A lot of people have been asking me lately what I’ve thought of the Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, ao I figured rather than giving the same lecture to everyone, I’d just put it out there on the internet and save everyone some time.
Please note: THIS POST CONTAINTS SPOILERS FOR THE HOBBIT (Books, movies and speculation on the final movie also), the LORD OF THE RINGS and probably a bunch of other Tolkien books and writings. JUST SPOILERS.
Overall, I loved the movie. Of course I did. This is me. I’ve never not loved something Tolkien in my life. So here’s a few thoughts over some common themes people keep asking me.
1. Is it similar to the book?
Well, yes and no. The basic plot is much the same, and a large amount of the script is echoing the books.
There are a few major plot deviations though. Gandalf’s story, for example, is entirely taken from the Appendix of the LOTR – it’s largely canonical but it’s never mentioned during the Hobbit. Let’s be honest – the Appendix wasn’t exactly detailed in it’s recounting of every little moment (it is an Appendix) so I don’t really blame Peter Jackson (PJ) for taking a few creative leaps here and there.
Secondly, the dwarrow never splits. Kili is never injured. Tauriel was never mentioned, and she wasn’t the captain of the guard. Leaving Tauriel for later though – and Kili’s injury too – let’s discuss the spliting of the company at Lake Town.
Did I expect it? Yes.
Why? Well, for those of you who have read the books, you might be aware that the reason Dain turns up to the Battle of the Five Armies, is a raven carries messages between the company in the Lonely Mountain and his Dwarven Army marching to assist. Literally – it talks.
To translate this into Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth was never going to work. It wouldn’t translate to the screen well, and it would open the movie to a similar criticism the Eagles do – why not just ask a bird to fly the ring to Mordor and drop it off? Why not just send them everywhere like text messages and elimate all this confusing “is Bilbo alive? Is Frodo alive? Hey, Rohan is getting attaked at the moment?” (Let’s not get into that debate now though – for the love of Eru, there’s a thousand good reasons).
Not least of all, suffice to say, it makes more dramatic and cinematic suspense to split the company so we care about the fate of Laketown, not to mention introducing Bard the Bowman so we have some relationship with him before Smaug leaves the Lonely Mountain.
As far as I’m concerned, this was a necessary, inventive solution to an otherwise awkward cinema translation. Don’t get me wrong, I adore and love the books, but I can see the creative reasons behind this decision.
Movie adaptations are adaptations. I expect some adapting.
2. The “Treasure Hunt” vs “Reclaiming a Homeland”
This is another theme PJ has openly admitted to have difficulty discerning and translating from the book.
As ignoble as it is, the theme I have always taken from the Hobbit (the book) was that it was just a treasure hunt, and the ending was always the hammering home of the emptiness one has when you have all the gold in the world, but no one to share it with. It’s the journey and the company that we keep that really matters. Home is what matters.
That’s why the ending always left me so heart-broken and solidly bittersweet at Thorin’s death (I did warn you about spoilers kids). Thematically though, the moral is always the homeland and home theme. I think both are apparent in the movies.
And the foreshadowing of Thorin’s obsession with the treasure was done so perfectally.
Okay, yes we all noticed it. He had brown eyes most the LOTR, and then de-ages to the Hobbit and magically gets blue eyes.
Little known fact time! He actually does have blue eyes occasionally in the LOTR, they just kept forgetting to do the thing with the contact lenses. Orli’s grown up a bit from the days his face was plastered all over my bedroom walls – I’m assuming they were a bit more attentive this time around.
So Legolas in the Hobbit films? Well, if we didn’t have him we’d have to do some interesting moves to play the “fill the plot hole game”. (In reality, the Hobbit was written pre-LOTR and so Legolas sort-of only existed in theory – I’m getting to that).
What I did find interesting is that when Legolas is looking at the weapons of stolen from the trolls I created a bit of PJ head-canon because he said something in Elvish. The subtitles read (based on memory): “This sword was forged by my kin” but what he ACTUALLY says is “This sword was forged in Gondolin”.
(Insert fangirl flail here)
Why is this significant? Well, PJ can’t actually mention the fall of Gondolin because I’m pretty sure he doesn’t have the rights to the materials (legal battles, man, I’m not that into them). But the approximation between “kin” and “Gondolin” was a nice little nod to the fact that there was another (the same?) Legolas galivanting about Middle Earth during the fall of Gondolin.
I’m going to abandon this line of reasoning before we get into the “Two Glorfindels” or “One Glorfindel” debate…again.
Is she a Mary-Sue, a poorly executed head-nod to Varda or a Feminist Construct?
*Siiiiigh* This is the one everyone asks me about, and to be honest I still don’t know how I feel about her. As a young woman raised on the basic conept that Mary Sue = bad, I felt a bit like rolling my eyes when she quite literally bedazzled her way onto the screen.
Young female heroine who happens to be good at everything and exists only as a construct of the love interest for men? Like give me female characters but don’t dress them up as feminists. I realise and acknowledge the argument that women have a role to play in High Fantasy (I am pro-female representation) but at the same time I struggle to shelve my bitterness when the character is just there for men to gawk over – particularly when she’s such a half-hearted effort surrounded by characters with full family trees that Tolkien mapped out just in case we were curious but never mentioned in the books.
I also think Tolkien gave us lots of strong women (Eowyn, anyone? And do not get me started on the glory that is Galadriel and Varda), and writing an archetypal Mary Sue and shoving her in my favourite story of all time felt a bit like fingernails to the chalk-board.
THAT SAID. I totally dig the cuteness between her and Kili because I’m a big fan of the Joss Whedon approach to movies.
‘Make it dark, make it grim, make it tough, but then, for the love of God, tell a joke.’
It just makes sense to me that the Kili / Tauriel / Legolas love-thing was the sweetest way to break the doom and gloom and anyone who didn’t at least smile at the “He’s quite tall for a dwarf” is clearly doing life wrong.
For what it’s worth, I also kind of find her endearing as a Varda figure-tye against the Mahal (He is the sun and moon and she is the stars). I liked that metaphor. I liked the nod to Elvish culture.
Did I like Tauriel? Well…that’s complicated.
Leaving the character herself aside: I’d like to discuss the “lowly Silvan elf” comment.
Umm….PJ. Dude. I know Thranduil is like ancient, and basically antagonistic to everyone (*cough* Celeborn *cough*) but let’s be a little realistic. I feel like he wouldn’t have forgotten that his son was named in the SILVAN language…? Lowly Silvan indeed, but it’s fine to throw around and name your son (and presumably heir to your throne) in “lowly Silvan”.
Right. Okay then.
That’s to say nothing of the “Legolas has dark hair” debate, in which I have always been leaning towards the “His father is Sindar and his mother in Silvan”.
This fact I cannot reconcile, so mostly I just ignore it in the movies.
Do not even try to tell me language does not matter to Tolkien. The whole damn series is just the back story for the evolution of Quenya.
5. Let’s stick an arrow in the Unexpected Hot Dwarf
And whilst we’re bashing the ridiculous – does anyone else remember that moment in FOTR when Arwen pretty clearly says:
Hey dudes, I can’t help Frodo because I’m not a good enough healer to slap dash heal a Morgul wound. Even with a prophesized King waving Athelas around like he’s just realised we’re potentially cousins 52 times removed…
No? Just me then?
ARWEN. ARWEN the Evenstar of her people, raised by ELROND (Remember that magic guy from the Matrix who basically has the magical healing hands of the Gods?) and grand-daughter of the elf-witch GALADRIEL was literally like “Woah dudes! Seriously? Even I can’t heal a Morgul Wound.”
But we’re meant to believe that a young (“lowly”) Silvan elf can just throw some Kingsfoil on a wound and channel the light of the Valar and hey-presto our unexpected hot dwarf is fine and dandy?
(And that’s even being generous for the allowance that Frodo was basically gone the second the blade touched him – canonical – and Kili went pracing about a river for like three hours plus one epic pub crawl first).
Your arrow wasn’t a good one.
There’s a reason I say “In PJ we trust”
Man is a fan of the films which means he does them justice.
I know they’re not the exact matches the LOTR films were – but guys come on, it’s nine hours of film from a book half the size of the first LOTR novel. Of course they were going to pad things out a bit.
Things I loved:
- the barrel scene
- Martin Freeman as Bilbo
- Mirkwood was RIGHT (and I was worried)
- the spiders (Sting)
- Everything about Smaug
- The smuggling scene
- THE WHOLE DAMN MOVIE OMG
On the other hand. The Battle of the Five Armies is going to be so damn depressing. Also I’m kind of wondering if they’ll have to kill Tauriel off to avoid playing the “but where is she during LOTR” game.
TL;DR: Movie is epic. Buy three copies of the DVDs.