So, it's been a while since The Desolation of Smaug came out, and it seems to me that it's been a bit of a polarizing film. People I know who've seen it either loved it or hated it. Of the people I know who hated it almost all of them are die-hard book fans - Tolkien purists. So, seeing as how The Hobbit is one of my top two favorite books of all time, I thought I'd defend the new movie from the rabid purists. I really do love The Hobbit. I've read it nearly twenty times, so it's not like I'm only sort of familiar with the story. I quote this book, man. In addition to The Hobbit, I've also read The Lord of the Rings multiple times and I own nearly every work Tolkien ever wrote (and I've read most of them too). If there is a club for die-hard Tolkien fans I think I should be allowed to be a member. And yet, I still loved the movie. How on earth could I do that seeing as how Peter Jackson changed almost everything (I say almost everything, but that's not quite true. Almost every line from the book is used in the movie, and it's still amazingly different from it's source material).
If you are a purist the first important thing to keep in mind when watching the new movies is that they will not be like the book. If it were, it would actually be a terrible movie. The book's plot structure is more episodic than it is streamlined. If this were a mini series you would probably be able to follow the events in the book pretty closely, but in a movie you have to make each installment able to stand on its own. Each installment must be able to stand on it's own as a story, but still be able to connect to the other films. This is incredibly difficult to achieve, and Jackson had to add some things in to make it work. Having Orcs chase the Dwarves literally pushes the plot forward. It also makes the threat of the Necromancer more urgent. The Necromancer is not in the book, but his being driven from Mirkwood by the White Council is concurrent with the events in The Hobbit. Purists may understand that the Necromancer needed to be taken care of, but viewers who haven't seen the books need a more obvious reason. If the Necromancer is sending orcs to chase our heroes, you bet Gandalf needs to take him down. I think once purists get over the fact that things happen in the movie that don't happen in the Tolkienverse, it's pretty easy to see that some of the changes were necessitated.
In fact, one of the changes that Jackson made I believed actually made the story better. At the beginning of the first installment Bilbo tells the story of the fall of Erebor. The tale has a very Medieval feel to it. Sure the Dragon came and ruined everything, but he came in response to a sickness that had grown in the heart of Erebor's king - Greed. Dragons themselves are mythological symbols of Greed, so the story of The Hobbit in many ways is the tale of the destructive power of greed. This is all in the source material, but I thought that Jackson did a better job of bringing this element out. Thorin inherits his grandfather's sickness, and we see it start to poison him in The Desolation of Smaug. Some of the liberties that Jackson takes allow him to more fully develop some of the themes of the source material.
Now, that doesn't mean that I agree with all of the changes. I didn't mind Legolas being included (and in fact I thought his presence added a lot), but Tauriel drove me insane. It might have been fine to include an OC (original character), but I didn't like the way that she was used to inject unnecessary romantic tension. Because never, ever, ever, ever, ever *spoiler* ever, ever, ever, ever EVER would there ever be a romantic relationship between an elf and a dwarf... ever. There are canon reasons for this. First of all, elves are the true children of Eru and the Dwarves are adopted. The elves hold themselves as being inherently better because of this. Tension right there. Second of all, Tauriel is a Sindar elf, and Sindar elves hated dwarves, because dwarves literally burned down their great kingdom in Doriath and murdered Thingol, one of the greatest elves ever, and the Sindar king. Sindar elves hated dwarves. The whole Legolas and Gimli friendship was a big freakin' deal. Third of all, Kili would have grown up his whole life thinking that elves were gross because they didn't help his great-grandfather Thror. So the whole Kili/Tauriel thing was a load of crap. *Spoiler* However, this was a minor aspect of the movie and shouldn't have ruined it for people.
Peter Jackson took on an incredibly difficult task when he decided to make The Hobbit. He was, in essence, working backwards. The Lord of the Rings trilogy are unquestionably fantastic movies. They are also epics, and they were made first. Jackson, then had to take The Hobbit, a children's book, and try and make it fit with the epic scope of the trilogy without making it not The Hobbit. It's not easy, and he does mess up sometimes. Ultimately, however, I think the purists should be thankful. At the end of the day one our favorite books is getting made into a movie by someone who loves the book as much as we do. He's careful to try and make it accessible to those who haven't read any Tolkien, while putting in content and references that should excite old fans. Are there some things I would do differently if I were making the movies? Absolutley - but that's the thing. I'm not making the movies. Purists need to understand that Peter Jackson's Hobbit is an adaptation. It's not like Tolkien himself is making the movies (if he were they would never get done), they're made by a fan. So, don't go in expecting the version of The Hobbit that you had in your head, because that's not what you're going to get. Instead, go in expecting what is essentially a big budget fan-tribute. I don't think that lessens the value of the movie, in fact I think it raises it. In the end, these movies were made by people like us, people that love these books and are doing their best to bring to a wider audience.