‘Hobbit’ Film Hopes: An Unexpected Journey

Much has changed since my last “The Hobbit” update after the teaser released in December. Now with the new trailer’s release, what are your thoughts, hopes, and predictions for “The Hobbit” film series?
on Sep 20, 2012 · No comments

(This follows my Dec. 29, 2011 update . The Reading Is Worship series will return next week.)

“We’re going to need a trailer for the trailer!”

— Nicky Collini (Desi “Ricky Ricardo” Arnaz), in The Long, Long Trailer (1953)

Seen it yet? Of course I refer to the second trailer for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and of course you have seen it. As I write this, I actually haven’t seen it myself! So if I make any sight-unseen predictions for the film(s), they may also apply to the trailer.

Some has changed since my last The Hobbit update after the teaser released in December:

  • The films will now number three instead of two; this is a whole new trilogy, based not only on The Hobbit but Tolkien’s own supplementary details in The Appendices of The Return of the King. Example: read Appendix A, section III, for more details on Durin’s Folk, the Dwarves, and particularly what motivated Thorin Oakenshield.Of note: the films will not include details from The Silmarillion. The filmmakers retain rights only to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings; the J.R.R. Tolkien estate is keeping a firm grip on all other materials by the famous professor.
  • Now the films are titled The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, global release on Friday, Dec. 14; The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Friday, Dec. 13, 2013; and The Hobbit: There and Back Again, breaking the year-end rhythm by releasing July 18, 2014.
  • Viewing options should include faster — potentially lusher, more “realistic” — frame rates, 48 frames per second, and 3D, versus a more traditional 2D version. (I haven’t read whether you will be able to see four permutations of those two factors: 3D and original frame rate, 3D and faster frame rate, or 2D of each frame rate.)

For reference, here is the second and likely final trailer, in all its fantastic glory:

This also leads to a Speculative Faith announcement: that beginning this afternoon, we will publish the first of a new SF Reading Group series, based on The Hobbit. Already for two weeks I’ve been facilitating this group at my church, after a successful reading group for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. By contrast, The Hobbit will be much longer and more complex. We’re even bringing in details from The Appendices, to begin exploring Tolkien’s languages, worlds, cultures, and quests in-depth. All questions will be available here on Speculative Faith, thanks to featured articles published about every week.

Re-reading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring simultaneously, I’m finding much more that I had forgotten since the last time I enjoyed these classics. Yes, I’m a relative late-comer to Middle-earth; you Elves have been here a long time, but I only just arrived, a mortal Man (though I hope you Elves never leave!). So this time I’m blessed to experience the joy of wondering which parts will be adapted for the films, and just a little bit of dread, which true fans had before 2001, of favorite parts the films may alter or ignore.

This leads me to a few predictions, some based on reliable web-rumors, some based on intuition. After all, much of Tolkien’s work is already cinematic enough without change:

So Thorin Oakenshield became the Heir or Durin, but an heir without hope. […] The years lengthened. The embers in the heart of Thorin grew hot again, as he brooded on the wrongs of his House and the vengeance upon the Dragon that he had inherited. He thought of weapons and armies and alliances, as his great hammer rang in his forge; but the armies were dispersed and the alliances broken and the axes of his people were few; and a great anger without hope burned him as he smote the red iron on the anvil.

— from The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Appendix A, section III (page 1051)

Prediction 1: We’ll see that cinematic visual adapted verbatim in a flashback sequence.

Prediction 2: Peter Jackson will almost certainly show the Goblin King Azog’s murder of the dwarf Thrór at the gates of Moria, after which the goblins tear the victim’s body apart.

Click to expand.

Prediction 3: Based on this amazing photo, The Hobbit, at least the first part, will not be devoid of the singing, raucous, fun-loving nature of the Dwarves. In the first trailer, we heard their somber “Misty Mountains Cold” song, adapted from Tolkien’s original. In this photo (and likely in the second trailer) we see them clearly singing the “crack the plates!” song as good-natured mockery of Bilbo, as they kindly help with dinner cleanup.

Prediction 4: Thorin, as the “very important Dwarf,” won’t be entirely above this Dwarvish fun, but won’t like it very much. Either when he’s pinned beneath fallen Dwarves at Bilbo’s hobbit-hole door, and/or at some other time, we will see him give at least one hilarious and over-brooding eye-roll. (Actor Richard Armitage is very good at over-brooding eye-rolls.)

Prediction 5: Based on the first version of the “film scroll” (as of July 9) and the updated version, film 1 originally ended with the Dwarves escaping Mirkwood in their barrels. The film now ends with the group escaping Orcs and Wargs in the forest, inaugurating the war.

Prediction 6: Only a little of the Necromancer’s (Sauron’s) potential menace will be seen and discussed in film 1. We will also see only some of the White Council’s work, maybe in flashback, in film 1, as Gandalf will not have left the Dwarves and Bilbo until the start of film 2. The Dark Lord’s renewed threat will grow in film 2, which will focus on the battle against Smaug, and culminate in the Battle of Five Armies in film 3. That enables the story to focus first on Smaug (such as with Saruman in The Two Towers), then on the greater war.

Prediction 7: These films will break records.

What are your hopes and predictions for The Hobbit film series?

E. Stephen Burnett explores fantastical stories for God’s glory as publisher of Lorehaven.com and its weekly Fantastical Truth podcast. He coauthored The Pop Culture Parent and creates other resources for fans and families, serving with his wife, Lacy, in their central Texas church. Stephen's first novel, a science-fiction adventure, launches in 2025 from Enclave Publishing.
  1. Kessie says:

    Gollum. Hands-down favorite. That look he gives Bilbo when he says, “If Baggins loses, we eat him whole.” And Bilbo’s long pause, and then, “Fair enough.” I’ve missed Gollum in his Andy Circus creepiness!
    I’m just wondering how far the first movie will go. To when they get saved by the eagles? To Mirkwood? I mean, if you’re going to chop it into 3, where do you slice it?
    Last time I read the Hobbit, I made a series of predictions about how Peter Jackson’s version would go. Here’s some of it (And oh, how spot on I was with a lot of this:)
    The movie will start out with Smaug coming and attacking the Lonely Mountain. Big dragon, fire, smoke, fog, lots of people and dwarves getting eaten. Thorin and his father and grandfather escape through the secret side passage. Thorin’s father has a Ring (one of the Seven for dwarves in their halls of stone and all that).
    Cut to battles against goblins in Moria, and then some stuff with the Necromancer in the dark tower in Mirkwood, who captures Thorin’s dad, takes the Ring from him, and leaves him wandering and witless. Gandalf finds him and receives the key and map before Thror dies.
    Lots of long, picturesque shots of Gandalf roaming over Middle Earth, doing detective work, trying to find out who that dying dwarf was and who is son is.
    Gandalf finds Thorin and gives him the key and map. Thorin starts plotting revenge on Smaug, and gathers up his friends. Gandalf promises to help them a bit, and will find the fourteenth man for their expedition.
    Enter Bilbo, who is sitting smoking when Gandalf walks up.

    And the whole Unexpected Party, which will be played for high humor (because it is really quite funny). Bilbo’s character will be established, as well as the band of dwarves (the strong one, the fat one, the comic relief one, the leader, the gay one, etc. etc.)
    Bilbo and the dwarves set out. Lots of pretty long shots of New Zealand landscapes. It will of course look different from Lord of the Rings, even though they’re still walking to Rivendell and it should be similar landscape.
    The trolls will be slightly scary but played for comic relief. One of the dwarves or Bilbo will almost get eaten. Gandalf will do the trick with imitating their voices and confusing them, and then when dawn comes, Gandalf will jump out and flash real bright light from his wand (he carries a wand at this point). The trolls will freeze and turn to stone.
    Then Gandalf and the dwarves get hawt lewt from the trolls’ stash, including Thorin’s sword and Gandalf’s sword, and Bilbo’s little sword Sting (only it’s not named that until later).
    Lots of long pretty shots of New Zealand landscape until we get to Rivendell. It looks pretty much like it did in Lord of the Rings, only summertime colors, not fall. The elves are exactly like they were in LOTR, all quiet and somber and fey, and Elrond is also exactly the same (Hugo Weaving!)
    Elrond holds up the map to the moonlight and special effects reveal the secret writing about how to find the secret door in the Lonely Mountain.
    Cut to climbing the Misty Mountains. Lots of pretty New Zealand shots of weird mountains. Stone giants throw rocks at them and they barely escape. Oh, and there’s a storm, and it’s raining, and they’re running from stone giants and the rocks, and they all crowd into a little cave, where they’re immediately grabbed by goblins.
    Goblins take them down into the goblin caves, and it’s all very Isengard, and we see goblin slaves, and goblin weapons, and how ugly Peter Jackson can make goblins (he’s had new ideas since LOTR). There will be giant bugs in there, too, and possibly snakes.
    So they kill the Great Goblin, and Gandalf rescues them, and they run for it, and there will be lots of fighting and more giant bugs. Then Bilbo falls and hits his head. Cut to black.
    Bilbo wakes up all alone. He goes crawling along for a bit and finds the One Ring. He goes on and runs into the lake with Gollum.
    Gollum will be delightfully nasty, and improved from the end of Return of the King, even. They do the riddles and it will be played for humor.
    Then Gollum finds that he’s lost the Ring, and comes after Bilbo, who puts the Ring on by accident and finds out that it makes him invisible. Gollum accidentally leads him to the cave exit, and there’s a moment just like Frodo has where Bilbo holds up Sting and thinks about stabbing Gollum, but it was Pity stayed his hand. This part will be overdone, because it has such a huge impact on the storyline of LOTR.
    And it goes on. 🙂

  2. D.M. Dutcher says:

    Unfortunately I think there’s going to be a lot of padding to make the Hobbit into three movies. I also expect we’ll see the same Peter Jackson trend of releasing extended cuts after the theatrical versions have sold, so for some of us we’re going to skip the film in theaters and wait till he releases the uncut version to avoid having to buy multiple sets of the same movie. As for the content, I’m not keen on his designs, or seeing what he thinks Smaug may look like. People forget that asking him to direct LOTR was like asking John Carpenter or Wes Craven to do a Narnia movie: Jackson for some of us will always be known for his splatterpunk movies like Bad Taste or Dead Alive. He transcended it, but there’s always a horrific edge be it in character designs or what.

    I’m also negative because I think people don’t realize that some of us older fans already have a movie to compare this to. In 1977, the animation company Rankin-Bass released an animated version of the Hobbit. It has its issues-the animation style while stunning, is very 70ish Brian Froud in designs. But this isn’t a case like the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, where a mediocre cartoon was released first, and can’t compare to the spectacular movie. Rankin-Bass at its best could rival Disney, and both the Hobbit and The Last Unicorn are examples of this. So for this fan, I have to go against some serious nostalgia-I grew up watching the Hobbit as a young boy on evening television before I even read the book.

    If you want to see what the old version looks like, 

     is the first part.  They did some amazing work for the time.

    • Galadriel says:

      How does the Ranklin-Bass Hobbit compare to the animated ROTK? Because I’ve seen the animated ROTK and found it disgustingly hilarious. While the dialogue is book-perfect in places,  the format is confusing, the characterization off, and there’s far too many niggly bits that are just off–“God help us!” is one that sticks in my memory, as even an “Elbereth help us” would feel out of place.

      • D.M. Dutcher says:

        I actually don’t remember XD. The Hobbit made an impact on me as a kid, but the LOTR versions proper either didn’t air often (this was in the days when you would get a grand total of seven channels through an antenna) or were forgettable enough to slip my mind. Around that same time, cable began to develop so I watched LOTR mostly via Bakshi’s version, which was pretty bad but aired fairly often. I’ll have to revisit them to see. They actually were hard to find on DVD till Jackson’s film due to R-B no longer existing.

  3. So for this fan, I have to go against some serious nostalgia-I grew up watching the Hobbit as a young boy on evening television before I even read the book.

    Do you think this may unavoidably alter your expectations, then?

    This is where I believe I have an advantage, as a newer fan, who didn’t even know enough to object to Faramir in The Two Towers (and this change still doesn’t annoy me deep down, as much as it does my wife!). I don’t know much about the 1977 animated movie; in fact, I read more details in the above comment than I’ve known before. However, I’d heard it was fairly bad. Regardless, I suppose I benefit from not having such a nostalgia, thus to view a new film version as a sort of invader! 🙂

    People forget that asking him to direct LOTR was like asking John Carpenter or Wes Craven to do a Narnia movie: Jackson for some of us will always be known for his splatterpunk movies like Bad Taste or Dead Alive.

    The only other Jackson film I’ve seen is King Kong, and I see what you mean. Despite that film’s epic edge, with some of the character development and epic scope that marked The Lord of the Rings, the gross-for-its-own-sake stuff was still there. (Worst: poor Andy Serkis having his head and arms eaten by grossly, in both ways, exaggerated giant fanged worms.) However, I and others seem not to have a stigma about him as a filmmaker, and as you point our below:

    He transcended it, but there’s always a horrific edge be it in character designs or what.

    That seems in keeping with the book, though. As mentioned in the column above, Tolkien himself describes Orcs ripping and hacking a poor murdered Dwarf to pieces. We haven’t seen that in the film yet, of course, but we might guess at the similar scene in The Two Towers, in which the Orcs kill one of their own and begin tearing the body apart. (We only barely see something fly in the air.)

    Also, Tolkien’s description of Sauron’s forces invading Minas Tirith, and catapulting severed heads over the walls to terrify city citizens, would have seemed a Jackson invention had I not read it first in the book. Some months before I was nervous about how this scene would be shown; I felt sure Jackson would choose to linger on the severed heads of Gondorian soldiers. Instead, he treated them with as much honor as they could, perhaps knowing the effect should be horrible and not “gross porn.” Viewers only just saw the terrible assault, before the camera cut away.

    (But Jackson did go stark raving nuts with the skull avalanche in The Return of the King extended edition, though. I suppose he had to let off steam somewhere.)

  4. Kessie says:

    Oh come on, the scene in Two Towers where the orcs eat the other orc is one of the most quotable scene in the whole movie. “Looks like meat’s back on the menu, boys!” We’d stomp around the kitchen before dinner doing the whole scene. While looking at the chicken, “What about their legs? They don’t need those!”
    I enjoy the Peter Jackson treatment of LOTR. I think it’s the only thing he’s done that’s good. Have you ever watched the Lovely Bones or heard anything about it? I didn’t, and I didn’t care to. Now, I’m looking forward to Temeraire. I think he’ll do dragonpunk WONDERFULLY. Nothing like air-battles on dragonback interspersed with British gentlemen drinking tea. 😀

    • That’s just my point, though: that Jackson did not play up the scene for “slasher” appeal. Literally, you see the ripping just as quickly as one would read the Appendix A sentence about Thrór’s murder and dismemberment in the original book.

  5. Bainespal says:

    It looks like they’re going for literal, rock-throwing giants, instead of interpreting them as metaphors.  Interesting.

  6. D.M. Dutcher says:

    Do you think this may unavoidably alter your expectations, then?

    Yeah, I think so. I mean, I watched Ralph Bakshi’s version of Lord of the Rings, but while I liked it because of Bakshi’s style, it just doesn’t have the same meaning. I could watch LOTR fine. But it’s kind of like how they rebooted the Thundercats, or Voltron-even if you do a much better job, the first one stays inside of you because you watched it growing up.

    I don’t know much about the 1977 animated movie; in fact, I read more details in the above comment than I’ve known before. However, I’d heard it was fairly bad. Regardless, I suppose I benefit from not having such a nostalgia, thus to view a new film version as a sort of invader!

    The voice work is stilted some, and purists wouldn’t like it, but this is a movie that came out in 1977, over 30 years ago. It’s a product of its time as much as LOTR is a product of the computer-animated tech heavy 2010’s. Some things are worse watching it again, and some are better.  You’re right though, some times you grow up with an adaptation of a book being the definitive one for you, and it’s tough. 

    That seems in keeping with the book, though. As mentioned in the column above, Tolkien himself describes Orcs ripping and hacking a poor murdered Dwarf to pieces.

    It’s more of a design thing for me. Both the islanders in King Kong and the orcs + Uruk-hai in LOTR tend to have that sort of degraded, horroresque appearance. I mean the kind where people go overboard with stop motion models or makeup. He mixes this with overuse of CGI to make an effect I’m not sure I can completely describe-kind of a filmmaking where excess is present and all the lines are filled in. A lot of horror really isn’t about story so much as showing off the wizardry of your effects person and what they can accomplish, and Jackson feels a bit too much like this I guess. Or I’m just getting old.

    • Christian says:

      LotR is from the early 2000’s, not the 2010’s. Also, the orcs and uruk-hai should be horrific. They are, after-all, corrupted beings, counterfeit creatures.

  7. Galadriel says:

    I am looking forward to the movies, regardless. My headcanon is that Jackson bases the films on a Man-based retelling of the legend, versus the true tale as recorded in the Red Books and transcribed by Tolkien. Men just got a few bits wrong, like the actions of Faramir and the nature of Elves….
    yes, I took the time to analysis this.  

What do you think?