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Ringer Reviews - The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

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Ringer Review - NAME


Date Posted: 2013-12-29
Tolkien Fan Level: 0
Film Format Seen? 2D 24 fps
Will view again in a different format? Yes

What I've been enjoying about these movies so far is the expansion and elevation of The Hobbit into both a prelude and companion piece to the LOTR films (and book).

To put my comments in context I must briefly explain my own backstory. Basically, although aware of the general plot from references within LOTR (book), I had struggled to read The Hobbit for many years as I viewed it as a children's story that I could not make fit into my loved adult fantasy world of LOTR (book) both in writing style and content.

I did read it though, not many years ago, and while not world altering to me as my first reading of LOTR (book) 30 years ago as a young adult, I was nonetheless struck by the disservice I had done to both the story and the skill of the story-teller, by the depth to what seems, and I had assumed was, a simple children's story.

Some of that depth comes from being an adult and seeing things, such as the psychological unraveling of Thorin and his almost self-destructive choices and behaviors, from a mature viewpoint.

But even greater depth came from inserting what I knew of other events (prior, contemporaneous and subsequent)into my reading experience. For instance, meeting Balin for the first time in print, but knowing the tragic end to which he comes in the Dimrill Dale (and Ori and Oin in Moria)- gives an overlay of sadness and tragedy that a non LOTR reader cannot know. And the finding of the ring and the sparing of Gollum - how I marveled at those occurrences, knowing what I know.

There are gross departures from the book, yes. To address one in detail that appears to be troubling some people - the imprisonment of the Nazgul in the High Fells and their escape. Most comment is around the subsequent negation of the prophecy that Glorfindel makes abut the Witch King of Angmar ("Do not pursue him! He will not return to these lands. Far off yet is his doom, and not by the hand of man will he fall"). But surely those who make this observation must be aware that most of the actions of Glorfindel were amalgamated into the expanded Arwen characterisation in FOTR and that for a movie only viewer they have no idea who this Glorfindel is. And those who know who Glorfindel is, are readers of the books and will already know that the High Fells scene is there for movie viewers only and, for those readers able to distinguish between the books and a film adaptation, this should not prove a problem.

There are also many tweaks to the story - dwarves upright in barrels and opposed to closed within, not to mention being chased by both elves and orcs. Canon wise, the beginning and the end are the same (use barrels to escape, arrive in barrels). But that new middle, hold on and quite frankly, enjoy the non-canonical ride. And sorry, it is pretty well shot and sequenced. But I'm still sure some people expect Peter Jackson to apologise for that as it was not 'true'.

And what about those new characters (Tauriel, Alfred, Sigrid and Tilda for a start) and expanded canon characters (Radagast & Legolas)? All capital crimes for some. I admit I did wonder at how the addition of Tauriel would work. Surprisingly well. I have read some taking umbrage at her sheer presence (women enjoy the books already, why do you need a female at all), her friendship/flirtation with Killi undermining the importance given to the future Legolas/Gimli friendship (dare I say bromance?) and so on.

Well, I read LOTR as a girl, and The Hobbit as a mature woman, and sorry, but you do notice the lack of female presence, but if you enjoy fantasy/sci-fi as a female you have to come to your own understanding on this issue. Tolkien was a product of his time, although visionary in many ways, and when he broke the mould he did it well (Eowyn is a fantastic character - albeit motivated by loss of a male romantic figure to go on a suicide mission, but hey, cherish what you get in this type of fantasy fiction work). I liked the new character but would have preferred a more understated flirtation with Killi. (Too much to hope for a consideration of the Bechdel Test?) And as for belittling the Legolas/Gimli friendship? It was something mostly passed by in the movie adaptations of the LOTR book and something only a real reader would consider, and they would know the answer (books = canon and films? Not so much)

There are also elements that do not resonate as strongly with me as I had hoped, and others that I did not expect to ring true that have in fact struck home.

But Peter Jackson and co have done in film what I could not do for many years, and that was place The Hobbit within the world of LOTR (book and films) in a way that makes it an equivalent 'story' through being an 'adult' re-imagining and rebadgeing of what is, at its core, a children's book into the grown up world of LOTR (both book, appendices and films).

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