The genre of fantasy fiction has always been and will forever remain my favorite among all of literature's offerings. No other genre offers such an endless vista for the exploration of imagination as there are, literally, no boundaries whatsoever. The only limits are those of the imagination of the writer. Many view the creation of Middle-Earth and the tales of J. R. R. Tolkien among the finest ever written and his epics of high-fantasy have been emulated time and again by others.
It's been years since I read The Hobbit last; yet it is a treasured, if dusty, memory which is afforded a grand place among the many adventures I was privileged to take throughout my life and, especially, my childhood. I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing, regarding how long it's been since reading it, because age and memory don't always walk the same paths. I found myself, time and again, while watching The Desolation of Smaug, raising an eyebrow and remarking, to myself, "I don't recall that being in the book."
Now, it's a given, with the decision to make a trilogy of movies out of a book that was shorter than any one of the three LOTR's books, there were going to be parts of the book drawn out and a multitude of things added in that weren't there at all. There had to be. When I found out that they were doing this I immediately rolled my eyes and muttered something nasty about the collective greed of the Hollywood Machine. At the same time, I couldn't wait to see the movies.
What really gets me is the conceit of a filmmaker that they would know better than a celebrated author of an unarguable classic how the story should go. The immortal words of Yul Brynner, as he stands overlooking the sands of Egypt, echo in my mind, "So let it be written - so let it be done." Yet such is not the case within the realm of cinema for the ego of the filmmaker is an unrivaled beast.
Now, I love Peter Jackson, I really do; he's one of my favorite directors. Tolkien's works are among my favorites, too. So, I'm divided here. It's a perfect movie, just as the LOTR's trilogy was, and couldn't have been done in an earlier era of filmmaking and come close to doing the product justice. Such is the case with a number of films these days, with CGI; it opens up all sorts of avenues and options.
The Hobbit is a grand adventure and this trilogy, along with it's predecessor, will forever be among my favorites. Yet I can't help but wonder what it would have been like if those involved in it's creation would simply have stuck to the source material, shown the proper respect and not felt the need to add to it, or worse, take away from it. The excuse of not having Tom Bombadil in LOTR because of constraints upon length of film is a poor one because there wouldn't have been such if numerous scenes weren't (needlessly) drawn out. The same holds true for The Hobbit.
It was thrilling to see Legolas and Tauriel, and Evangeline Lilly makes for a beautiful elfmaiden, but neither were actually in the story. Radagast was only ever mentioned in passing in the book yet, here he is again, too. I'll admit that he's a humorous character but, ultimately, one must ask, "What's the point?" If the recipe is already perfect, and has stood the test of time, you don't tamper with it and then offer it up as the original. Ego and greed....ego and greed.
Still, complaints aside, this is a wonderful movie and an enjoyment to see. The humor that is present in this trilogy is welcome after the grimness of LOTR. The creatures, action and majesty that are present here could never have been made possible without the advent of CGI. In truth, Smaug is one of the greatest and most believable depictions of a dragon onscreen that I've seen since the unjustly-panned Reign of Fire.
Will most everyone love The Hobbit? Yes. Will purists, like myself, take offense (however slight) with the poetic license of the creators? Absolutely, but we'll still love it, too. It's hard to guess who might enjoy it more; those who have never read the book or those who have. The joy of having a treasured memory finally appearing onscreen weighed with the tampering of memory or a completely new experience which isn't tarnished by knowing how much it is different from what it really should be.
You be the judge; either way, it's a great movie.