By Martin Felipe
August 6, 2012
The thing is, Jackson was doomed from the moment he started. It would be impossible to please everyone. So his approach - reverence to the world of Middle-earth, faithful to the story to the point of making it cinematic, truthful to his own interpretation of the material - is about all one could possibly expect. Fan response was as polarized as can be expected. Many readers heralded the trilogy as the critics and general audiences did. Others expressed disappointment in this or that. It was inevitable.
The fact of the matter is, despite rich layering of cultural detail, a very full narrative, and the oft criticized multiple endings, the movies still streamline Tolkien’s tale to a great extent. It’s hard for non-readers to quite understand, but for a series of films that last so long and can seem slow or bloated, the pace of the films as compared to the books is quite rapid.
And this is where The Hobbit comes in. It’s not a short novel by children’s literature standards, but it’s also no Lord Of The Rings. If a trilogy of films is barely enough to tell the story of Lord Of The Rings, it might be too much to tell the story of The Hobbit.
The concerns are very real. Though nowhere near as eventful as Rings, The Hobbit is a very episodic novel, providing many possible breaking points in the narrative. The question is, is there enough story in between these points to fill three films, even if they aren’t as epic in length as the previous trilogy?
Again, this brings us to the appendices. There are other things afoot in Middle-earth at the time of Bilbo’s unexpected journey, and it’s clear that Jackson plans on showing us this stuff. The question really addresses the third movie. If the first two were planned as they are, what could the third movie be about? Will he move some of the second movie stuff into the third? Will he add material bridging The Hobbit and Rings, as was the initial rumor?
Whatever the structure of the series takes, I can only assume that the pace will be much slower than that of its predecessor, given the lack of material. This brings us to the possibility of stretching the narrative to the breaking point. Here’s why I’m not too convinced that this will be a problem.
One thing that Jackson has shown great interest in is exploring the world of Middle-earth. He and his team went to great pains during production of Lord of the Rings to create a living, breathing universe based on Tolkien’s vision. With so much going on, characters always rushing off from place to place, we get to spend very little time just existing in this universe.
Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It makes good narrative sense to keep the story going, lest viewers get bored. However, fans don’t just love the story, they love Middle-earth. As a modern mythology to end all modern mythologies, Tolkien’s world is as important as his story. Jackson’s seeming indulgence with the material is making fans nervous. I can’t say I blame them, given his overlong adaptation of King Kong, for example, but the man has always treated Middle-earth with respect. I really don’t mind spending extra time there, even if it means not much is going on. I love the place, and I can’t get enough of it.
That’s just me. Many folks are likely to react poorly to a Hobbit that seems as bloated as Kong. We shall see soon enough, but, my guess is that Jackson has heard the criticisms. Also, as I said before, he’s shown his reverence for Middle-earth. I’m taking the stance of assuming that he knows what he’s doing. I certainly am glad to have three films to look forward to instead of just the two. And, even if it ends up being a failure, which I very much doubt, I’ll still have the original trilogy and, for that matter, the books. So give us what you got, Peter Jackson. You’ve earned it.