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One Brief Pre-Hobbit Thought

Steve Thomas [1])


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.

15 Comments (Open | Close)

15 Comments To "One Brief Pre-Hobbit Thought"

#1 Comment By Thomas Parker On December 13, 2012 @ 8:40 am

I had many quibbles with Jackson’s LOTR films (was I the only one who thought that he and his writers would have been glad to have found some way of ditching Saruman and the Ents altogether, but knew they couldn’t get away with it?) but I understood that quibbles were inevitable given the different demands of the two mediums, and overall I thought the films were wonderful, and was (and am) grateful to have them. This Hobbit trifecta, though…I really don’t know. I could reasonably see the story being split in two – at the point where the dwarves are imprisoned by the Elvenking with Bilbo invisibly wandering the halls – but three? It’s hard to see how it can be done without serious padding and the resulting flabbiness. I’m not completely in Alan’s category 4, but its pull is strong enough to put me at least in 2 for now.

#2 Comment By Gabriel Rossman On December 13, 2012 @ 9:00 am

There’s a different version of category two, which is “I was planning on seeing it but I’ve already decided I’m not until it’s edited down to 90-140 minutes total as there’s no way I’m going to sit through stuff like dwarf singing for an hour.” The real question from a commercial perspective is what’s the ratio of this group to the “hooray” group and how much more money did it cost to gavage the project to the dimensions demanded by those who see it less as a narrative than as nerd sous-vide.

#3 Comment By David Ryan On December 13, 2012 @ 9:15 am


#4 Comment By Mark On December 13, 2012 @ 10:39 am

If the movie’s a hit, when can we expect the announcement of an eight-part Silmarillion?

#5 Comment By Darth Thulhu On December 13, 2012 @ 12:05 pm

I am in a hybrid category between 2) and 4), namely: Hooray, I get to spend two or three hours in Middle Earth!!!

I will watch and enjoy the dwarves and the Shire and the orcs and the Rivendell and the Gollum, without reservation, and whenever we finally get to it I imagine I will enjoy what they do with Smaug and the Arkenstone and the Battle of Five Armies.

But if I feel that I already saw all these bits the first time in Fellowship of the Ring, and it just feels like gassy nostalgic lingering for far too much screentime, I will probably consider the first Hobbit movie to be enough to sate the “Hooray!” urge, and happily skip the others until the scenes come out on public media.

I can watch Smaug on YouTube and wait to download a compressed cut that trims 9 hours down to 3.

It all comes down to what Jackson decided to bloat the time with in the first movie. Character interaction and adventure moments in the Game of Thrones vein will go much, much further than pseudo-epic fetishized scenery panning of places I’ve already seen. If pseudo-epic triumphs over rollicking adventure, I will pass on the others.

#6 Comment By Jay On December 13, 2012 @ 12:46 pm

Jackson’s no fool. 90% of the grumblers (myself included) will at least watch the first one in theaters and buy a box set of extended edition DVD’s when the last one is out. There’s plenty of extra money to be made with a third movie, and also the chance not to have to cut anything unless you want to. Between the content of the hobbit and all of the backstory and sidestory being thrown in (Necromancer, White Council, time between hobbit and LOTR, etc.) I think there’s plenty of content for two good movies and probably one so-so one. If anything I would imagine the series will be front-loaded with the good stuff to try to keep people feeling like they have to go see the next one when it comes out.

#7 Comment By KSW On December 13, 2012 @ 1:31 pm

When I first heard that the film would be shown in two installments I thought back on the book and and figured that the film may be a little long, but wasn’t too concerned as the Hobbit is rather action packed compared to the LOTR.

When they announced three films….

I was very pleased by Jackson’s LOTR, even the extended editions. They weren’t perfect, but very, very good. I will probably sit this one out, at least until the third film is released. I’ll just have to get my Martin Freeman fix from Sherlock until then.

#8 Comment By Andrew On December 13, 2012 @ 1:34 pm

I envy those Tolkien-lovers, at least they have Jackson and big budgets, which provide goodies coming. My dreams of seeing Dune re-cut or, better yet, seeing it re-done by David Lynch are just that–vain dreams. Darn, this is unjust;-)

#9 Comment By Just Dropping By On December 13, 2012 @ 1:34 pm

@ Thomas Parker: Jackson is adding a significant amount of material from Tolkien’s notes about what Gandalf and others were doing during his absences from the main story. That said, I agree that it’s still padding, but it will be of a different sort than if they just tried to make a trilogy out of the straight text of the book.

#10 Comment By Michael K On December 13, 2012 @ 4:57 pm

How about a 5th: I’ll be going along with the family, not entirely unreluctantly, but part of me would really rather wait for the fanedits to be released. Personally, my view of Jackson’s movies is that they belong and should be judged alongside every other Saul Zaentz-licensed interpretation of Tolkien’s works. If Tolkien can survive the Brothers Hildebrandt, Tarot cards and death metal suites, he can certainly survive Peter Jackson et al., whose strengths and weaknesses mostly balance each other out.

#11 Comment By dSquib On December 13, 2012 @ 8:45 pm

Even the short book is stuffed. Some scenes go nowhere. Probably having the dwarves captured twice was enough to show their comical ineptness.

It is slightly bizarre that what should have been an 80-minute movie has been blown into three nearly 3-hour-long parts, but predictable. First this is what movies are now, always with an eye to extended, recut, bloated DVDs and home viewing in general. Also Tolkien fans as much as anything want footage. As if these were documentary releases looking into a far-off land.

#12 Comment By cw On December 13, 2012 @ 11:16 pm

I really didn’t like LORs. All that running through scenery and did you realize that the music played just about every second? And the the frickin’ whiner brothers Sam and Frodo were not portrayed as Hemingway might have envisioned them, to say the least. It was all super cheesy.

So I am not going to go out of my way to see the Hobbit because I’m sure it’s going to be more of the same type of dreck.

#13 Comment By Dennis On December 13, 2012 @ 11:25 pm

For the life of me, even when I was in high school, I couldn’t understand the Tolkien fanatics. Tried to read both LOTR and Hobbit; each bored me to tears and I just gave up after about 30 pages.

Moved on to Dostoevsky, Camus, Naipaul, and others of greater literary merit.

#14 Comment By Cliff On December 14, 2012 @ 6:45 am

Judging by what he did with LOTR, my guess is that Jackson padded The Hobbit with about 7.5 hours of boring, repetitive battle scenes.

#15 Comment By Thomas Parker On December 14, 2012 @ 8:46 am

Well, for those who are “bored to tears,” by Tolkien, there’s nothing to say. Indeed, life is too short, so you should certainly find something that suits you better. (I at least hope you give Dostoevsky and Camus a rest now and then, and relax with a little Wodehouse. And don’t worry; we won’t tell anyone.) The world will be forever be divided between Edmund Wilsons (hated it) and W.H. Audens (loved it) and the two camps vainly signal across the gap and rarely manage to make themselves intelligible to each other. As for those who will find the Jackson Hobbit too too much, there’s always the Rankin/Bass animated version, which is about 75 minutes long – less, if you fast forward through the risible songs. Yes, I know – but John Huston’s Gandalf is good enough to make you wish he had had a chance to do it in a real film.