In Defense of Trilogizing 'The Hobbit'

From Richard Lawson, over at the Wire, echoes a lot of our feelings on blowing out one book into three movies:


Jackson has brilliantly realized Middle Earth in the past, and what we've seen of The Hobbit so far is promising. But shouldn't someone in charge of these things maybe be questioning the logic of stretching a film into three parts mere months before the first installment premieres? Shouldn't there have been more of a conversation beyond, "OK, Peter. Sure thing, Peter"? It's certainly possible, and likely, that the talks were more complicated than that, but ultimately Peter Jackson was probably never going to get a no. Because he's Peter Jackson! All great and powerful and sovereign. Who knows. The expansion could pay off and we'll be eating crow in summertime 2014, but right now it feels like a mistake done for all the wrong reasons. The fact that he's Peter Jackson shouldn't mean he needs no editing or reining in. In fact, it might even mean he needs more.

Lawson wants studio execs to exert a kind of veto based on quality, but the only veto movie studios are interested are based on box-office. If they are going with Jackson, it's likely because they think there's money to be made.

But strictly on the quality point, I'm not convinced this is a bad idea. What Tolkien left behind wasn't just a set of stories, but an entire world in which those stories occurred. I'm not sure why film-makers and artists shouldn't play around in that world and try to make more art. It's certainly possible that Jackson will just fill the thing with air. But it's also possible that he might actually dig deep into the Middle Earth and find something interesting to write about.

This might just be me, but in the '80s when I was in love with Marvel, more than I loved the X-Men, or Spider-Man, I loved the world they lived in--the Marvel-verse. I loved the sense that all of these guys were inhabiting a parallel universe, one in which events in one story often influenced others.  It's true that this often devolved into a marketing ploy with massive cross-overs. But I liked even the small cameos.

What I am saying is I am not opposed to spending more time in Peter Jackson's rendition of Middle Earth. I hope he tells good stories while he's there. I don't mind him trying.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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