For those who managed to slog through the Extended Editions (Part I/II) of my review, and maybe especially those that did not, you may have noticed some repeating elements. Writing these reviews has been a helpful vehicle, allowing me to gather and organize my thoughts as well as reevaluate my feelings.
In doing this, I am now able to discern my primary problem with the film. It is not an issue that ruins enjoyment of it, but is ultimately an obvious adaptation flaw, which we’ve seen over and over again from Jackson’s team. Last week, in preparation for the film, I took a look at Tolkien’s letters. He has some pointed criticisms and advice for those working to adapt his texts (in this case The Lord of the Rings) for the silver screen. One of his most repeated concerns is for the proper adaptation of characters; to ensure their authenticity and that they are taken seriously (Letter 210). It turns out these same concerns are my own, and define the aspects I find most troublesome in all of the Jackson films.
The apparent need to play with characterization, to demystify, to crack the armor of the hero and show their weakness and somehow make them relate-able is endemic in the films. There is also an evident desire to downplay the noble, the honorable, the wise. It doesn’t take much thought to find examples: Theoden, Faramir and Treebeard being greatest among them.
It may be argued, with good reason, that the characters of The Hobbit text are not fleshed out and so there is significant room for character development. This is very true, particularly for the dwarves, who are often nothing more than names. However, the values they do have, and the descriptions we are given regarding the nature of dwarves at large should play a leading role in that development.
Too much of The Hobbit: TDoS works towards demeaning characters, reducing their intelligence, reducing their heroism or bravery. There are few lights to shine forth as exemplars. The heroic quality of the tale is being worn away. This is demonstrated by what I like to call ‘arbitrary obstacles,’ which don’t increase tension, but slowly erode the characters. There are negative elements to each character, particularly in The Hobbit, but in almost every case, perhaps barring one note-worthy event, they are superseded by their positive character traits. In the films, however, I get the sense that each character is actually devolving, losing the battles against their inner demons, and it is this common trend that unites all five films (some are better, some worse) thus far that defines my critique.
On a side note, The Mary Sue had some interesting comments on the debate over Tauriel which I would like to comment on. In this article it is noted that Evangeline Lilly played the character as if the object of a love triangle but not participating in it herself. If this is the case, which may or may not be born out in the final film, this would actually be quite a masterful stroke. I intend to pay particular attention to this in my subsequent viewings. Seen in this manner, Tauriel becomes a sort of foil for Galadriel. Like other scenes I noted, which replicate those of LotR, this is a clear reference to the adoration of Galadriel by Gimli. If this is the sort of relationship unfolding, I could be swayed to accept even this supposed love triangle.