The Hobbit: Are Peter Jackson's deviations from J.R.R Tolkien's novel a good or bad thing?

Daniel Wood
17 June 2013
The Hobbit: Are Peter Jackson's deviations from J.R.R Tolkien's novel a good or bad thing?
The Hobbit: Azog the Defiler is one of the bones of contention in Peter Jackson's films

An article in the Guardian, following the release of the first official full length trailer for 'The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug' has kick-started the debate about Peter Jackson changing the source material, going so far as to describe him as Game of Thrones-esque.

This is a clear reference to the fact that both 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' and 'Game of Thrones' made changes from their literary sources when translating to the big (or small) screen. And judging from the trailer and what we already know of 'Desolation of Smaug' the Hobbit sequel is set to do the same.

The main points of negativity in the article that is regarding 'Desolation of Smaug' seem to amount to three key areas. Firstly the inclusion and expansion of certain characters with Tauriel, Azog the Defiler, Legolas, Thranduil, Radagast and Bard mentioned as culprits. Many people especially feel that Tauriel is unneeded sex appeal. Secondly the fact that the film has been, as many people feel, unnecessarily split into three films. And finally just that you shouldn't change the source material, it's sacred.

This adds to criticism that Peter Jackson recieved in 'An Unexpected Journey' for including Azog and Radagast, as well as introducing several scenes that many people felt were completely ridiculous, such as the rabbit sled and Sebastian the hedgehog. Decisions that have lead to Sylvester Mccoy's Radagast being called the 'Jar Jar Binks' of Middle Earth.

But is Peter Jackson right to make changes to the book? All of his decisions have good points defending them. Tauriel is there to add a much needed feminine touch to a film packed full of male actors. The returning Legolas is the Elven king's son so would have been there at the time the events in 'Desolation of Smaug' took place. Azog has been added to clearly make the group's journey to Erebor more perilous, turning it from a 'walking' film into a 'chase' film, his inclusion makes the film significantly more cinematic.

However there are certain things I disagree with when it comes to Jackson's hubris and his changes. I feel that he tries to put too much in his films so they become bloated. I felt that 'An Unexpected Journey' had bad pacing and almost no danger to it at all. I also agree with the fans that feel that the inclusion of the main villain Azog has stunted Bilbo Baggin's transformation from hobbit to hero. But surely a sense of rationality says that you have to make changes to a book to make it a good film, they just simply aren't the same thing.

As for the comparison to HBO's hit fantasy series 'Game of Thrones', I wouldn't necessarily say it's a bad thing. Yes, the writers of the show have hacked the source material up a bit, but they've done so with the supervision of the writer himself George R.R.Martin, who has even helped to write episodes. The changes they have made from the books to the show have been necessary, as Martin's sprawling epic needed condensing if it were to successfully translate to the small screen. Certain characters have been amalgamated into one, certain plot points and scenes have been forgotten, all to make the show a lot smoother and easier to follow.

Jackson's changes haven't been under the watchful eye of Tolkien, and in fact the author's son Christopher Tolkien has removed the Tolkien estate from association with Peter Jackson's films. It's also debatable whether Jackson's changes are necessary whereas 'Game of Thrones' is condensing a plot, Jackson is expanding it. If only Tolkien himself had said something regarding the changing of literary canon....

'The canons of narrative art in any medium cannot be wholly different; and the failure of poor films is often precisely in exaggeration, and in the intrusion of unwarranted matter owing to not perceiving where the core of the original lies.'

- JRR Tolkien, commenting on MG Zimmerman's storyline for a potential LOTR movie in 1958.

That settles it then.

But regardless of that the final stages of filming have started, and the next two films 'Desolation of Smaug' and 'There and Back Again' are sure to be amazing spectacles. What do you think?

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