Should The Hobbit Really Be A Trilogy?

Peter Jackson’s masterpiece Lord of the Rings seemed to be too long so what about pulling a seemingly slim novel to three long films?

By Thomas Stewart

Fantasy films don’t do well when it comes to the Academy Awards, they barely get nominated, let alone receive one. But with Peter Jackson’s final film in the Lord of the Rings trilogy – based on the novels by J.R.R. Tolkien – that rule vanished. The Return of the King won 11 Academy Awards, stunned audiences for its accurate adaptation of the novel and stunned cinema junkies for its strong direction. However, with all of this praise there is one harsh truth – the film was too long. Critics discussed the ‘numerous endings’ to the Return of the King film, as well as long scenes which could have been chopped. Jackson is indeed a lover of Tolkein’s novel and world but does it make good filmmaking?

With any kind of adaptation, we know that the film is going to completely show what’s in the original source, especially with a much-loved fantasy epic like The Lord of the Rings. It simply doesn’t make a good film. When Frodo and Sam can take a trip to Mordor in a page, it could take up to an hour in a Jackson adaptation. If we look at his other films – most notably King Kong – it’s evident he enjoys dragging out every little detail. Where’s the line between indulgence and over-indulgence? This question is imperative when we look at his Hobbit trilogy.

The Hobbit, written by Tolkien in 1937, is a slim book for children. Jackson, however, cut the book in two – the first half would make the first film, the second half, the second and the other materials Tolkien left would be the finale to the trilogy thus connecting The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. For fans of Tolkien’s world every detail added is a bonus to them but as a piece of cinema – as people who simply want to enjoy a film, not an adaptation – does it really work? The first Hobbit film, An Unexpected Journey, released just last year, contains a very long opening that shows us how The Fellowship of the Ring – the first Lord of the Rings film – connects to what we’re seeing. Do we need to see this? Does it add anything to the story? No. Is Jackson over-indulging? Yes. Jackson acts, at times, like an over-excited fan, instead of a movie director. He wants to put every last detail into the film. This sometimes works – it helps creates an atmosphere – but when scenes extend beyond how long they should, it becomes tedious.

Why then has The Hobbit – a short novel that could have been easily adapted into one, two hour film – been expanded into a trilogy? For money? No. It’s because Jackson wants to explore every avenue of Tolkien’s world. It’s admirable, it’s loyal but it’s unrealistic. As a film director there needs to be an element of omniscience, each decision needs to be just, Jackson’s are not. When Guillermo Del Toro was originally working on The Hobbit films it was going to be in two parts. The first would be the story of The Hobbit, the second would link us to what happened between the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Enter Jackson and we have a trilogy but not just any trilogy, a trilogy adding up to a total of nine hours. What less could we expect from Jackson? Is it his style? Much like Christopher Nolan’s style is to chop scenes up and mash them together? Or Sam Mendes’s style is to use Thomas Newman as his composer in all of his films? Yes, length can indeed come down to style but there’s a question of length and a question of meaning.

Should, therefore, The Hobbit have been made into a trilogy? Probably not. It may have pleased avid fans of the book but it alienates movie lovers. The second instalment of The Hobbit trilogy hits cinemas this weekend and what we know will be waiting for us is a three hour film, drawn out sequences and slightly random additions to what was originally a short, concise and well-polished story.

Published December 8th, 2013


Thomas Stewart is a graduate from the University of Glamorgan and currently a student on the MA in Writing course at the University of Warwick. His work has been published in The Cadaverine, Ink, Sweat & Tears, Daps, Agenda Broadsheet and the Metric. As well as writing, he loves horror films, folk music, Raymond Carver, patterned jumpers, Richard Yates, curry, Scarlett Thomas, editing, chick-flicks, watches and biscuits. You can find him at: https://twitter.com/ThomasStewart08