Breaking the Hobbit?

(Man, get used to seeing that headline everywhere if the film doesn’t meet expectations.)

Am I the only one who has seriously downgraded his interest in seeing Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit? Look, nearly EVERYBODY loved The Lord of the Rings. However, The Hobbit is meant to be a much less epic, child-friendly tale.

Instead, we have a comparatively slight book being turned into three (!!!) movies. Three. Now, that’s on the studio, who understandably wants to wring every dollar from the project. However, it’s when I heard about it that my interest first started waning.

However, it’s on Jackson–and this caused my interest to wane quite¬† a bit more–that he made the first chapter of this already bloated-by-trilogy production nearly three hours long. C’mon’, that’s crazy. By the end, The Hobbit trilogy will be nearly as long as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and that makes no damn sense.

Yes, yes, Jackson’s also including stuff from the Silmerillian. Whatever. Still way too long.

I started having flashbacks to Jackson’s massively overstuffed and underwhelming version of King Kong. There was great stuff in that, but there was awful stuff too (that dinosaur stampede scene nearly killed the movie for me), and way too much of it. I’ll admit this is a personal bugaboo of mine, that films are nearly constantly longer now then they need to be. Even so, Jackson needs to hire someone to stand behind him and whisper “Thou art mortal” in his ear once in a while. Maybe we

Lord of the Rings was very long, but it had to be. The story was so gigantic that Jackson still had to cut a crapload¬† stuff, which presumably forced him to pare down the films to the most important material. Those films, like Gone with the Wind, demonstrated that long doesn’t itself equal bloated.

But eight-plus hours of The Hobbit? Yeesh. I should note that I’m not saying I won’t see it. It’s just that I’ve lowered the bar on my expectations quite a while. This film will have to convince me to see the next two.

  • Marsden

    Each of the 3 Lord of the Rings books were over 350 pages each, Hobbit is 300, yet the shortest book gets the most time as each of the Lord of the Rings books got 1 movie each and this one is three.
    I think the problem is not that it’s “The Hobbit” but it’s the Lord of the Rings prequel trilogy and the book The Hobbit just happened to be there already. I think if somehow The Hobbit was never written and every thing else was the same we’d still be getting this 3 movie prequel, just like something else that had a 3 movie prequel. I just they are “using” the Hobbit’s existance as an excuse to make another Lord of the Rings trilogy and instead of a reboot it’s a prequel. They have as much as admitted their cramming in a lot of things that weren’t in the book anyway, so rather than having to leave things out they’re shoving them in, and how much of the book will be left out to make way for their extras?

  • Ericb

    So, what, is it going to take three hours to go through the first two or three chapters? That’s insane. The story basically functions as a prologue to Lord of the Rings. Since when do prologues need to be the same length as the main event?

  • Ken_Begg

    I guess, again, (and I really should have just directly stated this in the post), if you’re going to do three movies, why not make three movies two hours or less in length?

    I notice that MetaCritic–it’s like Rotten Tomatoes, only they weight the accumulated reviews based on how positive each is individually–currently has The Hobbit at 60% out of 100%. That’s basically a C++. Unsurprisingly, the element that seems to be drawing the most mixed reaction is the length of the film.

    Somebody at the studio really needed to ride Jackson on this (although, again, they seem to have foisted the trilogy on him, although maybe he didn’t take a lot of arm-twisting). People will almost certainly go see the first film. However, if the average reaction is ‘meh,’ a lot fewer of them will go to see the second and third films, which could be very expensive for the studio.

  • Ericb

    I’m kind of curious to see how they pull this off without making the films a digressive mess. It looks like they are basically taking a simple quest narrative and bulking it up by squeezing what are essentially footnotes into the narrative. It say that Godfather Part Two might be a guide to how to do this except that The Silmerillion is about a 1000 times as complex as the Vito Corleone story.

  • Beckoning Chasm

    I’ll probably skip all three, as I really disliked the book. But yes, it does sound as if “King Kong” is Jackson’s new template.

    I wonder why he didn’t stretch that into a trilogy? He could have done three hours on the boat, and have them meet Kong at the end; a second three hour movie just set on the island, ending with the capture of Kong; and a third movie covering the voyage home and Kong’s rampage. (Not that I’m suggesting he should have–I’m with you, Ken, Jackson’s Kong was so long it got boring really fast.)

  • Gamera977

    Wow, Jackson and Sam Raimi are two of the few people in the film industry I have any respect left for. I’d been avoiding news here for fear of spoilers but geeze louise THREE movies!?!

    I have to agree with Marsden, it does smack of trying to catch lightning in a bottle again with another trilogy.

    I’ll go see them, unless they’re just out and out horrible.

    One thing I do like is it seems at least some of the dwarvies will be treated seriously instead of the goofy comic relief thing they did with Gimli in ‘TLotR’ – that really annoyed me.

  • Ericb

    Even your joke King Kong has more narrative potential than The Hobbit. The Hobbit is basically your stereotypical random adventures fantasy story template (it’s just that one of the random adventures happens to become the root of a giant trilogy), as seen in Robot Holocaust and Wizards of the Lost Kingdom. Now fatten up a loose, random narrative with filmed footnotes and … ugh.

  • Going to be totally honest, I HATED every one of Jackson’s LOTR movies. Therefore I have zero interest in The Hobbit films.

  • bgbear_rogerh

    agreed, I’ll never forgive Jackson for King Kong. I’d rather watch the Jeff Bridges version again.

  • EGM3

    Worse yet, Martin Freeman’s participation in HOBBIT is delaying the production of BBC’s SHERLOCK 3 series.

  • sandra

    They are still giving the Dwarves ‘comical’ makeup jobs.

  • FEnM

    Yeah, when I heard it was two, that was one thing, but three movies? No. That’s ridiculous. WTF, Jackson?

  • Gamera977

    I did see some posted photos and thought they looked kinda like ST:TNG/DS9 Klingons. Not crazy about it but I’ll wait and see.

  • Ken_Begg

    To be fair (again, because it’s a children’s book), the Dwarves in Tolkien’s The Hobbit are more comical than they are generally portrayed as in the three Lord of the Rings novels. Personally, I’d be more worried Jackson’s going to abandon The Hobbit the book’s tone to make the new trilogy sync up more with the old one. Although I can see how others would feel differently.

    Clearly these aren’t meant as particularly kid-friendly movies, of course, if for nothing else than their length.

  • That’s pretty damning, but pretty much on the beam. Jackson seems to’ve used the ’33 film as his template, but made sure to include all the worst elements of the ’76 film. Why did he do that? The ONE scene where it came close to rivalling the ’33 production was the biplane sequence, which had me really excited right up until Ann jumped up and screamed “Noooooo!” and caused the planes to break off their actions. The momentum of the scene ground to a halt. The whole-Ann-loves-Kong-instead-of-fearing-him thing was one of the film’s biggest problems, but that thought never seems to’ve made itself known to anyone who worked on the film.

    Jackson also has my ire for taking my childhood hero, Carl Denham, and making him a psycho! I’m already on record for saying this, if I ever meet Mr. Jackson I owe him a swift kick in the shins.

  • Gamera977

    I have heard that Thorin and the older dwarves are going to be serious and the two youngest of the party would be comic relief. Which I don’t have any problem with.
    I’ll agree- I hate the thought of going all dark with a children’s book.

  • Ken_Begg

    I’ll take the other side of that. I thought the Ann loves Kong element was quite affecting, and probably the best thing in the movie. (Although I agree the biplane finale is spellbinding.) It’s a different take on the material, but a valid one, I think. The scene where Ann wins Kong’s heart by making him laugh, and he reacts to his own mirth by looking puzzled because he’d never known anything but constant strife in his existence, is the scene I’ll always take with me from that film. It’s also probably the best CGI scene I’ve even seen to boot, since I completely bought Kong as a character in that sequence.

    I can only agree about Denham, though, who was a lousy character in the remake. I initially thought the casting of Jack Black was sort of interesting, in that he has a larger than life energy that I could see suiting Denham. However, Black seemed weirdly de-energized in the film, perhaps think that that is how one goes about giving a ‘serious’ performance. In any case, one of the worst things in the movie.

    Oh, and splitting Driscoll into two characters? What the hell was that about?

  • bgbear_rogerh

    that is exactly it, the no fear of Kong thing (and as Ken said, the too long action scenes, I kept wanting to scream “CUT!”)

  • Ken_Begg

    Yeah, that stampede thing seemed to go on forever. It ranks up there with the endless highway chase from Matrix 2 and hover car chase from Star Wars 2.2 or whatever the hell those things were called.

  • Beckoning Chasm

    Well, the first LotR movie opened with a (fairly brief) flashback showing Sauron being defeated, and a bit of history of the Ring. Probably The Hobbit will open with a big backstory for Smaug or something like that which will take up an hour or so. (Okay, I’m being a bit sarcastic.)

  • I remember when the film was being cast and I heard about Black playing Denham. I didn’t understand it at first. At that time I recall thinking Treat Williams would be a much better choice (but I was still thinking of Denham as a hero). Looking back, had they wanted to do a film more like the original, I’d say Williams as Denham, Billy Zane as Driscoll, and Peter Boyle as Einglehorn. They would have been cheaper too, I imagine.

    I suppose I’ll have to give you that. The scene in question had it’s pluses. As a whole, though, the film absolutely repulsed me the way they would try to make us feel sorry for Kong and then show him casually tossing innocent women to their deaths. Why not have him stomp on an orphanage or a retirement home while he’s at it, and then follow up with a ‘cute’ scene of him trying to walk on ice? It turned my innards and quickly elevated the film from merely dull to outrageously offensive.

  • That introduction to the One Ring’s history was one of the few things I liked about Jackson’s Lord of the Rings. And that sequence was all the prequel we needed, yet it seems The Hobbit is the prequel trilogy we’re getting anyway. Even though I didn’t enjoy the book, I still have to ask: Is the focus going to be on Bilbo? And if it isn’t, is it really The Hobbit?

  • GalaxyJane

    The Hobbit is one of my favorite books of all time and I spent the last few years waiting to take my boys to see it finally done justice on the big screen, but the announcement that they were going for a trilogy filled me with trepidation and seeing that they are going for 3 hour movies has all but wiped out any remaining interest I had in going. I will go this one to make the hubs happy, but if it bores me half as much as LOTR did, the rest of the films can go hang. Jackson can be a great filmmaker, but he desperately needs an editor to smack him in the back of the ego occasionally and tell him no! The Hobbit is a very linear story, constant discursions
    into the back tale of The Silmerillian (the only book on earth even more boring than LOTR) will destroy the momentum of the real plot. Even if I do get to see Sylvester McCoy play Radagast.

    I didn’t even manage to get through Jackson’s Kong, so he already has a rough track record with me for screwing up my favorite stories (LOTR doesn’t count, I was bored to tears by the books as well, so I can’t hold Jackson responsible for the movies dragging just as badly).

    As for the boys, I think I may have to stick with the Rankin-Bass cartoon, I can’t see dragging them through nine hours of anything. Even in 3 hour blocks.

  • The three T-rex’s fighting with Kong while swinging from vines was the point at which I checked out. It seemed like he was just trying to one-up the original movie. It was one of those movies where, with a little restraint, it could have been great.

  • Cullen Waters

    I’m pretty much with Rock Baker here on most every point except the swift kick to the shins (Brain Dead/Dead Alive and LOtR rate a little too high in my book for that.)

  • FEnM

    Hey, I love the R-B cartoon version of “The Hobbit”!

  • Ken_Begg

    “Frodo…of the Nine Fingers…and the Ring of Doooom….”

  • Ericb

    Amusing comment on the thread for the CNN review:

    “Years later a teacher assigns a book report on “The Hobbit” to her class. The children, realizing they can save time, choose to read the book rather than watch the movies.”

  • FEnM

    Actually, that’s from R-B’s “Return of the King”, which also features “Where There’s a Whip There’s a Way” (singing orcs. SINGING. ORCS. I don’t even…). That one is… less good. Though it does feature Roddy McDowall (as Sam), one of my fave actors ever, so there’s that.

    It’s a little weird: R-B did “The Hobbit”, then Ralph Baskhi did his infamous version of “Lord of the Rings”, then R-B did “Return of the King”, to finish up the story. But they have wildly different styles (to put it mildly), a whole section of the story is still missing (even aside from the VAST liberties both movies took with the story), and LotR and RotK don’t even feel like they’re in any continuity with each other…

  • Yeah, but I’m on record. I have no choice. If I run into him, I either kick him, or I’m not good to my word! It’s my duty as a man to follow through on a very stupid thing I said in the heat of emotional beating.

  • SteveWD

    Even parts of the ’76 version had genuine moments of dread (mainly from John Barry’s score, I think). Kong’s approach to the wall before breaking through the gate comes to mind. I never got any sense of that from Jackson’s Kong.

  • SteveWD

    Agreed….and the guys running amongst the sea of CGI dinosaurs looks as much like guys running on treadmills in front of a green screen as much as the shot in the original where they walk past the dead (almost) stegosaur and they are obviously walking on a treadmill past a projection screen. Only difference is I can go with it no problem in the original.

  • The ’76 version would have been an okay movie if not for the characters. Had they focused the script on telling a GOOD story rather than a “relevant” one, it could have been a whole different animal.

    Any day of the week I’ll take Rick Baker’s cool ape suit over Jackson’s cartoon gorilla.

  • GalaxyJane

    Discus ate my earlier reply, darn it! And I am far too lazy to recreate it. Anyhow…..

  • Two-Thirds Nelson

    I actually really liked most of Jackson’s King Kong excess and all but yeah I miss pre-LOTR Peter Jackson. This whole thing feels like an artless Lucas-esque cash grab after the failure of that and his admittedly rancid Lovely Bones.

    I really hope the upcoming American debuts of Chan-wook Park and Jee-Woon Kim don’t ruin them too.