hobbit

10 Reasons why The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is NOT Tolkien’s Story

By in Blog on March 13, 2014

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.

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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

Let me cover some immediate objections with which people will likely respond. Yes, I understand that a movie based on a book (or books) 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.

And yes, I’m a huge Tolkien nerd – although certainly not as much as some. I’ve read The Hobbit & LOTR nearly 50 times in my life (while that may seem excessive, I can tell you that there are Tolkien fans out there who outdo me by plenty). I’ve read the Silmarillion, Lost Tales, Unfinished Tales, Children of Hurin and the other historical books (although not all of them) many times. I’ve devoured many books about Tolkien himself, and the books have meant a lot to me in my life. Like many, I certainly know the story of The Hobbit by heart. So it’s impossible for me not to compare the movies to the original story.

No, I don’t feel that making the series a trilogy was the problem. There is plenty of original material in the book to make three movies.

And 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.

No, I am not a Peter Jackson hater – I’m a big Peter Jackson fan (which makes this all the more disappointing.)

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And in that regard, let me first just briefly touch on the Lord of the Rings trilogy movies. I think they are amazing pieces of work. I have all the extended editions, and have watched them many, many times. I’ve watched every moment of the special features, too. 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?

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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 is that 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.

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As for The Hobbit being a prequel, I believe that it is a bit of a stretch to call it that. And many of the problems are Jackson 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.

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(Image by Jian Guo)

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

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

It 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.) There’s no mention of any meeting between Thorin and Gandalf at Bree (and the idea that Thorin was being hunted by men is flat out ridiculous.) The reason for Gandalf seeking out Thorin was to somehow get Smaug out of the picture.

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.

Later, when Bilbo does actually find the stone, it’s a very important moment for his character – a moment that is lost in the awful late scenes in the movie with Bilbo immediately finding the stone and the dwarves running around with the dragon.

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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 – he never knew of it in all his long years.

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.

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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.

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

Like many, 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…

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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 no massive army of orcs following the dwarves and Bilbo around – ever.

The company had trouble with the goblins of the Misty Mountains, but once they escaped them, 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. (As for Bilbo fighting Azog in the first movie with Sting, well, that’s preposterous – Bilbo would have been killed instantly.) And that would have left plenty of time for the wonderful things that are in the book – like the scene with Beorn, for example.

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.

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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.)

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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 of Jackson and his writing team – changing the story and making it worse, not better. Taking out the special and putting in the mundane.

We lost all of those wonderful moments, and they were replaced with the nonsense we saw in the film.

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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 travesty. 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. It was comical – and worse, it looked like a video game scene, not a movie.

While in captivity, Thorin is losing heart. He’s about to give into the Elven King 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. Again 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.

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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. The Morgul blade that Frodo was stabbed with was wielded by the Morgul King himself.

The whole scene looked like a video game, as I mentioned above. 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

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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. And again, important things were left out. 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 supposedly 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. It’s all Hollywood fluff, and it still puzzles me how or why Peter Jackson fell into such poor decisions.

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 him 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.

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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 truly knew about (which is where Aragorn learned of it) – and 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. Once again, Jackson gave us a video game, not a movie.

What is the point of leaving the dwarves behind? They were bound together on a mission, and Kili was Thorin’s kin! To think that Thorin would just leave them behind is nonsense. 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 7 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.

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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!). Even 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 too!

We lose Bilbo showing his usefulness by finding the doorstep (and that connection with what he said). We lose all the tension with them trying to get in 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?! 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.

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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. Where to start?

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.

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.

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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 – again, like 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 Jackson’s 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.

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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!

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

  1. 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…

  2. 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. 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. 5

    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. 6

    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. 7

    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. 9

    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.

    • tdellaringa
      10

      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. 11

    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. 12

    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.

  10. 17

    I suggest the animated 1977 Version of the Hobbit , it is true to the book and does not miss all that is mentioned in this critique.

    • 18

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

  11. 19

    P.S. -John Huston does a slightly better “Gandalf” :)

  12. 20

    Yeah, I was really disappointed in how they did the Beorn scene. DOS really sucked.

  13. 21

    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.

  14. 22

    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.

  15. 23

    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!

  16. 24

    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!”.

  17. 25

    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.

  18. 26

    At first, I really didn’t like the Hobbit being shot as a trilogy. I also didn’t like how they had changed so much of the book by adding things that never happened or which were taken from other Tolkien books. But then I read this: http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2013/12/13/how-faithful-are-the-hobbit-films-to-tolkiens-books/

  19. 27

    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 . . .

  20. 28

    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.

    • 29

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

  21. 30

    I was so disappointed I cried

  22. 31

    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.

    • 32

      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.

  23. Pingback: Movies: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug | Perennial Student

  24. 33

    Thank you so much for analysing this whole mess. Unfortunately, BOTFA was even worse, as you feared.

    • 34

      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.

    • 35

      We can only hope , Peter Jackson , will not go back and be allowed to mangle “The Silmarillion” stories.

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