Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Hollywood Babble On & On #931: A Hard Hobbit To Break?

Sometimes you just have to wonder about how Hollywood thinks, if it thinks at all.

Now after the mega-success of The Lord Of The Rings movie trilogy it was deemed inevitable that a movie version of Tolkien's prequel The Hobbit was going to be made, and that Peter Jackson would be involved to maintain the film's connection with the original trilogy. There were distractions and setbacks as other directors were courted to make the film, but eventually it all went back to Jackson.

There was much cheering by fans because it sounded like the best case scenario for the movie.

Then they announced that the movie was going to be shot at 48 frames per second, instead of the usual 24 fps, and folks shrugged their shoulders and figured that Jackson must know what he's doing.

Then it was announced that they were splitting the project into two films, cutting the book in half. The audience wondered if that was necessary, because The Hobbit isn't that big a novel, but again they thought that Jackson must know what he's doing.

Now they've announced that they're thinking of making a third movie, and the audience is now thinking that they're pushing it.

They're thinking of making a movie based on the 125 pages of notes and appendices that Tolkien included in the novel The Return Of The King. They include a lot of the history of Middle Earth, and explain some of the events that occur between The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings.

I'm afraid I'm going to have to call "Bullshit" on this whole "third movie" thing because it reeks of a cynical cash grab on the part of New Line/Warner Brothers with Jackson as their gleeful collaborator.
Here's why:

1. Making LOTR into a movie trilogy was a logical and sensible move. We're talking about three hefty books, with lots happening in each book. On the other hand, The Hobbit, while a well packed book, isn't the mega-epic that LOTR is. It's about 1 hobbit, his immediate companions, and their adventures battling trolls, orc, and a whopper of a dragon. Cutting it into two movies is already bit of a stretch, a third movie is jerking everyone's collective chain.

2. The proposed source material, the notes and appendices at the end of LOTR, while fascinating reading are not the sort of coherent narrative one can easily put into a feature film. If it was Tolkien would have written another novel. Trying to get the content to fit into a feature film would require a lot of chopping, mashing, and smashing that runs serious risk of coming out as a complete mess.

3. But the LOTR franchise has a lot of dedicated fans who would buy tickets even if only in the name of what I call completeism. That means that the odds of it making money, regardless of quality are pretty good.

So why would Peter Jackson go along with this, even push for it?

I think insecurity goes a long way to explain it.

Why would he be insecure since he's made one of the most critically acclaimed movie trilogies of all time?

Sadly, it can happen very easily to a man in Jackson's position.

Think about the movies Jackson has directed since The Lord Of The Rings trilogy.

King Kong, a huge bombastic monstrosity of a monster movie that sold a lot of tickets, but ultimately left even the most die-hard Jackson fans unsatisfied since the only really sensation you get from the film is one of self-indulgence on the part of Jackson.

Then there was The Lovely Bones, which was supposed to be his "small film" since it was a domestic drama about a family dealing with grief that's told by their murdered daughter from the afterlife.

The problem was that he spent $70 million making his "small film" and the studio then spent another $80+ million to market the movie, only to have it vanish faster than a fart in a thunderstorm reaping none of the accolades it was designed to accumulate.

Middle Earth is a comfortable place for Jackson, it marks the high point of his career, both critically and commercially. After seeing his two non-Tolkien dream projects be branded as disappointments, it's understandable that he wants to extend his stay in a place where he's still beloved.

The problem here, the orc in the ointment, so to speak, is that this overreach could taint his entire legacy.

So I say let sleeping hobbits lie.


  1. They COULD make a movie out of the "Silmarillion" the ACTUAL prequel to LotR, details all the back stories, and is dense enough for 3 separate movies on its own (plus, you could have a different cast for each movie since each one takes place in different ages).

    But... doesn't sound like they're doing that here.

  2. The Simarillion is a separate novel that the Tolkien family still owns all the rights to and they have publicly stated that they have no interest a movie being made from it. Mainly because they didn't like Jackson's LOTR trilogy and got somewhere between diddly and squat from LOTR's profits.

    They don't need the money since the movies boosted sales of all of Tolkien's books, which they do still control and profit from, so Warners can kiss their grits.

  3. So if Hollywood had been better about the accounting, Tolkien's estate would be less angry and might be more open to filming the other books?

    Way to go HW. Self-fulfilling idiocy indeed.

  4. Well,

    Rainforest Giant here, I have been a Tolkien fan all my life. The Return of the King was actually the first of the books I read and I was seven or eight. I got Faramir confused with Frodo for a couple chapters because of a mild reading disability (yes big and dumb even as a child).

    They do not make movies with male casts anymore. And this is a good place to debate that ridiculousness. First, they added the chick from 'Lost'. Sure she's good looking and all but why do they need her? The book is a kids story. They do not need a 'mixed' cast. They do not need 'romance' in the story it is a kids' adventure.

    If they feel like they do need a woman, why not emphasize Galadriel's part in the White Council? She's an immortal who was born in Heaven (or a Heaven). While I do not find the actress very attractive, she can act at least well enough for popcorn movie). She is the scion of warriors and one of the holders of the 'Three Rings'. Plenty for her to do and whatnot. Or they could have Arwen join her brothers in the assault on Dol Guldur.

    There is no reason to add another character. However, if they were always planning on 'stretching' the story it kind of makes sense. They really do not have anything like material for three movies. I don't see McKellen returning for a third movie so it couldn't be too 'Hobbit centric' unless they leave him out entirely.

    I know there are fan-made Tolkien based movies out there so Jackson et al can probably monkey with the setting for a while.

    I can see that the Tolkien folks wouldn't want anything to do with another movie. Faramir going bad? That was just stupid and pointless. Taking Frodo to Gondor? Again stupid and pointless and took up screen time that could have been used showing something else.

    In the first movie, Jackson gave you a sense of the scope of Middle Earth. You could see it was a long way from Hobbiton to Gondor. Once they were inside Mordor it was a like an weekend hike across the length of it. I know critics usually enjoyed the second and third movies more than the first. I enjoyed the first the most and the other two less with each movie. del Toro could have revitalized the brand and I know he wouldn't have ruined the Wargs which do not look like mutant hyenas by the way.

  5. To Nate,

    The Tolkien folks have been burned by Hollywood more than once. I think their objections are more content and theme oriented than the money.

    The money was icing on the cake I am sure.

    Furious, Has Connery ever commented on passing on a 300 million paycheck? I think that is what his portion of the profits would have been if he took the 10% they offered iirc.

    Rainforest Giant

  6. Mr. D,

    while I agree with much of what you say (as always), and I'm sure you're correct about Jackson's reasoning, etc., I do not think it is bad to make a second (or this new third) Hobbit film.

    While I am a fan of Tolkien's works itself, let's face it, Tolkien had a knack for inventing wildly interesting characters, settings and fantastic histories, but was not actually much of a storyteller - his books are not page-turners, but boring slogs. What Jackson did was take all the great stuff Tolkien invented and put it in new, fast-paced medium.

    In other words, Jackson did a better job of telling the story than Tolkien. Tolkien just did a fantastic and amazing job of inventing it all in the first place. If Jackson can take what's there and make a film with it, I think it will be a good one.

  7. Rainforest Giant - I haven't heard Connery say anything about the money he lost by passing on Gandalf. I don't see many actors who comment publicly on the parts they've turned down.

    Arthur- I didn't find the books a slog. I did find them very old fashioned in their style, but since I cut my teeth reading Victorian era adventure fiction it wasn't that much of a shock for me.

    I just think Jackson and Warners realize that a 3rd Hobbit has all the optics of a greedy cash grab.

  8. Soonertroll27/7/12 7:37 am

    Watching the dvd extras for the very forgettable League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Connery said he took that crappy movie because he had turned down the Matrix and Lord of the Rings
    He turned them down because he did'nt understand them. So if you also throug in his choice of Zardoz, it's obvious Connery does'nt get the SF/F genre.

  9. Sandy Petersen28/7/12 11:49 am

    Well I do not begrudge Peter Jackson any cash whatsoever. I will forever honor and adore him for DEAD ALIVE and putting Saruman in LOTR. He can make crappy movies for the rest of his life as far as I'm concerned, as long as I'm not forced to go see them.