Film Comment: The Hobbit – An Unexpected Trilogy

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With the news that the eagerly anticipated Hobbit films were to become three, and a second trilogy for Peter Jackson, came no real surprise. The rumour had been floating around for a while – Peter Jackson had to merely confirm this as the case, in a statement released on Facebook on July 30th. This was elegantly done; the statement provides an insight into Jackson and his team’s motivation for lengthening the franchise, whilst giving Hobbit fans a suitably ambiguous taster of what is to come:

“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.”

The statement was met with mixed feelings from fans. Many felt that it was a ploy to make more money through increased ticket revenue, and felt somewhat cheated – Peter Jackson had become just another Hollywood director out to sacrifice creativity for money, and this time their favourite book was at his mercy. It was pointed out that The Lord of the Rings trilogy is (depending on which edition you have) roughly 1000 words long, The Hobbit in comparison being 300 – was it thus appropriate for both the tales to get equal screen time?

On the other hand were the fans who are looking forward to getting their hands on as much Hobbit as possible – surely the announcement of a third film meant more could be included, none of the more minor characters and details missed out? They expressed surprise at disdain for the announcement that it was to be a trilogy. The Hobbit, after all, is written more concisely than The Lord of the Rings, arguably for a younger audience; there is more story packed into fewer words.

As an English literature student, I tend to feel apprehensive when I hear a book I’ve enjoyed is being adapted for the big screen, probably due to an assumption that the director is going to bastardise a cherished novel beyond all recognition, whether for money, fame, or just a general disregard for the material. However, The Lord of the Rings trilogy was masterfully done, neither simplifying the tale nor removing its inherent themes of humanity and morality. They have become universally respected, and have secured Peter Jackson as a major player in the film industry.

With On the Road, Anna Karenina and The Great Gatsby released in cinemas in the third and fourth quarter, it seems like it really is the year of the literary adaption. I await with baited breath and hopeful trust in the directors that have taken on these classic novels.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012), directed by Peter Jackson, is released on 13th December 2012, with sequels expected for Christmas 2013 and Summer 2014.

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