I have come to the conclusion that a person really cannot or has no reason to, compare a movie with the book it is based on. It almost always falls short, and people complain about the most miniscule details between the book and the movie. These are two different mediums, and there are going to be differences. If a film was made exactly like the book, then they would be exactly the same and no fun or discussion could come from that. It is very rare when we hear the movie was better than the book. Yes, the tone may be different from the other Lord of the Rings (2001-03) films or the original book upon which it was based, and there may be some added story elements (characters and side plots), but for the most part, The Hobbit trilogy (2012-14) film franchise follows the basic story of the book by J.R.R. Tolkien, and quite successfully. Did it have to be split into three movies? No, probably not. But were we really surprised that it did? I would rather have three films that take their time in providing a good backstory and a solid foundation, than one movie trying to cram everything from the book into it and not having much creative leeway to add more or something to expand upon.
Most of the complaints about these movies include that they are so “dark” compared to the original children’s book. For myself, I have a hard time saying these films are dark, compared to so many other films I have seen out there, and even though The Hobbit is a children’s book, there are still scary creatures and situations that occur within its pages. Many people were disappointed with Peter Jackson’s take on this book, but honestly, I would not have wanted anyone else to direct it. This is the guy who not only appreciates but actually understands The Lord of the Rings, someone who has lived and breathed it. Originally Guillermo Del Toro was set to direct, and if he had, most would probably agree that it would have been even darker than we got. These movies are not “children’s” movies, because Jackson wanted it to have the same feel as The Lord of the Rings trilogy. If you make a PG, singy, giggly, hobbit movie it might be truer to the book, but I don’t know if many people in your fan base would go see that. It would feel distant and almost unrelated to those original three films. There has to be some setup and some suspense for the coming Lord of the Rings films that this trilogy is a prequel to, to feel like we are in the same universe. And of course, if you compare this trilogy to the original trilogy, it is going to fall short. Not much can change or challenge those original three films, much like the original Star Wars trilogy (1977-1983).
While I admit that part of the third film, The Battle of the Five Armies (2014), is where some of The Hobbit's reputation dipped, all three films are still very well made with great story, romance, action, majestic music, and superb acting. It feels like The Lord of the Rings and its world, successfully and satisfyingly encompassing the original magic. People seem to forget the caliber and reputation of Peter Jackson and George Lucas when referring to the prequels of each of their sagas. They complain that they mess everything up or that they are terrible directors now, but you would not have either original story on the screen, at least not in the same way, if not for them, and this means no Star Wars trilogy that began in 1977, and no Lord of the Rings trilogy that began in 2001. Peter Jackson directed this Hobbit trilogy, and I would not have it any other way. We may not like The Hobbit films quite as much as the original Lord of the Rings trilogy, but they are not far from being equal to it in my mind.