The Pros and Cons of Making 'The Hobbit' Into a Trilogy
Could the story of this project get any more complex? The Hollywood Reporter found out yesterday that “talks are accelerating” between director Peter Jackson and Warner Bros. to expand his upcoming two Hobbit films into a trilogy. Jackson believes that there’s enough material in J.R.R. Tolkien’s additional writings to support an additional film, and wants to secure funding from the studio to start two more months of shooting in New Zealand.
At first, I thought this was a bad idea. I’m generally opposed to lengthening movie and television series, because history has shown that it doesn’t end well. But for once, I’m of two minds in the case of The Hobbit. I’d like to see a strong, succinct adaptation of Tolkien’s novel, and I’m unsure of what might happen if a third film is greenlit. At the same time, I know there are advantages to Jackson’s plan.
Of course, Peter Jackson is no stranger to longer versions of his work. Die-hard Lord of the Rings fans agree that you’re not getting the complete experience unless you watch the special Extended Edition Blu-rays and DVDs. So are we really surprised that Jackson couldn’t part with some of the footage he’s shot for the two confirmed films?
On the “pros” side, with a third Hobbit film, we’d get more of what we love from adaptations of Tolkien’s work, more Middle Earth: jolly hobbits, brave warriors, epic battles and beautiful landscapes. And there’s certainly enough written material to back it all up. J.R.R. Tolkien wrote exhaustive appendices for his novels that include enough notes, family trees and side narratives and to make several movies. A third film would feel just as “Tolkienian” as any of the others.
What I’m worried about, however, is a split focus. We’ve known for years that the two-film concept would already draw heavily from the appendices and follow side-stories that don’t appear in the Hobbit novel. Most notably, we'd find out what happens to Gandalf after he parts ways with the Company of Dwarves outside Mirkwood. With a third film, there will be even more screen time devoted to other characters, and Bilbo Baggins could end up having a smaller role, like that of Frodo in The Lord of the Rings.
As spectacular as it would be to get another epic trilogy from the minds of Jackson & co., by moving things to a grander scale, the story could lose the “bedtime story” quality of the original novel. The Hobbit is a different read than The Lord of the Rings - the narrator often addresses the reader directly as if Bilbo’s story is being recited from memory. By including more side-stories that don’t focus on Bilbo, the films could lose some of the simple charm that sets The Hobbit apart.
On the positive angle again, there’s potential here for the series to be even more lucrative for Warner Bros. I’m not praising this because I want to see Hollywood executives get richer, but because the cash injection will mean more jobs in the film industry for New Zealanders and more money for the studio to spend on future projects. Who knows - it could convince a studio to tackle one of Tolkien’s more esoteric works, like The Silmarillion.
Then again, Warner Bros. may still say no, and project will move ahead in its current form. With this development just unfolding in the days since Comic-Con, greenlighting a third film would involve more than just financing. Actor contracts and licensing rights would also have to be secured - and a lot of the Hobbit cast is getting very busy with other projects, thanks to the advance buzz. Like it or not, by next week The Hobbit might start a new chapter of its development saga. Here’s hoping the journey is worth it.
What do you think about Jackson’s pitch for a Hobbit trilogy? Will it do justice to Tolkien’s work? Or are the risks too great? Are there any other pros or cons with the idea? Let me know in the comments section below! If you liked this post, share it with your friends and followers, and browse through my other movie-related articles: