The Hobbit is upon us. The deluge of marketing was compounded by word that Peter Jackson managed to work out a third film, turning the Hobbit into the Lord of the Rings Prequel Trilogy. If there’s anything that I’ve learned this year, it’s that the SF movie world is turning me more cynical, especially when one is at the receiving end of marketing that really has a disconnect from the finished product.
I re-read The Hobbit this fall, wanting to reconnect with the novel that I never quite liked as a kid, and was delighted to find that it’s a fantastic read, far better than when I’d read it as a high school student. I used that momentum to look into some of J.R.R. Tolkien’s back story and found the novel even more relevant and interesting than I’d found before. And, there’s certainly a trilogy’s worth of material cluttered away there.
The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings are two very different animals: the writing style is different, and The Hobbit has its epic moments, if done right. There’s battles, trekking through forests, and combined with all of the extra material that Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh have been working with, I can see how they’re tilting this movie to fit more closely with the first trilogy, helping to set up everything that fits in with the movie. I can even see where they could break the film into three parts: End Film 1 with Bilbo after his encounter with Gollum, while having the second film beginning with the Wargs and ending with the Dwarves arriving at the Lonely Mountain, and with the third film picking up that epic, major battle.
I was riding high on the anticipation for a while too, until I stupidly watched one of those behind the scenes features (which are best left for the DVD releases), where the production crew began talking about the detail of the polygons and torture machines, and where they start going on about how to make things bigger and better and more over the top. It sends a worrying feeling through me, and suddenly the anticipation begins to go away. Suddenly, advance reviews have gone both ways, the 48 fps decision has been argued over, and people are suddenly complaining that the film is *too* close to the book, slowing it down. (Forgetting that the Lord of the Rings was heavily criticized for cutting out parts and NOT sticking as closely to the original text).
It’s not hard to see why a third film was picked up seemingly without question. The entire Lord of the Rings Trilogy has grossed just under $3 Billion, and I’m guessing that we’ll see the Hobbit trilogy make something in the same ballpark when all is said and done (potentially even more, when one figures in the higher prices of 3D screenings!). When someone asks the question: do they *need* to make a third movie, it’s the wrong question to ask. It’s a business decision that carries with it slightly less risk than the original trilogy carried originally. Plus, with Jackson at the helm again, the studio maintains a nice, neat continuity between the eventual six films, which has undoubtedly broken up a number of arguments over how exactly the Hobbit films fit in with the LOTR trilogy.
Still, I’m interested in seeing the new film and revisiting Middle Earth, but I still wonder what a Guillermo del Toro Hobbit would have looked like. In the meantime, I’m going to try and not get caught up in the trailers for 2 and 3.
Speaking of trailers: