READER REPORT:

Review: Hobbit tale evolves for film

ANA MAEA CHITARA WHANGAPIRITA
Last updated 05:00 14/12/2013
smaug

BOOK DEPARTURE: The female elf Tauriel with Legolas.

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Review: Hobbit tale evolves for film Review: Smaug could divide Hobbit fans

You could feel the excitement in the air at the De Luxe Embassy Theatre's 12.02am screening of The Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug and with so many all-out Tolkien fans in attendance the film had its work cut out for it to please so many varied tastes.

I am an unashamed Weta-geek and movie freak and, yes, I was one of the many in full Middle Earth costume.

The film certainly served up a visual feast of action and effects, from the trembling of the disturbed spider's web, to the white water rollercoaster of a barrel run and the movements of Smaug's skin and scales before he does what dragons do best.

It does make for a much more exciting movie than the first and there are so many little nods to the other films for fans to pick up on.

Our screening was in the high frame rate 3D which did distract me from time to time as the different dimension layers did not always feel authentic - I'm afraid it reminded me somewhat of the old green-screen tell-tale of the actor being lit in one type of light and the background in another. However this time I didn't notice Gandalf's contact lenses as we'd spotted in Unexpected Journey even though Beorn had me wondering how much was make-up/prosthetics and how much was digital.

Story-wise, we must be careful. The Hobbit tale has evolved to suit the intended audience, and is no longer the easy-going, almost carefree children's adventure. There is blood and violence as well as well set-up humour.

*DISCRETE SEMI-SPOILER ALERT*

This is not the tale from the book. Nor is it a weaving of the events that Tolkien wrote in numerous books which happened to occur around the same time.

The book The Hobbit is the tale of Bilbo Baggins and what happens around him. The film Unexpected Journey fills in time/gaps with what other major characters were doing as well and began the foreshadowing of a much greater evil which is hardly touched on in the book (but which makes sense once you know Lord of the Rings as well).

But an additional story has been twisted into Desolation of Smaug to allow for a continuous orcish pursuit, the well-publicised new female elf warrior Tauriel and a lot of the Woodland King's son, Legolas.

Character types do unexpected things, some of which annoyed me.

Some of the most charming scenes from the book not only aren't there, they could not possibly occur with this rewrite.

The chronology has been warped. Some events which were only a short few paragraphs in the book have been stretched into cunningly-wrought displays of action, humour and ingenuity, but the overall effect is of a quick, action-packed trip instead of the epic journey taking our hobbit so very far from home.

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Many fans hung around afterwards to discuss and debate. "Did they really need to do that?" was a common phrase.

I'm quite scared about taking my well-studied Tolkien scholar partner to this film. I know that he's going to lecture me on what wasn't right all the way home, for the following two weeks and then every single time someone raises the subject.

Yet at the same time I know perfectly well I'll be happy to see it again, maybe in 2D just to compare.


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