I wrote the start of this before I had seen the first film “The Hobbit : An Unexpected Journey”, on the topic some folk were raising about the multiplicity of the films of the short novel “The Hobbit”. I’ll leave aside the 3D or 48fps, so far I haven’t found an issue with that. So, why more than one film.
Now, I have yet to be convinced about THREE films, and I am aware that “King Kong” could have been a tighter film if some of the action sequences weren’t so grandiose, but I can see why “The Hobbit” can be more than one film, and it is a problem that the book now has too.
“The Hobbit” is a children’s story that is complete within itself. Filming that is probably a one film task. It has been a one film task before. But it has a sequel. That sequel puts more pressure on “The Hobbit”.
J. R. R. Tolkien actually did a bit of retconning (*) to “The Hobbit” after “The Lord of the Rings came out”. Gollum was originally truer to his word, betting this ring that he owned as a prize in the Riddle Game. Since he was unable to deliver, because he had lost it, he showed Bilbo out and they parted on good terms.
That doesn’t fit with the addicted victim of The One Ring that Gollum became, so that had to be changed.
Lord of the Rings covers it too. In the Council of Elrond, the whole history of the Ring is told, including the reason for and consequence of Gandalf’s side trip in “The Hobbit”. The film LoTR doesn’t cover much of this, it is unnecessary to that film because it is NOT a sequel to a Hobbit film. However by the time of LoTR, these events had assumed a great significance to the plot of the sequel. (**)
But now the film LoTR will have the work that they are sequels to to cope with, but you cannot change the LoTR films to put back in exposition that put the events of “The Hobbit” into their new perspective. If you film “The Hobbit” as is, then elements won’t gel with “The Lord of the Rings”. So the things that were explained in “LoTR” now have to take place within the context of “The Hobbit”.
In and of itself, “The Hobbit” is a children’s story. LoTR started off as that, but changed. The change in tone is noticeable particularly at the Barrowdowns, and gets darker thereafter.
LoTR is not story for young children, so having filmed it after, the Hobbit can either stand out like a sore thumb, or it can match, and we already Tolkien preferred to make it fit.
So if you, as the film maker, have decided to make it match, so you have to include things that foreshadow LoTR, including what Gandalf did on his side trip, which means you have to give that context. It can’t just have been “Right, nipping off to do a thing, oh look it’s finished”.
There is suspicion, doubt, realization, debate, what action to take, then performing those actions, dealing with setbacks and consequences.That, I reckon, pushes “The Hobbit” into two films without a sense of padding. There are other things that can be shown, the decisions that lead to certain actions that happen with the genesis of that action only briefly referred to, these can be put in their proper place and context.
Is it three films worth? I do not know, I have yet to be persuaded, but it is certainly more than one, and I think people who are looking askance at that will find themselves wrong.
Others may be just “knocking the popular thing” that we humans do so well, perhaps an understandable suspicion after the “Start Wars” prequels, but on that score I’ll decide when I see them all.
(*) Retroactive continuity, changing a work to fit a later work that contradicts it
(**) SPOILER ALERT – Highlight the text below if you want to read my thoughts on “The other things”
- Firstly of course the ring changes to the “The One Ring”, that is a important, but doesn’t jusitfy extra time
- The death of Smaug becomes more significant, because he cannot then become an ally of Sauron
- The Battle of the Five Armies becomes more significant, because that breaks Orc power in the Misty Mountains, again removing forces that Sauron could have called on later
- The biggie though is the Necomancer. Barely a name in “The Hobbit”, he is the Enemy of LoTR. He is driven out from Dol Guldur, though he may have been ready to leave anyway. Saruman counsels caution, and we know by LoTR why, but he is still trusted here. This part is required, and needs setting up and carrying through as discussed earlier