For the most part, The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug was a better film than its predecessor, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The plot felt like it moved, the dwarves were grumpy and proud, and the scene of Bilbo peeking his head above the trees was just as satisfying as I pictured when I read The Hobbit in fourth grade. But, since Peter Jackson decided to turn a 300-page children's book into a super-violent film trilogy, I am forced to write about some very grown-up reservations.
I understand that Jackson is an enormous Tolkien-phile, and I have enjoyed some of the tie-ins he has added between The Hobbit, The Simarillion, and the "Appendices" to The Return of the King, which Tolkien used to fill in some of the gaps in Middle Earth's history. But with Tauriel, I think he has gone too far.
As a fan who re-reads The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings every other year, I will be the first to admit that the female characters in Middle Earth are sparse, and minor. Even of the many women in the histories of the The Simarillion, most are "crafty" or focused on marriage and children, which stinks of stale, dated, gender roles in Tolkien's fantasy. Knowing this, I applaud Peter Jackson for his attempt to return powerful women to the Third Age, but the love story that went with Tauriel was unnecessary.
Whenever I read The Hobbit, the stand-out theme is always unexpected friendship among people, hobbits, wizards, and dwarves of different backgrounds. Second to that, the book always centers on the ability of seemingly weak characters to do amazing things. Tauriel, with her many romantic entanglements, waters both of these down into the classic love plot.
Yes, I thought it was intriguing that Tauriel, a woodland warrior elf in Legolas' kingdom, would fall in love with a dwarf, since elves and dwarves are traditionally not fond of one another. However, I felt that the love triangle between Tauriel, Kili (the dwarf), and Legolas (who is obsessed with Tauriel), was completely unnecessary. Tauriel could have simply befriended the entire company, which would have been unexpected, but in keeping with the friendship focus of The Hobbit. This way, her awesome fight moves and orc ass-kicking would not be motivated by the classic need for a man.
I had hoped Tauriel would merely be a fighting, dancing woodland elf that gives girls a role model in Bilbo-era Middle Earth, but she ended up being a lovesick object of a prince's love. Of the disappointments of The Hobbit trilogy, this might be the greatest. Hopefully she can redeem herself in the final installment, The Hobbit: There and Back Again, and prove that an elf-woman without a man is like the one ring without second breakfast — still powerful.
Image: Warner Bros.