Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Mixed Feelings (Or, Butter Scraped Over Too Much Bread)

On today's topic I am of two minds, and it might be a bit rambly.  Let me backtrack a little.

Like I said in a blogpost last summer, I am really excited that J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit is finally being given the cinematic treatment, especially at the hands of Peter Jackson, who is probably the only person I would trust (since, you know, my trust is so important for him to maintain) to continue in the greatness and scope and scale and faithfulness of adaptation that was The Lord of the Rings.  There were rumors for years that it was being made, then lots of studio and other setbacks, then finally official announcements.  Then there was an official announcement that it was being split into two movies, part 1 being The Unexpected Journey and part 2 being There and Back Again.  Okay, fine, that idea took some getting used to, but it worked out well enough for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (though I'm still against it in some ways), but now it's being used and abused by other franchises and movies as extremely obvious money-grabbing attempts at extending the cashflow for as long as possible, which is especially noticeable when the books being adapted have barely enough "story" to fill one movie, let alone two, but they know the fans will flood to the theaters anyway (I'm looking at you, Breaking Dawn... and even you, Mockingjay).  It seemed odd to me that a book shorter and less dense than any of the LotR books should have enough material to take up two full movies, but having said that, I figured that PJ knew what he was doing, and from what I had seen and read there would be lots of background and cameos from familiar LotR characters, so I had faith that he would be able to pull it off, and heck, it gave us TWO Christmases of exciting Tolkien movies to look forward to!  More photos and teasers were gradually put out, and then when this little thing was released, the excitement only increased:

So we still pretty much go into paroxysms of glee every time we see this trailer (I still say it was the best part of The Dark Knight Rises, ha), and by this point I'm pretty much fully on board, two movies and all.  It's not the worst thing in the world for a studio to try to extend a successful series and make more money, especially if the result is two excellent films, and especially if it means twice the gloriousness of these stories for the fans.  The music, the look, the effects, the returning and new cast all look so great and consistent and perfect and I couldn't wait to go back to Middle-earth!

Then, just this week, this little bomb dropped.  So.  The Hobbit.  In three movies.


I'm all for lots of Tolkien on the big screen, like I said, but this whole idea has made me really realize that it is possible to have too much of a good thing.  Even with random information from the appendices and relevant backstory stuff, I just don't see how this could work.  Some have brought up possible inclusion of stories from The Simarillion, which also doesn't seem to fit.  The Silmarillion is a prologue to both The Hobbit AND The Lord of the Rings, and no word has been uttered regarding inclusion of those great stories, which could probably fill another trilogy entirely (and which would seem really shoehorned in and maybe irrelevant if included in or at the end of The Hobbit). I will say that if anyone could make The Silmarillion into a movie, or series of movies, it's certainly Peter Jackson, notwithstanding some cinematic adaptation and storytelling issues, but if they were to tack that on as a third movie here, it would be odd indeed to include prologue information at the END of The Hobbit.  Besides, if you read the article above it's pretty clear that the first two movies are based on The Hobbit (though surely with some additional bits from other writings, I mean, there would HAVE to be to fill two movies in the first place), and the third is seemingly going to based on appendices and extraneous details (maybe bridging between The Hobbit movies and The Lord of the Rings trilogy?), which seems like a really fancy and really long epilogue.

I feel like two movies would be stretching the out as it is, but three?  It doesn't even make much mathematical sense:  Three (technically six) books = three movies, and now one book (admittedly including appendices...) = three movies?  What kind of math is this?  There are obscure merits to having two Tolkien trilogies, and I DO trust him with the material, but this seems like a cash-grab even from him.  Not to mention the artistic and literary issues.  While they artfully picked and chose the most important and exquisite details and story elements for LotR, they might now end up of necessity shoving any and every little thing into this, making for a kind of plodding, heavy story (when really, this book is a lot lighter and happier than the subsequent trilogy).  And years from now, as I'm the type who doesn't like to watch just half or part of something, when I want to sit down on a Saturday and watch The Hobbit, it will take like 8 hours!!!  I could read the book in less time.

I'm just saying there's such a thing as excess, even of something so great as Jackson's Middle-earth.  
Some have called this the best movie news of the year, but I call it questionable at best (not to mention that it's been a pretty slow year for movie news).  I still have high hopes, but I do so reluctantly.  Others have said that more Tolkien is always a good thing, especially if it's from PJ.  See, now, one might expect that's the reaction I would have to all of this, since my complete and unqualified and even often vehement adoration of The Lord of the Rings is more than amply documented, but I really do think, like I said, that there really is such thing as too much of a good thing.  How would it have been if they stretched Deathly Hallows out into THREE films?? Yikes.  Movies can't and shouldn't try to water things down or include everything in books just to squeeze two stories out of one, but be adaptations.  It seems like people these days just have this obsession with More.  Everything has to have like three sequels and two reboots and five spin-off series.  What if someone rebooted LotR right now and it was just horrible?  More Tolkien isn't always necessarily great Tolkien. It seriously just makes it seem like a pretty obvious money/marketing decision, as opposed to an artistic or cinematic decision, which would result in more movie, but could and probably would result in less awesomeness.

Just say no, PJ! 

That was a lot of venting, but I think it brings up some pretty good points.  Apparently even Tolkien's son and literary executor/editor doesn't approve (though I guess he didn't really care for the original film trilogy in the first place, alas).  It's also worth noting that he says this third film will come out in the summer, which just isn't nearly as exciting as their traditional Christmas release.  It's just kind of a bummer that something I was SO looking forward to (and I still most certainly am) has this slight cloud of hesitation and skepticism hanging over it now.

There's also that little detail about it being filmed and shown at 48 fps, but that's another story entirely...

Now, after all of this:  Will I see all of them?  Of course. And they all three might even be brilliant.  But to use a relevant phrase (and I'm evidently not the only one who feels this way, in fact it seems I'm one of many), I'm just afraid of it being like butter scraped over too much bread.


Lest this blogpost about the continuation that I can't deny I'm looking forward to of a movie franchise that I adore end on a sour note, let's have a look at this exciting banner that was released a while ago:
Click on the link above to make it big and scroll along and take in all its wondrous details.  You know you want to.


  1. The real question here is this: does this mean more Legolas?? Nyuk nyuk nyuk.

    But srsl, here is what PJack should do: make the Hobbit in one movie and then make the Silmarillion in three! It would be a nice reverse chronology of Middle Earth.

  2. While I really enjoy the LotR movies, I felt that they were all missing a LOT of the story. When the extended versions came out I was only slightly placated, but I still felt that a lot was left out and that each book could easily have been two movies.

    Blasphemy Alert: I appreciate the artistry and suspense that dictated HP7 being split into two movies, but I don't really consider HP nearly as dense, nor does it have as much material, as Tolkein.

  3. Oh of course, I think we can all agree on that. The scope and scale of Tolkien is just bigger and broader and more majestic than HP. But if they could do GoF and OotP and HBP in one movie apiece (and I think they did), they could surely have done the same for DH. Nothing like drawing the franchise out for as long as humanly possible, even if it has already been going for almost ten years.

    As for LotR, I thought the Extended Editions were perfect. I think if any more had been included they would have just been too long and (dare I say it?) kind of boring in parts. Books are certainly not movies, yes? They can get away with a lot more meandering and lulls than movies can.

    And really, did the story of the movies actually NEED Tom Bombadil?? (Sorry, Tom and Goldberry.)

  4. I've always felt like Jackson made his movies way too long. I thought all three LOTR movies and King Kong were all needlessly drawn out well beyond what they needed to be, to the point of being tiring to watch... especially the extended versions. Watching them makes me feel very impatient and anxious for something to happen. Maybe if he had included more from the books instead of stretching the material he did use the movies would have been better? Hard to say.

    But the decision to make the Hobbit into three movies... he has really outdone himself. If the LOTR movies were drawn out too far, what is going to happen with less source material to work with? My expectations aren't set very high.

  5. I find myself muchly in agreement with your post. When you mentioned the third movie feeling like a huge epilogue, I was reminded of the ending of RotK, which kept on going! I swear that movie ended 10 times, and then they would fade in with some new ending bit. I loved it all, but it really started to drag.

    (On a side note, I just had a captcha that was a picture with no words! Seriously, it was a picture of someone's apartment or something!)