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Imagining Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: Part Two

November 28, 2012 at 5:08 am by newsfrombree  - 

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

In Imagining Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit, guest writer Eric M. Van draws together the threads of known facts, and add a dash of logic to speculate on how Peter Jackson and his crew may have imagined their version of JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit.

This second part of the series examines the unique adaptation challenges for Jackson and his fellow screenwriters that come from a sequel that’s a prequel — and whether they’ve had a six-movie Ultimate Edition in mind from the very start.

Imagining Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit

Part 2: the initial challenges

In the first installment of this series, I tried to solve all the mysteries regarding An Unexpected Journey that have been created by the many available clues: a host of questions concerning the revised history of Sauron’s return to Middle Earth, the invented Radagast storyline, and the film’s ending.

What has been largely overlooked amidst this orgy of clue-driven speculation is that from the beginning The Hobbit has posed a set of unique adaptation challenges for Jackson and his fellow screenwriters. And I believe it is impossible to get a firm grasp of what the overall Hobbit trilogy might be like — what tales it might tell, and where it might tell them — without understanding these initial challenges.

So my humble entry in the great Predict-the-Hobbit-trilogy sweepstakes will not continue with a simple chronological rundown of further plot points. Rather, I want to take a detailed look at each of the major adaptation challenges — I count eight — arranged more or less in the order they’ll be encountered. I’ll even interrupt the survey for an appreciation of the unique world of The Hobbit, which underlies one or two of those challenges (it all does come back to the books, after all!). I’ll continue to make plenty of specific and sometimes bold guesses as to what we might see, but my chief goal is to give readers a sense of just what has needed to be done to turn The Hobbit into a companion to the existing film trilogy. And thus, when my guesses prove to be wrong (as I’m sure many will be), I will still hopefully have cast some useful light on the different choices made by Jackson et al.

Posted in Characters, Green Books, Hobbit Book, Hobbit Movie, Lord of the Rings, LotR Movies, Peter Jackson, The Hobbit on November 28, 2012 by
The Floor Plan from WETA Workshop

25 responses to “Imagining Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: Part Two”

  1. RebinLAisBack says:

    How do you turn a 400 page book into three movies without making up stuff and ruining the integrity of Tolkiens vision?

  2. Michael Lucero says:

    “You’re not going to communicate the key fact that Erebor was sacked and Dale destroyed by a dragon, without showing the dragon. That’s just cheating the audience.” I absolutely disagree with this, and I think this view is completely disproved by recent films such as Cloverfield, Super 8, and Cowboys vs. Aliens, when monsters central to the plot were only hinted at at the beginning and never actually shown until much later into the story. Given this trend, I’d be shocked if we see Smaug before the end of film 1 at the very earliest.

  3. Jakub says:

    By looking into appendices of the Return of the King

  4. RebinLAisBack says:

    Then it’s not a true hobbit movie it’s the history of middle earth.

  5. ericmvan says:

    World of difference. In Cloverfield and Super 8, the nature of the beastie was *unknown to the characters*. The mystery was the point of the story. In this movie, you’ve got a room full of people who have see Smaug, who knows exactly what he looks like, and are telling Bilbo about it. To not show that as a flashback, when the movie is otherwise full of such flashbacks, is absolutely cheating the audience. If they show us Gandalf recovering the map and key as a flashback but leave the destruction of Erebor and Dale as an *oral narration*, just to avoid showing Smaug, I know I’d feel that that was purely manipulative.

    (BTW, being coy about the monster is not a new trend. In fact, when the Korean flick The Host showed the monster right off the bat, it got a lot of justly earned praise for defying the convention.)

  6. ericmvan says:

    They do have a ton of stuff to make up. The Dwarf-Orc War that climaxes in the Battle of Azanulbizar is pretty fully described, but the attack of the Wise on Dol Guldur, which will presumably fill a good chunk of the second movie (35-40%?), has maybe two sentences devoted to it in all of Tolkien.

    They have a mixed track record for stuff they’ve invented, IMHO. I’m not a fan of the Gandalf-Saruman wizardry battle. Sam leaving Frodo was a mixed bag. The Warg attack on the Rohirrim, and Aragorn’s fall, did their narrative job without adding or subtracting much. Faramir bringing Frodo to Osgiliath, similar. But the fleshing out of Boromir and his relationships to Merry, Pippin, and Aragorn — superb. The scene where Aragorn interrupts Eowyn’s sword-practice, as a way to get in some important dialogue from the book — tremendous. Eowyn’s final conversation with dying Theoden — magnificent.

    Oddly, they seem to be better at inventing conversations and small moments than at large-scale plotting. So some skepticism about the entire Battle of Dol Guldur sequence is warranted. But that’s still a year away!

  7. Stuart McCunn says:

    But that was a one movie deal. If you look at it TTT showed Gollum right off the bat with no fuss. It was only the first movie they hid him in. They want to get people back to the theatres for the second film which means that they’ll save the big guns until then if at all possible. And I believe that it is possible, even likely. In fact, I expect the second film to begin with a quite substantial flashback to the burning of Dale, only this time from Thorin’s view. Possibly the first flashback will be from Thorin’s view, but I can’t imagine them introducing him in flashback before we meet him in reality. That’s why I’d prefer if The Hobbit didn’t start off with a flashback ala LOTR and just had Thorin explain it at the party. It’d make the entire quest more personal. But listening to the soundtrack I suspect that ship has sailed…

  8. Brady1138 says:

    Tolkien was actually going to revise The Hobbit to fit the continuity with The Lord of the Rings and his more developed Middle-Earth better, but friends, family and publishers talked him out of it. I think the way the movies will play out is more along the lines of what Tolkien had in mind for a revised Hobbit book.

  9. Stuart McCunn says:

    It’s funny, I agreed with most of the first part but I find myself disagreeing with the second. I just don’t think that Concerning Hobbits can be removed as smoothly as you make it sound. You say a great deal about how it could be excised from FOTR but nothing about how it would fit tonally with the Hobbit. Tonally, FOTR needs to establish right away that the Shire is an idyllic land which Frodo and Sam want very much to return to. The Hobbit needs to establish it as being too safe and boring for Bilbo to be content with. We can’t know what happens in the film yet of course, but all the indications are that it will feature Bilbo narrating a prologue (possibly in the context of a letter to Frodo. I agree that it doesn’t sound like a spoken conversation) followed by Gandalf’s fairly abrupt arrival. It has no place for a longing look back at the nature of hobbits. They exist so that Bilbo can escape from them.

    The second problem is the nature of Smaug. I am actually pretty certain of this one: Smaug will not be seen full on in this movie, whether younger and scrawnier or not. You can try and interpret what PJ said all you want, but the only reasonable explanation is that it is precisely true. He’s not going to split hairs about Smaug’s designation, especially when he didn’t refer to him in that way at Comic-Con. Smaug will only be seen in brief glimpses. A younger Smaug would still be Smaug, and I can’t imagine that making him look older and better fed in the second film would be a big enough change to merit great excitement. I’d even go so far as to say that he was at his prime when destroying Dale, and that the Smaug laying in the mountain for centuries is a somewhat washed up and dilapidated (but still deadly) version. Best guess is that the focus will be on the bursts of fire and shadows in the smoke with the occasional limb or closeup eyeball thrown in. You don’t need to see the dragon to be scared. The unknown can be more frightening than anything the screen can throw at you. Given the beauty of the Dale set I suspect we will see quite a bit of destruction, but that need not imply we see everything. I expect to see a somewhat vague destruction of Dale at the beginning of this film (possibly from the perspective of the Dalish men) with a flashback of Thorin’s experience in the second or third. Just to remind everyone of his motivations and determination as well as show off Smaug’s design. Actually, opening the third film this way would make his stubbornness and pride a lot more understandable since we could see how he lost everything and why he tries so hard to cling onto it now that he has it back.

  10. Tom says:

    Why does he refer to the Red Book as if it is actually real?

  11. Pixis1 says:

    I don’t like the idea of moving “Concerning Hobbits” to a different film in a proposed “Ultimate Edition.” I would rather not see Jackson go the way of George Lucas by continually tampering with earlier films. Has he said anything about an “Ultimate Edition?”

    Regardless, I agree with Stuart McCunn’s comment about the tone of the sequence. Bilbo’s fond thoughts about hobbits would not fit in a movie where he’s going off on an adventure away from the Shire. In Lord of the Rings, the hobbits want nothing more than to protect the Shire from the spreading evil of war and to hopefully get back to it some day. In The Hobbit, Bilbo is complacent in the Shire, then experiences the wide world, the thrill of adventure, and personal growth. Tonally, the characters are moving in different directions — to get back to the Shire or away from it. Moving the “Concerning Hobbits” sequence could throw this out of whack.

  12. Ryan Kirst says:

    The part about how peter will need to change scenes in fotr by lifting the concerning hobbits to the beginning of this film is stupid. In an unexpected journey the old bilbo is going to sit down with frodo before the party that happens in fotr and tell in the true account of his adventures because frodo wasn’t told everything because bilbo purposely did that.

    The only thing that doesn’t match up in my opinion in both trilogies will be bilbo in fotr when he finds the ring in gollums cave. It’s obvious but changing it would be unnecessary.

    Peter Jackson isnt George lucas that constantly fiddles around with things.

  13. ericmvan says:

    I somehow missed PJ’s comments at Comic-Con, and had not both author and
    editor been too swamped to get a round of re-writes in, I would have
    revised that section! (Demosthenes raised a good handful of questions
    for Part One and the finished piece was much stronger as a result). I’ll
    stand by my idea as a good one that is, alas, unlikely to be realized. I
    had too much faith in the ability of Weta to do the two different
    character designs — I bet this idea occurred to them, they tried it,
    and, as you suggest, they couldn’t make them different enough. My
    concern here is not, BTW, with the emotional effect on the audience, but
    whether the POV is being artificially manipulated to avoid showing
    Smaug. That’s unacceptable. But I can see them doing a nice careful job
    of establishing POV’s for these sequences where glimpses is all you
    would get.

    I think, however, that you are greatly misreading
    Bilbo’s attitude at the beginning of The Hobbit. Here is Tolkien
    speaking as Gandalf, from various drafts of “The Quest of Erebor”:

    he wanted to remain “unattached” for some reason deep down which he
    did not understand himself — or would not acknowledge, for it alarmed
    him … He was getting rather greedy and fat, and his old desires had
    dwindled down to a sort of private dream. Nothing could have been more
    dismaying than to find it actually in danger of coming true!”

    We want to begin The Hobbit by showing us how very comfortable Bilbo is
    with the Shire, so I don’t see any tonal problem at all with “Concerning
    Hobbits”; it fits right in. And I think the rest of the argument is
    nearly ironclad. Leave the 1400 date aside for a moment. Take 100 people
    unfamiliar with FOTR but with with good reading comprehension, and give
    them the screenplay beginning with “Bilbo’s been acting a bit odd
    lately. He’s taken to locking himself in his study …” and ending with
    “find somewhere quiet where I can finish my book.” Now give them a
    multiple choice question, “When did Bilbo start his book? A) He hasn’t
    started it yet. B) This morning. C) A while ago.” You would get 100 C
    answers. That there’s a bunch of other things that work better just adds
    to the argument.

  14. anti-toxin says:

    I strongly disagree with the ideas of moving “concerning Hobbits” and redesigning LOTR to make it look more like the new movies. See there was this certain other six-part movie series made by that George Lucas guy, and i´ve never met anyone in my entire life, who liked the “improvements” he made to his movies after they had been released

  15. ericmvan says:

    He actually did a good deal of work on this, in 1960. He rewrote the first chapter completely through Bilbo “trying to look as if this was all … not in the least an adventure” and made revisions to the remainder and the start of chapter 2. He rewrote a good chunk of that, mostly to better match the LOTR geography, from “up came Gandalf very spendlid” to [Bilbo crept to] “a tree just behind William,” and made revisions as far as the arrival at Rivendell in chapter 3. He made some further notes, then (according to Christopher Tolkien) loaned all the material to an unknown female friend whose judgment he apparently respected; her response was more or less “this is wonderful, but it’s not The Hobbit.” So he abandoned the effort. The full text, with notes and discussion, is in the second volume of The History of the Hobbit, edited by John D. Rateliff.

    I’ve been wanting a great film version of all these books since 1966, and I always envisioned that the tone and geography of The Hobbit would be altered to match LOTR.

  16. L.J. Kiosq says:

    Ultimately, I believe that the sentence “I may not have told you all of it” is Peter, Fran and Phillipa’s way of telling us, the readers of the Hobbit, that we will now see things that are completely new from the book.

  17. qwari says:

    I’ve always beleived that smaug was a survivor of the war of wrath from the first age like Sauron and the Moria’s Balrog. He thus can’t be young at the moment of the sack of Erebor and then old at the time of this unexpected journey ?

  18. Gildor Inglorien says:

    Nice one bro!

  19. ericmvan says:

    Hmm … Jackson is already “going the way of George Lucas” by doing a prequel trilogy, isn’t he? If your only fear is that when Lucas did it, he botched the job, you should be terrified for PJ and company. But of course no one has said a word about “continually tampering” with the six films. I laid out the evidence (which no one has rebutted, because IMHO it’s impossible to rebut) that he has always planned to move three whole minutes from one film to another. Which, you know, is not actually a big deal.

    And, yes, he has often spoken about later editions of the films, about both the possibilities of some minor re-editing (he had a flashback of Aragorn meeting Arwen for the first time in Lorien that he was never able to find a place for, for instance), of upgrading Gollum in FOTR, and of a 3D conversion.

    I have faith that any changes Jackson makes to an Ultimate Edition of the six films will be *improvements*, just as I have faith that The Hobbit trilogy will be excellent. George Lucas botched his prequel trilogy and his re-edits because he lacks key strengths that Jackson possesses. (Off topic, but the principle reason the Star Wars franchise went down the tubes is that Lucas stopped soliciting and using huge amounts of advice and input from friends. The original Episode IV script went through countless drafts and was read and commented on by many, many people who, in retrospect, had a better understanding of story than he did. Peter Jackson, in contrast, has kept his collaborative team intact.)

    I understand your fears about the opposite tones of the stories, but you are forgetting that the Hobbit does not begin with Bilbo being obviously complacent (let alone bored and discontented, as Stuart McCunn said). It in fact begins with “We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can’t think what anybody sees in them … Good morning! We don’t want any adventures here, thank you!”

    The point of the opening of the Hobbit is that Bilbo has no conscious dissatisfaction with the Shire, and his conscious attitude towards adventure has in fact become negative. (The deeper point is that sometimes we lose touch with what we truly want out of life.) It is important to establish that Bilbo believes he is completely comfortable with the Shire.”Concerning Hobbits” would not jar with that; it would fit in with the actual opening sequences of the movie, where it seems clear that we will be shown what Bilbo’s everyday life is like, and how idyllic and comfortable it seems *on the surface.*

    The point in other words, is that all that Good Stuff that is laid out in “Concerning Hobbits,” as wonderful as it is, *is still not enough to nourish Bilbo’s spirit.* You’re reducing Tolkien here to his imitators. An adventure as an alternative to a boring life of obvious complacency is TOO EASY. An adventure being necessary, in spite of a life that would seem to be fully satisfying — that is magical. So the more we stress the beauty and peace of the Shire, the more important we make Adventure. “Concerning Hobbits” thus doesn’t undermine Bilbo’s story arc, it makes it stronger. He has ALL THAT, and he still discovers, deep down inside, that he needs something more.

    Note that the elderly Bilbo who pens “Concerning Hobbits,” expressing his profound love of the Shire, is about to leave it for good, and (in the original edit) in less than 24 hours! Why isn’t that tonally jarring? For precisely the reason I just stated — we understand that for Bilbo, all that is not enough.

  20. not ted danson says:

    We’ve known that this isn’t going to be “just” a straight-forward adaptation of The Hobbit for a couple of years now, so i guess you better get used to it. Personally, i’m more a fan of the more serious, epic storytelling of The Lord of the Rings than the child oriented, oftentimes too silly style of The Hobbit, so i was overjoyed at the announcement that they’d be including so much stuff from the appendices, and even more so at the prospect of a third film. I think it was a brilliant decision, and can’t wait for the day i have all six Extended Editions (Ultimate Edition or no) and can spend an entire week-end in Middle-earth.

  21. not ted danson says:

    I was wondering this as well– how can a thousands year old dragon age so noticeably in a couple hundred years? I really like most of the ideas presented here, but in terms of Smaug, i’m assuming that they’re going with the Jaws/Alien model– mere suggestion and brief glimpses until the Big Reveal. Besides, Jackson/Walsh/Boyens have done pretty well with it before (Gollum, Minas Tirith, Barad Dur and The Eye).

    My main concern is a technical one– even if they do an Uitimate Edition (which i would be 100% for), when you sit down for that first week-end long Hobbit/Lord of the Rings Extended Edition marathon, won’t it be jarring to go from the up-to-the-minute visual effects/cgi of The Hobbit to the over a decade old effects of The Lord of the Rings? I mean, a lot of it holds up really well (The Battles of Helms Deep and Pellenor Fields, or Moria and the Cave Troll and Balrog), but some of it, not so much (about a quarter of the green screen/compositing (much of it in Fangorn Forest), the Warg fight, and a few more here and there). Would it be asking too much if they did do this Ultimate Edition to update some of the more noticeably egregious effects? It worked brilliantly for Blade Runner (not gonna mention a certain space opera trilogy…). Besides, they already have to fix Bilbo finding the Ring and frog Gollum– what’s another few dozen effects shots?

  22. not ted danson says:

    I don’t know… i think it could be done well. This Concerning Hobbits issue occurred to me a week or so ago while watching Fellowship. Ideally, i’d watch The Hobbit first. But when i get to Fellowship, why do i need to sit trough a five minute long introduction to hobbits, after just having sat through nine or so hours of The Hobbit, which starts out in Hobbiton, and whose main character is a hobbit? I think it could really work– synthesizing the introductions to hobbits and the Shire from both trilogies into one all encompassing scene at the beginning of An Unexpected Journey.

    And just because George Lucas f’ed up Star Wars doesn’t mean someone else can’t do it well. Take Ridley Scott with Blade Runner. He did a brilliant job with the Final Cut. Removing visible wires on spinners, compositing newly shot footage of Joanna Cassidy over an all too obvious stunt double’s head, using Harrison Ford’s son’s mouth to fix a badly synched bit of dialogue, and replacing an ill-fitting, cheap looking warehouse backdrop when Roy Batty releases the dove with a more appropriately intricate skyline. All these things took me out of the movie each and every time i watched it, and now it all looks fantastic. None of it went too far, and nothing was ruined.

    Personally, i’d be all for an Ultimate Edition that would make a cohesive whole out of the separately made trilogies. So long as they keep the changes/additions to an absolute minimum (and actually, i don’t think it would take all that much to bring it all in line anyway). I just wonder if P.J. and Co. are willing to put in the time and resources to do all this. I hope so, but i kind of doubt it.

  23. not ted danson says:

    Just because George Lucas is an idiot and screwed up Star Wars doesn’t mean every other filmmaker is. Lucas’ case is a great precautionary tale (one i’m pretty sure Peter Jackson is well aware of), but it’s not some sort of predestined, unavoidable outcome. If someone does something badly, does that mean no one should ever again try to do it well? I myself think that’s a terrible way to think.

  24. not ted danson says:

    And the movies you mention probably got it from films like Jaws, Alien and E.T.

  25. ericmvan says:

    It would shock me if PJ did an Ultimate Edition without fixing some of the most egregious flaws. The Warg fight is an obvious one, and so are some of the falling horses in the charge of the Rohirrim in the Pelennor. I didn’t mention this when I talked bout the Ultimate Editions because I didn’t want to start the very sort of discussion we’re having!

    I love your anti-Lucas Blade Runner example, since it’s one of my 20 favorite films of all time. (I saw Blade Runner the day it opened, first showing, since I was a huge Philip K. Dick fan. In fact, in sf fandom I’m much better known as a Dick than Tolkien expert, after helping his literary estate in the 1980’s.) Save that paragraph from your reply to Ryan Kirst and be prepared to post it a hundred times online when the UE’s are announced and all the heartbroken Star Wars fans start to panic!

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