My two-cents on ‘The Hobbit’ movie

Monday 11 December (2006)

Oh God, The Hobbit movie. Ever since the shit hit the fan over in New Zealand, the Internet has been rife with speculations and angry comment, with even Tolkien’s great-grandson Royd publicly stating that the decision to cut Peter Jackson / Richard Taylor et al. out of the deal is a big bad mistake. Perhaps this is the case, but I think a lot of people are overlooking the point here – so, with the prefix that I am not a Tolkien scholar, here’s my opinion on the whole mess…

It’s fair to say that Jackson and his team did an absolutely fantastic job adapting The Lord of the Rings into a movie trilogy – and with the extended DVD editions, it’s just about the most faithful and entertaining fantasy epic we’re ever likely to see. The casting, for the most part, was very good too – so much so that it’s hard to imagine anyone other than Ian McKellen playing Gandalf, for example.

The problem that I see, however, is that everyone is thinking of The Hobbit as a prequel to The Lord of the Rings. It is, in a sense… but it’s also not. As far as I know, Tolkien didn’t write The Hobbit with any intention of following it up with an enormous literary masterpiece like LOTR, and he even had to go back and edit it slightly when he decided that Bilbo’s ring, stolen from Gollum, was in fact the one ring from his new book. The Hobbit as it is is a children’s book – unlike the complex and far heavier LOTR.

Making The Hobbit into a serious prequel to the LOTR trilogy seems like a mistake. And New Line are talking about a second prequel, composed of entirely new material that fills in the gaps between The Hobbit and LOTR, effectively creating a pentalogy of sorts, with five movies that tell one long story. What are we now, Star Wars? ‘We’ve had some success, let’s make more movies and pretend it was all one great plan’?? It’s madness!

What I would propose instead of this would be a separate standing Hobbit movie – maybe even a two-parter, because it’s such a long book with so many memorable scenes. Why would this be better, you ask?

For one, it doesn’t rely on the existing LOTR movies to work. I mean sure, it would be better if McKellen played Gandalf and Holm played Bilbo – but if they didn’t, it wouldn’t mess up the continuity of what would essentially be a seventeen-hour long movie. It could tell the story without concentrating on the whole ‘the Necromancer in Mirkwood is actually Sauron!‘ thing (because when the book was written, he wasn’t Sauron) and instead explore the dynamics of the Dwarves a little better. I mean that scene when Bombur (or whoever the fat one is) falls into the river and falls asleep, and they all have to carry him – that’s genius! I would hate to lose the stuff like that that made me love The Hobbit in the first place so that we could see Gandalf stroking his beard as he figures out that in a couple of years, there could be a huge fucking war going on.

Based on Jackson’s adaptation of Return of the King, I would imagine that if The Hobbit were a single movie, it would concentrate squarely on The Battle of the Five Armies. We’d also spend a whole load of time with Smaug (which would be good, of course) – but this would mean cutting out some of the earlier adventures, such as the trolls (which were actually referenced in Jackson’s The Fellowship of the Ring anyway) and the bit with the Elvenking’s Palace.

I mean seriously, look at it – we have to introduce all the characters, introduce the plot, then there’s the whole Gollum thing, then Mirkwood and everything that goes with it – Elves, Spiders… and also Beorn! And all this is before we even get to Laketown, and The Lonely Mountain! I mean after all that, there’s still the bloody dragon and the battle!

Jackson and co. would of course skip introducing the Shire to us all, because they did that in The Fellowship of the Ring. They would skip most of the book in order to get to the meat; the scenes that will drag in non-Hobbit fans – the battle and the dragon. Please… no.

So let’s scrap this pentalogy bullshit, and let’s concentrate on adapting The Hobbit as well as The Lord of the Rings. Give it two movies – film them back to back, and leave movie one ending as the band arrive at The Lonely Mountain. A couple of months later, hit us with part two – complete with Smaug and the Battle of Five Armies – and that way we get to enjoy every aspect of the book without even trying to make it slot neatly in with the LOTR trilogy.

I’m not saying Jackson and WETA shouldn’t be involved – they deserve to be! But I’m just fed up of people missing the point. It’s not about who makes it, it’s about how well they adapt it.

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