Boy, that was worth the wait. It's fantastic. The use of György Ligeti's Requiem from 2001 was perfect. I can't wait for my son to see it this weekend.
Now, The Hobbit.
My wife's deep into Benedict Cumberbatch so she's more happy to see the film than she normally would be. After I told her I was seeing it at the midnight preview, she sent this text:
Elsewhere, the Tolkien geeks are up in arms about it. I saw one call it "The Desecration of Smaug" on Reddit. Give me a break.
Simply put, it is action-packed, fun and thrilling. Yes, there are some serious deviations from the source material, particularly in the last third, but people should get over it.
Go see it.
Now, for an in-depth addressing of some of those criticisms, I will do so after the JUMP.
SPOILERS, of course.
Like I said, SPOILERS. (Both for the book and the films)
Fast forwarding through Beorn and the Mirkwood journey -- I can understand this one, as it seemed like not much time was spent on either. I will point out that the meat of the story lies beyond those places, so they wanted to move things along. Naturally, I would anticipate there being additional scenes on the extended edition set next year and since the EEs are the only versions of the films I watch once they're released, I'm sure I'll see plenty of both Beorn and Mirkwood for the rest of my days.
Bilbo's relationship with the Ring -- Yes, it certainly seems that the One Ring has some serious sway over the hobbit fairly early on. I would suggest that this is the case because of the proximity to its maker/master, Sauron. Much like Frodo's weariness they deeper he trudged into Mordor, perhaps the Ring's influence becomes more powerful here since the Necromancer is residing in nearby Dol Guldur.
Gandalf using his power against the Necromancer/Sauron -- This one's a bit fuzzier for me as my impression was that Gandalf was defending himself against Sauron's attack more than he was actively fighting him. In any event, no prohibition against such a thing was ever mentioned in the films. (My only question is "why does Gandalf seem so much more magical in these films than in LOTR?)
Gandalf in Dol Guldur -- It is an alteration, but not one with which I have a problem. It brings immediacy to the situation (much like the time dilation in Fellowship between Bilbo's departure and Frodo's departure). There is now an urgency to bring the White Council to the fortress. (The only question I have left is "when did Gandalf meet Thrain to obtain the key and map if not in Dol Guldur? Perhaps in the wild as Thorin mentioned in the prologue?")
Kili-Tauriel Shipping -- Sure, it's a stunner when you first see it, but the more I think about it, the more I realize how interesting it can be. As seen in the first film's EE, Kili has a thing for Elf maidens (when he can discern them). Couple this with his youth and it's easy to see why he may become smitten with Tauriel.
However, is Tauriel smitten with Kili? I'm going to say no. She is intrigued by him. She has sensed a world beyond Thranduil's borders and knows that darkness creeps upon it despite her king's desire to mind his own home. She knows there a free peoples in that world who are or will have to face that darkness. Kili then enters the halls and quickly humanizes (or whatever the Elf version would be) that struggle. For her, a face has been put to those on the outside. (I would also suggest that it is Tauriel's empathy in these films that will lead Legolas to stop being such a hardass.)
Not having seen the third film yet, of course, I may end up being wrong, but I think it is possible that Kili's affection for her will go unrequited. She does care for him, but just not in that way.
(My prediction for the third film? Tauriel will die with Fili and Kili.)
The Breaking of the Fellowship ... I mean, Company -- A total departure from the book. It does, however, further the story that they wanted to tell.
It brings Tauriel's kindness and compassion to the fore (though I could have done without the kingsfoil reprise from FotR). More importantly, though, it keeps focus on Bard, his family and Laketown, which will undoubtedly feature heavily in the next film. Bard, especially. If all of the dwarves had gone to the Mountain, there wouldn't be as compelling a reason to keep showing us Bard.
Yes, Tauriel and Legolas could have still chased the orcs into Esgaroth, but that would be without the Kili hook and thus wouldn't have as much weight, nor as good a reason for the two elves to split up so Legolas could face Bolg on his own.
Operation Golden Shower: the Dwarves' action in Erebor -- Here again is something wholly and completely not in the book but not something I have a problem with. (Well, one problem. I'll get to it.)
In the book, Bilbo goes in a couple of times and chats with Smaug. Smaug becomes enraged and goes out to trash Laketown, thinking they are behind the thief's thieving.
At no point do the dwarves engage the dragon.
In a movie, this is a problem. Hell, it's a problem I have with the book, too. Your heroes (the dwarves) are pitted against the Big Bad (Smaug) in an effort to reclaim their home and, maybe, get revenge. Why wouldn't you have them at least try to fight against that Big Bad?
And that's what all the forge shenanigans are in Erebor. It makes our heroes heroic instead of just waltzing in after a case of mistaken identity distracts the dragon.
Now here's my problem with the scene: was that huge statue mold always there? Was that a project they were working on before Smaug attacked and Thorin remembered it?