It’s long now since the release of the second Hobbit movie, and most of the heated discussions have subsided. Especially in the case of such a movie, controversy is high. Many things can be said about it: the quantity of action scenes, the cuts and additions to the source material, Bard, Smaug and the chase scene. So much can be said, so much can be criticized.
In this case, I want to concentrate on a topic that many people tend to criticize a lot. Now, before I start the discussion, I strongly recommend to read a previous post of mine, back when I started the movie comparisons with the book. There I present some important points on making adaptions which I will not repeat, but are crucial to follow the discussion.
Second, I would like to recap a term coined by the Tolkien Professor (Corey Olsen) with which I wholeheartedly agree and which should, in my humble opinion, become part of any book adaptation, which is “Critfic”. Critic fiction is the situation in which any viewer of such an adaptation interprets changes made to the source material, imposing his view on how the new material was created. This oftentimes leads to simplistic interpretations on what happened “behind the scenes”, which hampers the analysis of any work of art based on an assumption, be it right or wrong. In other words, the criticism oftentimes becomes the foreground to the discrediting (sometimes the contrary) of a movie or other media, leading to an “un”-meaningful discussion on the development of the story.
Most of us are guilty of such critfic. Sometimes we do not end up liking a piece of work just because the author “rushed” the story or because the director wanted to appeal to a target audience. This may be true, but oftentimes it helps not the interpretation of a work of art or just gives us some superficial understanding that makes us forget the connection of elements in a story.
The basic assumption with which I will work is that most works of fiction, be it a video game, a book or a movie, are usually seen by the creators as legitimately well done (with a few chinks, of course, no one is perfect) and most of the creations of the criticized work of fiction goes beyond the typical “this is just a quick cash in”. In other words, even if flawed or influenced by other forces, most content creators don’t make what they do just for the money, but because of the legitimate wish to write a meaningful or entertaining story.
This is a very common thing that comes up when one talks about The Hobbit, and especially the somewhat uncommon relationship of Kili and Tauriel. Criticism about this one is that Peter Jackson and team only included the elf-maid to make women happy, especially feminists. Also, the “love scene” between her and the dwarf exists only to fill the quota of a typical Hollywood movie – action & an immediate relationship between male and female-.
But in this case I see it totally different. In an action-packed movie, the relationship between Kili and Tauriel is a welcome change of pace to me. If I found something a bit lacking, then it was the few chances of a calm character development moment. Most of the characters just jump around, attack and kill, making the movie a very exciting and sometimes suspenseful experience. But the inclusion of new characters needed also a time for them to be presented and grow. Unlike the children of Bard, I felt Tauriel much more complete, much more developed.
Even though she might have been created for this film specifically, she was also much more tolkinian by hearth. The relationship with the prisoner does reflect an interesting similitude with Beren and Luthien, never reaching the full circle of love like in the original story. It also reflects the wishes and dreams of two races, separated by a hatred. Again, this goes back to the original Lay of Luthien, where King Thingol can not deem the humans as something nearly equal as the elves are, thus sneers on the second child of Ilúvatar. Yes, the trope of the strong, independent woman is still there, such as the one I discussed on my article on Arwen, but this time it was not done by sacrificing a woman.
A second consideration is maybe the idea that Jackson and team have included the lady elf as a way to appeal to feminine audiences, especially those who liked heroic women. Here I have to disagree a bit. Although the option is viable, the character was integrated correctly into the story. She is not just that two dimensional character who is a badass and kills every orc for some unknown reason, but also an emotional being who finds connection with the dwarf, who wants to leave a cave to explore, not knowing that she will get what she wished for.
If we compare this to the book, I could understand greatly the argument. She is definitely not part of the story. There is no dwarf/elf romance going on, and many will take this as an unnecessary addition. But then again, we have to realize the difference between the two mediums. The Hobbit, as a book, was originally a story devised for children and, at the same time and without the author’s knowledge, the beginning of a story that, once published decades later, would capture the imagination of people. The sequel was cold and gritty, somewhat dark, aside form the heroic moments. In short, we have a world growing.
The movie, on the other hand, has gone through a reverse process. It began technically with the sequel, and once the film makers had to make the prequel, they found out that this ambiance did not fit the second movie. Not only viewer expectations had to be filled, but also complexities and story elements to make the adaptation more mature and thus in the same tone as the original trilogy. Keeping the original cast may have been a detriment. The new characters added, especially Tauriel reflect that need. She was not just put in the world, but integrated, and no way better than creating the conflict by sharing a reflection moment with one of the prisoners.
I think that gives the movie a great credit, even though I might not have liked the rest of the actions scenes. But it goes to show that new things can be brought on the table by just flexing the world a bit. The “love” that arises between Kili and Tauriel is not out of place, it does follow some mythological resonances. It also deepens the story beyond the “I am just crossing the forest”, giving more motivations to the movie.
Plus, there remains to be seen what this conflict will do in the third installment.
Nai auinur raituvar tietyanna!