So a lot of people loved The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and lot of people, especially literary minded people, were dismayed by it.
When it came to Lord of the Rings, there was an expectation that it would be fairly compatible to the books with pieces missing and some tweaks for things that work better on screen than on the page. Now I love LOTR movies, but what we got was mostly action pieces that were a fairly accurate representation of what happened in the books. It was cohesive, brilliantly filmed and a mostly accessible adaptation. I typically had to see the movie twice; once to deal with all of the differences and once to be able to put all of those aside and get caught up in it. The Hobbit, especially this second installment, there is no challenge there. It’s simply loosely based on the book, but bears no close relation to the original story. The changes weren’t just a difference of what works in movies as opposed to books; it’s a remapping of the narrative. I was quite late in seeing this installment in the theaters partly due to knowing from the trailer that it was going to be far afield from the book. Going in with knowing that makes all of the difference.
So, for those of us who wanted to see an adaption of The Hobbit, that’s not happening this round (and, hence, not any time soon). For a fun, action/adventure movie, it was mostly really great fun. There were times I was simply giggling with mirth, especially during the fight scenes. Who doesn’t want to see an elf surf on a dead orc whilst putting an arrow into another orc? How cool are the fluid moves of Legolas and Tauriel! How fun to see Bombur roll over and bonk many an orc whilst cruising down the river or weapons tossed to and fro as they’re needed. How kingly and strong Thranduil comes across and humble and determined Bard. Then there’s Cumberbatch as Smaug. Really, loads o’ fun.
Now, do I think Mr. Jackson a better storyteller than Mr. Tolkien? No. Even for movies? No. Mr. Jackson, however, is a good storyteller. Do I think books are almost always better than movies. Yup (about which more here). Do I lament the fact that I won’t be seeing a faithful adaptation probably ever. Somewhat. I don’t get truly bent our of shape because…wait for it… I have the book. If you really miss the book, read it rather than watch the movie. If you go to movie, then let go of the book. They are action-packed fun movies. Nobility and subtly are not their strong suit. That’s OK. They are not a crime against humanity, or even Mr. Tolkien. They’re fun, light entertainment based on Tolkien’s world and story line.
What do I think worked really well? All of the fight scenes. What did I like the least? Probably what they did to the scene with Beorn. That scene took itself too seriously; his character lost all of his playfulness and I loved the clever way Gandalf introduced the dwarves to him (although even I see that wouldn’t have worked for a movie).
Mr. Shore continues to write a fabulous, albeit now quite predicable, soundtrack. Mr. Sheeran continues the fine tradition of Enya, Ms. Torrini and Ms. Lennox ending the soundtrack with an amazing song. While he has incredibly stiff competition, I think I like his “I See Fire” the most.
So have fun with the movie. If you’re one of the few who missed it, see it on the best screen with the best sound you available to you. It’s visually and sonically fabulous. When you hanker for the “real” Hobbit, pick up the book or Rob Inglis’s masterful narration of it (at least for now, if you get the Kindle version for $7, you can get the unabridged Audible version for $3.50 – typically the Audible (or CD version) goes for $28 alone) .