Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Hobbit Trilogy: A positive perspective

     Ok, so a while back I did a post on Peter Jackson's The Desolation of Smaug and why I thought Tolkien purists were being a bit unfair in their assessments of the new trilogy. I talked about how while, yes the movie had flaws, and yes I am a huge fan of the source material, I was still able to enjoy the movie. Now that the trilogy is done I've been reading a bunch of negative posts from fans again, talking about how arrogant Jackson is, and how he ruined everything, and how the movies were the literal worst. I'd like to take the time now to offer an opposing perspective on the trilogy as a whole. I'd like to make the suggestion that maybe, just maybe Tolkien purists and fanatics (as a huge Tolkien fan myself) should take a step back, take a deep breath, and really appreciate all the fabulous things Peter Jackson gave us in his trilogy.

       Just so I can get it out of the way, were there things I didn't like about the movies? Yes. Absolutely. Did I hate the TaurielxKilixLegolas love triangle? Yep. Every scene between Tauriel and Kili made me die a little bit inside. Was the humor a little off sometimes? Yeah. And we're there times the films felt less like films and more like video games? Yeas. But honestly, I was able to get past all of those things and enjoy some movies that were actually pretty good (were they the LOTR trilogy? No, but I never expected them to be.)

     First of all, and I just have to say it, the Hobbit trilogy gave fans the best Smaug we could have possibly hoped for. Maybe even better. That dragon is, in my opinion, the best to ever have graced the cinematic screen.
 Look at him.
 Look at his feet.
He's beautiful.

He was beautifully animated, had a phenomenal voice/motion capture actor, and if anyone says otherwise I will bite you. Smaug was everything a dragon should have been. Beautiful, greedy, horrifically destructive, and sassy. This isn't a small thing. One of Tolkien's  goals in writing the Hobbit was to write an awesome dragon. He didn't think dragons had been written well since the era of Icelandic sagas. I think Jackson's Smaug did a fantastic job of bringing the book Smaug to life, making him, perhaps, the most real dragon to ravage across a movie screen.

     The next big success, in my opinion, that Jackson had in his adaptation was understanding the purpose of Smaug and the underlying moral issues that needed to be addressed. Dragons are greedy creatures, they are beastly symbols of greed. Jackson did a really good job demonstrating this through he sickness Thorin and his grandfather catch. Thorin's grandfather  brought the dragon to Erebor through his spiritual sickness, and that sickness infected Thorin who chose to succumb to it, to act dishonorably. Movie adaptations usually miss important themes like that (i.e. every Dracula film ever) but Jackson didn't (and I mean he really didn't, because be kind of hammered viewers over the head with it in Battle of the Five Armies) and I think it takes both a good director and a faithful reader to realize the importance of that kind of thing. It's not just the dragon, but what the dragon represents that's important too.

     And because I believe Jackson's a faithful reader of the books we got a billion other exciting things. What other director would have included Beorn? How cool was Beorn? We may not have gotten Tom Bombadil in LOTR, but we got another amazing character this time. Also Legolas. I know he wasn't mentioned in the books, but I actually liked that Jackson included him. He was cool and he was a good character tie in to the LOTR movies. Also, can we talk about Thandruil and his elk? Because please let's talk about the eleven king and his elk. Jackson did an amazing job with that character, he was snooty but also beautiful and compelling.

     That's another thing Jackson excelled at in these films: characterization. In the original book there were a bunch of thinly drawn characters (because characterization was not the main focus of that story) and Jackson took them and fleshed them out and gave them really distinct looks and personalities that weren't at odds with the source material at all. The dwarves! Come on, it never occurred to me that they could look like that, they were awesome! Their beards were so cool. And Jackson took the time to differentiate between them. They weren't just a clump of dwarves like they kind of were in the book, they were actually different characters, and it was great. You could really see why Bilbo was so fond of all of them. I loved that about the films. Even Bard was fleshed out more as a father and a protector. And honestly, I would not have minded Tauriel if she hadn't of fallen in love with a dwarf.

     And the last, maybe most important thing Peter Jackson did right in the films was the way he had them tie in to The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The finding of the ring was just part of it. The inclusion of the Necromancer was great (even if Gandalf, a maiar himself, was less powerful than Galadriel). And we finally got to see how awesome Galadriel is, like the beautiful elf warrior she was in the first and second ages. 

     So, I am a Tolkien fanatic. I love the world he created. I've read nearly all of his works multiple times (I'm going to work through Children of Hurin this year). The Hobbit is one of my favorite books of all time. But guess what: I really enjoyed Peter Jackson's trilogy. I think he got some things wrong, sure. What movie adaptation doesn't? (That includes the original LOTR trilogy). But I think he did a lot of things, a lot of important things, really really well. I think he struck a good tone between the lighthearted Hobbit book and the more epic tale that follows. I think he did the characters beautifully, captured Tolkien's themes well, and tied everything together beautifully. I think, ultimately, fans of the book should feel rather pleased with the film adaptations we got. The man who directed them was a fan of the work himself who tried to capture Tolkien's original intent and world while adapting to a drastically new audience and medium. I am a Tolkien fanatic, and I liked the Hobbit trilogy, and I think if more rabid fans took a step back they might enjoy them more too :) 


  1. Replies
    1. Hey, it's Rebekah!!!!!!!! I'm glad you enjoyed them too :D

  2. Awesome post!

    I think you're right. I love Tolkien's books, but I also love how the characters were fleshed out in the movies. Sometimes I can be stickler for book-to-movie adaptions. I'm a big Divergent fan, and the movie really didn't make the cut for me, because the plot of the movie took more away from the original story. What I like about the Hobbit trilogy is doesn't detract from the original book. Instead it fleshes it out, explores some of the characters (Thandruil's backstory was so well done!), explores the themes more directly. Another thing is that when I read Tolkien's book, I know that it's the "before the beginning" of LOTR, but it feels like Tolkien wanted it to also be seen as a separate story. The movie looks more like a launching point for LOTR.

    Smaug! (I never knew that Tolkien had written Smaug specifically because he thought dragons were poorly written.) In the book and the movie Smaug is the best dragon there ever is. He's intelligent, arrogant, selfish, self-absorbed. He's got everything a dragon should be. Also in movies, a talking dragon doesn't usually go very well. It either turns out cheesy or it doesn't seem authentic. But Smaug was very real. And he was just so huge! His hugeness alone was terrifying. And I love how they pointed more directly to the dragon sickness.

    The only thing I wished they could've from the book is if they could've let Thorin live. He finally got straightened out in the end, and then he dies! I know, I know. It's in the book. And in a good fantasy archenemies both die killing each other, and family lines with bad history also die off completely. But you know, I kind of hoped.

    1. Thanks for your comment! Yeah, Tolkien really liked the effect that an amazing dragon could have on a literary world (here's a cool website with a bunch of Tolkien's quotes on dragons:

      Also, it was sad when Thorin died, /but/ he got to say his awesome line about gold and cheer! So I would count that as a victory ;)


    I pretty much agree with your review (and I like Tauriel...I sort of hated myself for that, knowing she wasn't a "real" Tolkein character...but I liked her. The romance with Kili was definitely iffy, but even that didn't bother me *terribly*. I even felt bad for her there are the end when he died.) Honestly, I think the only thing that did really bother me was that the movie sometimes looked like a video game; I could have done without that.

    Smaug was FANTASTIC; I loved Thandruil. And I was thrilled with the development of Bard as a character; I haven't read the book in ages, but I remember reading it and being terribly disappointed that he was the one who killed that dragon. Some random character we don't even know that well killing it instead of these dwarves (and hobbit) we've come to love?? But in the movie it was not only fitting, but I ended up loving Bard as a character.

    So I guess what I'm saying is that even though it wasn't perfectly accurate to the book, I loved the movies. A lot :D

    Oh, and hi, Rebekah! *waves*

    1. Hey Hayden! I will admit Tauriel grew on me (although I will never accept her romance with Kili. 'It hurts....because it was real' false). But on the bright side she now gets to join a long, proud tradition of eleven women with broken hearts who will go and find a forest somewhere and fade away into nothing. Arewen will follow in a couple hundred years.

      I didn't talk about it much, but i too was really pleased with Bard. In the book his character did seem like an afterthought (although with Tolkien he certainly wasn't) but the films gave him a lot more life.

      I think once these films are given a bit more time on this earth they'll come to be appreciated more. I was too young to know what people were saying about The Lord of the Rings movies when they came out, but I bet a bunch of fans were complaining then too. :)


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