an actual arrow that had been handed down to him for generations – not some huge metal monstrosity that the dwarves built. All the nonsense with his kids and running around the town and getting in prison – none of those things happened, and none of them were necessary.

What was important was that Bard was smart enough to realize that the dwarves were probably stirring up trouble for Lake Town. And it was Bard that got the people to fight when Smaug finally does come. Bard is a noble man that eventually kills Smaug, and later becomes Lord of Dale. Not some common thief.


8) Characters out of Character

I’ve already mentioned the wounding of Kili (which never happens). But suddenly dwarves know what Athelas is! An herb that only elves and the Dunedain (the Rangers) truly knew about (which is where Aragorn learned of it). Yet somehow they find it at Lake Town! Again we get Sam’s line “it’s a weed.” Just to have the nonsense with Tauriel healing Kili. The whole thing with Kili seeing her glowing in a nimbus of white light was laughable.

Thorin would never have left his kin, Kili, behind, or any of the company of dwarves for that matter. Yet we are sold a bill of goods that somehow Thorin is being affected by a treasure horde he hasn’t even seen yet! It’s like they want Thorin to have his own version of the evil of the One Ring. Thorin has enough problems in the book without creating new ones for him. While one could stretch and believe it would be possible for Thorin to act that way if he held one of the seven dwarven rings, Thorin has no such ring.

Meanwhile, Thorin has become the star of the movie. A surly, unlikeable character has been brought to the forefront. And Bilbo’s figurative and literal journey has been utterly lost.


9) The Arrival at the Mountain

The dwarves arrival at the Mountain is such an emotional moment in Tolkien’s story, for many, many reasons. They had gone through so much to get there, and yet there was still so much more to do, including finding the secret door.

Yet what do we get? Instead of their search, their fear at being so close to Smaug (things we could have had instead of “Bard the Smuggler”) we have them arrive exactly on Durin’s day (what luck!) Worse, they find the door right away because Bilbo sees something in plain sight! The dwarves make a big deal out of his “wonderful eyesight” or whatever, meanwhile, they all see it immediately too!

We lose Bilbo showing his usefulness by finding the doorstep (and that connection with what he said about sitting on the doorstep at the start of the book). We lose all the tension with them trying to get in the secret door when Smaug flies out. They are nearly killed on the doorstep!

Worse, suddenly, the dwarves just give up right away after spending all that time getting there when the keyhole does not appear! They begin leaving – after all that they had been through?! Not just the adventures, but years of toiling in the mines as common workers, struggling to live for this moment. Nah, we give up.

Meanwhile, it’s not moonlight that reveals the keyhole, it’s – as the secret riddle stated – the last LIGHT of Durin’s day. These scenes were some of the worst in the movie, and all the more so because so much of the original story is so wonderful – so many meaningful moments that we never get to see.


10) The Encounter With Smaug

What could have been the best, was the worst. The encounter between Bilbo and Smaug was worse than terrible, and again I would say that here, all of Christopher Tolkien’s fears were realized.

Bilbo is never is visible before the dragon – he would never take the chance of allowing a dragon to look directly at him! And he never senses the eye of Sauron, as I talked about earlier. There is never any connection between Bilbo and Sauron in The Hobbit, no matter how much Jackson wants one. (And yes, you could have made a compelling scene with Bilbo invisible).

Smaug could have eaten Bilbo 20 times over – if not more. Bilbo meeting Smaug face to face and running from him? In a pile of coins? Yet somehow, like a magical fairy, Bilbo evades a raging, powerful dragon. It’s sad, it’s ludicrous, it takes you out of the story completely.


We lost all the fun with Bilbo playing to Smaug’s ego and tricking him to show him weakness. We lost him taking the cup back and realizing the desperate nature of the quest. Of Smaug implanting doubt into Bilbo’s mind about the dwarves. We lost Bilbo’s finding of the Arkenstone and keeping it before he fully realized how much Thorin desired it.

The whole battle with the dragon was awful – the forges heating up so fast (I would imagine it would take a whole day – even if they did work) the running around impossibly like a superhero in a video game. The things that the dwarves and Bilbo did during those scenes were laughable. And there was never any fear they would be caught. Never any real trepidation about Smaug. Smaug became nothing more than a neat CGI creation, and not the devious, terrible creature that he was.

In the end, we almost have the dwarves victorious, but this is nothing like they were feeling. They were exploring an empty cavern, wondering where the dread Smaug could be (fearing he might arrive at any moment at first) and then preparing for his return.

These are the key reasons for my disappointment. Others have listed some of the same, and many other reasons, too. I guess I’m really sad for people who don’t know the story of The Hobbit – people who will think that this movie adaptation is the real story. Real Tolkien fans know better. But the sad truth is that a new generation will be introduced to a diluted and twisted version of one of the greatest fantasy stories ever written.

I have little to no hope for the final film, and I expect the story to stray even further from the original, becoming less and less of what it was.


If the movie was your introduction to the story, I urge you to pick up a copy of the book and sit down and read it for yourself. You will not be disappointed – on the contrary, you will be absolutely delighted!

59 thoughts on “10 Reasons why The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is NOT Tolkien’s Story

  1. I remember getting excited when it was rumored Guillermo del Toro was going to direct The Hobbit, and frankly I see it as an opportunity lost — this franchise (yes, that’s what it is now, unfortunately) needed new eyes, a fresh perspective. This is Peter Jackson’s The Phantom Menace, and it’s a coin toss on whether I wander into the theater this winter to watch the final installment. I could go on, but you’re already done a capital job, it’s Friday and my belly is full of pizza and brownies…

    1. Guillermo del Toro was the one that actually made all of these decisions. Peter Jackson had no say on pre-production, writing. There was ZERO storyboarding and only a year of pre-prod unlike LOTR which was 3 years of pre-prod.

      Del Toro jumped ship a week before production started and they plopped PJ in place who then had to literally figure out scenes an hour before filming them.
      Considering this movie is a Warner Bros rape of the LOTR/Hobbit IP that they are now famous for, (gambling machines, consolidating assets and then stripping them of revenue, creating “fluff” mobile games) it’s a wonder that there is any decent scenes to it and that this movie managed to survive production.

      1. Maybe it’s fair to lay this at del Toro’s feet then. I had heard rumors of this. But there is also a video somewhere of Jackson talking about how he prepared for the movies wrong and regretted it. Maybe he was talking about del Toro.

  2. to be honest this is about the same as the adaptation of stephen kings “the lawnmower man” but without the ability of the writer to sue for having his name attached to it.

  3. Awesome post, Tom.

    Never read the Hobbit and (indeed) thought the story was as close as possible (for a movie).

    But reading your list, I’m surprised that some of the core stuff of the movie isn’t even in the books. It’s really baffling.
    And yes, I’m now thinking about picking up the book and read it.

  4. Yes. Yes. A thousand times, yes! Like you, I was saddened and horrified by the changes in DoS and will probably be waiting till the third movie ends up on video to see it. It was like seeing PJ given the key to Tolkien’s world, and him just tossing it away. I really hope people read the book.

  5. Thank you! I actually didn’t watch the second installment, because I was so disappointed with the first. I almost didn’t watch the first because of the train wreck Peter Jackson created with LOTR. I completely understand the screenplay can’t follow the books exactly…but when you add/change events or personalities of the characters one shouldn’t even use the franchise name.

  6. This is an excellent review! Almost exactly my thinking on the movie. PJ kept some good stuff, but it’s lost in the fabrications and corruptions that engulf it. Legolas makes sense, but his impossible stunts just don’t work–they were barely acceptable in passing at Pellenor Fields but now they go on and on. And I actually like the Tauriel character, but a romance between her and a dwarf? NO NO NO. The whole frustrated feelings thing between her and Legolas was great, and could have been left at that.

    These Hobbit movies are so good in some ways, but so wrong in others, that I’ve gone and made myself Purist edits of them. My purist edit for DoS looks to be about half the length of the original–go figure!

  7. You are the first reviewer who has put into words exactly what I thought about the movie…and I’m not a Hobbit fanboy. I read it once…and it was a wonderful book. None of it was translated into this movie and I never in a million years thought that a little after half-way through it, I would be rooting for DOS to just end. The Hobbit trilogy is nothing like what Jackson accomplished with the LOTR trilogy.

    1. Thanks for weighing in, Michael. As you say, I don’t think you need to be a hard core fan to see the obvious. Thanks for reading!

  8. I just watched DoS on DVD. You’re article summed up my feelings actually. Third movie will also be borrowed from the local library’s DVD collection. If, somewhere on the cutting room floor, there is enough material to make “The Hobbit: un-extended Tolkien cut” that I would actually pay to see.

  9. As a preface, this is a longish rant written because I just finished watching DoS and feel the need to put down my thoughts:

    So over the past week I sat down and read through The Hobbit all the way during my free time. Several instances in the past I had tried to make it through the book and failed, but for some reason I was hooked on this occasion and absolutely loved it.

    Then I finally decided to sit down and watch The Hobbit movies with the book fresh on my mind, and I was stunned at the changes. Your post sums up my feelings completely. AUJ’s changes didn’t quite bother me so much. I didn’t like that unneeded importance and wisdom was given to Thorin’s character (I enjoyed that he was originally as bumbling as the other dwarfs), and I didn’t like that Bilbo boasted less and whined more about his situation than he did in the book, but I understood why the changes were made for mainstream audience’s sake. Okay, fine.

    However, setting aside whether or not I enjoyed DoS (which I didn’t), that movie was simply *not* the book I had just finished reading a day ago. And it wasn’t necessarily the additional characters or scenes added, it was the thematic elements and story alterations that were created out of thin air and which pushed original material out. Thorin can’t just have an inherently flawed character due to his dwarfish nature; no, he has to be corrupted by a jewel so audiences can sympathize with him more? The Dragon and every other bad guy need to randomly prattle on about the One Ring because the audience needs to be reminded its ominous future? Bombur and the rest of the Dwarfs get shafted development so Fili can have a love interest? This in place of the imaginative parts of the book, like Bilbo wide-awake in the darkness of Mirkwood observing glowing eyes from what must be giant insects hidden from view. I could go on and on, but your post did such a well job covering the major points already.

    DoS is just a disappointment to me. None of the original humor survived. The characters are name-only renditions of their book counterparts. Around the point the dwarfs jumped in to help Bilbo fight Smaug, it suddenly occurred to me that I was watching something no different than any other D&D story created by an amateur story-maker, and at that moment I became overwhelmingly bored with the movie’s set action piece. DoS is basically fanfiction. The story I wanted to see wasn’t there, and I have zero urge to watch the final movie.

    1. Daniel, I also have zero urge to watch the movie. I know my daughters will want to go, so I may get stuck going. But it won’t be on opening night like I would have normally done, and I’ll probably be back here writing another post about how awful it was. The trailer looks worse than I even feared it would be.

    2. Hi Daniel, I agree–these movies are telling a different story than Tolkien’s “Hobbit”. I did enjoy them ok, myself, but I enjoyed them a lot better after I went through and made Purist Mods of them. I cut out the stuff that didn’t belong (more than half of the second movie!), and rearranged a few other things to make them work better (such as my improved troll scene, which I’ve also uploaded to YouTube). If you’re interested in seeing my purist edits, shoot me a note at lordpeyre at yahoo.com.

    1. It’s actually a quite fun representation. I love the animated version. It doesn’t pretend to be something it isn’t.

  10. I liked the movie but i agree with some points made on the list. Particularly with Beorn and How the dwarves gave up so easily after the sun wen’t out.

  11. I agree with you. I decided after “An Unexpected Journey” that I was going to watch these films with “movie-eyes” and not “book-eyes”. The movies themselves are not bad at all (other than the cartoony action scenes) but it’s true they don’t care much for the book, atleast not as much as in Lord of the Rings. So why watch them and feel disappointed? I am just happy we get to see another adventure set in middle-earth on the big screen, but it’s sad to know what could have been had they done it differently.

  12. Thank you for putting into words what have been feeling about these terrible movies. Like you I had a lot of respect for Jackson’s efforts with the LOTR movies and there fore I was really excited when I learned they were working on these films. I’m so grateful that I read this book before the movie came out. I’ll never forget the first time I pick it up and experienced all the wonderful moments that you’ve outlined above. I think the most valuable thing that is lost in these movies is the intimate feeling of being on this journey with Bilbo and being introduced to the hypnotic effect of Tolkien’s work. I feel like the movies are a just an advertisement for the next bloody video game rather than the wonderful adventure it really is. Its ironic that Jackson seems to have succumbed to the temptation of the ring of power and allowed it to corrupt his original purpose. In the special features section of “The Fellowship of The Ring” movie Jackson states that his goal was to keep his own stuff out of the movies and just let the stories be true to Tolkien’s vision. He has clearly lost his way and caved to financial interests. What a bloody shame!

  13. I agree with a lot of what’s here. The additions are mostly unnecessary and really drag down the films. Other complaints here are rather picky and failing to see what the changes made did for the film. For example, I don’t think they messed up Mirkwood. Sure, the book version of Mirkwood had its charms and I’m sure it would have been great on-screen. But I think what they did in the film works very well. The hallucinating and such was done well, I love the moment when Bilbo looks out over the forest and sees the Mountain. I suppose you’re right that it might have been more effective to wait for the reveal of the mountain, but I don’t think that’s hugely important. And the spiders were very well done. I thought most of the Mirkwood sequence worked very well. It was visually interesting, and that’s better for film than a scene of them stumbling in the dark. That’s the kind of thing that works fine in a book, but not so much on-screen. Something different was in order.

    The other thing I think people complain about too much is Bilbo taking off the Ring in front of Smaug. I just don’t think the scene would have worked as well on screen if he stayed invisible. I like the idea that Smaug seems fascinated by Bilbo, and this is why he doesn’t care to kill him, at least not right away. He knows he can outwit anybody, he doesn’t feel threatened mentally or physically, so it makes sense that he might not kill someone if he doesn’t feel the need or desire to. The book version could have worked too in different ways, but I don’t think that automatically makes anything different bad. The conversation scene between Bilbo and Smaug IS the best part of the movie.
    I agree that it wasn’t necessary for Bilbo to be seeing the Eye of Sauron. I would have taken that out and given Bilbo a different reason to take the Ring off. It probably could have just fallen off when he tripped or something, suggesting that maybe it wanted Smaug to take it.

    But yeah, most of these criticisms are pretty understandable. This didn’t need to be a trilogy. I was iffy when it was gonna be 2 films, but I thought that would work fairly well. There IS more material in the book than a lot of people may think, and squeezing it all into one film is quite the challenge. I’ve actually cut the first two films together into a single film, and it’s already 2 hours and 37 minutes at a pretty brisk pace. Adding in the rest of the book material from the 3rd film is probably gonna put it over 3 and a half hours. Maybe 4. So they’d have to cut some stuff out to get it to a reasonable length.

    And the interesting thing I’ve noticed in cutting it down to one film that sticks as close to the book as possible is that Jackson actually made a pretty damn good movie. He just clouded it with a lot of extra junk that didn’t need to be there. Once you strip it down, you can see that Jackson’s filmmaking is still really great here… it’s just that his editing/pacing and sense of excess has gotten out of control. He needs a producer that can keep him under control and tell him no. I think that’s likely what Barry Osbourne did for him on Lord of the Rings, and that’s why Lord of the Rings was relatively refined. If you watch the Appendices, you can see that Osbourne seemed to be the responsible one who urged for the kind of refinery that “makes the film really sail”, as he put it. It’s too bad he didn’t come back for The Hobbit. He may have been able to be the voice of reason against some of the more unwise decisions. He was to Jackson what Gary Kurtz was to Lucas. This shows the difference that a good producer can make.

    I think in the end, like with any book adaptation, you can’t go into it expecting faithfulness and getting disappointed any time something is different. You have to go in expecting a different version of the story for the screen, and then celebrating any faithfulness. Especially when it comes to details and little moments… You can’t expect the filmmakers to know every little thing that charmed you about the book. For The Hobbit, I can understand the frustration with the big differences, like the feeling the films give of just being installments in the “Lord of the Rings franchise”. That whole approach is wrong. We didn’t need extended Legolas scenes, we didn’t need a love-story and unnecessary conflict in Laketown, we didn’t need a ridiculous extended chase and fight scene down the river in the barrels, and we didn’t need to have the dwarves running around and fighting Smaug… That’s all terrible, and it’s not just that they are unnecessary and different from the book… it’s because they are bad AS CINEMATIC SCENES. They’re just goofy or cheesy or far too long and ridiculous. But I can never abide by nit-picking scenes apart and saying that they’re automatically worse just because they didn’t have this or that from the books… I think it’s fine (and sometimes necessary) for them to do something a little different with the scenes. If it makes for a good cinematic scene, then I’ll enjoy it. There are really good parts to these movies and I always hate seeing good filmmaking get unfairly judged just because “That wasn’t in the book!”.

  14. OMG – Finally!! I cannot tell you how refreshing it is to see this blog, instead of the hundreds of supporters of this wretched mess, which I actually call the “Desolation of Tolkien”. I am a huge fan, have a tattoo in Tengwar script, have organized Middle Earth festivals, and went to the film dressed as Arwen – and I almost walked out after the first 30 minutes, when they blew though Beorn & Mirkwood into that obnoxious only-for-the-purpose-of-3D river scene! I stayed through the movie because I desperately loved LoTR & Peter Jackson, and was SURE it would get better. I was so wrong. It got even worse than I ever expected, culminating in that unfathomably blasphemous dwarf/Smaug battle with the giant gold dwarf -WTF!!!@!@! I was so angry I felt like I had been personally betrayed by Peter Jackson. Like you, I see the need for screen adaptations, and was fine with the changes in LoTR, and even in the first Hobbit movie, but this was so far beyond. A year later I am still angered by it, and am dreading the last movie (which I will see, just because I am a tad OCD and have to see all 3 on the big screen, but I will most likely go dressed in mourning).

    I have 2 other things that I would add: 1. Mean, beefcake Legolas with super-freaky eyes. Yes, Orlando Bloom is older, but he could still have been lithe and lean, like he was in LoTR – especially since he would have been younger. And he’s not that much of a jerk when we first see him in Fellowship – sure, he hates dwarves, but you see that there is a reasonable person (elf) there who is capable of acceptance. Not what you see in these films. And yes, I realize that the contacts he wore in the other films killed his eyes so he didn’t want to wear them again, but I really think technology is good enough that they could have toned the blue down a few notches so they weren’t practically glowing! 2. The overall darkness (visually) of the film, which seems to be the new norm and I personally can’t stand. Not every movie needs to have that chronic overcast to make it “gritty” or whatever they are trying to do. Especially since The Hobbit is lighter in nature than the LoTR, so I expected the movie to be visually lighter and I guess “prettier” than it was. All in all, I petty much hated everything about the movie.

    Thank you for writing this, for those of us who watched the movie with our hearts rather than our need for more dark, pointless action movies.

  15. I agree completely with you!

    Though, I do believe that Gandalf and Thorin meet at a bar, perhaps in Bree. It is detailed in The Unfinished Tales . . .

  16. You preface this blog with a comment to understand the difference between a book and a movie, then you list all the drawn-out talkie parts of the book as vital and missing, but condemn the action notes as unnecessary.

    Sorry to inform but this is mass-media Hollywood-funded broad-appeal fare. I don’t know what the Tolkien purists expect, something like a word-for-word re-reading of The Hobbit.

    How can you truly expect a book written for children, to be turned into a film for adults, without making some changes?

    Go ahead and watch the Rankin/Bass cartoon, but don’t expect anyone under 30 to sit through it with you.

    DoS is not the world’s greatest movie ever, but some 1 billion dollars in sales tells us that the nit-pickers are vastly outweighed by the fans.

    1. I think you missed my point. Regardless of the adaptation, the spirit of the original has been sadly lost. The target audience is irrelevant.

  17. Some errors in the post:
    Dain is the one who kills Azog, not his father Nain. (Nain got killed by Azog).
    Gandalf actually was locked up in Dul Guldor, although it happened before the events of The Hobbit (that’s whey he got the map and key).
    Both of these were briefly mentioned in The Hobbit itself, besides for being fleshed out in LotR’s appendices.

    1. Right, it was Dain – typo on my part. Yes Gandalf was imprisoned briefly, but not like how it’s stretched out and expanded to be something more than it should have been. To me this is exactly how Jackson got himself in trouble. He took a grain of something Tolkien wrote, and makes a huge messy cake out of it. And a bad tasting one at that.

    1. Yeah, I almost rented it on Amazon last weekend – and I actually didn’t feel up to it – like it would be a chore/disappointment to watch – so I didn’t.

  18. > There’s no mention of any meeting between Thorin and Gandalf at Bree

    As Ilona already pointed out, Gandalf meeting Thorin is mentioned in the Unfinished Tales. [to bookshelf] But… “The Quest of Erebor” [Gandalf] I was going to the Shire for a short rest … For just as I was nearing Bree, I was overtaken by Thorin Oakenshield, who live then in exile beyond the north-western borders of the Shire. … So I went him with to his halls in the Blue Mountains … So I left him went off to the Shire … [the surprise party]

    So they met on the road (not detailed which one, the Greenway or the East Road) *near* Bree. Meeting at the Prancing Pony not mentioned.

    And yes, I cried at the Hobbit movies. At how bad they were. The #1 had some moments, but mostly horrible. #2 all horrible. #3 all super horrible. Video games. Crap additions. Serious characters totally spoiled.

  19. Amendment: oh, it’s right there already in the RotK, Appendix A. And there the Prancing Pony is explicitly mentioned, and even the date, March 15, 2941. Maybe the “on the road” by Gandalf in UT is more metaphorical than literal. FWIW, in the Appendix A Thorin approaches Gandalf, not the other way round.

  20. I most deffinetly agree with everything you said, DOS is a disgrace. You just made one mistake, Gandalf acutually was a prisoner at Dol Guldur 🙂

  21. Gandalf was not a prisoner, but went there with the White Council. He had been there once before to seek out Thrain, but not as a prisoner. When the white council went to Dol Guldor after the Dwarves entered Mirkwood, Sauron fled so as not to reveal himself openly.

    1. He said it himself to Frodo at one point that he was a prisoner there, google it 🙂 He says so in books, in Fellowship I think

      1. Stradjer: I think no… and my searching through the ebook versions of LotR (all three books, plus UT) confirms that. Gandalf went to investigate (spy, not attack) and found Thrain (and the map, and the key), confirmed Sauron is back, and went back to the White Council, and urged attack (which Saruman overruled for long time). So Thrain was imprisoned in the dungeons, and Gandalf found him, but couldn’t save.

        1. I apologize, you are right 😀 I just checked my books and it is this part – ‘We do not know what he expects,’ said Boromir. ‘He may watch all roads, likely and unlikely. In that case to enter Moria would be to walk into a trap, hardly better than knocking at the gates of the Dark Tower itself. The name of Moria is black.’
          ‘You speak of what you do not know, when you liken Moria to the stronghold of Sauron,’ answered Gandalf. `I alone of you have ever been in the dungeons of the Dark Lord, and only in his older and lesser dwelling in Dol Guldur. Those who pass the gates of Barad-dûr do not return….’ – from when the Fellowship is in Eregion that god me confused : `I alone of you have ever been in the dungeons of the Dark Lord’ the word dungeon translated to my language has only one specific meaning and that’s Prison, so it is not as wide of meaning as in English, and I was mislead by language difference in meaning 😀 Sorry again 😀

  22. Ah, no worries – it’s a lot to remember! I’ve read the series close to 50 times now, so I can remember quite a bit. And I’m a pretty devoted fan, but there are even crazier Tolkien fans than me :D. It can be easy to confuse the movies with the books if you’ve only read the story a few times.

    1. I am a fanatical fan too, so I find it quite funny seeing what mistranslation has done to me :DD Cheers 😀

  23. I have to say, I really enjoyed the Desolation of Smaug, as a measure of all 3 films, I found it to be the most enjoyable (although they should have concluded things with Smaug at the end of that film). I found An Unexpected Journey was cliche’d and downright annoying at times, “run you fools”, as though Gandalf has a freaking catchphrase. Ugh. But then it’s got some beautiful scenes, the butterflies in the meadow, the Rosghobell Rabbits. And I enjoyed Azog and his Wargs. It just grated on me how out of place and forced some of the comments were. Desolation is definitely superior.

    That said, the 3rd film isn’t better than Desolation of Smaug. My ranking is Desolation, Battle of Five, then Unexpected Journey. And the main issue I had was the introduction of Dale. The people of Dale, and in particular Bard, were so boring! I didn’t have any connection with them, I disliked the costumes, the setting, I didn’t think anything special about the people, it was just a bit of a letdown. It’s like in the Return of the King. We already fell in love with Hobbits, and the Fellowship, and then there was plenty time to show us Rohan, and again, I fell in love with that culture and the actors and their characters. Then: Gondor. They left out Beregond! And in the end we had Pippin and I guess Faramir to try and relate to. If they had introduced and given proper development to Beregond, we could have been more invested and cared more about Gondor, instead of feeling like an unwelcome guest and a stranger in their lands. Rohan gave a much more intimate and warm welcome.

    Now in the Hobbit trilogy, it’s so similar with Dale. We meet and become invested in the main Dwarf characters, and Bilbo. Then there’s the Elves, and we can become slightly invested there, it’s a beautiful setting and they’re very different. Bit of a letdown, but Mirkwood is brief so it never becomes boring. Then we get Dale. And it just lacks so badly for character development and time to invest in the setting and individual stories, I personally felt like, oh….yeah what a shame for them. Um…..can we get back to the real story now please? Bard felt poorly portrayed also, I didn’t feel inspired or interested in his story.

    Now, I’m coming from a Lord of the Rings book fan stance, yet I haven’t read the Hobbit (because I wasn’t sure I could enjoy a children’s bedtime tale). Your article has definitely inspired me to read the novel to see the way the story should have unfolded, I actually own a copy already, so at some point I’ll get to it. I still managed to have a lot of love for the Hobbit films, they’re an 8/7/6 set of films in my opinion, and I really enjoyed learning about and journeying with the Dwarves, I wanted to learn about Dwarf culture in Middle Earth. But there’s definitely something missing, and you make some excellent points in this regard, so well done, I can relate to your opinion.

    As a positive stance, let’s be grateful we have the Lord of the Rings trilogy :). The Hobbit is a journey you can take that might not tick all the boxes, but is still good. But the Lord of the Rings is basically as close to perfect as hope can yearn for. I have those films as a 9.5/10/8.5

  24. You have my admiration as you were able to do what I refused to do myself: watching the hobbit.
    My problem with Jackson starts with LOTR.

    I have loved to see some of the places described by Tolkien on the big screen. Being a Gondorian myself, I actually cried seeing Minas Tirith.
    I loved to see some of the characters take life and some of the epos become true.

    But the more the film went on, the less it had to do with Tolkien spirit, in my opinion. At the end of the 3 films some of the characters were completely twisted, in the most pointless way. Among which Faramir and Denethor, two of my favourites, reduced to a weeping child and an insane and cruel old man.
    I could make a long list, but I’ll limit myself to those two.

    This is, however, why I didn’t have the courage to go and watch Peter Jackson’s hobbit. And the more I read and listen to the opinions of real Tolkien fans, the more I think I was right in saving my money for something else.

  25. I first watched the 3 movies and enjoyed them a lot I wanted more so I read the book and liked it as well. Reading this 10 reasons I agree with some but I belive some are really exaggerated . i feel your passion for the priginal story but there are moments where it seems you where really looking for things to hate in the movies. Just enjoy them man, at least with caution.

  26. The short changing of Beorn and Mirkwood in the movie were the worst parts. And, the movie barely shows Bilbo’s development throughout the story. Mirkwood nearly buries all of the characters. But, it’s there that Bilbo starts to really step up. The whole Mirkwood portion of the movie is over before it starts.

    Beorn is a fascinating character that is also badly shortchanged. The way Gandalf gets him involved and how powerful of an ally he becomes are totally lost in the last two movies.

    There is far too much focus on Thorin and not near enough on Bilbo and other characters.

    All of the short changing occurs to allow for the 20 minutes of awfulness in the mountain with Smaug chasing the dwarves around. That might be the dumbest scene I’ve ever seen in a movie.

    I didn’t mind the references to the ring’s power. That is one piece of creative license that kind of makes sense. But, Smaug’s warning to Bilbo and him being able to sense the ring were silly. What made Smaug so ominous and such a concern for Gandalf was just that he was evil and only cared about himself. The fact that there was no allegiance from Smaug to Sauron made him the only enemy to fear at the time of the story. Gandalf was the only one vaguely aware of Sauron at the time of the book. Smaug alluding to a coming darkness from Sauron was unnecessary.

    I didn’t mind the Dol Goldur creative license. I thought Jackson’s vision for adding it to the story was interesting because it actually occurred at the same time of the story according to the appendices. Learning about what Gandalf and the White Council were up to at the time of the quest was interesting.

    Unfortunately, most of the wonder of the original story and the character development of far too many characters were shortchanged for way too many absurd fight scenes. Maybe someday a fresh director will tackle the Silmarillion and we can see some real character development.

  27. Great List, i agree with pretty much everything, except your raving on about how video games are these terrible aciton packed black holes for stories. Not every video game is WoW or Call of Duty. In Fact, here: https://www.amazon.com/Hobbit-PC/dp/B00009ECGI/ref=sr_1_4?s=videogames&ie=UTF8&qid=1479748129&sr=1-4&keywords=Hobbit&th=1 Wonderful Hobbit Videogame from 2003, not 100% faithful, but way better than those awful movies. Sure, a bit on the old side by now, but still.

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  29. Interesting analysis of DOS. I appreciate the in-depth descriptions of what disappointed the author and why, although I disagree with almost every single point. I personally loved that the films take the story into adulthood; they had to, and I think they did so quite well. Peter Jackson draws on many pieces of Tolkien’s mythology, and I was very happy to see many of these tidbits included and expanded upon in the way legends grow: with every teller of the tale, the tale will morph and grow and twist, much in the way Tolkien’s own writings about Middle earth did over his life. I find it somewhat puzzling that the author thinks that just because the Hobbit was written by Tolkien as a children’s book, that the stories told in the Hobbit would be unsuited or ill served by telling them from an adult perspective – Tolkien’s myriad later writings that encompass this time period in Middle earth clearly prove this notion wrong. To the heart of the author’s criticism: “The Hobbit is full of wonderful moments of adventure, Bilbo’s self discovery and a sense of longing for home. These things are nowhere to be seen in the movie.” I could not disagree with you more. The movies are indeed full of exactly these moments – of many whimsical moments of adventure, and of Bilbo finding out who he really is. But in addition, which you seem to see as a major shortcoming of the movies while I see it as a major accomplishment, we see a host of other characters go through their own journey – first and foremost Thorin Oakenshield, and then the other dwarves in the company who have become real characters in their own right, also Thranduil, Bard, Legolas, and even Tauriel which is a character that I actually agree with the author and could have done with or without. Importantly, I would have frankly found it grotesque and abhorrent if a movie that did – and needed to – bring a story into adulthood which culminates with the burning of an entire town, and the violent deaths of thousands of people, including three of the closest companions of the main protagonist, kept the lighthearted tone of a children’s book, as the author of the article desires.
    And a quick note on the LOTR movies and the author’s almost wholehearted endorsement of all the themes they twisted: one piece that I always have and always will strongly object to (although I understand why Peter Jackson did this in service to selling this story to a Hollywood audience): the replacement of Glorfindel with Arwen completely violates the dynamics of Tolkien’s world: Glorfindel is a Elflord from Valinor (one of the very few remaining in Middle-earth at the time) – he has power of a kind that Arwen cannot even conceive of. In Tolkien’s own words: “In Rivendell there live still some of his chief foes: the Elven-wise, lords of the Eldar from beyond the furthest seas. They do not fear the Ringwraiths, for those who have dwelt in the Blessed Realm live at once in both worlds, and against both the Seen and the Unseen they have great power.” This is why Glorfindel is so powerful against the ring wraiths, and why he is pivotal in this scene. Replacing him with Arwen breaks that mythology beyond recognition.
    Anyway, although I disagree with the author on practically everything, I always appreciate in-depth analyses such as this one – so thank you!

    1. That’s a very good point about the substitution of Arwen for Glorfindel: it really was unnecessary and hurt the backstory. Also you’re right that the LOTR movies did other things to twist the story; it’s why when I go to watch LOTR I always watch the Sharkey purist edits rather than the originals.

      Still, LOTR just had scattered problems. The Hobbit movies were shockingly diverged from the book. The whole subplot with Azog had no place here, the Nazgûl never died (that was the point about them being UNdead), and a dwarf-elf romance is completely out of character for Middle Earth. Making the Hobbit a more grown-up story is no bad thing, but this was above and beyond that.

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