Date Posted: 2014-01-02
Tolkien Fan Level: 6
Film Format Seen? 3D 48 fps
Will view again in a different format? Yes
So after the final 'boom,' when the screen went dark, I'm fairly certain that my first reaction was to say (very loudly) 'THEY CANNOT END IT THERE!' This is mainly because, in my mind, the logical place to put the split was after the chapter 'Fire and Water,' and as I managed to guess the first split correctly, I was left slightly stunned by the fact that I was wrong, and very stunned by the cliffhanger on which the film ended.
Being so obsessed with Tolkien to the point that I taught my A-level English teacher the correct pronunciation of 'Smaug,' (incidentally, the film got it right, there's a note in the back of the Silmarillion that says so,) I feel that I have a pretty good grasp of Middle Earth. And what I think a lot of critics were concerned with are the changes to the book. Yet I feel that some of the changes are welcome. Can I blame Peter Jackson for turning the relatively quiet barrel scene that featured in the book where they all drift stealthily down the river into a no-holds-barred action sequence which must have been the most fun part of this film for all involved? No. Can I blame him for fleshing out Lake-Town into a borderline dictatorship led by corrupt officials slightly reminiscent of Rohan under Saruman's control? No. Can I fault him for including a strong female character who seems to be perfectly capable of taking her own initiative and standing up for what she believes to be right? Well, maybe a bit, but only because she had to go and fall in love. (I hate romance at the best of times, and the feminist in me wanted her response to the question 'Do you think she could have loved me?' to be 'No,' but I sense that might have killed the moment.) Why can I not blame Peter Jackson for these things (except the Kili/Tauriel romance)? Because I really enjoyed them. The vast majority of the part of the book which this film covers features talking, walking, sitting, waiting, wishing, and about half a chapter of fighting. Given as how one of the biggest criticisms of the last film was that very little action happened, and that the endless characterisation and explaining of the back-story for those that haven't read the book caused the film to drag, I can hardly blame Peter Jackson for livening things up. Tolkien himself describes one of the scenes as the 'dreariest and dullest part' of the adventure, and I enjoyed the added action. Did I think that there was too much? Perhaps. Did Peter Jackson overstep the boundary of artistic licence and turn this into a new medium of fan fiction? He was pushing the boundary, but I don't think he overstepped it. As I said, I loved the barrel sequence, and I thought that there was a pleasing cat-and-mouse quality to Smaug and the dwarves. Covering Smaug in gold could be seen as a touch excessive, but I really liked it. (CAN ANYONE ELSE SEE THE REFERENCE TO GAME OF THRONES IN THAT BIT???) I thought that the acting was fantastic, (I teared up when they entered Erebor - well done, Richard Armitage and Ken Stott, it takes a lot to make me cry, and Martin Freeman's expression when first facing Smaug was so believable. AND BILBO BECOMING OBSESSED WITH THE RING AND THORIN WITH THE ARKENSTONE!) I liked the characterisation of Tauriel, but I think she would have attracted a lot less criticism if it hadn't been for the love triangle. The one great redeeming feature of it is knowing how it ends. Certainly, if they'd become friends, I would have been fine with that, but falling in love... But this is a personal opinion. Feel free to disagree with me. It had its flaws, but in all, I thought it was a good film, no matter how much of the book they changed. And I think that a lot of people lose sight of that. It is an adaptation, not a word-by-word retelling. This book has been out for seventy-six years, Peter Jackson (as a film-maker) does need to change things in order to keep his audience interested. I love an unexpected plot twist as much as the next person. Did he cross a line? I don't think so. Could he have toned down the action and included more characterisation? Probably, but there probably is more of the latter in the extended version. How much of this review can be attributed to tunnel vision? I don't know. But I know that I'm looking forward to part 3.
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