This is more of a nerdy observation list, than a full-on exploration of textual fidelity (or lack thereof) but if you want to go hunting Tolkien easter eggs in The Desolation of smaug, this article from The Smithsonian provides a few via the insights of Tolkien scholars Michael Drout and John Rateliffe. Enjoy!
Peter Jackson’s latest installment of The Hobbit trilogy has elicited some mixed reviews. Chris Orr at the Atlantic calls it “bad fan fiction,” proving that “more is less,” while Michael O’Sullivan at The Washington Post hails it as “a fun redemption of the film franchise” whose action-packed scenes help right the wrongs of the first movie’s “bloated boring and slow” plot.
Die-hard J.R.R. Tolkien fans, however, likely side with that first review, as shown in some blog posts, Reddit threads and Tolkien forums. Jackson strayed from The Hobbit book in his first movie but those additions largely borrowed from Tolkien’s broader lore. In this film, however, the director has taken more liberties, beefing up the action and introducing invented characters such as Tauriel, the “she-elf,” but sacrificing some development of beloved characters in the process.
To stretch The Hobbit—originally a light-hearted 300-page children’s story—into what, in the end, will likely be a nearly nine-hour epic trilogy, Jackson again relied on three main sources: original material from The Hobbit book, including expanding on minor elements that were mentioned only in passing in that text; details that Tolkien revealed in The Lord of the Rings books and their Appendices; and things he just made up himself. The sly allusions to Tolkien’s broader world are still there, but they are even more obscure than before. In some ways, however, this makes picking out those hidden gems and Easter eggs all the more appealing for fans.
Last year, we consulted with two Tolkien experts, John Rateliff, an independent scholar, and Michael Drout, an English professor at Wheaton College, to help us sort through the cinematic noise and identify true Tolkien threads. We’ve returned to them this year to get their take on the new movie and help us navigate the sliding scale from unadulterated Tolkien to Jackson invention.