The psychology of the characters is very often reduced to some simple sketches that are more part of the costume the actors wear, part of the characters and not something having any depth, any contradictory inner voice. Even the Hobbit himself is rather sketchy. He is predictable. He is in no way moved by deep sentiments that are expressed in a way or another on the screen. He does not have time to do this since he is absolutely all the time taken in a wild action that has no pause whatsoever, reducing the dialogue to nothing most of the time, grunts and growls most of the rest of the time, and here and there a few words often spoken in vain.
And that is the main characteristic of this trilogy.
It all starts with a Rune written on the Hobbit's door by the wizard on his first visit. This Rune is "Fehu" under its Germanic name or "Feoh" under its Anglo-Saxon name, and it is not reversed. But we are not explained the meaning of this Rune. The basic meaning is "cattle" which relates it to the post ice age agricultural evolution, the domestication of the wild bovines and thus the evolution of that new species that will provide food and comfort to human beings. It is easy to understand then that it means "wealth" and all that can be derived from that concept, such as '"fulfillment," not only the satisfaction of one's hunger, but also the satisfaction of all basic needs and further on the satisfaction of one's call to the wild and adventure. This is basic in the whole vision provided at the beginning, though it is not explained clearly and it is not explained again at the end when the Hobbit arrives home and finds out all his accumulated wealth has been sold to everyone who wanted it. Satisfied in adventure and fate since he fulfilled his destiny, he is totally ruined in his material possessions and his house has been legally and commercially looted. That's the kind of meaning we do not get and that's how we can say that this rune represents this motto: "Every beginning has within it the seeds of its own end." And the seeds can be the negation of the beginning, or its reversal because a Rune can always be drawn upside down, reversed.
In other words it is perfectly representative of the ambiguity of runic culture, the very culture Tolkien is looking for in his novel. This "fehu" rune is the symbol of the call to some fate that leads to a dragon through fire, seas, storms and all other dangers from armies and other species and the "fehu" destiny is to kill the dragon. The killing of Smaug was contained in that rune written on the Hobbit's door by this visiting wizard. I did not find one moment when this was explained. You can tell me that's the whole story. Sure. But in Tolkien's mind and in his creations, there had to be some pondering and understanding of the ambiguity of these missions and of their greatness in their being ambiguous, hence requiring at any moment, at any step a resourcing of oneself into the power of the mission, into the blood of the dragon.
But my main criticism is that action is made dominant. There is nothing but action, meaning danger and violence. Even the Orcs must have a mind and must have some psychology. They are reduced to an army of brutal and brutish automats, the perfect killers who cannot die, though on the screen quite many will die at high speed.
This insistence on the warlike aspect of the story erases the magic of the wizard and even the courage and imagination of the dwarfs and the Hobbit. Then it is all special effects that are supposed to be so striking that we are stunned into deafness, which explains why there is no dialogue. Why should there be in a story that is reduced to calamities and military fighting with in-between all types of other fighting, always for life, always to death. And the thirteen original dwarfs, squared up by the Hobbit who makes them fourteen, and the wizard who makes them fifteen, will only be ten left squared up to twelve by the Hobbit and the wizard. And that dozen is of course so symbolical of perfection that we cannot in any way hesitate: we have reached salvation though there is no prophet, no God, no Son of God, no Holy Virgin either. This parable of Christianity does not find the religious and ritual dimension it could not ignore in Tolkien's world. This film is alas absolutely deprived of any religious and spiritual dimension.
If you like special effects, that's your trilogy. If you like spectacular battles, that's your trilogy. If you like simple people who do not question the universe too much, that's your trilogy. And to make it square: if you like films that do not contain anything erotic, sexy or even simply fleshy, hence if you like puritanical human beings, that's your trilogy.
It does not matter if Tolkien is betrayed in this trilogy, since Tolkien's son made a tremendous amount of money. To defend himself he explained that he had donated a lot to various charities. Good for him. But Tolkien, his father, deserved a better service, more spiritual, more inspired by love, friendship and empathy instead of the light sprinkling of these seven and a half hours with rare and extremely superficial and evanescent references or simple allusions to such human feelings, certainly not actions or behaviors. The dragon is beautiful but he is absolutely unlovable, and actually unhatable because one cannot hate something one does not love.
Review by Dr Jacques COULARDEAU from the Internet Movie Database.