Maybe I’m a book snob. No. There’s no maybe… I’m a book snob.
The book is always better than the movie.
But watching The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, I couldn’t help but wonder what happened to the book? I couldn’t even compare this movie to the book because about ninety percent of what happened in the movie wasn’t in the book. That left me pretty confused.
Now, I know that Peter Jackson wanted to make a Hobbit Trilogy. I also know that he only had the rights to use material from The Hobbit. That book didn’t have appendices like the Lord of the Rings. He also couldn’t use the Unfinished Tales or the Silmarillion… which kind of sucks because there is some cool stuff in there despite how terrible it is to read. But if Mr Jackson only had the rights to The Hobbit, why not just tell the story from The Hobbit?
The book, written by JRR Tolkein and first published in 1937, is a whopping 320 pages long in the mass market paperback edition that is currently available. That is 144 pages less than the current mass market version of the Two Towers which is the shortest of the three books that make up the Lord of the Rings. It’s 240 pages shorter than the Return of the King, and yowza! 256 pages shorter than the Fellowship of the Ring! Each of those books was turned into one all be it long movie. And in making those movies they had the appendices to pull from.
I was really worried that in making The Hobbit into a trilogy we’d end up with another prequel trilogy the world will want to forget, and it would close the door to us seeing any of the Sil or the Unfinished Tales being turned into movies.
Watching the Desolation of Smaug, I have to say the I love Benedict Cumberbatch’s voice! And it was funny to me that Sherlock, Watson, the 7th Doctor, and Guy of Gisborne were all in the same movie. BBC what up! But I have to confess that the plot got really muddy. It was unclear who the protagonist was supposed to be. Now, in the Two Towers, the story branches off to follow three different lines too, but in that you could see how they were going to bring it all back together. They were all approaching the same conflict from three different angles. In this movie it ends up feeling like three, maybe even four, separate stories facing separate conflicts.
The movie looked fabulous, and I love taking a trip into Middle Earth, but to a book snob like me, I think Mr Jackson would have done a better service by sticking to the book more and making one cohesive adventure centered around a hobbit who leaves his home and finds adventure, friendship, and himself in the wider and wilder world around him. The Lord of the Rings was an amazing story, and the experience of bringing it to the big screen could not be repeated. Turning the Hobbit into a trilogy does nothing but make me miss the magic of the Lord of the Rings and the shorter story of the Hobbit.