(Middle-earth travel poster by Steve Thomas)
It seems to me that there are, generally speaking, four ways of thinking about the threefold Hobbit:
1) I don’t care; I won’t be seeing them.
2) I will be seeing the first one, and I’m really hoping that it’ll be a well-made film and not just a loose baggy monster, or else I may not come back for the next installments.
3) I may or may not see the first one, depending on reports I get from reviewers and friends.
4) Hooray! I get to spend nine more hours in Middle-earth!
I’m pretty sure that there are more than enough people in the fourth camp to make these films big money-makers. And those folks don’t think of Peter Jackson’s decision to split the story into three films as an act of money-grubbing cynicism: they’re grateful that he’s giving them more of what they want.
There’s a good deal of disagreement among the most passionate Tolkien-lovers about the validity of Peter Jackson’s adaptations, but what devotees of Tolkien and Jackson alike value above all else, aesthetically speaking, is immersion in a fictional world. Whether the story is tightly woven and well-paced, or the acting compelling, or the characters fully developed, may matter to some degree, but not nearly as much as the opportunity to live for a few hours in Middle-earth.
I suspect, then, that even the purists, who note every deviation from the Tolkienian text with clucks of disapproval, will suspend their critical faculties long enough to enjoy being transported back to the dear old Shire and to look once more upon the dangerous beauties of the Misty Mountains.