For my first trick, I give you…
…random thoughts about The Hobbit, and expectations:
I’ve not read any proper reviews of The Hobbit yet, though I imagine they’re out there and that I will do so at some point before I see the film. But I’ve seen two or three fairly snarky comments about the content of the film buried in criticisms of the new format the movie was filmed in.
I don’t have an opinion one way or the other on the format. I admit that it sounds like something I won’t like, because I find watching regular DVDs in a Blu-Ray player to be distracting, and that’s what descriptions of the frame-rate sound like to me. Still, curiosity may get to me into a cinema to see it, though hopefully not on my first viewing. (Filed in the FWIW category: I like 3-D effects to a certain degree, but I inevitably sit there thinking, ‘oh, that’s really cool’ rather than paying attention to the story, which I’m pretty sure isn’t what the people who made the film were hoping for.)
Anyway, buried in these comments about the format are complaints about the story itself, from someone complaining that it’s not enough like The Lord of the Rings film trilogy to engage non-fantasy lovers, to someone else complaining about it being three films long, an unnecessary lengthening.
I don’t know enough about the film to judge the first complaint. Most of the people I knew who loved the LOTR trilogy either loved the books, or at least were open to enjoying fantasy in some form. I can’t think of anyone off the top of my head who enjoyed the films because they love action-adventure films but not fantasy, though I can think of a number of people who generally love action-adventure and couldn’t stand the trilogy. Regardless, I find it difficult to believe that if the LOTR films appealed to those people, that the Hobbit will not.
As to the second complaint…absolutely. I can understand people thinking that turning one fairly short, one volume story into three films is ridiculous. Plus, my understanding has always been that more people have read The Hobbit – considered a straight-up children’s classic – than the longer Lord of the Rings, meaning that more people are going to be saying, ‘That was NOT in the book!’ and wondering what Peter Jackson was smoking.
People who love Middle Earth in general and the full story that Tolkien was telling in particular know that what Jackson was smoking has to do with that fuller story, that there were plenty of things going on in Middle Earth while Bilbo was on his adventure that weren’t mentioned in that story. Personally, I’m thrilled at the idea of seeing more of that story, but I understand why some won’t be.
But the reality is…these films were always doomed to expectation-itis. If Peter Jackson had done one film and stuck only to what’s actually in The Hobbit…critics and ordinary people alike would have complained bitterly about how it ‘was no Lord of the Rings.’ And they’d have been right.
And even people who loved the earlier films and who love the idea of seeing more than what was going on in Bilbo’s life may well be disappointed because so often our response to a story is tied to our own lives in some way. It may not be possible to love The Hobbit as much as we loved The Fellowship of the Ring because we are different people now than who we were in 2001. Even if we still love FOTR and proclaim it our favorite movie of all time, it might well be that if we watched it for the first time tomorrow, it wouldn’t have the same effect on us.
Why we love something, and why we expect to love something else plays into it as well. But if we go see The Hobbit expecting to have the same feelings we did in December of 2001, or 2002, or 2003…we may well leave the theatre saying, ‘that wasn’t as good as the earlier films.’
Me? I’m not worried. I love the look of PJ’s Middle Earth (I’d watch a three hour long travelogue of New Zealand set to Howard Shore’s music and be perfectly happy) and I’ve not seen a trailer yet that didn’t leave me squealing. (Or at least grinning.) There’s enough of Tolkien’s story there, as told by Peter Jackson, for me to know just from the trailers that there will be humor, and action, and moments that make me swallow hard. And yeah, there will probably be scenes that will have my eyes rolling. (In 2001-2003, I called them ‘bathroom breaks.’)
I didn’t have high expectations of The Fellowship of the Ring. Unlike some friends, I’d not spent a lot of time following the production, and didn’t even really know who the actors were (“Viggo who?”) And I loved the film, not because it was a completely faithful adaptation of a story I’d fallen for when I was nine, (it’s not) but because I enjoyed the story in its own right.
I don’t know if I’ll love The Hobbit in quite the same way, or to the same degree. I don’t know if I’ll feel the same way about it that I did the earlier films. And I’m okay with that. My starting point is simply expecting to be entertained, and nothing I’ve yet heard has made me doubt that that will happen.