The day before yesterday, we watched the Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug in preparation for going to see the next Hobbit movie in the theater yesterday.
This movie annoyed me for one very strong reason. Having just read the Hobbit for one of my Readings in the Genre: Fantasy Classics assignments, watching the Hobbit movies has become an exercise in patience. I realize that books and movies are different things and I’m usually the main person who states that if books and movies share a title that they still must be treated as completely separate entities. With that said, I simply can not forgive this movie for introducing exactly one female character into the story only so she can be a romantic subplot.
Enter Tauriel. She’s absolutely fantastic as a fighter and totally kicks butt with her bow. She’s worried about the larger world outside the borders of Mirkwood and wants to do more than just keep the elves safe. She offers suggestions to Thranduil about how to get rid of the spiders of Mirkwood, but her ideas are rejected because it’s beneath the elves to do things for anyone other than themselves. Tauriel works well with Legolas and the two of them are both passionate for destroying the creatures of evil. It’s implied that Legolas has strong feelings for Tauriel, but that she doesn’t return those feelings. But then they capture the dwarves and Tauriel’s purpose in this movie becomes clear. She’s not in the movie to add humanity to the elves. She’s not in the movie to bring in a fantastic female role model who is completely capable of destroying all the forces of darkness. No, Tauriel is in the movie so that there can be a romantic subplot.
This made me so very, very annoyed and angry.
J.R.R. Tolkien had zero female characters in the Hobbit. So on some level, I partially understand why those making the movies wanted to add in some female characters. Not adding any female characters at all could be seen as sexist or alienating the female audience. I actually liked Tauriel as a character right up until it became blatantly obvious that she was only there to add in a romantic subplot to a story that was supposed to be about loyalty and friendship and the destructive power of greed and war. The book had absolutely zero romantic content and that is one of the key reasons why I enjoyed the book so much. The book clearly demonstrated that you could have an entire story written about adventure and friendship and not have anything to do with romance.
Don’t misunderstand me – I’m not against stories with romantic elements. I’m actually something of a hopeless romantic myself, but I am of the opinion that the romance should mean something. If there is going to be a romantic subplot or romantic elements in a story, those elements should serve the story, create reasonable conflict with the characters, or be true character development. Romantic subplots or romantic elements should not automatically occur just because there are stereotypical sex and gender roles in a movie. “Oh, look! We’ve got a female elf! Who should she fall in love with? I know! A dwarf!” Why can’t Tauriel be just like Legolas – a character with solid morals and great fighting skills? Why does there have to romance involved?
Anyway, I think I’ve expressed my annoyance on the topic of feminism enough for this movie review.
There were a lot of times when I thought this movie could have been a lot shorter. While the special effects and such were very nicely done, watching the Blu-Ray version of this movie was a little awkward because I could really see the CGI and the movie didn’t feel quite as real as the theater version. Until Bilbo meets Smaug, that is. It’s obvious that they spent a lot of time giving the audience a beautifully rendered dragon, which was rather fantastic. The whole ending sequence with Smaug was very well done and definitely appeased my desire to see a huge dragon on the screen. I’m not sure the movie really captures how fascinating Bilbo was to Smaug, or how much they both played riddle games, but the movie still captured at least a small portion of that feeling.
Overall, this movie is a midgrade two on my rating scale. I’ll watch it if someone else is already watching it, but I doubt that it’s a movie I’ll purchase for myself, or if I do purchase it, it will likely be in a severely discounted price as I buy the entire series in a box set. It’s not something I will go out of my way to buy and it’s not something I think I’ll pay full price for.