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There and Back Again
December 18, 2007 6:07 PM   Subscribe

Middle Earth Filter: Peter Jackson and New Line to produce The Hobbit and a sequel. After a lengthy legal dispute between the director and the production company behind the epic Lord of the Rings trilogy, the two parties have come to a resolution - and Middle Earth will be back in cinemas in 2010 and 2011.
posted by crossoverman (111 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Nothing like the prospect of making massive amounts of money to settle a dispute.
posted by Bromius at 6:09 PM on December 18, 2007


About f'n time, but what's the source material for the sequel?
posted by dw at 6:10 PM on December 18, 2007


Lovely. Now could someone please soothe me, because when I read the words "and a sequel" I get very worried. I have read the press releases and some other stories but nothing is making me feel better yet.

They mean they're doing it in two parts, right? Right?
posted by rokusan at 6:11 PM on December 18, 2007


PJ isnt directing. He's EP only at this point.

I have a baaaad feeling about this.
posted by perilous at 6:12 PM on December 18, 2007


About f'n time, but what's the source material for the sequel?

They're letting Robert Plant write it. But it will actually be ghostwritten by William Shatner, based on the lyrics of Robert Plant. It will be freakin' awesome.
posted by The World Famous at 6:12 PM on December 18, 2007 [12 favorites]


I'm guessing they'll be drawing on material from the Silmarillion. Jackson and his creative team incorporated scenes and themes from this work into their LotR, so they are clearly familiar with it.
posted by Manjusri at 6:13 PM on December 18, 2007


No, there's always been talk of a sequel, because whoever owns the rights to Tolkien's writing for the cinema has the sequel rights to the Hobbit. Hopefully it's based on other Tolkien material and not made from whole cloth... but the Hobbit isn't really long enough to justify two films.
posted by crossoverman at 6:13 PM on December 18, 2007


I hope Jackson lets someone else direct this time. He's crap at character development. For all the action in LOTR, they made for pretty dull films. No one had a personality except Frodo and Sam.
posted by rottytooth at 6:13 PM on December 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


Best suggestion from somewhere I have already lost in my window-closing fury:

"The Hobbit: There" in 2010
"The Hobbit: Back Again" in 2011

posted by rokusan at 6:14 PM on December 18, 2007 [13 favorites]


Have people forgotten how to make movies that aren't based on books? I'm starting to think so.
posted by blaneyphoto at 6:15 PM on December 18, 2007


I hope Jackson lets someone else direct this time.

That seems likely, given his other commitments. Not that I think he did a bad job last time - far from it - but with his guiding hand, I'd like to see someone else at the helm.
posted by crossoverman at 6:16 PM on December 18, 2007


Have people forgotten how to make movies that aren't based on books? I'm starting to think so.

Seriously. I mean Blade Runner, for crying out loud? If Ridley Scott had any artistic integrity, he would have just said no to that weak adaptation.
posted by The World Famous at 6:17 PM on December 18, 2007


I think that if you went through the story with little abridgment there could easily be two 2-2.5 hour films. Dialog takes time, and they could just choose to include more of it. It could be vengeance for the incredible reduction necessary for LotR to fit into nine, ten hours.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 6:17 PM on December 18, 2007


About f'n time, but what's the source material for the sequel?

Maybe he'll put back in all the stuff he left out and make the movies 6 hours long each?

Seriously though, the Red Book of Westmarch has plenty of other material for another movie in it.

What?
posted by Pollomacho at 6:20 PM on December 18, 2007


Well, I have a suspicion that negotiations were sped up by New Line needing a big time Sure Thing in the worst way. They are riding a string of failures currently ending with The Golden Compass.
posted by absalom at 6:21 PM on December 18, 2007


The rumor is that the second movie will "fill in the gap" from The Hobbit to Fellowship. Presumably, it will feature a lot of Bilbo sitting around complaining about his relatives while Frodo gives him knowing looks. Occasionally, we'll cut to scenes of Viggo Mortenson and Liv Tyler trying to resist having sex with each other.
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:21 PM on December 18, 2007 [5 favorites]


Please oh please oh please do Children of Húrin
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:22 PM on December 18, 2007


rottytooth writes "For all the action in LOTR, they made for pretty dull films. No one had a personality except Frodo and Sam."

Two more than in the book.
posted by mr_roboto at 6:22 PM on December 18, 2007 [11 favorites]


Someone one MonkeyFilter suggested that it was the book split into two parts. One film ending with the escape from the goblins, and one with the end of the book.

Also, they said it's a sequel to the Hobbit, which I would think precludes anything from the Silmarilion, Lost Tales, or Children of Hurin, as those would all be prequels. I mean, assuming they are being precise with their language.
posted by absalom at 6:25 PM on December 18, 2007


God, I cannot fucking take this news the same day the first Duke Nukem Forever trailer in 7 years or whatever is announced.

It's over, man.

End = nigh.
posted by sparkletone at 6:26 PM on December 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


A sequel to the hobbit? Unless he's making up his own material, I don't know what he's planning. Bilbo Baggins didn't do anything of note in that time period, maybe he plans to follow the wanderings of either Gandalf or Aragorn (who were both active at this time) or deals with the assault on Dol Guldur. Lots of room for good special effects on that, and I'm not sure Tolkein ever went into any kind of detail on that, so no canon material to worry about.
posted by Mitrovarr at 6:27 PM on December 18, 2007


more on that sequel.
Jackson and Walsh envision the first film covering the events of The
Hobbit and the second bridging the 80-year gap between that novel and
the first book of the trilogy.

Much of the plot for the second film would be gleaned from footnotes
in The Hobbit that address that gap, Kamins said.
posted by canine epigram at 6:27 PM on December 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


rottytooth, good observation, as much as I liked the movies I could never get excited about watching them through a second time, there is something missing and that may be it.

blaneyphoto, always been the case, even before movies, theatrical versions of books were big hits - "Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde" came out on stage within months of the books release and was one of the longest running hits of the late 19th century. While Dickens was releasing his first novel "The Pickwick Papers" in serial form in the 1830s, before it was even completed people were making stage adaptations - creating their own endings! One thing is assured, we all want to be exposed to literature without the bother of reading literature.
posted by stbalbach at 6:28 PM on December 18, 2007


"For all the action in LOTR, they made for pretty dull films. No one had a personality except Frodo and Sam."

Not true. In the films, Merry and Pippin shared a single, perfectly fine personality.
posted by rokusan at 6:28 PM on December 18, 2007 [3 favorites]


No one had a personality except Frodo and Sam.

Whereas in the books, no one has a personality including Frodo and Sam.
posted by DU at 6:30 PM on December 18, 2007 [2 favorites]


Have people forgotten how to make movies that aren't based on books?

*settles in*

Please tell me about this mythical time in the past when Hollywood didn't make movies from books.

And I don't see how anyone can think a Hobbit movie from Jackson is anything but great news for Tolkien fans.
posted by mediareport at 6:30 PM on December 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


Well, canine epigram has shattered my dreams. The Children of Húrin was probably my favorite piece of the Tolkien world.
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:33 PM on December 18, 2007


Better books than basing films on computer games or Disney Theme Park rides!
posted by crossoverman at 6:33 PM on December 18, 2007 [4 favorites]


"Please tell me about this mythical time in the past when Hollywood didn't make movies from books."
Where did I say there was a time that people didn't? I'd simply prefer to read my books, not watch them. The films are rarely equal or better than the book. I give a lot more credit to someone developing an original idea and bringing it to life in a film than I do to someone starting with much of the work already done for them and I think too many people are jumping at these adaptations rather than trying to create an original work these days.
posted by blaneyphoto at 6:42 PM on December 18, 2007


The nice thing about using theme park rides is that you aren't burdened with a pre-existing plot.
posted by smackfu at 6:42 PM on December 18, 2007


I'll bet the costumes will be nice.
posted by Balisong at 6:49 PM on December 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


I don't see how anyone can think a Hobbit movie from Jackson is anything but great news for Tolkien fans.

I thought the Return of the King was a bloated whale. I fell asleep.

the Hobbit isn't really long enough to justify two films

needed to be repeated and bolded.
posted by mrgrimm at 6:55 PM on December 18, 2007


I have a baaaad feeling about this.

How bad?

sonic meat machine: I have a suspicion that there's more ME down the road. How much, I don't know, nor am I sure how good that is.

the second bridging the 80-year gap between that novel and
the first book of the trilogy.


That means Council of Wizards, Dol Guldur, and the simultaneous attack that diverted Sauron's attention from the Lonely Mountain, and probably ends with Sauron's flight to Mordor.
posted by dhartung at 6:55 PM on December 18, 2007 [2 favorites]


When I was a kid , I always thought of the LOTR as a movie playing as I read the books, and the movies that Jackson ended up making were about the closest approximation to the movie in my head that I think could ever be made.

The Hobbit, I never thought of as a movie. It is, at its heart, an unabashed fairy-tale story better suited for animation.
posted by yhbc at 7:20 PM on December 18, 2007 [2 favorites]


I think the text of The Hobbit is enough to justify more than one film. Think about it, it will be at least forty-five before they get out the door, if you want to enjoy the idea of a discomfited Bilbo being tormented by dwarves. Fifteen minutes for the troll bit. The whole bit with the goblins, especially Gollum (who in their right mind will leave out Riddles in the Dark?), will take another forty minutes. Then you're got your spiders and the escape. The second film can be the mountain, Smaug, and the five-way war. Jackson could rush it into a single movie, but I'd be loath to see that happen. Grab The Hobbit and spend a few weeks reading it to children - the pacing is such that the work is meant to be savored, rather than checking off events while you breathlessly give your elevator pitch to some producer you've managed to corner so there's this hobbit he's like a little short guy and they all like to stay at home and eat but he gets drawn out of his hometown by a wizard and his dwarf friends so they can go to a mountain and steal a dragon's gold. We've got goblins and giant spiders and a magic ring and a great battle scene! Next, you'll be telling me they'll find a love interest for Bilbo.
posted by adipocere at 7:26 PM on December 18, 2007 [2 favorites]


Just buy the fucking hipster T-shirt
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 7:28 PM on December 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


The Hobbit, I never thought of as a movie. It is, at its heart, an unabashed fairy-tale story better suited for animation.

Not always.
posted by crossoverman at 7:32 PM on December 18, 2007


the Hobbit isn't really long enough to justify two films

Maybe they're going to be keeping the songs in this time. God help us.
posted by kosher_jenny at 7:32 PM on December 18, 2007


I for one liked both the books and the films. Bring it on I say and not a minute too soon. Ian McKellen and Andy Serkis have both said they won't do anything without Jackson's involvement - and the fans will want no one but these too. Plus WETA is one of the few FX shops that can do this thing justice. I can't wait to see wait they do with Smaug, and the Battle of the Five Armies is going to rock. Bring.It.On.
posted by Ber at 7:40 PM on December 18, 2007 [2 favorites]


"That means Council of Wizards, Dol Guldur, and the simultaneous attack that diverted Sauron's attention from the Lonely Mountain, and probably ends with Sauron's flight to Mordor."


That's just what I was thinking when I read the news dhartung.
posted by Relay at 7:42 PM on December 18, 2007


Hrrm ... maybe they should just leave it alone? The quality of the LotR movies was something of a miracle, really, considering the difficulty of packing all that source material into even three films. But a fine job was done and most folks went home happy. Couldn't they just step away from the table while their chips are still up? Can't they acknowledge that those three movies dug into the richest veins of Tolkein mythos, and skip the strip-mining? Maybe?

I'd be interested to see Peter Jackson have a go at making a proper Dune film. Of course, the first book in that series probably calls for two movies minimum -- but that mess of a David Lynch version needs to be replaced.
posted by EatTheWeak at 7:46 PM on December 18, 2007 [2 favorites]


Can't they acknowledge that those three movies dug into the richest veins of Tolkein mythos, and skip the strip-mining?

When they start making films based on Tolkien's letters, then they should probably stop and think what they are doing. But The Hobbit deserves the same treatment as LOTR got.
posted by crossoverman at 7:53 PM on December 18, 2007


crossover - fair enough. if the treatment they give it is something like robot made out of meat suggested, then i'll be quite excited.

but if they rush through the book so they can rush into a sequel they've cobbled together, that's not as cool.
posted by EatTheWeak at 8:03 PM on December 18, 2007


Eventually, we will see film adaptations of Farmer Giles and the Father Christmas letters, and sequels, suggested by ink spilled in the margins of both books.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:09 PM on December 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm with dhartung. That sounds likely to me, and was the first thought I had as well. I am excited about this project, and it's a lot better than having someone like... say Chris Columbus do it. I think that they did some good things with the screenplay from the trilogy, the crafting of which was an impossible task to start with. Hopefully they will be as interested in keeping the fans happy this time around.
posted by gemmy at 8:12 PM on December 18, 2007


Coming soon: Tom Bombadil: A Magical Musical. Produced by Peter Jackson. Directed by Baz Luhrmann. Featuring Hugh Jackman as Tom and Nicole Kidmann as Goldberry with a special guest appearance by Christopher Walken as Old Man Willow.
posted by Joey Michaels at 8:16 PM on December 18, 2007 [14 favorites]


but if they rush through the book so they can rush into a sequel they've cobbled together, that's not as cool.

It's been a long time since I've read it, but I don't think "The Hobbit" merits two movies on its own, and could IMO easily be condensed into two or three hours of screen time. The story is ultimately about Bilbo's transformation, the acquiring of the ring, and the defeat of Smaug, and if you can't tell that story in three hours, you're not much of a screenwriter.

Much as we might love the books, there's just no way you're going to get the full length of conversation and all the songs from the stories into the films without them dragging it down. No studio is going to make "My Dinner With Bilbo." Only hardcore Tolkein fans would go see that, and the studio won't spent $100 million without getting as broad an audience as possible.

I say this as a man still bitter over no Tom Bombadil and the inexcusable treatment of the Ents.
posted by middleclasstool at 8:16 PM on December 18, 2007


Joey Michaels - Fuck yes - someone get WETA on the phone. Hire this man!
posted by EatTheWeak at 8:27 PM on December 18, 2007


blaneyphoto writes "Have people forgotten how to make movies that aren't based on books? I'm starting to think so."

Nah, the last few years have shown they also know how to make movies based on (often 30 year old) TV shows.
posted by Mitheral at 8:34 PM on December 18, 2007


Coming soon: Tom Bombadil: A Magical Musical. Produced by Peter Jackson. Directed by Baz Luhrmann. Featuring Hugh Jackman as Tom

I know you said that sarcastically, but man I'd love that.
posted by crossoverman at 8:35 PM on December 18, 2007


Gollum: The Movie
posted by ZachsMind at 8:41 PM on December 18, 2007


Now see, I never got the Tom Bombadil love (or the hate when he was left out of the movie). I always thought of Bombadil, and Old Man Willow, as vestiges from the Hobbit-sequel childrens' book that Tolkien started to write, but which changed into an epic about halfway through the first book. If he had done a second draft, I think both those characters wouldn't have made the cut, along with the talking rabbits who wonder why four Hobbits are out and about so late at night early on in the journey out of the Shire.
posted by yhbc at 8:43 PM on December 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


A sequel to the hobbit? Unless he's making up his own material, I don't know what he's planning.

According to an Entertainment Weekly blog, right now they're talking about the first movie covering events in The Hobbit and the second movie covering events between the Hobbit and the LOTR. Which, as someone said upthread, means they'd be making up much of the second movie.
posted by Tehanu at 9:16 PM on December 18, 2007


I'm guessing they'll be drawing on material from the Silmarillion. Jackson and his creative team incorporated scenes and themes from this work into their LotR, so they are clearly familiar with it.

I'd love to hear some backup for that statement. For me the reason the last two LOTR movies were fairly mediocre is that Jackson and his writing partner seemed to completely miss the deeper levels of the story, in particular the elements from the Silmarillion that are subtly woven into LOTR.

What they came away with was a very surface recreation of the events of the book, cool at times but lacking any subtext. In short, I'm not convinced he got (gets) it at all.

And yes, I would be first in line for Tom Bombadil: The Movie.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:56 PM on December 18, 2007


I was mostly annoyed at the repeated jump cuts in the battle scenes. Holy hell, let me actually see something happen.

As someone with very little interest in seeing the Golden Compass, but a passing interest in the genre, why was the movie such a failure anyway?
posted by effugas at 10:19 PM on December 18, 2007


There are any number of movies that can be made from the ME lore. Some of it is only hinted in the trilogy, other bits from the Silmarillion, Unifinished Tales, etc. Stuff from the First Age and the quest for the Silmarills, for example. Could be very magical, and not step on too many fan toes.

However, the idea of the Council of Wizards and the attack on Dol Goldor sounds very exciting! The Hobbit, well, okay, but I won't get wound up with anticipation. I enjoyed the movies (and bought them) but still, the visuals in my head are a greater pleasure. (and my pet peeve about the films was the character assassination on Merry and Pippin).
posted by Goofyy at 10:48 PM on December 18, 2007


And yes, I would be first in line for Tom Bombadil: The Movie.

I think it'd have to be Tom Bombadil: The Musical. Oh, and hell yes.
posted by Tehanu at 11:01 PM on December 18, 2007


Variety confirms that The Hobbit will be a two parter. They also say that Sam Raimi is likely to direct.

The movies are being shot back to back. What would be the advantage of shooting them back to back if it is not the same story? You'd have to have essentially two different productions if it was a different movie, with different casts, costumes, sets etc.

adipocere's comment seems to make more sense than any of this bollocks about the Council of Wizards. I wasn't aware Tolkien went into any great detail about that.

The 'sequels' or other movies they were talking about making out of the background material clearly had something to do with The Book of Lost Tales and all that guff.

It also makes more sense economically to make two movies out of The Hobbit, because you make more money from two movies, don't you?

The Hobbit not long enough for two movies? Are you daft? There's like four set pieces in that thing, perhaps five. You're not going to squish all that into one movie. Of course it will be two. Use your bonces.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 11:06 PM on December 18, 2007 [2 favorites]


Gosh, I thought Lord of the Rings WAS the sequel...
posted by salishsea at 11:29 PM on December 18, 2007


The Hobbit Reloaded.
posted by cazoo at 11:35 PM on December 18, 2007 [2 favorites]


I was mostly annoyed at the repeated jump cuts in the battle scenes. Holy hell, let me actually see something happen.

But.. but.. that is the most infamous part of the books! Everyone hates how it switches 'just as it got good'.. the movie followed that perfectly.

:)
posted by lundman at 12:05 AM on December 19, 2007


I wonder if these films will be at all comprehensible for people who haven't read the terrible books.
posted by influx at 12:13 AM on December 19, 2007


About ten years ago I saw The Hobbit performed at the Sydney Opera House as a puppet show, it was absolutely amazing. I hope that this film can capture some of the beautiful simplicity of the Hobbit story.
posted by bangalla at 12:15 AM on December 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


The Hobbit Reloaded.

Hobbit 2: Son of Smaug
posted by crossoverman at 12:53 AM on December 19, 2007


"Jackson and his writing partner seemed to completely miss the deeper levels of the story, in particular the elements from the Silmarillion"

Wow, as a completely immersed Tolkien fanatic, I couldn't disagree more. What made the movies so great was that they got it. They captured the essence of the tale and of Middle-Earth, instead of trying to cram it into a hollywood prefab mold. I suspect (this is complete speculation on my part) the true Tolkien scholar was one of Jackson's writing partners and that there was some internal tension between those wanting to stay true and Jackson's predilection to take liberties with the story. I know that early on it was planned for Arwen to show up at Helm's deep, and that this was changed at least partly due to a letter-writing campaign that I took part in.

In a way by staying so true to the stories, it did make the deviations even more jarring. But I was willing to forgive most of the transgressions precisely because I felt that they captured more of the spirit than I had any reason to expect a movie could. I mean just listen to the lyrics of the three theme songs for an example of completely "getting it". I did leave the theatre a bit disappointed and depressed after viewing the Two Towers, but was completely won over by the extended edition. The extended editions of FotR and TTT are so much better movies they make the theater editions look like TV edit hack jobs in comparison. I prefer the theater edition of RotK though, because in it the extended material is largely superfluous and non-canonical.

"I'd love to hear some backup for that statement"

Two obvious examples of Silmarillion material are the direct portrayal of the Siege of Barad-dûr, and the story of Arwen and Aragorn which took on much of the flavor of an earlier union of elves and men: the tale of Beren and Luthien.
posted by Manjusri at 1:29 AM on December 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


Tom Bombadil is the brick wall of The Fellowship of the Ring for me.

And I've got shelves that still groan under the weight of Player's Handbooks (all those with the guys prying the gemstone eyes out of the big red statue edition REPRESENT!) I'm what you might call a fan of the whole genre.

I've tried. Really, I've tried. Four times at least. And even before the movies I knew I liked the overall LoTR story from the animated versions I saw as a kid. Hell, I've read The Hobbit at least twice.

But fuck me if I don't run headlong into Tom Bombadil at page whateverthehell in Fellowship and just say, "Nope. Sorry. Not going to put up with this kind of fucknuttery. Just not going to do it..."
posted by Cyrano at 2:54 AM on December 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


They also say that Sam Raimi is likely to direct.

Ugh
posted by poppo at 3:20 AM on December 19, 2007


I think it'll be excellent. I loved the LOTR movie trilogy (although I'm still bewildered as to how they couldn't have included included the Sacking of the Shire properly and given Merry and Pippin their dues and killed off Sarumon *then*); I thought Peter Jackson's vision was excellent. Sure yeah, I'm getting more picky as I watch it again but still, I won't ever forget how blown away I was when I saw "Fellowship of the Ring" for the first time. And how much I looked forward to "Return of the King" during what was, without doubt, the worst year of my life, and how much I loved it (apart from the bit mentioned above) (the movie, not my life).

"The Hobbit" was one of my favourite books when I was a child. Took me ages to get around to reading "Lord of the Rings". I think they'll do it well. Okay, I hope they do it well.
posted by h00py at 3:58 AM on December 19, 2007


Cyrano: you know you can just skip that bit, don't you ?
posted by Pendragon at 4:10 AM on December 19, 2007


Cyrano: as somebody who has read all the books (including The Hobbit, The Silmarillion, and The Book of Lost Tales) - you're truthfully better off just watching the extended edition of the movies. Tolkien had *amazing* ideas, but as an actual writer he severely lacks in characterization, pacing, or staying focused (example: Tom Bombadil). The Lord of the Rings books are supposed to be a literary tour of this extended world, but their execution just isn't on par with the concepts.

Jackson's is.

I think what impressed me most about the movies was the fact that every Tolkien fan I knew - from the hardcore to those just passing through - universally agreed that the characters on the screen were as they imagined them, with perhaps the exception of Elrond (Hugo Weaving simply does not look like an elf). That seemed the most likely point of major failure, and it never manifested.

In general The Hobbit is a better book than the original trilogy because Tolkien made a concentrated effort to have a more action-packed and better-paced story. It's actually *better* fodder for movies than the trilogy, and I have difficulty imagining Jackson turning it into a disaster.
posted by Ryvar at 6:25 AM on December 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


but that mess of a David Lynch version needs to be replaced.

There was the version on SciFi a few years back. Low budget, but creditable, and done as a 6-hour miniseries the way that everybody said they always wanted. And no stupid weirding modules.

Even the followon combination of Messiah and Children was good. I'm still waiting for their God-Emperor, but I expect that on their budgets they can't afford to do a Leto that's worth doing.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:10 AM on December 19, 2007


I always thought of Bombadil, and Old Man Willow, as vestiges from the Hobbit-sequel childrens' book that Tolkien started to write, but which changed into an epic about halfway through the first book. If he had done a second draft, I think both those characters wouldn't have made the cut, along with the talking rabbits who wonder why four Hobbits are out and about so late at night early on in the journey out of the Shire.

I read an argument that Bombadil is actually sort of a metatextual self-insertion game on Tolkien's part (Bombadil can control the fictionl world around him by singing, Tolkien's creating that same world with words, and so on and so on). I was pretty convinced at the time, but this was like 10 years ago and the ink on my BA in English wasn't dry yet and I was just generally more receptive to agreeing with shit like that.
posted by COBRA! at 7:31 AM on December 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


Ryvar, Jackson is not as good a director as you apparently think he is. He has a limited palette. And his characters were arguably shallower than Tolkien originally wrote them, if that is even possible.

He makes some pretty horrible mistakes. He apparently thinks Sauron was a giant lighthouse, whereas the Eye was a manifestation of Sauron's perception, not his actual form. The use of Gimli (one of the nobler and more complex characters of the book, if you read it he actually has character development!) as a fucking comic relief was unforgivable. Seriously, a Dwarf-tossing joke? Are you fucking kidding me? Not even Lucas could do something so horrible (ok, I guess the Tarzan gag in RotJ was on par). And Aragorn saying "let's hunt some Orc" makes me want to fling things around the room.

Visually, the movies are stupendous, but the constant massive camera zooms and fly-bys of the big models and landscapes was overdone. Whenever Jackson does a massive distorted zoom down a country lane or in a tunnel, we are supposed to be freaked out and scared, whereas really I start thinking I've suffered some kind of optical damage. We could have had a lot more of the nice little details from the book than we did have if he just cut out a few of those superfluous helicopter passes.

The shoehorning of Arwen in there was not necessary. The Aragorn over the cliff thing was gratuitous (and apparently ripped off from an early draft of Lucas' Star Wars! Seriously, General Skywalker does the exact same thing in one of the early drafts). Screaming-green witch Galadriel was preposterous. I mean, he fucking ruined that character with that single overdone bit of FX and scenery chewing. He reduced an incomparable demi-goddess of surpassing wisdom to a fucking dreamy, valium-stoned new age weirdo. Abysmal. Theoden possessed by Saruman.. heavy handed. I understand that it was necessary to play up Saruman as Sauron doesn't represent a threat that can be easily expressed in movie form, but having him side with Sauron rather than compete with him seems like a rather arbitrary and cheap way to go.

Jackson is visually great, but he's clumsy with characters, and I question some of his choices. He is not capable of subtlety. He piles emotion on with a trowel. The intended fellowship and heroic loyalty of the Hobbits became near homosexuality (NTTAWWT). And most of the production design isn't really something he can be credited with, considering the talent he got in to delegate for that, which I suppose actually goes in his favor.

Tolkien may have made a lot of digressions and wanky passages, but he was a master of prose. There are few other writers who can paint a picture of a detailed environment in the way he does. The Moria sequence in the book is perfectly comprehensible, one can see the layout of the passages in relation to one another like a map in one's head. In the movie there is no sense of that, it is confused. The battles in the novel are so comprehensible, that we used to recreate them as tabletop battles without exposing any problems, you can follow the descriptions of the battles easily in the books, not a task that many writers can pull off at all, but they are kludge in the films.

So, despite his hokey poetry and tendency to the cheesy High Style, Tolkien is far underrated. He has some notoriously cardboard characters, and the cavalry always ride to the rescue right at the last minute, but his skill at building an internally consistent sub-creation and characters that inhabit it fully to live in the mind has yet to be equalled, imho. Lord of the Rings is a flawed masterpiece. The movies are flawed visual FX extravaganzas.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 7:44 AM on December 19, 2007 [14 favorites]


I read an argument that Bombadil is actually sort of a metatextual self-insertion game on Tolkien's part

I've argued this exact point for years. Nobody ever agrees with me, but I think it's pretty obvious that Bombadil is Tolkien's avatar in his own universe.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 7:45 AM on December 19, 2007


Hugo Weaving simply does not look like an elf

He looks like Martin Amis dressed as an elf.
posted by Mocata at 7:57 AM on December 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


Elves don't look like Elves.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 8:21 AM on December 19, 2007


I remember reading LOTR as a kid and thinking about casting for the eventual movie adaptation. The choice for Tom Bombadil was plainly obvious to me: Robin Williams. I was quite disappointed when I found out there would be no Bombadil in the Jackson adaptation (and don't get me started on The Scouring of the Shire). Perhaps they'll find a way to weave Tom into the sequel.
posted by ripple at 8:22 AM on December 19, 2007


cyrano:

Bombadil knocked me out more than once, also.

Change happened when I heard a tape of Tolkien reading the troll on the stone piece. The next time I read LotR I read aloud the stumbling areas, and Tolkiens love of language and use of cadence carried me through.
posted by dragonsi55 at 8:41 AM on December 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


What I liked about Tom Bomabadil, Old Man Willow, Carhadras, the eagles etc., was less the actual scenes with them than the point that this seemingly all-consuming war was in fact a faction affair, and that there were many neutral parties in the world who didn't take a side or even deal with it at all, which I thought was a really strong point. ESPECIALLY when they removed the burning of the shire, which really hurt as I always considered it a key part of the ending, that war doesn't always happen only at the front, and that they use what they learned to save the Shire.. sigh.

Will not discuss the inserted extra Arwen stuff at the expense of great stuff from the main storyline that they had to cut for time.

And I agreee cmpletely with Mabuse's outrage at the treatment of Gimli, it was cheap and unnecessary. A lot of strong secondary characters were modified, changing their nature from that of the book, like Faramir kidnapping Frodo.

That said I agree with others that the spirit was right, and I did enjoy them immensely when I was not groaning and covering my eyes.
posted by Billegible at 9:05 AM on December 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


Tom Bombadil would have to be Brian Blessed.

But then, I though Patrick Stewart would have made a much better Elrond than Weaving.
posted by EarBucket at 9:38 AM on December 19, 2007


No one in the movie looked similar to how I had imagined them in the books, except Sam. Most of the characters lost complexity in the name of a clearer moral delineation so you knew who to root for during all the massive fight scenes. Lorien felt like an alien planet rather than an oasis of magical trees. Gandalf was all huggy and emotionally readable (wtf?!). Frodo was far too young. Merry's intelligence didn't shine through. Faramir was a jerk, and Boromir wasn't.

The touchy-feely Sam loves Frodo stuff was actually pretty damn true to the books. The subtext is heavy in the text and onscreen. I'm not saying I think it was intentional on Tolkien's part though. Rather I think his signals for deep friendship and loyalty get interpreted differently through our post-Stonewall cultural lens. I think there's validity to both interpretations.
posted by Tehanu at 9:56 AM on December 19, 2007


My vote -

Better to have PJ diddling around with non-canonical Tolkien (i.e. seige at Dol Guldur) than trying to compress The Silmarillion into something the viewing public can attempt to digest in two hours.

In my opinion, less is more. I think Farmer Giles of Ham would make an excellent two hour movie - lots of humor, a few moments of bravery from a believable hero, and a big-ass dragon to sell the tickets. Pushing The Hobbit into two or three hours or even the inevitable extended DVD director's cut is going to be truncating all the charm out of it. There are a lot of books about dragons waiting to be made into movies.

I want to agree with drjimmy11 - I'm now (while putting in miles on a treadmill, so I have an excuse) watching bits of the movies and then going back and reading the same bits in the books, and man, I feel like Jackson and Co did miss the point, very much so. LoTR is a big morality play, wrapped in a patchwork of arcane language, character miniatures, and place descriptions. The movies are all Action! with a side helping of simplified character motivations and heavy CGI.

Go back and look, for instance, at Boromir at the Council of Elrond - he's given dialog in the movie which is in total opposition to what he's saying in the book, basically made to be a bad guy from the very start. Boromir's eventual coveting of the ring is meant to be a long slow slide, a demonstration of the corrupting power of the thing.

Nearly every page of LoTR contains some kind of foreshadowing or argument about the nature of evil and how fate "if fate you call it" trumps brute force and even Evil's most intricate plans. It was inevitable that not much of that was going to translate to the screen, but still -
posted by newdaddy at 10:59 AM on December 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


The touchy-feely Sam loves Frodo stuff was actually pretty damn true to the books.

Not really, they left out the key pieces to their relationship that gave it depth in the books. First, Sam is the bumbling, ignorant and sheltered servant to Frodo's educated master. The jorney leads to Sam actually taking on the burden of the ring making them equals. Finally after Frodo's departure, Sam actually takes on the role of the hero and master in the end.

Of course there were a lot of very key plot pieces that were left from the movies. The scouring of the shire and Tom Bombodil were mentioned. The palantirs and their powers were totally flat or mutated to fit the film vision, Pippin's experience touching the one and leading to Aragorn's revealing of his true self to Sauron was a huge plot point in the books.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:22 AM on December 19, 2007


I wonder if these films will be at all comprehensible for people who haven't read the terrible books.

The Hobbit is easily the best of his books.
posted by ersatz at 12:25 PM on December 19, 2007


Agreed. The Hobbit represents the most perfect fantasy/children's story ever written, imho. It has all the elements in place. It should live forever, it is timeless and speaks across cultural barriers.

Many have tried to top it. All have failed.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 12:58 PM on December 19, 2007


As someone with very little interest in seeing the Golden Compass, but a passing interest in the genre, why was the movie such a failure anyway?

Atrocious dialogue, complete sanitization of the original story, flat and moronic characters, inclusion of childish villains that didn't exist in the books at all, and best of all, chopping off the shocking and exciting cliffhanger ending in favor of a lame 'happy' ending. For a start.

The book's great, though (the sequels are debatable).
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:17 PM on December 19, 2007


They also say that Sam Raimi is likely to direct.

Now that would be fantastic! Raimi has shown he can keep the campiness in check, and he's a more skilled director than Jackson. Sure, he tends to beat you over the head with the BIG THEMES of the film at least judging from recent efforts, but that would only help in this case, since the LotR films were so focused on action, and were weak in theme and character. He could bring balance to that.

He's not good with CGI (look at Spider-Man), but with Jackson behind him, he'd have plenty of help.
posted by rottytooth at 1:32 PM on December 19, 2007


Jackson is visually great

What made the movies so great was that they got it. They captured the essence of the tale and of Middle-Earth, instead of trying to cram it into a hollywood prefab mold.

I disagree with that first statement. I think Jackson is visually boring. He certainly knows how to orchestrate big, epic scenes and effects. But that in itself isn't greatness.

I agree with the second statement in a very simplistic way. Yeah, he "got it." He understood Tolkein well enough to keep most fanatics -- the one's who were really scared that he'd pervert something -- happy. That too is not good enough.

(I hope I don't have to include "In my opinion." Everything I say is "in my opinion.")

I'm not a rabid Tolkein fan, but I think the books are fun. I think they're good fodder for movies. In the same way, I think "The Shining" is a fun -- but not great -- book. Stanley Kubrick realized it would be good movie fodder and he did something great with it. He put his own unique stamp on it. His movie has STYLE.

There was not one image in Jackson's films that surprised me. Sure, there were plenty of moments when I felt like "damn, that's BIIIIG!" but I was never visually challenged.

Yeah, he "got it right." Gandalf looked just like Gandalf has always looked in my mind -- and in pretty much every boring Tolkein calendar I've ever seen; Frodo looked like Frodo, etc. Given the budget, I could have come up with all those images. But that's not good enough! I want images that I COULDN'T have thought of. I want to say, "Yes, that's totally true to the book, and yet I never would have thought of it that way!"

The book said Sauron was a big eye, so what did Jackson do? He made Sauron a big eye. Fine. But in his movies, Sauron wasn't SCARY. It would have been more true to the books to find a unique way to translate Sauron so that he was terrifying.

Apparently, many people find it comforting to have someone like Jackson take a classic and just illustrate it pretty much the way they've always imagined. To each his own, I guess.

Had I been given Jackson's job, I would have hired a hundred painters and asked them all to paint their ideas of Frodo, Sauron, Gandalf, etc. I would have kept auditioning looks until I found one that stunned and SURPRISED me -- and yet was true to the story I was trying to tell. Whoever came up with that look, I would have made my designer.

I read that Stanley Kubrick considered adapting the books. THAT would have been something. He probably would have made them his own in a way that would have offended Tolkein purists. But I'm convinced that there's a reasonable in-between. Someone else could have done a more "faithful" adaptation that was less predictable and workman-like than Jackson's.
posted by grumblebee at 1:42 PM on December 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


I actually think he's very similar to Jackson, he comes from the same kind of home-brew horror movie, slightly kooky angle into mainstream, so I can see how they might see eye to eye. But yeah, he's much, much better with human characters. I get the feeling he understands the acting craft better than Jackson. If you were going to pick someone to take over from Jackson on this show, without losing the feel he has brought to it, Raimi would look like a good choice. But at this stage, that's just an unconfirmed "he's expressed interest" thing.


I will say this: Ian Holm must play Bilbo. It would be unacceptable for him not to do so. And Brian Blessed must be in it. As a kid I always imagined Beorn as Brian Blessed. He may be a bit old and so forth for it now, but Brian Blessed must be in it.

And so must Bill Bailey.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 1:47 PM on December 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


(I was talking about Raimi)
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 1:49 PM on December 19, 2007


Holm is one of my favorite actors, but he's a bit old for that part, isn't he?
posted by grumblebee at 1:51 PM on December 19, 2007


Screaming-green witch Galadriel was preposterous. I mean, he fucking ruined that character with that single overdone bit of FX and scenery chewing. He reduced an incomparable demi-goddess of surpassing wisdom to a fucking dreamy, valium-stoned new age weirdo. Abysmal.

Oh god, that is so true. Book-Galadriel is unapproachably gorgeous and wise. Movie-Galadriel is creepy and threatening.
posted by heatherann at 1:53 PM on December 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


but he's a bit old for that part, isn't he?

Well he played him in the LotR movies! And Bilbo is in his fifties in The Hobbit. IT WOULD BE UNACCEPTABLE TO REPLACE HIM!!

(so was Frodo in LotR, but they must have ignored that)
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 1:56 PM on December 19, 2007


Book-Galadriel is unapproachably gorgeous and wise.

Yes. She may be unfilmable. It's hard to find an actress who can be "unapproachably gorgeous and wise." When you're adapting a story, and you come across a character like that, it's time to get over being faithful in the literal sense (because you can't) and find another direction. The worst thing you can do is slap on a special effect and hope everyone will be so awed they won't notice.

Just off the top of my head -- and probably a bad idea -- if I was adapting and couldn't find a way to make a perfectly beautiful and wise woman/goddess believable, I would perhaps have done a 180 and made her surprisingly normal and approachable. Wow, people are scared of me because I have all these powers, but I'm really just an ordinary girl at heart.

I can hear the purists cringing, and that WAS just an off-the-cuff idea. Just brainstorming. I'd probably dispense with it. But my point is that when something in a book won't translate well to film, you need to switch gears. You need to think outside of the box. Maybe you make Galadrial just a voice. Maybe you never show all of her -- just shooting from her point of view. SOMETHING.
posted by grumblebee at 2:00 PM on December 19, 2007


It's hard to find an actress who can be "unapproachably gorgeous and wise."

Well, a good start would be to not cast Cate Blanchett, who, while being a fantastic actress, is not what I would call gorgeous. She looks simian. I mean, we all do, but she has sticky out ears and weird features. And her take on Galadriel was, as I said, like a junkie on the nod. She was fucking zoned-out looking.

You want someone with gravitas who is also beautiful. Youth not a prerequisite. Blanchett was one of the few casting choices I disagreed with.

I would have cast Julie Delpy.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 2:29 PM on December 19, 2007


I'm holding out for a Bored of the Rings movie.
posted by kirkaracha at 2:44 PM on December 19, 2007


Damn straight!
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 2:49 PM on December 19, 2007


When I was a kid, I wanted a sequel to Star Wars. I got Empire. It was awesome. I wanted another sequel. I got Return. Meh. Despite this, news of the Phantom Menace left me salivating like a Pavlovian dog... Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith left me wanting to beat George with a Toys-R-Us light sabre. I really wish Lucas had left me wanting more.

When Ghostbusters came out, I couldn't remember ever laughing so hard or having more fun at the cinema. I wanted a sequel. After many years, Ramis and Ackroyd provided one. I really didn't want that sequel. It wasn't funny. It wasn't anything positive. Now, Ackroyd's trying to make another sequel using computer animation. Murray is trying to have Ackroyd committed. I really wish Dan woulda left me wanting more.

When I saw Highlander, I wished they could make a sequel cuz the first movie was so good, but there was a finality to the finale: there can be only one. I wanted more, but was content with what I got. Then they came out with a sequel. And another sequel. And a television show that apparently I'm the only person on the planet who hated that thing: I wish I'd been left wanting more.

When The Matrix came out, I wanted a sequel. After two sequels, I wish those brothers had left me wanting more.

When Raimi did Spider-Man, I wanted a sequel. Spider-Man 2 was just as good, so I wanted another sequel. After Spider-Man 3, I really wish he'd left me wanting more.

Hitchcock made Psycho, which was great. Someone else made Psycho 2. I still don't get why. Then someone else made Psycho 3. I still don't get why. Then still someone else made Psycho 4. WTF??? And yet again then someone else remade the original Psycho, and the only positive thing about that was we saw Anne Heche get the shower treatment. I really wish I'd been left wanting more.

Almost a century ago, they made King Kong. I used to wish someone would take that movie and make it again, but using today's technology. Surely it'd be an improvement on the original... I really wish...

Anyone besides me noticing a pattern here?
posted by ZachsMind at 3:39 PM on December 19, 2007


The Hobbit is not a sequel. Not in any respect.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 4:25 PM on December 19, 2007


I think The Hobbit has far more potential than LotR as a movie, precisely because it fits the fairy tale mold more closely, which I happen to think is easier to translate to the big screen.

In that vein, I also think The Lay of Leithian would make as good of a movie as The Hobbit, if not better. Of course, there's the whole getting the characters right issue with that one (see the Galadriel discussion above--if you can't get her right, how are you going to manage the most beautiful child of Ilúvatar ever to walk the earth?). But the story is brilliant.
posted by Brak at 4:58 PM on December 19, 2007


Well, a good start would be to not cast Cate Blanchett, who, while being a fantastic actress, is not what I would call gorgeous. She looks simian.

It's like I don't even know you, man.
posted by middleclasstool at 5:46 PM on December 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


grumblebee, I agree with your perspective but with all that money flushed into the movies, it was expected they wouldn't take artistic risks in addition to the financial ones. Then again that's why the films, after the first flush of excitement, ended up forgettable. Except for that Legolas-surfing stunt. That was too traumatic

I read that Stanley Kubrick considered adapting the books. THAT would have been something. He probably would have made them his own in a way that would have offended Tolkein purists.


I would have loved seeing how Stanley would go at it.
posted by ersatz at 5:48 PM on December 19, 2007


with all that money flushed into the movies, it was expected they wouldn't take artistic risks in addition to the financial ones.

I understand your point, and you're right all too often, but I don't think it has to be that way. I'm not talking about turning it into an avant garde film. I'm just talking about infusing it with some visual personality, rather than making it look like a moving version of every fantasy book cover you see in Barnes and Noble. There was ways to do it and yet still keep it mainstream.

Ang Lee has done this sort of thing successfully, for instance. Some of his films have been main-stream releases, yet all of them have distinct styles. The most famous example is Hitchcock. Making a Hollywood/mainstream movie doesn't HAVE to mean "vanilla."
posted by grumblebee at 6:33 PM on December 19, 2007


Actually, Kubrick did it, too. People think of him as an "art house" director, but he was a business man, too. He was very concerned with his films making money.
posted by grumblebee at 6:34 PM on December 19, 2007


(Sorry to break this up over several comments. I'm feeling disjointed.)

My main point is that I'm surprised -- and a little sad -- that so many people feel Jackson is a visual master. To me, it sort of feels as if someone hung a huge, mediocre painting in an art gallery and everyone applauded it as a masterpiece because of its size, ignoring the small, delicate paintings next to it.

There are dozens of filmmakers that make profoundly more visually stunning films than Jackson, and not all of them are art-house guys. I'm not a fan of Spielberg's films, but his visual sense (or the sense of whoever designs his movies) is vastly superior to Jackson. I just bring up Spielberg because he's the definition of mainstream, and yet many of his films a beautifully photographed. Scorsese's films look gorgeous; Ang Lee's look gorgeous; Did you all see "Children of Men"? THAT was photography! "Bladerunner," "Pan's Labyrinth," etc.
posted by grumblebee at 6:42 PM on December 19, 2007


I read that Stanley Kubrick considered adapting the books.

So also the Beatles.

Allegedly.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:56 PM on December 19, 2007


Not really, they left out the key pieces to their relationship that gave it depth in the books.

Oh, I agree with you there, especially about losing Sam's shift in social status. I just meant that the subtext was in both versions. But yeah the friendship has a lot more depth and dimension in the books. And Sam really gets a full arc there. Not so much in the movies.
posted by Tehanu at 10:10 PM on December 19, 2007


When I say that Jackson is visually great, I mean that he makes movies with exciting special fx. I realise what an anachronism and phail that is, given the artistry of other filmmakers.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 1:39 AM on December 20, 2007


Tom Bombadil would have to be Brian Blessed.

sputter cough gack...

CURSE YOU EARBUCKET!!
posted by JHarris at 8:52 AM on December 20, 2007


There was ways to do it and yet still keep it mainstream.

True. I don't believe that commercial movies can't be artful or vice versa. Quite often it just doesn't happen.
posted by ersatz at 5:01 PM on December 20, 2007


Guillermo del Toro in line for The Hobbit
posted by homunculus at 7:31 PM on December 20, 2007


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