Earlier this week it was announced that Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit was expanding from two films to a full trilogy. Over the internet this seemed to split opinion with as many people rejoicing as questioning the director’s intentions. It’s always been a known fact that Jackson has intended to mine the appendices of The Lord of the Rings as well as use the source material of The Hobbit to create a rich set of films, however, can one book at a mere 400 pages, compared to LOTR at 1000, stretch out into a full, satisfying trilogy.
Back in 1999, in the early days of pre-production, The Lord of the Rings was originally going to be two films, before New Line cinemas increased it to three to allow more freedom in the narrative and a lot of the story to be extended. I cannot even imagine it in two films, the amount they would have had to cut out would have made scenes baffling due to the lack of exposition and so much character development would have been sacrificed. Some argue that there still wasn’t enough room for all their beloved characters and scenes with the most notable absences being Tom Bombadil and The Scouring of the Shire. Everything about having the three film aspect to match the books came together and worked helping to bookend the story and make it something really special.
However, this was three books, big books, with a lot of different story stands, turned into three films whereas The Hobbit is one book, one book with a mostly linear narrative that can be read in an afternoon being turned into three films. Although combined with the appendices not a lot of these is solid narrative. It’s bit and bobs that Tolkien couldn’t find a place for in the story. Histories of Kings and Queens, explanation and expansion of languages and so forth. Although there is some strong backstory, how much of it is relevant? We know from King Kong and the conclusion of Return of the King that Jackson can bloat a film if he wants, only in a way that James Cameron can, and this isn’t a bad thing. I still enjoy a good, long film. But only if everything on screen is justified.
Perhaps this is the more indulgent side of Jackson coming out, there’s so much great material that he just wants to put all of it on screen. But this can go badly; it can confuse or frustrate a Blockbuster audience if a narrative isn’t trimmed down. There is no nice way to say it but The Lovely Bones was a mess. You can talk all day about adaptation and vision but it was a self indulgent, unfaithful mess that not even the brilliant acting of Stanley Tucci could save. Although I doubt this will happen with The Hobbit due to the powerful source material there is a risk that three films might be going too far. It may allow character development but from the sound of it there are many characters, with a new cast member being announced every day a few months ago. As well as adding cast from the LOTR trilogy it might get pretty convoluted and could stray away from Bilbo and his story.
This being the case, I know that this will be a terrific trilogy and although one can sometimes get Phantom Menace jitters because they’ve heard various whispers coming from the story I don’t think there is anything wrong with expanding it by a film if the filmmakers think it flows better. It will most likely create a richer story with more time to bask in Middle Earth. Seeing so much behind the scenes footage of Peter Jackson and his team at work, it’s obvious that he loves his projects and gets very involved and you would think any accusations of making a third film for extra box-office takings would be absurd. This is clearly a labour of love and one I cannot wait to see, even if it means buying an extra ticket to the cinema.