Peril and Slapstick
Long ago when the Hobbit film was first
planned I think I put up some posts remarking that the tone of this
first book of Tolkien's was very different from LOTR so unless it was
changed drastically in the filming, a cinema version was not going to
be some kind of LOTR prequel. The Hobbit, I think I pointed out, was a
I did not want to put a hex on anything but after the films were all
out and the world moved on I do think we all suffered a sense of loss.
The conventions died out and even our own board slowed down. Or boards,
sorry. I think there was a bit of desperation in the anticipation for
the Hobbit. Maybe it would recapture the magic.
I was sort of surprised though when I bought Empire this month (a very
nice Hobbit cover with a very grey Gandalf on the front) and read a
frank interview with Jackson where he too commented on the 'juvenile'
tone of the Hobbit;
'''Peter Jackson never wanted to direct the Hobbit. Urged that it was
the perfect project with which to follow the success of Rings, he
smiled evasively and insisted to one and all that he was done with
Middle Earth as director..Hence, Mexican fabulist Guillermo del Toro, a
figure even the most areent of Jacksonphiles agreed made a fascinating
Jackson's qualms about adapting the prequel went deeper than just
Tolkien fatigue. ''The tone worried me..' as is well known, The Hobbit
was written as a beside story for JRR's children. It is whimsical,
almost comic. There is little of the portentous weight of Rings, and
frankly, for all its rich storytelling, the book flirts with the
juvenile. Jackson wasn't sure how to handle that ''It isn't just the
characters, or the dialogue; it's the actual narrative. You get a whole
sense of The Hobbit being a children's book.''
...Jackson could not fathom portraying 13 irritable dwarves (with the
exception of stoic leader Thorin, The Hobbit's 'fellowship' is depicted
as an obstinate mass) and their more self-serving quest to reclaim both
their homeland (the geologically dubious Lonely Mountain) and a hoard
of treasure from a smug dragon named Smaug - conferring the Hobbit with
more ambiguity than its sequel. A journey frought with both peril and
''We were happy putting it in someone else's hands'' he admits.
'As Del Toro departed (jackson) began rediscovering his Tolkien mojo.
Slowly, surely, he found he knew exactly how to make The Hobbit. HIS Hobbit. A trick he mastered
with Rings; - trust the book.
''The tone is actually the part of it I am enjoying the most, which is
ironic...we are being more humourous than LOTR but that is the
characters. I'm dealing with a whole bunch of extenuate and forthright
dwarves who are not afraid to say what they think. They have a healthy
disregard for the icons of Middle Earth.''
If you want the straightforward answer to how Jackson discovered he
wanted to make The Hobbit, it's dwarves. They suit him. He's been
having a ball delineating Nori from Ori, Oin from Gloin, developing
raucaus personalities and outlandish (but practical) looks for 13
catankerous elf-haters. Then finding the actors to climb beneath their
unkempt beards. Even the most cursory of glances at Middle Earth's
''Dirty Baker's Dozen'' ..conjures up a salad bar of Vikings, Picts,
druids, heavy metal bassists and conceivably in tangential tribute to
Jackson's forthcoming production of Tintin - Asterix's BFF, Obelix.
''They don't know what to make of Gandalf, they think Bilbo is a wuss
and Elrond a prissy headmaster type'' delights a besotted director.
Watching them (plus Bilbo) stomp and squabble about set (off and on
camera), Time Bandits springs to mind, or the anarchic joy of early
Jackson; Bad Taste, Braindead, those scurilous Feebles. Yesterday they
filmed the world's first 'Dwarf wedgie'(''we found it in the
appendices'' swears Jackson) while Stage K is utilising a mysterious
''snot gun''. Those bloody-minded cannonballs provide an opportunity to
send up the gravity of Rings, even as they lay its groundwork.'
There is a lot more to this article and it describes the sense of
reunion on the set plus the vast new cg effects, which have apparently
brought James Cameron to watch and learn. It also mentions the film's
parallel plot line where Gandalf and Elrond investigate Dol Guldur, but
the above seems the heart of Jackson's approach to The Hobbit and I
thought you guys might be interested. Because it set my teeth on edge,
I corrected the article's horrible
'Middle-Earth' to 'Middle Earth'.
I admit I am not gagging to see a 'Dirty Baker's Dozen', but as I have
often been counselled on this site, I will wait and see. Jackson has
promised that we will see 'more of Middle Earth', and that should be
good, although it won't work as a fantasy travel film.
My own private dream would be to see The Lord of The Rings done again,
by someone else, preferably as a tv series. Given the gorgeous
production values (about the only values) of Game of Thrones, and the
vast sums dedicated to that kind of series, cost can't be a valid
reason why not any more. I have always said Jackson did a great job,
but this is a story that can be told again and again and by other
talented and inspired people (Even Del Toro apparently favoured a Steam
Punk look to the Hobbit). Jackson made his mistakes; remember the coach
and four he drove through the plot of The Two Towers; the assassination
of the character of Faramir or Arwen the Warrior Princess. Maybe
someone else, given more time and resources, would not have to make
Just my humble opinion, of course.