|Tolkien's own illustration of Smaug|
While I enjoyed this second film, I think that (so far) it is the weakest of his adaptations. Smaug, the dragon himself, was awesome in the truest sense of the word. In the end, though, I don't think the movie captured the charm of the original book the way the first one did.
This is tricky with a book that is really very much a children's book, complete with cute rhymes. Jackson had to create movies that linked to the more adult Lord of the Rings films and that wasn't an easy task. He managed to do that with the first film, but not with the second.
I am very patient with plot divergences. It is often necessary. And with Tolkien's material, many of the divergences Jackson makes are not divergences at all, but inclusions of things gleaned from elsewhere in Tolkien's work, whether it be the Silmarillion or the appendices from The Lord of the Rings. But this film tried my patience. The ongoing battles with Smaug and the awkward inclusion of Orlando Bloom's Legolas and the lovely elf Tauriel who finds herself in a love triangle with Kili, the dwarf, and Legolas was too much for me. (Maybe there is a Tolkien expert out there who can tell my where this love affair occurs in Tolkien's work, but I'm in the dark on this one. And it makes perfect sense for Legolas to be in the movie -- he lived in Mirkwood -- but only for a cameo.)
The battles inside the mountain with Smaug and Bilbo and the dwarves made for great movie moments, but they smashed the wonderful allusion to Beowulf that Tolkien presents by making Bilbo steal a lone cup from Smaug's horde. It also kills the small-scale charm of Bilbo's interactions with the great wyrm. (Although, I do give Jackson credit for always tipping his hat to his major divergences -- he does show Bilbo holding a cup at one point and, earlier, in Mirkwood, he did introduce a whisper of the word "Attercop" from a rhyme that was left out of the film.)
|Tolkien's illustration of the barrel escape.|
I think most artists try their best to do what they believe. I think Jackson made a good movie. I just think, on this one, he leaned more toward his own movie-making ego than toward making a true connection with Tolkien's magic. I had originally heard this was going to be a two-movie series. That would have made sense.
Go see it, though. (I'm going to go see it a few more times myself.) I don't think Jackson is capable of making a bad film and it is truly entertaining. It is an action film, though. Don't expect "Chip the cups and crack the plates/That's what Bilbo Baggins hates." It ain't in there.