“Clap! Snap! The Black Crack!” AKA: The Hobbit Films, What You Tolkien About?!

Peter Jackson did an alright job of bringing Tolkien’s seminal Lord of the Rings saga to cinema screens, but nothing that he put into those films ever elevated the works to the same level as that source material – perhaps rightly so? So when it was announced that he was going to make a film adaptation of The Hobbit, after years of legal wrangling I was pleased, but no so much that I would immediately go out and buy special pants to watch the film in. The last three months however, have made me wish that the film had never got off of the ground.

It all started with the screenings of the 48fps footage at Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas on April 24th of this year. The doubled frame rate promised more realism in cinema, but was generally perceived by attendees as looking like a television sit-com or a DVD bonus feature. Now it is not for me to decide whether or not the higher fps filming of The Hobbit (or the Avatar sequels for that matter, which look to be filmed at 60fps) is a good idea, but the whole dispute has led to a slightly confused message going out that the films might not actually go out as filmed after all. Purely as a result of negative response early on.

Jackson is a great film-maker, and has worked his way up from low budget indie fare to these super franchise movies and I trust him in his decision to make a film in a certain way. Much like Bioware pandering to the nerds on the Internet who complained about the Mass Effect 3 ending, Jackson and friends are now causing me to worry that now the vocal objections of the few can have an impact on what has potential to be the biggest revolution in cinema since digital cinematography. Cinema has thrived because of innovation and advances in experimentation and creativity. I am not sure I want to be in a world when innovation is avoided because some people felt it looked ‘too real’.

“TOO REAL”!!!

I understand that in a fantasy movie (should I have thrown the word ‘epic’ in there?) an element of realism could counter the effect of the immersion in an unreal world, but it shouldn’t necessarily be the death knell for the decision. When I first watched a digital 3D movie – Avatar to be precise – I was thrown by the visuals, but after seeing the whole film I was glad I’d opted for the 3D version as I felt I’d experienced the film James Cameron wanted me to see, in the way he wanted me to see it. The Director is the artist (along with numerous other crew members, obviously) and I am the viewer. This is not cinema-on-demand. This is not Choose Your Own Adventure: The Hobbit Edition.

I want to see The Hobbit as Jackson films it, as Jackson envisions it and as Jackson signs it off.

I don’t want to see a version of The Hobbit that is produced to prevent negative press. At all.

The sheer fact that this option is even being considered is something I find insulting. Sure that ‘cinema’ look is part of the charm, but I would also say that the move to digital, specifically HD digital, has also brought with it added challenges to film makers, where a glow isn’t possible without actually being in the shot, or added in post-production.

So no, I don’t want The Hobbit in 24fps, and if it’s going to be gimped, I’d probably not bother seeing it at all.

Which brings me neatly onto my next point, I can’t actually see The Hobbit at all, instead I am only able to see it over THREE MOVIES!

It is only at the end of a shoot that you finally get the chance to sit down and have a look at the film you have made. Recently Fran, Phil and I did just this when we watched for the first time an early cut of the first movie – and a large chunk of the second. We were really pleased with the way the story was coming together, in particular, the strength of the characters and the cast who have brought them to life. All of which gave rise to a simple question: do we take this chance to tell more of the tale? And the answer from our perspective as the filmmakers, and as fans, was an unreserved ‘yes.’

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.

It has been an unexpected journey indeed, and in the words of Professor Tolkien himself, “a tale that grew in the telling.”

(From Peter Jackson’s Facebook Page)

THREE!

ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?

Now I’m all for preserving as much content from a great tome as possible, but spreading ANY movie over three instalments when it comes from ONE source is surely a recipe for failure. Even if you adapt the book with a three act structure it would mean, by definition, that the first movie would be little more than character and plot establishment. Hell, the whole of Fellowship of the Ring was like that, but it was also one damn book! I’d happily sit through a five hour movie, if need be, but I will not be buying three cinema tickets to see one story. A book is not a trilogy, and I find it hard to think of this as anything less than a marketing strategy. It’s obviously better to have films of a standard length to ensure that a certain amount can be shown per screen, per day. It also makes commercial sense to divide a film up and make more money from tie-in merchandise, advertising etc… The only person to lose out is the cinema fan. We have to see the film in a ‘convenient form’.

When Grindhouse was split into two films it lost the whole vibe that was the skeleton of the production, to put out a Grindhouse double feature, complete with trailers. With The Hobbit I have serious concerns that what makes up a great stand-alone story is being put out in this ‘trilogy’ format to appease the money men.

Now Jackson himself said in the previously posted quote:

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. 

Balls to that. The Hobbit is a book that takes up just over three hundred pages, in comparison the first Harry Potter book was also around the three hundred page mark, and while some plot lines were cropped during the creation of the screenplay there was not enough excised material to warrant two further movies. Now the only justification I can think for this course of action that would mean anything other than money was a driving force, would be if the last film took a lot of information from Tolkien’s extensive appendixes and information that bridged the gap between There and Back Again and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Even then, it’s hard to swallow. The Hobbit isn’t a hugely in-depth story, its a classic tale, but it isn’t full of complexity by any stretch of the imagination.

So, strike two for The Hobbit. Surely nothing else could annoy me before the movie even comes out?

Well… one last thing…

 

OH MY WORD! MY EYES! I NEED OTHER GLASSES TO PROTECT MY EYES FROM THE SIGHT OF THESE GLASSES! ON SECOND THOUGHTS SCRATCH THAT, JUST BLIND ME NOW!

What a horrific piece of cross-marketing. Just dreadful. So that’s it. Unless The Hobbit is full of extensive additions – that were formed around Tolkien’s extra writings – and is released in 48fps I won’t be going to the theatre to see it. Which is a shame, because when I was ten I read The Hobbit for the first time and fell in love with the world that Bilbo lived in. I have always wanted to see a big screen adaptation that could get it right and in this commercial world of money men and dodgy ethics I am being forced to deny that younger me the joy that I always craved. Film at it’s best is pure escapism, it should never be about money or convenience, and frankly I’m disappointed that one of my favourite directors would go along with all of this in the first place.

 

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