J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” is a short novel aimed toward the young and the young at heart. Written in 1937, it is a brisk tale of a young hobbit who goes on a journey with the wizard Gandalf and a group of dwarves to save Middle Earth. Along his journey he meets ogres, elves, Gollum and the dragon Smog. Really that is the story. And there is a ring.
I blame the ring. Seventeen years later, Tolkien produced the massive literary epic “The Lord of the Rings.” An epic so massive that it had to be published in three volumes. While “The Hobbit” is short and fun, “The Lord of the Rings” is Tolkien’s successful attempt to produce a epic with its own mythology. And the entire epic boils down to one basic story element, a young hobbit must travel to Mordor and toss the ring into a pit of lava.
Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy manages to juggle many of the details of the novel into a great trilogy of movies. The books were long and detailed, so it was expected, if not required, that the films would be large in scope and great in length. Jackson even released longer versions of all three films on DVD and Blu-ray. I liked the long version a lot.
But then talk of filming “The Hobbit” started. After a lot of negotiating, Jackson returned as director. Many fans expressed enthusiasm over this decision. I did not. Originally director Guillermo del Toro was to direct the film. I thought this was a much better choice. For me, it was not a question of who was a better director. Both have produced enjoyable movies. However, based on “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “Hellboy 2,” I believe del Toro had an eye for whimsy and a wide-eyed sense of wonder that would make “The Hobbit” an adventure accessible to adults and children.
As soon as it was announced that “The Hobbit” would be divided into two full-length feature films, I began to have doubts about the movie. This was going to be big; too big for a story about a hobbit, a wizard and a group of dwarves. The the teaser trailer came out. Visually it was beautiful. But it looked like it should have been titled “Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings Part IV.” Based on the teaser, Jackson’s “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” is so enslaved to his vision of “The Lord of the Rings” that I have trouble having any real excitement about it.
And then there’s an article published July 30, 2012 by Variety.
Jackson confirmed that he is making a third installment of “The Hobbit.” I have read the book many times. Given Jackson’s love of long screen times, I can’t imagine any installment being less than two and a half hours long. There is no artistic or narrative-based reason for stretching this short children’s story out to the length of an epic, released over a two-year period.
So that leaves the reason most decisions in Hollywood are made: Money! This third installment involved some hurdles, one of which must have included Jackson’s fee for directing a third film. Jackson, the writers and the producers stand to make a lot of extra money for assembling an entire movie out of extra footage. The studios, Warner Brothers and New Line Cinema, stand to make money by releasing the third installment as a tent pole summer film. To add injury, the movies are being filmed at 48 frames per second, which will most likely translate to a premium added to the ticket price to compensate for new projection equipment.
If Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” was a fun there-and-back adventure appealing to young readers, Jackson’s “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” is a bloated three-film epic designed to alienate that same audience. As an adult who looked forward to the film, I’m exhausted just thinking about this project.
Copyright 2012 Paul George