The director of The Hobbit film trilogy expands the film version of Middle-Earth for it’s second outing. While some have called turning the children’s novel into a three part film a stretch, Jackson manages to flush out the Tolkien’s world and characters. In the second part of the film trilogy Jackson continues to do without the slow pace some critics complained about in An Unexpected Journey.
Right out of the gate the hobbit, the wizard, and the thirteen refugee dwarves of Erebor are still on the run from Azog the Defiler and his orcs. From there the breaks in the action are very short transitioning from Beorn’s House to Mirkwood to Thranduil’s Kingdom to Lake Town to Erebor. Beorn himself and the encounter with the spiders receive the short shaft of this film sure to be expanded upon in the extended edition.
The second film is far more removed from the source material, but in doing so Jackson makes a better film than the first one. Adapting literally means to make suitable to requirement or conditions and Peter Jackson does a wonderful job in this film. It is different from the book and in one of the rare cases this change made it a better movie than if they strictly stuck to it.
While Thorin continues down his path to Shakespearean-like tragic hero, Bilbo’s characterization takes a step away from the books that was refreshing. Bilbo struggles with the power of the ring, Unlike Frodo, who has information about the ring during The Lord of the Rings, Bilbo has no idea there is an outside force working against him. This makes his struggle with the power he now has a more inner conflict he needs to work out. In that way, he becomes a better foil to Gollum’s struggle with the ring then Jackson tried to do with Frodo.
What is highly interesting is Jackson’s depiction of where Gandalf went off to during the journey. Technically, Jackson and company cannot use any material from Tolkien’s other works other than The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings that explains exactly what Gandalf was up to when dealing with the Necromancer. Instead, Jackson surprisingly skirts around the story depicting what happens differently while remaining as close as possible to how it Tolkien canon it actually went. This also gave him the opportunity to backtrack over his mistakes in The Lord of the Rings with his depiction of Sauron as a giant eye.
Like the Riddles in the Dark scene in the first firm, the highlight of the second was easily Bilbo’s interaction with Smaug. Benedict Cumberbatch was the perfect choice to depict Smaug, which the trailers so far do no justice to how incredible of a dragon he is. Even the often criticised scene of the dwarves and Smaug together is enjoyable just to see more Smaug. The dwarves cowering outside of the Lonely Mountain as depicted in the book would not have worked for this film.
Complaints of Tauriel’s inclusion will come unfounded as her addition add great dramatic conflict to Thranduil’s philosophy of withdrawal from the problems of the world. Legolas’ inclusion comes more into question as he remains there for pretty action scenes. Despite this, another criticised moment that was highly enjoyable was the barrel action scene depicting it in a fun way that shows off Legolas’ action and a good transition to Laketown what would otherwise be a slow moment.
Laketown and it’s inhabitant was another expansion of the small scene in the book that served to make a better movie, as Bard the Bowman, The Master and the town itself are more flushed out to make a better conflict for the story. Overall, with a few minor quibbles like changing Bard’s ancestor from a king to a lord and the shortened scenes involving Beorn and the spiders of Mirkwood, The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug is an example of a film where change is welcome.
J.R.R Tolkien’s The Hobbit will still remain the way it is, and this film does no harm in highlighting what is great about the author’s creation.
How Faithful Are ‘The Hobbit’ Films to Tolkien’s Books? by Corey Olsen, the Tolkien Professor
The Desolation of Smaug Review by Aaron Diaz, author of webcomic Dresden Codak