I should preface this by outing myself as a Tolkien nerd. I’ve read both The Hobbit and Lord Of The Rings probably more than 20 times, and once read it 8 times in a year (not sure if that should be public information). All I wanted for Christmas at 13 was a ticket to the final movie in the LOTR franchise, and I once may or may not have made my own elf costume to wear to a dressup party as a tween (so basically, I was the Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls of that Halloween party). So if you were to assume I’m excited to see how Peter Jackson follows up his revered Lord Of The Rings trilogy, you’d be correct — to a point.
The point in question is that newly announced second sequel / third part in the series of films that will serve as a prequel to Lord Of The Rings, and as a fan of both the books and their film counterparts, I can safely say ‘We don’t need this film’.
My problems with a third film aren’t personal to you at all Peter, I promise. You did an excellent job pleasing both Tolkien fans and people with a life outside of Middle-Earth with your trilogy of LOTR films.
But those films are not these films. 10 years has past, multiple writers, directors and studios have been attached to this project, and then somewhere at the end we came out with you going back to Middle-Earth (something I feel I should point out you had not wanted to do originally), and following up that hugely ambitious series with the almost decade-long endeavor that has been The Hobbit. And there’s a few problems that I have in relation to your recent proclamation of needing a third film and second Hobbit sequel.
Do The Math
The first problem with having not just two but three Hobbit movies comes down to simplicity – it’s a single volume. It makes sense that LOTR was three movies, it’s three volumes in a trilogy of books. The Hobbit is one volume, and at 310 pages, it’s already over 200 pages shorter than the first installment of the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, The Fellowship of The Ring. I can agree with you that outside of the original books, there is plenty more of Middle-Earth to be seen – Tolkien’s various appendixes, unfinished works and the mess that was The Silmarillion prove that. But they aren’t central to the telling of the story at hand, like the subplots you were more than happy to cut when bringing LOTR to the screen – what makes them necessary now?
It doesn’t make sense that these Oscar-winning screenwriters, who had already spent many years adapting the more convoluted Lord Of The Rings saga, couldn’t put together a straightforward introduction to the universe audiences were already very familiar with. And compared to the 9 hours you managed to get that mammoth text down to, shouldn’t this have easily fit into a 120 minute runtime? (Okay, we can probably compromise on 180 minutes, based on Return Of The King).
Keep It Simple, Stupid
If the film is anything like the book, which is should be, because duh, it’s an adaptation, it should be shorter in runtime than it’s LOTR counterpart; it should be a simpler story, with less mythology and back story. Remember, the opening line of The Hobbit is simply ‘In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit’. The Hobbit is much more a children’s book than LOTR, less epic, less mythical, less tedious war-allegory. It’s the playful younger brother to the depressed teenager that is Lord Of The Rings.
Why not treat the film as Tolkien treated the novel, as a first glimpse of Middle Earth? It can still easily serve as a prequel, the best kind are an origin story of sorts. We don’t have to include a heap of extra characters just because we as an audience like the actors and want to see all of them onscreen together, because that’s the method they went on for New Years Eve, and it was a disaster.
Less Is More
I guess I could forgive all these things if they seemed well thought out and justified, such as through an extensive script-writing process. You’ve done so well with Tolkien in the past, and I respect that. And if I was a little hesitant about the adaptation being split into two halves, I was happy to overlook it as an excuse to get two movies instead of one – a thought process the studios seem to thrive on, with Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, Twilight: Breaking Dawn and now The Hunger Games: Mockingjay cases in point (though it’s important to note all those novels were actually longer than The Hobbit).
But adding an entire 3 hours of film onto the franchise because you shot too much footage, that just seems to defeat the purpose of a faithful adaptation. If it wasn’t in the script, how did it get shot? We all know there’s plenty of money pouring into the production but with such a lengthy rewriting process it seems silly to just throw that to the wind, shoot a bunch of extra stuff and then decide you need a whole movie to justify its existence. If it’s extra money you want, according to The National Business Review you’re already worth $450 million – surely that’s enough to get by.
I have a friend that considers the Harry Potter series her favorite books in the world. She saw the first movie adaptation as a kid, but hasn’t seen any of the following films, and has no interest in changing that – she prefers to hold onto her original take on the subject material. I never really understood this, probably because when I really love something, I want to get as much of it as I can. But I really love The Hobbit, and I still don’t want to see it get tedious and drawn out to a point where I don’t enjoy it or engage with it anymore, which is what this extension is starting to feel like it’ll be.