When The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey came out, I went to the midnight premiere with my friends, counted down the days for months, and if I had had any of my old Lord of the Rings costumes with me in New York, I would have worn one. Needless to say, I was very excited for the first Hobbit movie. This time around, however, it was a little different. Maybe I wasn’t as excited because the anticipation hadn’t been building for ten years. So I waited for my brothers to come home from school and we went to see it together.
Many reviews said that this Hobbit movie was better than the last—and it was, in so far as there was more action and the pacing was a little better. But I feel that the first movie, though not entirely representative of Tolkien’s vision in The Hobbit, was closer to the spirit of the book than this movie. But first, some things I did like about The Desolation of Smaug.
Thranduil. One of my favorite things about Tolkien’s book The Hobbit is the flawed characters. Thranduil is one of these flawed characters. In the book, Thranduil holds the dwarves prisoner in Mirkwood, and when Thorin becomes king under the mountain, Thranduil demands a share of the treasure. Even though he is an elf, and supposedly wiser than other mortal races, Thranduil demonstrates the same mistrust and greed that Thorin demonstrates. Lee Pace did an excellent job portraying Thranduil as a flawed character in The Desolation of Smaug, and I look forward to seeing more of him in the third film There and Back Again.
Bard. Who doesn’t love Bard? He is, after all, the one who slays the dragon. Bard lives in Laketown, where the Master of Laketown is a shady and rather useless fellow. In the absence of a strong leader, Bard steps up to lead the people of Laketown and rebuild the city of Dale. In the movie, Luke Evans plays Bard as a family man and a widower, a man who takes care of the people of Laketown while the Master takes advantage of them. Bard’s prime concerns are the safety of his family and the safety of his people—true qualities of leadership. Plus, he’s not bad-looking.
Overall, the movie was entertaining, but there were a few things that strayed too far from Tolkien’s story. One of these things is glaringly obvious because she wasn’t in Tolkien’s story—Tauriel. I entered the movie theater determined not to prejudge Tauriel. I tried hard to like her, I really did. But I just didn’t. It’s like Jackson tried to make her a warrior like Eowyn, a love interest like Arwen, and a wise elf like Galadriel, but unlike her three predecessors, Tauriel didn’t add anything to the story. The love triangle with her was unbelievable and kind of ridiculous.
Another character portrayal I was not too fond of was Beorn. I love Beorn in the books, a skin changer who can shift into a bear. He helps the dwarves along their journey and also appears in the Battle of the Five Armies. But in the movie, Beorn’s scene was short, quick, and almost pointless. And he didn’t even look like a bear.
Next is Smaug. Actually, Smaug belongs in the category of things I did like. I thought the screenwriters did a fair job of making his dialogue with Bilbo true to his character in the book, which is why I thought there should have been more of Smaug, or more precisely, more of Smaug and Bilbo. One prolonged scene was not enough. The movie is called The Desolation of Smaug, and the book is called The Hobbit. So where was all the screen time of Smaug and the hobbit? It was allotted to other storylines, like the scenes at Dol Goldur and the never-ending orc chase. As Jordan Jeffers writes in his review of the movie, “The Hobbit is no longer actually about the hobbit. It’s grown much too big for him.”
It’s not that I don’t like the extra scenes about the White Council and the return of Sauron. On the contrary, as a total Lord of the Rings nerd I love these scenes. But somewhere along the way in The Desolation of Smaug, everything that Peter Jackson and his team has added overshadowed our little hobbit (played excellently by Martin Freeman, as always). An Unexpected Journey contained these extra storylines about the White Council and Dol Goldur, but the movie still centered around Bilbo. The Desolation of Smaug lost sight of that storyline. That isn’t to say that the movie is not enjoyable—it is, and Hobbit fans should go see it!—but I would have appreciated a Hobbit film more about a hobbit. As Jordan Jeffers also says, “Tolkien’s book is not a story about superheroes. It’s a story about a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins, one of the smallest of folk, shorter even than the dwarves—a fat, ordinary person who does a lot of brave, ordinary things.”