It’s nearly Christmas, a time for all things sugary and nice. But, in the world of film, not everything would make it onto Santa’s list. The next few days will see Impact Film & TV look at the good and the bad of popular franchises. Enjoy!
Middle Earth. Peter Jackson’s enormous mythical landscape is home to one of cinema’s best-loved trilogies, and one of its biggest disappointments. You all know what I am referring to. The Hobbit (naughty) and The Lord of the Rings (nice). But why did the former fail to live up its predecessor?
Naughty: The Hobbit
In 2012 we were introduced to the first film in The Hobbit trilogy. As the name suggests, this is less about apocalyptic action that features in The Lord of the Rings films, and more about one disgruntled hobbit on a not-so-dangerous ‘adventure’. In Rings, the fate of the world hung in the balance. By contrast, Bilbo spends most of his time complaining about bad-mannered dwarves, and by consequence any high-stake tension is immediately lost.
At best, what we have is a watered-down version of The Lord of the Rings; Tolkien for kids as it were. This may not have been so bad if the studio hadn’t decided to make three films. The Lord of the Rings is a thousand page epic, which merits the considerable screen-time it clocks up. By contrast, The Hobbit is a 300 page children’s novel. There simply isn’t enough detail to justify 9 hours worth of film. The decision to split-up the source text is primarily aimed at milking the cash-cow, and unfortunately, it was the audiences who paid the price.
Nice: The Lord of The Rings
But before the train-crash that is The Hobbit, let’s remember what it was that made The Lord of the Rings so good. While it’s hard to accredit The Lord of the Rings’ success to a single feature, there is one that stands out – scale. The Fellowship of the Ring gave a new meaning to ‘epic’ fantasy. Prior to its 2001 release, there was a huge hole in Hollywood blockbuster vistas. Audiences were becoming accustomed to the dull greys and urban landscapes of films like The Matrix and Face/Off. Cue Peter Jackson and his Kiwi roots. Whether you’re a Tolkien fan or not, the dazzling New Zealand landscape look luscious on film. Emerald greens, azure blues – Middle Earth had a vibrant colour palette that had been long-absent from modern film-making. Not only did it make the Rings trilogy truly unforgettable, but it gave tourism in New Zealand a considerable boost!
But scale is more than just colourful landscapes – it includes epic quests, high-stakes battles and human consequences. Helms deep featured an army of 10,000 Uruk-hai, and Pellenor had even more. These are more than simply small skirmishes, they are decisive battles that determine the future of Middle Earth. For its current inhabitants the stakes couldn’t be higher. Fight – or go extinct.
The world was certainly lovingly gifted with The Lord of the Rings. Peter Jackson spent a considerable time making sure it got onto the nice list. However, after the bitter let-down that was The Hobbit, he should expect coal for the foreseeable future.
Images from ‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies‘ and ‘Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers‘, Warner Bros. Studios