Monday, 12 January 2015

The Hobbit - Why your argument is not as good as you think it is

So last time I wrote about the reasons I think that the “Hobbit” films are good films, though I acknowledge that they are by no means masterpieces. The thing is, when you’re fighting the internet, good arguments do not matter. What matters is destroying you opponent, so if you hate on the Hobbit, be prepared to be insulted with some homophobic slurs…
Or I'll just try to challenge some of your arguments, like a sane human being. Maybe I can change a few minds.

Now, I want to make one thing clear from the get-go. All film is subjective and if you didn’t like any movie in “The Hobbit” trilogy, I have no problem with you. However, I know a few people that refused to even give the movies a chance, based on arguments that I can only describe as shaky.

Because if you tell me that “The Hobbit” is simply a cash-grab and then you go watch “Taken 3”, then you’re an idiot. But one at a time.

Beware, there are spoilers down below, because if you argue against the movies and haven’t seen them and read the book, I am already not listening to your arguments. And when I say “and”, I mean it.

“The Hobbit” should never have been three movies!!!

There’s a few things to say about that. First, if your argument is that because “The Hobbit” is one book it should be one movie, then that’s a very arbitrary thing to say. Why would that be the case? Where does it say that no book can be adapted as two movies? Or three?
Have you read the book? Now, at this point I want to just talk about a book being adapted into more than one movie, not specifically three movies, that’s later. First let’s talk about how much actually happens in this three-hundred page book.

For example the whole process of killing the dragon takes up two and a half pages. By the way, the black arrows are set up on those pages as well. And that’s the graphic description of it. Our heroes, the dwarves learn of it from a bird. As a screenwriter, that poses a problem. When our company of dwarves set out to take back a mountain from a dragon, it’s heavily implied that they will kill said dragon. But that’s not how the book goes. So not only do you need to build a strong action scene based on one page, which becomes the opening of “Battle of the Five Armies”. Also, the actual heroes have to have some confrontation with the dragon, preferably coming out on top. So you have to add an action scene taking place in Erebor. And that is just on the surface. You also need to have a dragonslayer that has enough character for audiences to latch on to.

There are more examples like this, several scenes have to be extended to be cinematic, and a lot of things have to be expanded upon simply because Bilbo falls asleep halfway through the action.
What I just did for the death of Smaug can be done for a lot of the other scenes in this wonderful book. That alone puts it from one to two movies at least, if you ask me. And just to give you a hint of what else needs to be addressed when you adapt this book, a lot has been made about the lack of characterization for the dwarves in the films. Eight out of thirteen dwarves in the book are characterized only by the colour of their hood.

So now we have our two “Hobbit” movies, and it’s great, two fast-paced adventure movies with great action and maybe you can even fit in some characterization for a few characters between all the action. What puts it from two to three is the connective tissue between the two trilogies. Now in my personal opinion, if they had done it right, this could have been two movies, but I like it as three as well, for one last reason.
We have never before seen an adaption from a book that actually committed to putting more to screen than is in the book. There is a reason for that, because rarely does a book have enough backstory to warrant that. Middle-Earth has that, and more, which arguably has presented the filmmakers with problems in the editing room.
Anyway, this is all I’m going to say about that, there’s more where that came from though. The second argument that people usually bring is a little bit easier.

It’s just a cash-grab!

The Hobbit trilogy had a budget of 745 million dollar. That is not how you do a cash-grab. You do not try to revolutionize cinema by introducing high frame rate, no matter how well that worked. You do not hire some of the most successful actors working in Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. What you do is take something cheap that people liked and copy it. That is what the entirety of the Horror genre seems to be about these days and I don’t doubt that we will see that in the upcoming “Taken 3” as well.

Apart from that, accusing a film of trying to make money seems like an exceptionally stupid thing to do. After all, the movie business is just that, a business. We are lucky to have a lot of people in the filmmaking business that love what they are doing and are ambitious about delivering quality movies, but the people that are actually responsible for getting these movies to our screens are running a business.

To take this back to the “Hobbit” films, the two people who were most responsible for this movie are certainly Guillermo Del Toro and Peter Jackson. These two are some of the best examples in the business right now for filmmakers for whom art is the primary objective, not success. Look what Jackson has done with his success after “Lord of the Rings”. He made “King Kong”, a passion project for him. Del Toro has committed huge amounts of his time lately to get the sequel to “Pacific Rim” made. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

So that’s it, those are the arguments against “The Hobbit” that I have real problems with, simply because they are unsubstantiated and target the making of the movie more than they talk about the actual films. They are also often simply repeated without any other thought put into them, especially the first one. Most of us have never written a screenplay or made a movie, yet we indulge ourselves in judging the work of people who put a lot of work into something. With that I don’t want to say that there are no bad movies or that we can’t say so. But when we start forming our opinions before we’ve actually seen a frame of the movie, that’s something we should be careful about. “The Hobbit” is a great book but it’s not exactly written in a cinematic way. In adapting it, Jackson and his crew had to compensate for a lot of things such as Bilbo’s tendency to fall asleep when stuff starts going down or the lacking characterization of Thorin’s company. And remember that “The Hobbit” was Tolkien’s first step into Middle-Earth, a world that he fleshed out much more with “The Lord of the Rings” and his other works.

Fun fact by the way, “The Lord of the Rings” is only three books because of the publisher. Tolkien wrote it as one book in six parts. In the making of the “Rings” trilogy, the project went exactly the same way the Hobbit did. First it was one movie, then two, and then it became a trilogy.

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