First off, let me begin this by saying, ‘Go see the Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.’ It was a very fun movie, and I can’t wait to see the Goblin Town sequence in a video game (hint hint, designers).
That said, there were a few decisions that the production team (writers, director, and producers) made that seemed out of place, strange, or just plain pointless.
Warning: Everything below is a spoiler.
Starting with the mild disappointments, the decision to make Azog a recurring major villain instead of only having him show up at the Battle of Five Armies means that it was his crew of embittered orcs that chase our Heroes into the trees, rather than the more goofy Goblin Town brand. As a result, we don’t get to hear the ‘Fifteen Birds’ song, which I was looking forward to.
Similarly, and while it doesn’t effect much, it was surprising that the Eagles don’t talk.
In terms of more serious (in terms of the story and the background) issues: Orcrist and Glamdring don’t glow. Now, I’m sure that this was decided so that Gandalf’s sword (Glamdring) which didn’t glow in LoTR (so as not to confuse the audience) doesn’t start glowing in the Hobbit. But if you’re going to have Gandalf make a big deal about how ‘Elf blades glow when Orcs are near’ and then five minutes later have Elrond confirm that Orcrist and Glamdring are of Elf-make, it doesn’t take much for even those audience members who know nothing about the source material to say ‘Uh, didn’ t you JUST say that… but… uh…”
Speaking of consistencies between the two franchises: Where is Narya? Although it never gets even a casual mention in LoTR, it is quite plainly on Gandalf’s finger throughout the entire trilogy. And yet, there is no sign of it in the Hobbit. (For those unfamiliar with the lore of Middle-Earth, Gandalf was given one of the three Elven Rings of Power when he first arrived in Middle-Earth. He should have been wearing it all along.)
Then we move into the very very strange.
Radagast, Dol Guldur, and the Necromancer: In the books, Gandalf and the rest of the Wise (Elrond, Galadriel, Saruman, et al.) already knew that Dol Guldur was occupied. They even had a pretty good guess who the ‘Necromancer’ was by this point.
Elaborating, it is in the dungeons of the Necromancer beneath Dol Guldur that Gandalf meets Thrain, Thorin’s father, and gets the map and key that are so integral to the whole plot of the Hobbit. So, if Gandalf didn’t find Thrain there (because he never investigated Dol Guldur, because he never knew it was occupied by badguys), then it brings up the question of ‘Where did Gandalf get the key?’
Which leads us to the White Council. First of all, while I’m bemused by the idea that Saurman’s eventual fall to evil is sparked at least in part because every time he tried to say something, Gandalf and Galadriel started playing telepathic footsies, I did think that them tuning him out was kind of amusing. Not in keeping with the importance both of them placed on him as the leader of the Istari, but it was funny.
What was less funny was the whole debate about the morgul-blade and how it was ‘buried with’ the Witch-King. While I know that Peter Jackson has pretty much erased Glorfindel from his version of Middle-Earth, the Witch-King, the leader of the Nazgul, was known to all of the Wise as the power responsible for the destruction of the Arnor successor-states. (Arnor, for those unfamiliar, was the northern sister-kingdon to Gondor. Basically, it’s where Isildur and [eventually] Aragorn are from. It’s destruction was a Big Deal.) They KNEW that the Witch-King wasn’t ‘dead’, he was a Nazgul and unkillable “by man.” Some of those guys were there when his (the Witch-King’s) forces were forced back and he fled to Mordor. In short: they knew who he was, and that he wasn’t dead. And the ‘morgul-blade’ wasn’t exactly his signature weapon: the name literally means ‘black magic blade’. In other words, he probably had a dozen (cf: a ‘morgul-blade’ is what the Witch-King will later stab Frodo in the shoulder with on Weathertop. If he lost his sword to Radagast 60 years prior, what exactly does he stab Frodo with?)
I don’t want to sound like I didn’t like the movie: I did. But even if you know nothing about the lore, there were certain design decisions (the ‘elf blades’ that don’t glow, for example) that simply make no sense and would be confusing even to a Middle-Earth newbie. For all that, it was an excellent piece of tourist propaganda for New Zealand, and totally worth your ticket price.