Returning to The Hobbit

hobbitWell, it really does look pretty. Especially in HD.

Against, perhaps, my proper judgement considering how I felt about watching the film at the cinema back in January, I have bought The Hobbit on Blu-ray and watched it again last night. I suppose I could/should have waited for the extended/extras-packed edition coming towards the end of the year, but I figured my rather jaded view of the film negated any ‘need’ for any such edition anyway. To be clear on one thing- The Hobbit is long enough as it is, perhaps too long, and this is one case where I feel fairly sure that ‘more’ does not equal ‘better’. Just as it proved with the extended edition of Peter Jackson’s earlier King Kong remake. As far as extras are concerned, nice as they are to have, I find I rarely have time to experience them- case in point the LOTR films with their three (four? I can’t exactly remember) commentary tracks.

The case of The Hobbit is especially interesting in regards to the current perceived ‘value’ of Extended versions and Directors Cuts and Final Cuts. The Hobbit is not a bad film- its just one that needed proper use of the editors role. As much as I hate tightly-edited, sub-90 minute movies, there is much to be said for the idea that many directors nowadays just don’t know when to stop. Perhaps the pace and time-frame that seasons of HBO shows have (i.e. the ten hours that is spent on a single book of Game of Thrones, or the multi-season story arcs of shows like the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica),  has infected the mindsets of movie directors. It’s bad enough as it is with episodic television filtering into the motion picture arena with the penchant for Trilogies and Sagas that have DVD/Blu-ray box-sets in mind over the annual/bi-annual release dates of theatrical distribution. Isn’t the complete Harry Potter box-set just a glorified mega-budget miniseries? I know there have always been sequels and franchises in Hollywood, but years ago they were a minority; most motion pictures had a beginning, a middle, and an end, usually in the space of two hours. Nowadays they are usually just a tease for future instalments, i.e. The Rise of The Planet of the Apes, The Amazing Spider Man.  They are hardly standalone anymore, they just lead to further extensions of the story, wider arcs. The Silver Screen is becoming HBO on a bigger scale. Movies turning into box-sets.

So is Peter Jackson looking with oddly envious eyes at the running-time of a series of Game of Thrones and trying to create a similar ‘epic’ length with The Hobbit?  I won’t return to the argument about the original book being a simple, rather short children’s adventure easily encompassed by a three-hour movie.  The Hobbit isn’t really The Hobbit at all; its really The Hobbit and Other Stories. I know Jackson has his eyes on the Appendices, on turning the story into a huge saga, on turning even the original three-film Lord of The Rings trilogy into a six-movie Tolkien epic.   Indeed, he may not have even finished with those LOTR films- who is to say he hasn’t in mind adding to them further scenes over and above those of the Extended LOTR editions?  Is there an Ultra Edition box-set of all three extended Hobbit and all three further extended LOTR films due before 2018?

What I’m asking is, well, is it really such a good thing? Are all these movie box-sets turning the film experience into something akin to episodic television? Should we just sit back, refuse to watch any Hobbit film at the cinema,  even refuse to buy the Blu-rays, and instead just exercise (impossible!) self-restraint and patience and just wait for the box-set in 2015?  At least then we could see the entire story.

Still, I will just say I enjoyed The Hobbit more on second viewing than I did at the cinema. It is still too long, has telling pacing issues. As a story-telling experience it lacks a proper conclusion, frustratingly opens story threads no doubt only pursued in later films. As  such it is not a genuine movie, instead its part one of three. Fans seem okay with that. I realise its the nature of the beast but I find it disconcertingly familiar of late.

But yes, it is darned pretty. Jaw-droppingly so at times. If only it told The Hobbit story, had the beginning, middle and end that movies used to have, that the book has, without wildly leaping off into Tolkien-esque tangents every thirty minutes. Oh well. That’s just the way of the movies these days it seems.

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8 thoughts on “Returning to The Hobbit

  1. I quite liked The Hobbit, but I agree with your points. The film really is epic though when you think about it. The easy thing would have been to make one comprehensive film on the book, but the fact that he is able to break the short Kia book into 3 epic movies is crazy. No it doesn’t have the story arc of the book, but there is still a beginning middle and end. The end of part I just wasn’t the dwarves getting their kingdom back. It was thorin realizing that Bilbo was useful. Good stuff though.

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  2. I watched it last week for the first time and have to say I really enjoyed it. But that comes with the caveat that I don’t remember the book all that well so wasn’t making comparisons. And even then, it did feel long — like watching an fan-pleasing Extended Edition already, not a mass-audiene theatrical cut. 40 minutes to get out of Bag End? Madness.

    On the point about films not being self-contained any more, this bothers me too, on the whole. I remember being thoroughly pissed off when Pirates of the Caribbean 2 suddenly stopped, all its plot threads still in the air. And then the third one doesn’t even really pick them up properly, as if they were under the impression that they had actually produced a finite unit in the first film. And making a first film, even an adaptation, with the assumption it will be a hit and produce the requisite sequels (see: Northern Lights, Eragon) is just foolhardy and incredibly grating when they flop (not that I’d’ve wanted to sit through a sequel to Eragon, to be honest).

    The one time I don’t mind is in cases like Lord of the Rings and now The Hobbit, where they’ve made no secret of the fact this is Part 1 of 3. OK, in the latter case it’s arguable if it should be, but they’ve made no secret that it is. I similarly didn’t mind too much with the two Matrix sequels, because they seemed to be pitched as a two-part conclusion (why I didn’t get that impression with the Pirates follow-ups I don’t know; maybe it was my mistake).

    I can see the appeal to filmmakers of creating longer, film-spanning stories. It both allows you to dig deeper into characters and to tempt audiences back for more (money money money!), but it’s just frustrating when more doesn’t appear. And it’s also not a market for extreme longevity. Spider-Man had to (well, ‘had to’) be rebooted after just three films, starting again in a way that just annoyed a large chunk of the audience; Batman is now in the same situation; at some point Marvel’s massive connected universe will face the same dilemma; and series like Harry Potter have set lifespans as it is.

    And the longest running franchise of them all is James Bond, which barely cares one jot about continuity. They could all learn a lesson from that, I feel, and stop being so hung up on having to start from scratch every time you have to recast and blah blah blah.

    (Oops, I rather went off on one there!)

    1. I’m curious about if you still intend to get the extended edition of The Hobbit later this year, or if you think this version is simply enough ( I know there is always the temptation of all those extras on the next edition)?

      1. I’ll definitely get the Extended Edition. The completist in me can’t resist, but more than that the extras certainly draw me in, and I did enjoy the film. And generally, I’m curious what else there could be to add to it!

      2. Hmmm. I’m almost afraid to see what Jackson does to it, but will have an open mind. My concern is that while I could see the point of extending the LOTR films as there was obviously material left over from each book, with The Hobbit, what’s left? And will the film just feel even longer?

      3. Good questions both. I expect most of the extensions are things Jackson thought were needed but there wasn’t time for, rather than stuff from the book they had to cut. Before release I’d assumed that would mean lots of Frodo and old Bilbo, but there’s so much of that already…!

        I reckon we’ll actually see more of individual dwarves, trying to build them up as characters rather than just a large group entity. The extended LOTRs often added to Gimli, Legolas, and other supporting characters, so stands to reason Jackson will do the same here. Kili in particular, as he seems quite emphasised in the marketing.

  3. I gave up on Peter Jackson’s overblown epics after King Kong. That movie did not need to be that long. And, so it appears, neither does this. Definitely continuing my boycott of Jackson. 🙂

    1. If you thought King Kong was long, you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet! King Kong raced along like a roller coaster compared to The Hobbit. I enjoyed The Hobbit, but it certainly does have pacing issues as well as regards the sheer length of it. And at least Kong managed to (eventually) tell a complete story…

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