I can’t believe I’m uttering these words, but I honestly think I would have enjoyed The Hobbit movies more had there been only two movies (as first reported there would be—with An Unexpected Journey and There And Back Again) or even one. I wrote in my review of The Battle of the Five Armies that after the hour-long battle scene, I was feeling pretty battle-fatigued. However, speaking with some students and friends about the movie, this was their favorite of the series, because it was so chock-full of action, some listing An Unexpected Journey as their least favorite, because “all they did was travel”.
That’s when I started to realize that An Unexpected Journey was my favorite of the series for that exact same reason—because you see the most of Middle-Earth in that movie—and that my least favorite was The Battle of the Five Armies because it simply doesn’t go anywhere. Except for the too-short resolution when Bilbo goes back to the Shire, the entire movie takes place in the same location: Dale, Lake-Town and the relatively small stretch of land in between.
The parallels involving traveling between the two trilogies
The Lord of the Rings series actually parallels The Hobbit series pretty well as far as traveling is concerned:
A lot of land is covered in The Fellowship of the Ring: from the Shire, Gandalf goes to Isengard and the hobbits go to Bree, then the hobbits go to Weathertop and Rivendell with Strider, then Moria, Lothlorien and Amon Hen with the entire fellowship (minus Gandalf, who was lost in Moria). Likewise, a lot of ground is covered in An Unexpected Journey: from the Shire to the Trollshaws to Rivendell to Goblin-Town in the Misty Mountains.
In The Two Towers, because the fellowship was broken, you get to see more of Middle-Earth through the viewpoints of several characters: Edoras, Helm’s Deep, Fangorn Forest, the Dead Marshes, the Black Gate, Isengard, Ithilien and Osgiliath. In The Desolation of Smaug, because Gandalf leaves the company, we see more of Middle-Earth through Bilbo’s and Gandalf’s viewpoints: Beorn’s Hall, Mirkwood, Dol Goldur, Thranduil’s Hall, Lake-Town and Erebor.
In The Return of the King, the amount of traveling deviates between the two series: we see Mordor through Frodo and Sam’s storyline (Mount Doom, Shelob’s Lair, Barad-Dur), Minas Tirith, the Pelennor Fields, Isengard and Edoras again, then Shire again, then the Grey Havens. In The Battle of the Five Armies, though, we see the fewest locations of the entire series. As mentioned already, we see Erebor, Dale and Lake-Town for most of the movie, and the three locations are so close to one another that you can see (as the movie shows us) all three of them in the same shot.
All of this is just to say that I was bored by this most recent movie because, as I said, it doesn’t go anywhere. I’ve said this same thing for The Lord of the Rings Online and other video games. I don’t play video games to actively engage in battles. I play video games to explore the locations that I know and love. I guess I care more about setting than characters.
What a two-film (or even one-film) Hobbit might’ve looked like
After thinking long and hard about it, I’m still not sure exactly where the split might’ve occurred if there were only two movies. I only know what (in my mind) could’ve been cut from the theatrical releases to make it work (and perhaps later added to the extended editions—I really don’t see the point of extended editions at this point, because three movies out of one slim volume that is shorter than each of the Lord of the Rings books is really long enough). Here’s what I would cut:
Anything and everything that didn’t directly happen in the book. In the beginning, I was one of the biggest proponents of the multiple films. I was excited to see the extra content from the Appendices make it into the films. Now, not so much.
- The White Council: Originally, I was particularly excited to hear that Peter Jackson was going to include the White Council (complete with the attack on Dol Goldur) side story. However, I’m starting to wish now that he hadn’t. It was cool to see, but in hindsight, I think it deviated too much from the main story, even though it did explain the connection between the Necromancer in Mirkwood and Sauron in Mordor.
- Azog the Defiler: I understand the need for an overarching conflict when the story is split into three segments, but maybe if it were only two or even one movie, the added conflict wouldn’t have been necessary.
- Tauriel the Elf: I understand the need for a female character in a male-dominated cast and a spark of romance in a story devoid of a Beren and Luthien or an Aragorn and Arwen, but she wasn’t in the book, so away she goes.
- Legolas wasn’t in the book either, but it makes at least a little sense to include him, as Thranduil’s son.
- The Battle between the dwarves and Smaug: The end of The Desolation of Smaug was particularly irritating to me, because it simply did not happen in the book. Only Bilbo spoke to Smaug inside the mountain.
- Alfrid: There was entirely too much of this superfluous character (who really should have died).
If you can’t tell, I prefer adaptations that remain true to the book, and having all these extraneous plot lines makes teaching the book to students somewhat difficult, because they may be confused when they see scenes that they don’t remember reading in the book. I like being able to show a film adaptation to the students once they’re done reading the novel so they can see it and hopefully better understand the story. With three incredibly long movies for one short book, once the third is released on home video, it’ll take use almost two weeks to get through during class. Even now, I wish there was a shorter version (not extended edition) to show to my students—one that only includes content from the book.
That’s when I saw this video, which creates an epic trailer for one Hobbit movie to rule them all:
The Hobbit should have been released before The Lord of the Rings
Furthermore, the “prequels problem” (mentioned in my review) would have been solved had The Hobbit movie come before The Lord of the Rings trilogy. All four of Tolkien’s stories involving hobbits could have been told in one cohesive four-movie series. Doing this would have also eliminated the need for the flashbacks that the current Hobbit trilogy uses.
Of course, hindsight is 20/20 and all of this is wishful thinking. I can only hope that someone decides to create one massive Hobbit supercut once the third movie is released on home video. But then again, six movies makes a whole lot more money than four movies does, and a single The Hobbit movie would not have had the same cast as the recent movies had, which I thought was awesome, particularly Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins. So perhaps after is better.
What do you think? Would you rather have had one, two, or three The Hobbit movies? Share in the comments!