I watched The Desolation of Smaug today and I must say I was pleased with the movie. As long as one remembers some of the first words that pop up on the screen after the movie concludes - "BASED [my emphasis] on the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien", then the artistic differences introduced by Peter Jackson can be forgiven and even applauded. The filler material from the LotR appendices along with Jackson's own creations actually make the movie much more enjoyable than the book. His additions drive the plot more vigorously than just the children's story hooks that Tolkien employs and brings the movie in line more with the adult feel of the previous trilogy.
Without spoiling the details, what did I like most? For one, I very much enjoyed Jackson's version of Bard. In the book he is very one dimensional and quite frankly, rather boring. Now we not only get an interesting back story but a plot twist that is quite unexpected. I also enjoyed Tauriel. Despite some initial misgivings, I found myself not only approving of her inclusion but heavily focused on, and involved with her story. I do not know what Sir Peter has in store for her but I can't wait to find out. Well played Mr. Jackson. Well played indeed. You have me hooked.
And how could I forget Smaug? I was worried about how the "chiefest calamity" of the time would be portrayed. After all, the quest and essentially the entire story revolves around his overwhelming presence. Ruin Smaug and the entire trilogy falls as well. Well, I can say that my fears were unfounded. With a few minor exceptions (which I can easily overlook), Smaug was everything I had hoped for.
Not everything was perfect though. DoS suffers from a serious case of "power creep." The martial and acrobatic abilities of Legolas and the elves are over the top and borderline silly. And the orcs are repetitive and predictable as are the evil bosses. Azog and Bolg utter the same commands, "kill them" and "it is over" ad nauseam.
Overall the movie was worth the wait. The story is familiar yet new, the plot moves along much more quickly than the first movie, and the characters draw you in and make you care about them. In addition, Smaug was truly stupendous! Sure the movie is not exactly like the book. But the book as written would not translate into a good movie. I think Jackson made the movie that Tolkien wishes he could have written after the success of The Lord of the Rings novels and the (further) creation of his mythology/legendarium (yes, Tolkien did want to rewrite The Hobbit to make it more consistent with his later creations). Despite what some (self-proclaimed) Tolkien purists spew about Peter Jackson, it should be obvious that he truly cares about the story and the legacy of J.R.R. Tolkien. With The Desolation of Smaug, I think Jackson has paid great respect and homage to the Professor and his story. Go see it!
If you have watched the movie, what did you think?