Did making three Hobbit films actually work?

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One thing you have to point out before talking about the debated success of the Hobbit films is how good the Lord of the Rings film adaptations were.   All three films can stand on their own perfectly, there’s no need to watch them all collectively from beginning to end.   For example my favourite Lord of the Rings film is the Two Towers.  It follows a simple story narrative and you can watch it without feeling you’ve missed something vitally important.  Even at the start if I remember it shows you what happened to Gandalf so you can quite easily follow the film.  I never got the feeling of needing to see the ‘Fellowship of the Ring’ before watching it and the movie stands on its own as a great film.

Film adaptations are tricky to make, yes you have characters and a story written up beforehand but choosing what goes in the film and what has to be left out can sometimes make or break a film.   Even looking at the likes of Game of Thrones you can see how fans can be upset when important parts in the book have been left out.  But this is all part of film making, parts have to be cut out to fit running time, cost and it needs to be suitable for movie viewers.  Lord of the Rings did this brilliantly.  It missed out several bits from the book but the story it represented on the screen did the books justice.  They even have extended versions of the films if fans of the book felt important information had been missed.    These films stand on their own representing each book perfectly.  The films weren’t supposed to be enjoyed by book fans but film fans instead.  That’s the whole point of making a film adaptation.

It’s important to note that each film represented one movie.  There was no need for ‘Return of the King part 2’ as the film summarised the whole book in around 3 hours.  (201 minutes to be exact) I’m okay with a 3 hour film as long as it’s something I’m willing to enjoy throughout.  This is something the Hobbit films didn’t really follow.  Quite evidently when you see they made three separate films for a fairly small 300 page book.  That’s roughly 100 pages per film which is extremely little to work on.

The-Hobbit-An-Unexpected-Journey

Making three films for a 300 paged book is at first a difficult task.  There was a point where it was just going to be the two films but obviously Peter Jackson wanted to make more money…I mean explain the story in greater detail.  Jackson clearly had a lot of input into the story; he had established new characters that weren’t in the original book and even messed around with Lord of the Rings lore adding Legolas into the Hobbit. Clearly Jackson needed to fill in time and by doing so he adapted the Hobbit into his own interpretation.  This is fine when it works but did it really improve the film?

There’s going to be some huge spoilers for the Hobbit films in the next few paragraphs so maybe it’s best you avoid this and come back when you have finished watching the films.

I fail to see how all three Hobbit films can stand on their own as individually great films.  A good solid film narrative starts of slow, picks up the pace in the middle and then has the great finally.  This set up is spread out between all three films we have ‘An Unexpected Journey’ which was a bit slow and boring, then we have ‘Desolation of Smaug’ which was fairly medium paced throughout, then finally we have ‘Five Armies’ which from start to finish is chaos, death, fighting and panic.  You can’t watch these films individually; they all have the wrong type of pacing and your left thinking you’ve missed something very important.  This is where there is a huge difference between Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.  JeremyJahns of YouTube fame came up with this graph.

hobbit

As a single film this could have worked well, we have all main narrative structures in place and the film would flow nicely.  I would also be fine with Jackson making two films; with thanks again from JerenyJahns we see how two Hobbit films would have made a fairly good two part saga.  Shorten the start and end parts of the film and we wouldn’t have such pacing problems.

Hobbit 2

I felt hugely confused with the pacing with the first and last film.  Where the first film was slow and had nothing interesting to remember the last one is full of action with too much to take in and it left you feeling swamped by what you saw on screen.  You see Samug get killed before the title of ‘Battle of Five Armies’ even comes on screen.  To kill a main villain in the last movie within five minutes of the next one really took me out of the film.  I thought Smaug would play a vital role in the last film with all the promotional dragon work going on.  But alas he only lasted a measly 5 minutes which resulted in the film feeling rushed and chaotic even before the titles.   I get the feeling Smaug was in the film on the basis people would want to watch a cool looking dragon.  He could have easily been taken down in the last film but obviously having a dragon in a film (even if it’s for 5 minutes) is an sure way to sell cinema tickets.

However Sir Ian Mckellen defended the decision into making the one book into three movies on Jonathon Ross.  He said: “Do you know what the big difference is between literature and film is?  The two mighty armies met on the plain; it’s such a literal meaning.   It has to show you the armies and it takes forever (despite Jonathon Ross suggesting under his breath it would take 15 minutes).  It’s not that they have expanded the book (which they clearly did i.e. new characters and new plots) they’ve just given images to the book. (Images that last 10 minutes per sentence.)”

I don’t really blame Sir Ian Mckellen, I have a feeling he probably hated the idea of making three films but he has to promote it to sell tickets.  Sir Ian Mckellen along with Martin Freeman were brilliant in their roles and this rant shouldn’t discourage their great performances.  It’s not the actors who are at fault here but it’s the direction and narrative structure which is to blame for this mess.

It’s frustrating because the Lord of the Rings franchise is one of my favourites and they do the books justice.   With the Hobbit trilogy however you get the feeling you’re watching a totally different adaptation.  There’s too much added to it and you get the sense Jackson was trying to make a Lord of the Rings prequel rather than a film that should stand on its own.  Jackson put too much of his own work into the film adaptation, there was no need to add new characters and no need to make three films. I don’t want to even get onto the poorly written love story between Kili And Tauriel.  Jackson has always been poor at writing love stories and to force it into a Tolkien classic is a crime against film and literature.

The three films do not work at all as a trilogy and it’s clearly a way to make more money out of hard core Tolkien fans.  I probably wouldn’t be writing this if it had been left to two movies but the last film irritated me immensely.  I don’t hate these films, they are actually okay but they should have been a lot better.  I am seriously worried that movies will continue this trend of making film adaptations into parts.  If the Hobbit films and the astonishing amount of money it made is anything to go by look out for Lord of the Rings part 76: looking for Gandalf’s missing slippers.

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