Today, Peter Jackson announced that The Hobbit would be stretched into not just two feature-length films, but three. That’s right, The Hobbit will be a trilogy. The novel that is shorter than all three volumes of the Lord of the Rings will be adapted into three films. As a fan of Tolkien’s novels and histories, and as a fan of Peter Jackson’s films, let me say: This is not a good idea. Find out why after the jump.
This morning, Peter Jackson posted the following to his facebook page:
It is only at the end of a shoot that you finally get the chance to sit down and have a look at the film you have made. Recently Fran, Phil and I did just this when we watched for the first time an early cut of the first movie – and a large chunk of the second. We were really pleased with the way the story was coming together, in particular, the strength of the characters and the cast who have brought them to life. All of which gave rise to a simple question: do we take this chance to tell more of the tale? And the answer from our perspective as the filmmakers, and as fans, was an unreserved ‘yes.’
We know how much of the story of Bilbo Baggins, the Wizard Gandalf, the Dwarves of Erebor, the rise of the Necromancer, and the Battle of Dol Guldur will remain untold if we do not take this chance. The richness of the story of The Hobbit, as well as some of the related material in the appendices of The Lord of the Rings, allows us to tell the full story of the adventures of Bilbo Baggins and the part he played in the sometimes dangerous, but at all times exciting, history of Middle-earth.
So, without further ado and on behalf of New Line Cinema, Warner Bros. Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Wingnut Films, and the entire cast and crew of “The Hobbit” films, I’d like to announce that two films will become three.
It has been an unexpected journey indeed, and in the words of Professor Tolkien himself, “a tale that grew in the telling.”
Based on the comments on the post, the reaction to this announcement has been positive. Fans are just excited to see more Middle-earth on the silver screen. This announcement came after a number of rumors surrounding a third film surfaced based on statements made by Peter Jackson at Comic-Con and elsewhere. There you have it. The films will not be two, but three.
The Hobbit has rubbed me the wrong way for quite some time now. I was, of course, excited when I heard that it was more than a rumor and that the film was in production. I loved the Lord of the Rings trilogy and was ecstatic that we would be seeing even more. I then heard the news that the book would be split into two films. I wasn’t quite sure what to think. Two films for the shortest book seemed a little strange. Then came the trailer set to a grim and mournful rendition of “Misty Mountain Cold” sung by Thorin Oakenshield and the band of Dwarves. Again, I was a little unsure about this whole business. The Hobbit wasn’t grim or mournful! It was easily the more lighthearted piece than any of the volumes of The Lord of the Rings! Today’s news that the films would be a trilogy was one more nail in the coffin of my hope for Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth.
First of all, Jackson provides a long-winded explanation in his Facebook post of how so much of the story would be left untold in two films. He says that because of the “richness” of The Hobbit and the material in The Lord of the Rings’ appendices could never be covered in only two films. The Hobbit is roughly 200 pages shorter than any of the books in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. While this in no way means that there isn’t enough material for three films, it does mean that the films will be forced to take one of two directions: They will include every last detail in the book in order to fill three full-length motion pictures, or they will be full to bursting with original material from Peter Jackson or other writers. I have a hunch that it will take the latter. I would also like to point out that the appendices Jackson mentioned consist of six passages, only two of which include anything other than family trees and notes on pronuncian. The two appendices that have any information that could be turned into a film read like a history textbook. How Jackson and his writers are going to tell these stories while remaining faithful to their sources is a mystery to me.
But Peter Jackson has his right to take creative liberties on Tolkien’s work, right? Sure! He can do whatever he wants with The Hobbit! But, if his post on facebook is to be believed, that is certainly not his intention. His goal is to “tell the full story of the adventures of Bilbo Baggins and the part he played in the sometimes dangerous, but at all times exciting, history of Middle-earth.” He can’t possibly stretch Bilbo’s full story for three movies. He just can’t. The Hobbit’s audiobook runs for roughly four hours. The three Lord of the Rings movies together are roughly nine hours. That’s quite a bit of filler you’re looking at, Mr. Jackson, and please don’t give me that bunk about wanting to delve further into the history of Middle-earth. If that’s what Jackson wants to do, why not adapt The Silmarillion? Why not just include all of Tolkien’s work set in Middle-earth for a 48-hour extravaganza covering everything from the Ainulindalë to Dagor Dagorath?
We need to stop kidding ourselves, the third film isn’t being made to expand the universe of Middle-earth or to tell Bilbo Baggins’ complete story; the third film is being made for one reason and one reason only: Money. The Lord of the Rings trilogy grossed roughly $3 billion and is the highest grossing film trilogy to date. Warner Bros. is looking at The Hobbit with dollar signs in their eyes. All three movies will be good and all three movies will be successful, but at what cost? Ranting about a film’s faithfulness to a book is pointless but where should the line be drawn? The films we will be getting starting this December will not just be unfaithful to the book, they will be unashamedly bastardized versions of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Is this what we want? It certainly isn’t what I want.
Meh. I’ll still see all three.
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