Top Five Things Wrong with “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”

hobbit posterWendy and I went to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug last night. As with all of Peter Jackson’s film adaptations, it is expertly done and an entertaining film in its own right. I will certainly see it again and will eventually buy it for our personal library. Nevertheless, there are reasons Tolkien purists will take issue with the film. Here is a quick list of my own personal head-shakers (Spoiler alert! If you haven’t seen the film you might want to wait to read this list):

  1. In the book, Bilbo finds “the one ring” on his journey in a moment of good fortune, and it becomes a seemingly innocent and useful magic tool for an inexperienced burglar looking for an edge. Bilbo has no idea of the ring’s history or power. In fact, even in Bilbo’s old age Gandalf refuses to share with his old friend the truth of his precious find when Bilbo dismisses it as a trivial yet useful treasure he picked up on his journey there and back again. In Desolation of Smaug, the ring immediately has a menacing effect on Bilbo who seems to struggle with an inner moral choice whether to put it on or not. You won’t find that in the book.
  2. The introduction of the “she-elf,” Tauriel and the return of Legolas into The Hobbit narrative is perhaps the singlemost troubling element of sacrilege to the Tolkien storyline. The ludicrous development of romantic feelings between Tauriel and one of the young dwarves is beyond sacrilege. It’s an eye-rolling, “wtf” worthy element of ridiculousness.
  3. When Gandalf leaves Bilbo and the dwarves to journey to Dol Guldur he makes this strange journey up a mountain staircase and leap-frogs through some booby-trapped, video-game like passage way. I half expected him to run into Lara Croft, but what he finds there is simply Radaghast who comments “This is a strange place to meet.” Strange indeed. Silly, actually. It makes no sense whatsoever, is never explained, and doesn’t even fit into the rewrite of the story.
  4. In the history of Middle Earth, the journey Gandalf makes to Dol Guldur after leaving the company is a meeting of the White Council to attack the ancient fortress and send Sauron packing to Mordor in hasty escape. The filmmakers choose not to film this large scale battle (What?! Peter Jackson passes up the opportunity to show a protracted, large scale battle?! I guess he figured we wouldn’t want to spend another hour in the theater), and instead shows Gandalf the caged prisoner of the Eye. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
  5. I was shocked at how quickly the filmmakers move us through Mirkwood. In the book, the journey through Mirkwood is a marathon of adventure, but in the film it takes just a few minutes to get through the spiders’ webs to Thranduil’s dungeon, and then Bilbo makes quick work of getting the dwarves out of their cells and into barrel riding, white water action. Ents would surely bemoan this “hasty” treatment of the story, but Jackson wants to move us, post haste, to the Lonely Mountain where he can give us a very protracted (and completely made up) battle between Smaug and the Dwarves that allows Jackson and the Weta team to show off all of their CG wizardry. We have molten gold and a giant golden dwarf hastily made in Trojan Horse type trickery that surely has Tolkien rolling over in his grave.

Yesterday I was listening to The Tolkien Professor’s eight part lecture series on The Hobbit. He begins the series by stating his hope that Peter Jackson does not make The Hobbit into a movie because he knows the filmmaker will feel the need to make Tolkien’s whimsical children’s tale into an epic of Lord of the Rings proportions so that it will fit nicely as a prequel into the filmmaker’s own The Lord of the Rings adaptation. Professor Olsen was prophetic. I’ve provided only a short-list of the discrepancies you’ll find in the film. There are plenty more. Buy me a pint at the Green Dragon and I’ll gladly share a more complete list.

I am not purist enough to boycott the theater. As I mentioned at the outset, I found the film wonderfully entertaining. I understand that Jackson and his team are making movies to sell tickets and amass their own personal dragon hoard of gold. Beware, the greed of dwarves. Honestly, I believe that the filmmaker loves Tolkien as much as I do and, in the big picture, I understand that he’s introducing millions of people to Middle Earth who would otherwise have never have picked up the books. Good for him.

Now, a personal note to Mr. Jackson and his writing team: please leave me off the invitation list to Tauriel and Kili’s wedding.

16 thoughts on “Top Five Things Wrong with “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug””

  1. I long ago decided to not consider the movies and books to have anything more in common than some of the same names–that way I can experience and enjoy them both. Being a very visual thinker, I do find I have to go back and reread the books, but I wait until after I’ve seen the movie. That way I can fit the great visuals into the “truth” of the books. If you think these movies departed far from the book, think about the Bourne books by Robert Ludlum and the incredible departures made in the films. If I dwell on that, my enjoyment if dimmed both in the books and the movies. I’d rather enjoy both as different entities.

    1. I like your take, Kathie. I really have tried to appreciate the films for what they are. It is fun to see the stories come to life with the artistry and technology utilized to such a thrilling degree. For one who loved the books for so long and knows them so intimately, it’s still hard not to cringe at times!

  2. #3. Gandalf and Radagast are going to the Tombs to confirm that the Witch King has in fact been brought back by the Necromancer.

    What didn’t make sense was that when they finally confirmed that the Necromancer was Sauron, and the dead Witch King has in fact returned, that’s when Gandalf decides to go to Dol Guldur alone. What’s especially awful about this scene is that Gandalf figures out the Azog is a leader of Armies (basically, he knows that they have an Army). But also, he states “I need to rejoin the company”. Why would he say that when he had zero intentions of rejoining them? It’s a plot hole and the movie is riddled with them, literally from the very first scene when the Dwarves are running from Azog even though the Eagles just flew them to a safe distance.

  3. Yes, Tolkien is probably rolling over in his grave and has been since The Fellowship of the Ring came out. It would be nice to have just 5 minutes in any of these films that I wouldn’t be saying “That never happened”. I do not agree with you as far as Peter Jackson loving these books. He honestly did a wonderful job on the photography and the location. He even did a decent job with the cast. The story line, however…anyone who HAS actually ready the books and continues to read them knows and loves them as they are. Maybe there are too many elvish songs but the story is still very exciting and wonderful as it stands. I personally cannot see why the original story was not good enough and exciting enough to put on the screen. Sorry. Anyone who loved the original story as much as Peter Jackson “says” he does would not have raped the story the way he did.

  4. I like your comment: “I understand that Jackson and his team are making movies to sell tickets and amass their own personal dragon hoard of gold.” Unfortunately, I think that’s what motivated a lot of the unnecessary changes. I loved Tolkien’s writings (LORT & Hobbit), but also enjoyed the movies, even though they weren’t necessarily completely faithful to the books…

    1. I’ve loved them, too, Chris. I’m not one to eschew the films because I’m a Tolkien purist. I’ve enjoyed the movies for what they are, and believe the filmmakers are fans, as well. They’ve taken on a monumental task of trying to translate a story that can’t be directly translated to film, and in that reality there will always be disappointments – but that’s not to say it was wholly flawed. They did a nice job with most of the story and for that I’m grateful and entertained!

  5. Why do you have to kiss the filmmaker’s ass so much? Just admit that the movie was shit.

    Here’s my own Top Five Things Wrong with “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”
    1. Thorin was standing on Smaug’s head.
    2. Thorin was standing on Smaug’s head.
    3. Thorin was standing on Smaug’s head.
    4. Thorin was standing on Smaug’s head.
    5. Thorin was standing on Smaug’s head.

  6. #3 was explained, just vaguely – they were there to check that the ringwraiths had indeed been summoned from their tombs/prisons. That’s why the bars had been burst outward, and was the topic of Gandalf’s speech about the nine nameless servants of evil immediately afterward. For some reason they seemed to be avoiding the term Nazgul, no idea why.

  7. This is a well written editorial. I don’t really WANT to go see the movie – after seeing the first “Desolation of the Hobbit” last year. I mean I re-read the book in anticipation and was thoroughly disappointed last year. But, even though I know I will be again disappointed, I feel like I HAVE to see the movie just to get it all out of my system. And yes, Jackson and his crew can add my gold to their hoard. I will just be glad when next year is over with so I can get over it and get on with life 🙂

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