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.