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Old 10-28-2015, 07:52 AM   #1
Zigūr
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Adaptation by Vague Recollection

I was talking to a friend about "The Hobbit" films today and he was asking me to remind him about what happens in Lake-Town in the film as opposed to the book. We talked about it for a bit, and I found myself thinking about how little resemblance Lake-Town in the second film has to the book.

Consider the following:
Book: The Dwarves openly announce themselves
Film: The Dwarves hide and enter the town in secret, with much climbing through toilets and so forth

Book: Many Lake Men are impressed or excited by the idea of the King Under the Mountain returning, and to curry favour the Master puts them up in comfort and style with gifts and servants
Film: The film switches focus to Bard and his family, and Bard's investigation into the truth of Thorin's claims, as well as his power struggle with the Master. Meanwhile, the Dwarves try to steal weapons from the town armoury (for some reason) and are caught; Thorin gives a big speech about gold to win their favour and the Master helps them for that reason; his motivations are comparable to the book

Book: With the help of the Lake Men, the Dwarves set off up the River Running for the Mountain
Film: The Dwarves set off alone, and some of them even stay behind

Apart from, perhaps, the Master's motivation, the entire sequence bears astonishingly little relation to the book. Now, the argument would be, of course, that the filmmakers told the story that they wanted to tell, and thus they changed it. That's reasonable enough.

Yet thinking about sequences like this, I can't help but feel like to an extent this is the product of a screenwriting conversation that goes like this:
"What happens after the Elvenking?"
"Lake-Town, isn't it?"
"Yeah. What happens then?"
"Um..."
"We have to introduce Bard, so what if the Dwarves sneak in on his barge?"
"Yes, and they can get caught stealing weapons from the town armoury."
"That would be very dramatic. Now, isn't there a leader or someone in Lake Town?"

You get the idea. One thing that has always struck me about Jackson's films as adaptations is their inconsistent approach. On one level, they follows the narratives closely, more or less including all the main "stages" of the story on a level of surface memory of the individual episodes "Trolls - Rivendell - Goblin Town - Wolves - Beorn - Mirkwood" etc. Yet the individual details of those episodes often bear little to no relation whatsoever to the text.

It leaves me thinking of these films as "adaptation by hazy memory", like a script written by someone who had an above-average knowledge of the narrative, but hadn't read it in a long time, so they remembered only the broad strokes and not the details; as if, had they remembered or considered what Professor Tolkien wrote closely, that there was no need to fill in the details with their own inventions, as he had done so already, but they had forgotten.

Has this occurred to anyone else? In hindsight I think it's one of the things I find most unsatisfying about the films, and inadequate about protestations of their "faithfulness" - do they retain superficial elements because these signify the narrative in the popular consciousness, but ignore the specifics because they have forgotten they exist?

Are there any other comparable moments from either trilogy? I think "The Lord of the Rings" might be less guilty of this than "The Hobbit", featuring compression over invention, but parts like the Trolls, like Mirkwood and like the last stage of the journey to the Mountain seem to feature this "vague adaptation" quality quite substantially.
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Old 10-29-2015, 11:24 AM   #2
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An interesting theory that has some attraction.

However, I have to disagree. I think they believed they were "improving" it. I cite the existence of Tauriel. There is no way anybody (not under the influence of powerful brain-addling drugs) would recollect the existence of a female elven warrior when one did not exist in the story.
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Old 10-29-2015, 03:32 PM   #3
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However, I have to disagree. I think they believed they were "improving" it. I cite the existence of Tauriel. There is no way anybody (not under the influence of powerful brain-addling drugs) would recollect the existence of a female elven warrior when one did not exist in the story.
Well, of course I didn't mean in every conceivable case. We know Tauriel was an intentional invention of the filmmakers. Certainly her insertion into various points is a clear example of intentional alteration to the existing narrative.

I'm talking about the "episodes" of the film and how they fail to adapt almost any of the specific details of the source material. It's said that when shooting "The Lord of the Rings", Peter Jackson had a copy of the book with him at all times, and I think generally, while there are changes, many more of the details are retained. At the same time, of course, there are moments where they seem to take a "filling in the blanks" approach when there are in fact no blanks to be filled - the characters time-wasting in Edoras in both "The Two Towers" and "The Return of the King", for instance. I wonder if he had a copy of "The Hobbit" with him at all times, because I can't think it would have been very useful given that, transition from setting to setting aside, the events in those settings bear almost no relation whatsoever to what actually happens in the book.
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Old 10-30-2015, 08:25 AM   #4
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The sad thing is that the changes really took away from the gravity of Thorin's moral decay in the book.
In the book, the Lake-Towners - aside from the Master - treat the Dwarves as returning heroes and honour them with every courtesy. But in the movie, they seem more mean, more fickle, and an attempt is even made to justify Thorin's betrayal of them.

In the book, I saw no justification. Especially not when Thorin actually begins firing at messengers - an act which, by the standards of both the Medieval age and both Tolkien's and our own, is highly dishonourable. And, really, it's not "Dragon-sickness", or any such thing, I think it's pretty clear that it's his true character shining through - which is a far more interesting narrative to me than a sudden mood swing, and an even more sudden swing back.

Lake-Town, to me, felt as though they had been swindled by Thorin, charmed by all his pleases and thank you's and at your services, but ultimately as expendable as Bilbo himself.
I just feel that as the goal of the filmmakers was to turn Thorin into an action hero, they felt the need to introduce moral ambiguity about Lake-Town, so - at Thorin's eventual betrayal - you could think Oh, he has a point, really, doesn't he?
But come on, Tolkien's book was hardly painted in strokes of black and white, was it? There were hidden depths to be found, and I don't think those who made the movie saw them between the lines.
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Old 10-30-2015, 09:08 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Zigūr View Post
I wonder if he had a copy of "The Hobbit" with him at all times, because I can't think it would have been very useful given that, transition from setting to setting aside, the events in those settings bear almost no relation whatsoever to what actually happens in the book.
I think this again gets back to the fundamental problem of trying to scrape his butter over too much bread. It didn't matter if he had the book with him, what he was trying to do was not particularly compatible with the story in the book.

I'm still convinced that Jackson and Co. don't have much respect for Tolkien as a storyteller and mostly view him as a meal ticket for themselves.

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Originally Posted by Aaron
But in the movie, they seem more mean, more fickle, and an attempt is even made to justify Thorin's betrayal of them.

and

they felt the need to introduce moral ambiguity about Lake-Town, so - at Thorin's eventual betrayal - you could think Oh, he has a point, really, doesn't he?
I think this was an attempt to make Lake-town more "gritty" and "realistic" for its own sake.

Moral ambiguity is so in vogue right now that injecting it into anything and everything is practically a requirement.
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Old 11-01-2015, 06:21 AM   #6
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Question Moral ambiguity already existed in 'The Hobbit'

Aaron and Kuruharan, I was interested in what you had to say about the possible attempt by Jackson to fit 'moral ambiguity' into The Hobbit. I had thought about that possibility myself, which angered me; because moral ambiguity already existed in the book. All Jackson, or anyone else, needed to have done was to have read it properly, and followed the instructions...

The moral ambiguity can be particularly seen in what happens after Smaug is killed by Bard, his death destroying Lake-town. In a more 'traditional' story, the death of a dragon would have been the end, everyone living happily ever after.

This does not happen in The Hobbit, something I noted with particular interest when I first read the book. The row then emerges with Bard legitimately claiming a share of the treasure, first as a reward for the killing of Smaug, second as heir of Girion; and the more controversial claim on behalf of the Lake-men for a share of the treasure due to the destruction of their town by Smaug, despite the fact that the treasure was not the dragon's.

Thorin refuses to consider any of the claim, due to having heard that some of the Lake-men blamed him and the dwarves for deliberately stirring up Smaug against them. Also, Bard came with an army to the borders of his kingdom, along with an army from the Elvenking, who had imprisoned Thorin and his people.

Bard, while dropping the claim on behalf of the Lake-people, claims a twelfth of the treasure, as slayer of Smaug and heir of Girion, threatening war. This happens because Thorin attacks Bard's messenger, something Tolkien obviously blames him for, but showing him to have been sorely provoked by the messenger referring to Thorin as 'calling himself' King under the Mountain, questioning the legitimacy of his title.

This indicates, in my opinion, that Bard and Thorin, while the legitimate heirs to monarchs, have due to circumstances received no training for and have no experience of ruling. The Elvenking, while obviously greedy for treasure, later tries to restrain matters, perhaps because he has had both training for and experience of ruling.

Bilbo tries to resolve things by giving Bard and the Elvenking the Arkenstone, to aid them in their bargaining for a share of the treasure. Bilbo has a right to the Arkenstone, it being the reward he was allowed to chose for his services under an agreed contract. But such is Thorin and other dwarves' anger at the stone being in the hands of others that an attack is planned on the Lake-men and elves, only stopped by the attack of goblins and wolves under Bolg. Despite dwarves, elves and men uniting to fight these invaders and winning, one of the casualties is Thorin, the book's most prominent character after Bilbo.

If all this isn't 'moral ambiguity' I don't know what is!

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Old 11-01-2015, 07:46 PM   #7
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I had thought about that possibility myself, which angered me; because moral ambiguity already existed in the book. All Jackson, or anyone else, needed to have done was to have read it properly, and followed the instructions...
Exactly. The book is packed with complexities, and Professor Tolkien, despite his unjustified reputation for verbosity, had a knack exemplified in The Hobbit for conveying a great deal of detail and characterisation in relatively few words. In the space of a few pages we receive a vivid picture of Lake Town and the characterisation of the Master: a businesslike man whose practical and rather cynical view of the world is challenged by the romantic intrusion of the lost past in his midst in the shape of Thorin and Company.

The films have their own details, but they overlook the quite substantial amount of detail that already exists; it's what makes me look back on these sequences in the films as a "retelling" of events that might be elaborated upon in the mind of someone who remembered the episodes in broad strokes but had forgotten the details and thus assumed that no such details existed.

Or perhaps, of course, they did read all this and simply chose to ignore it.
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Old 11-03-2015, 08:26 AM   #8
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Leaf 'Forgotten' details?

Zigūr, I agree completely with what you said in your last post. I had a good laugh at what you specifically said here:

The films have their own details, but they overlook the quite substantial amount of detail that already exists; it's what makes me look back on these sequences in the films as a "retelling" of events that might be elaborated upon in the mind of someone who remembered the episodes in broad strokes but had forgotten the details and thus assumed that no such details existed.

Or perhaps, of course, they did read all this and simply chose to ignore it.


Did the 'forgotten' details include an Wood-elf called Tauriel, and a 'romance' between her and Kili?

An answer could be that this information was suppressed, with Bilbo's consent, ensuring it never appeared in his memoirs; and either Tolkien went along with this in his edition of the latter, despite knowing otherwise, or information emerged that was unavailable during his lifetime.
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Old 11-03-2015, 09:44 AM   #9
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An answer could be that this information was suppressed, with Bilbo's consent, ensuring it never appeared in his memoirs; and either Tolkien went along with this in his edition of the latter, despite knowing otherwise, or information emerged that was unavailable during his lifetime.
How utterly post-modern.
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Old 11-03-2015, 09:45 AM   #10
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Did the 'forgotten' details include an Wood-elf called Tauriel, and a 'romance' between her and Kili?
Apologies for making something serious out of this joke, but this gives me impetus to perhaps add to what I said; I should have said that I:

look back on these sequences in the films as a "retelling" of events that might be elaborated upon in the mind of someone who remembered the episodes in broad strokes but had forgotten the details and thus assumed that no such details existed, and therefore it was up to them to fill them in.

While Tauriel is a deliberate inclusion, I can't help but wonder if a lot of the "changes" exist simply because they couldn't be bothered to read the book closely and see the details that were already there, perhaps because they assumed that, as ostensibly a children's novel, there couldn't be any detail (when in fact there was plenty, but they had simply forgotten that it existed or never noticed in the first place).
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Old 11-03-2015, 11:32 AM   #11
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I can't help but wonder if a lot of the "changes" exist simply because they couldn't be bothered to read the book closely and see the details that were already there, perhaps because they assumed that, as ostensibly a children's novel, there couldn't be any detail (when in fact there was plenty, but they had simply forgotten that it existed or never noticed in the first place).
I am in complete agreement with that.
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Old 11-05-2015, 09:00 AM   #12
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Sting They couldn't be bothered?

Zigūr, like Kuruharan, I was interested in what you said here:

While Tauriel is a deliberate inclusion, I can't help but wonder if a lot of the "changes" exist simply because they couldn't be bothered to read the book closely and see the details that were already there, perhaps because they assumed that, as ostensibly a children's novel, there couldn't be any detail (when in fact there was plenty, but they had simply forgotten that it existed or never noticed in the first place).

My opinion is that many of the 'changes' were perhaps due to decisions on how to fill the gap resulting from the decision to have a third film...
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Old 11-05-2015, 09:22 AM   #13
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My opinion is that many of the 'changes' were perhaps due to decisions on how to fill the gap resulting from the decision to have a third film...
The additions certainly are. Supposedly the ludicrous and utterly pointless chase sequence around the interior of the Mountain at the end of the second film was invented purely to pad the running time once the "trilogy" decision had been made.

This of course completely and openly contradicts the reasons Peter Jackson and his team expressed when the trilogy announcement was first made. At that time they claimed the change to a trilogy was to accommodate the presentation of material they had already filmed and were loath to lose.

I suppose they could hardly come out and say "We've been forced to cut it as a trilogy so that it will make more money for greedy, shameless studio executives in Hollywood" but it almost seems crass to effectively admit that the excuses they originally gave were fiction.
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Old 11-06-2015, 10:14 AM   #14
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The additions certainly are. Supposedly the ludicrous and utterly pointless chase sequence around the interior of the Mountain at the end of the second film was invented purely to pad the running time once the "trilogy" decision had been made. [...]
You are partially right. This sequence was a result of the idea to turn the story into a trilogy. And yes, it was a dull and boring sequence. However, I don't think the chase sequence at the end of the second film was 'purely' there to pad out the running time. It had a function in the context of the movies. It was invented so that the end of the second film wouldn't feel as anticlimactic as it would have otherwise. It's questionable if it did the job well, but it had a purpose.
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Old 11-06-2015, 10:56 AM   #15
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Sting Smaug should have died at the end of the second film

Leaf, I've read what you said here:

However, I don't think the chase sequence at the end of the second film was 'purely' there to pad out the running time. It had a function in the context of the movies. It was invented so that the end of the second film wouldn't feel as anticlimactic as it would have otherwise. It's questionable if it did the job well, but it had a purpose.

You're probably right about the function of the chase sequence. However, it was, in my view, a complete failure. It would have been best to have ended the second film with the death of Smaug; the third film would then have nicely opened with dealing with the consequences of his death, showing that this did not automatically lead to a 'happily ever after'. This struck me when I first read the book, and still does; but Jackson and others couldn't get that right...
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Old 11-06-2015, 12:40 PM   #16
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I think the general problem is a kind of incompatibility between typical fantasy-action film motifs and Tolkien's style of writing. The Hobbit novel subverts a lot of expectations.

To name a few:

1. The main antagonist (Smaug) only appears briefly in the story and his demise doesn't accompany the end of the story.

2. It isn't the protagonist who resolves this situation; This is accomplished by a minor character (Bard) who appears very late in the story and is just barely fleshed out.

3. There's no brave hero-character in shining armor, who's struggling against opposition and eventually overcomes his enemies by force and skill. Instead, the protagonist is a Hobbit, which is virtually the opposite of this concept.


Those things weren't seen as a charming detour from the usual fairy tale-route, but as risks which could potentially alienate a general audience from the movies. So they decided to play it safe. That's the reason why we got this mess of subplots and extra stuff (i.e. the Bard back-story) and a complete shift in perspective towards Thorin's story arc. From this viewpoint you can deduce a lot of changes, I think. Especially Bilbo's involvement (or the lack of) and his role in the story.

We have to keep in mind that those movies had a combined budged of about $600 million! And I can understand that, with that kind of investment, you decide to play it safe and just reproduce those well known and proved concepts. It's a shame, really. We won't even ever be able to tell if a general audience is really so petty-minded and resistening to change as this thinking makes them out to be.

Addendum:

I think it's wrong to pin this problem (and the blame) on some supposedly mean-spirited and greedy individuals. It's just the consequence and the logic of an industry that primarily creates content, not as works of art, but as products. That doesn't mean that this duality can't produce some very movies, which are a compromise between art and profit, but as movies are getting more and more expensive to make, innovation and progress seems to cease.

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Old 11-06-2015, 06:42 PM   #17
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Leaf, that's an excellent analysis- for the first part. But for the latter part I doubt seriously that it was a matter of studio-driven bottom line thinking- Jackson could make anything with the Tolkien brand on it and it would sell like hotcakes. He's like the Beatles, nobody is going to tell him what to do, and if he had filmed a vertbatim rendition of the book T/W would have rubber-stamped its release.

No, the problem I think is that neither Jackson nor Boyens has the vision or sensitivity to let Tolkien take them out of their very narrow comfort zone of cliches and hackneyed tropes; PJ's idol after all is Harryhausen not Fellini. This is the guy who filmed and almost kept a RotK finale featuring Aragorn dueling Sauron mano a mano......
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Old 11-06-2015, 11:36 PM   #18
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I have to confess that I've not yet seen Parts 2 and 3 but this is the review I wrote for Part 1. I will eventually watch the next two, but I'm not in any hurry and have been waiting for the rental fees to drop before viewing them.

Let’s start with the positives:

Elrond - a pleasant surprise. Feeling as I did about the way he was portrayed in the trilogy, I found him somewhat transformed in AUJ. Here he presents a more “Elf-like“ demeanour, if I may use that term, extending genuine hospitality to a less than friendly group of Dwarfs; and wielding a sword while leading his guard against some enemies, even if all we saw were glimpses of capes and horses' legs.

Thorin - as presented in the AUJ, I liked him. Although the character was sharp-tongued and moody, it didn't strike a false note with me. I think the early scenes of Smaug's arrival, and the destruction of Dale and Erebor, set the tone very nicely with regard to his temperament and burning drive to regain his kingdom. It will be interesting to see how he fares in the next two parts.

Bilbo - I didn’t find Bilbo one thing or another, frankly; the portrayal was okay. There were a couple of nice moments: his confusion when the Dwarfs start arriving; and his show of "Hobbit" courage when Thorin is injured during the Orc attack. Otherwise, his persona just seemed to be over-whelmed by those of the Dwarfs.

Now for the negatives:

The Dwarfs - after falling in love with Gimli, who at least looked and acted like a dwarf (at least in accordance with my imagination), I was appalled when I saw the companions. To borrow a phrase from Elizabeth Barrett Browning, let me count the ways:

Firstly, with regard to the beards (or lack thereof): those Dwarfs who had beards, sported beards so outrageous (think Balin) that I found myself focusing on the damn things, instead of listening to what they were saying. As for those who were essentially beardless, did Gimli not jest with Éowyn about the bearded aspects of his people in TTT, or did I imagine the entire conversation? As for the costuming: for a war-like race they certainly eschew the wearing of any kind of armour, preferring instead the "waifs from a Dickensian musical" look.

Secondly, what’s with the swords? If memory serves, axes and maces are Dwarfs' weapons of choice. It hardly seems logical that a race only four feet in height would use swords against much taller opponents. Well, I guess they could cut them off at the knees and then stab them, but that seems like a waste of time and effort. Tolkien did give Thorin Orcrist, but I've always felt he meant it to be more symbolic of his status, than a weapon he would actually use in battle.

Finally, what happened their manners and intelligence? When they arrive at Bilbo’s door, they act like a bunch of hooligans. No wonder he was reluctant to join them on their quest. When they arrive in Rivendell, they act like children, although Thorin comes around somewhat when he finds out Elrond can be of use to him. And, with the exception of Balin, they come across as uneducated rubes. Why treat these characters with such disrespect? Fodder for jokes? Even the seven dwarfs in Snow White were treated with more dignity.

The Great Goblin - er, at first I had no idea what I was looking at: he looked like a giant gummy goblin with a ...... thing hanging off his chin? Then I realised, oh dear, that is his chin. Good grief! Didn’t anybody look at him and go: "What the hell were we thinking?" Mind you, he did have a spiffy education for a goblin; sounded like a fake English barrister. I’m surprised his minions didn’t off him just so they didn’t have to listen to his precious accent.

The Three Trolls and Azog - OMG! What can I say? Ugh!

Galadriel - looked great, or rather I think she looked great. Not sure: it seemed as though she were being filmed through several layers of gauze. Perhaps to obscure the effects of aging we mortals tend to display after two decades? Also, I know the Eldar had telepathic capability, but I didn’t realise they could teleport so it came as a surprise when she “popped” out of her scene with Gandalf without so much as a fare ye well.

Gandalf (with apologies to Gando) - looked a tad peaked if I may say so. There were a several times when I thought the old geezer, well, looked like an old geezer. Oddly enough, Saruman looked much the same, but then he had the moxie to stay seated during his scenes.

He just didn't seem to be the Gandalf I loved in the trilogy. If the old Gandalf had arrived at Bilbo’s and seen the mess the Dwarfs had made, he would have given them the rough side of his tongue, not treated it as some sort of joke.

There seemed to be a wink, wink, nudge, nudge, quality to his acting at times that had me wondering how Ian McKellan, the actor, really felt about Gandalf, the Wizard, this go round.

Gollum - there was something really "off" about this performance. Perhaps it was the audio, that put me off. If I hadn’t been familiar with the scene and known what the riddles were, I would have been lost, the quality of the sound was that poor (at least in the version I watched).

Also, the Smeagol-Gollum-Smeagol transitioning does not occur until he encounters Frodo and the Ring some sixty years hence, and I'm not sure why it was included here since it didn't add anything of value to the sequence.

My overall impression:

Too often, I found myself watching scenes and going: “A yes" ….. (pick a scene of your own) - my personal favourite is the butterfly going to the Great Eagles for help.

Gandalf seems to have some kind of contract with the lepidopterae population of Middle-earth, such that he will only use them in times of crisis like some personalised 911 service.

The ease with which I was able to make these comparisons began to annoy me as the film progressed. It was almost as if they were using a reworked version of the LoTR script for some of the sequences: "Hey, folks, rather than waste time coming up with a new scenario, let's just reuse the one we used in in the trilogy."

At least they made no real attempt to disguise this apparent laziness. PJ even went so far as to have the Dwarfs, with Bilbo and Gandalf, strung out across the same ridge of the same mountain as he had .... (come on, you can name them) .... in TTT.

Weta, who are known world-wide for their superlative CGI creations, must have been closed for holidays during filming, how else can you explain the amateurish work? I couldn't believe how cheesy the wolves? wargs? looked. If Weta weren't on holiday, then what happened to the awesome craftsmanship of twenty years ago? I was again left wondering about the depth of the committment to the project.

Finally, we come to the length of too many of the scenes. They went on and on and on and could have done with some serious editing. The escape from Khazad-dūm the goblin lair, being the one that springs to mind . They reminded of Bilbo's comment: “I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.” Or, in this case, to much film spread over too little script.

Mind you, watching The Hobbit - AUJ did do one thing. It made me realize just how special the Lord of the Rings films were, and still are. The magic that captivated me is still there, lurking on discs I can see on the shelf across the room from where I'm sitting, waiting patiently for me to to take them out of their sleeves and watch them again.
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Old 11-07-2015, 05:49 AM   #19
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Leaf, that's an excellent analysis- for the first part. But for the latter part I doubt seriously that it was a matter of studio-driven bottom line thinking- Jackson could make anything with the Tolkien brand on it and it would sell like hotcakes. He's like the Beatles, nobody is going to tell him what to do, and if he had filmed a vertbatim rendition of the book T/W would have rubber-stamped its release.

No, the problem I think is that neither Jackson nor Boyens has the vision or sensitivity to let Tolkien take them out of their very narrow comfort zone of cliches and hackneyed tropes; PJ's idol after all is Harryhausen not Fellini. This is the guy who filmed and almost kept a RotK finale featuring Aragorn dueling Sauron mano a mano......
I don't necessarily think that it was the producers, or the studio, who enforced this kind of decisions. It might very well be that Peter Jackson (and/or the writers) himself is thinking in this manner. I just find it curious that "their very narrow comfort zone of cliches and hackneyed tropes", as you put it, coincides with typical (and financially successful) movie tropes. But you are right, I don't think that subtlety is PJ's strong suite. A quality which is badly needed for a story like the Hobbit. He definitely wasn't the best man for the job, in that regard.
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Old 11-10-2015, 10:53 PM   #20
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I don't necessarily think that it was the producers, or the studio, who enforced this kind of decisions. It might very well be that Peter Jackson (and/or the writers) himself is thinking in this manner. I just find it curious that "their very narrow comfort zone of cliches and hackneyed tropes", as you put it, coincides with typical (and financially successful) movie tropes.
They're what filmmakers tend to fall back on when they're out of ideas.
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Old 11-11-2015, 04:58 AM   #21
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Well, this might be true. However, I have a feeling that this decisions were not, so much, caused by sheer incompetency ("vague memory", "out of ideas") but were deliberate attempts to improve the marketabilty of these movies, by adjusting them (in scope and style) to fit into a. their previous LotR trilogy and b. other stuff a general audience already knows and likes. I can't, of course, prove this but I wanted to offer another perspective besides the usual "PJ-Is-A-Dummy" argument.

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Old 11-11-2015, 06:49 AM   #22
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Pipe My opinion

Leaf, I'm only speaking for myself; but I never thought that Peter Jackson was a 'dummy'. I felt that he and others didn't have the abilities to properly adapt Tolkien's works, in particular The Hobbit, in terms of plot and characterisation.

I therefore agree with what William said here:

No, the problem I think is that neither Jackson nor Boyens has the vision or sensitivity to let Tolkien take them out of their very narrow comfort zone of cliches and hackneyed tropes;

I would have liked to have seen what Guillermo Del Toro would have made of The Hobbit, at least because I would have seen more adaptations of Tolkien's works.
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Old 11-12-2015, 02:40 AM   #23
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Well, this might be true. However, I have a feeling that this decisions were not, so much, caused by sheer incompetency ("vague memory", "out of ideas") but were deliberate attempts to improve the marketabilty of these movies, by adjusting them (in scope and style) to fit into a. their previous LotR trilogy and b. other stuff a general audience already knows and likes. I can't, of course, prove this but I wanted to offer another perspective besides the usual "PJ-Is-A-Dummy" argument.
If you don't mind my saying so, I think that's a bit of a strawman,Leaf. Many, many people have argued that the "Hollywoodification" was a commercial decision- often this is expressed in terms of "selling out". If anything, I'd say that's the most common view. However, these movies were practically guaranteed a large audience- they could have afforded to take a few risks. There's every reason, however to think PJ & Co weren't all that enthusiastic this time around; what I'm saying is, that's also a situation in writers turn in hackwork.

Not that it's entirely one thing or the other, of course- Tauriel is pretty blatantly there for commercial appeal.
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Old 11-12-2015, 05:40 AM   #24
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If you don't mind my saying so, I think that's a bit of a strawman,Leaf. [...]
I don't mind at all. But I hope you believe me, when I tell you, that my goal wasn't winning the argument by asserting false statements. I merely chose this wording for the sake of shortness and clarity (and to be a little bit polemic about it, I must confess).

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Many, many people have argued that the "Hollywoodification" was a commercial decision- often this is expressed in terms of "selling out". If anything, I'd say that's the most common view.
Yes, many people have argued that. However, those people mostly applied this notion to the most obvious excesses, like Tauriel, or the fact that the Hobbit was split into three movies. My original concern was to argue, that this problem roots deeper and affects more plot points, than just those obvious characteristics. Take the examples I gave a few posts ago. Those aren't things that PJ or the Screenwriters simply overlooked, misjudged or misunderstood. I find it hard to believe that the problem was the lack of ideas or a 'vague memory' (even though the result may feel this way). I'm thinking this way, because those things are relatively easy to spot and even easier to implement in the movie. If they wanted to only have a short appearance by Smaug, they could have done that. If they wanted to make Bilbo the real protagonist of this story, they could have done that. And if they wanted to have the dragonslayer appear, without a convoluted backstory, they could have done that as well. But, clearly, they didn't want to write the movies in that way. Instead, they chose to strip the story of those unconventional motifs.

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However, these movies were practically guaranteed a large audience- they could have afforded to take a few risks.
Guaranteed by whom? Common sense? Personally, I think you are right, but one might want to have a little more assurance if you're handling a budget that size. The Hobbit trilogy's budget was more than twice as big as the one for all LotR movies. And even if one would accept that a large audience is practically guaranteed, you can always earn more money.

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There's every reason, however to think PJ & Co weren't all that enthusiastic this time around; what I'm saying is, that's also a situation in writers turn in hackwork.

Not that it's entirely one thing or the other, of course- Tauriel is pretty blatantly there for commercial appeal.
You are right. It most certainly is a mixture of both elements. And as I said before, we can't prove or check the motivation behind those decisions anyways, which makes this discussion moot.

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Old 11-12-2015, 06:08 AM   #25
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Guaranteed by whom? Common sense? Personally, I think you are right, but one might want to have a little more assurance if you're handling a budget that size. The Hobbit trilogy's budget was more than twice as big as the one for all LotR movies. And even if one would accept that a large audiance is practically guaranteed, you can always earn more money.
I think you're right here, and I think it's interesting as an example of Warner Bros.' approach as opposed to that of New Line, who distributed the earlier films. (New Line was involved in the production of the "The Hobbit" films, but not the distribution) Oddly enough, "The Lord of the Rings" was almost certainly the more ambitious and risky project - Peter Jackson was not an established director at the time to nearly the extent he is now, and a complete film adaptation of the notoriously "unfilmable" text had never been really tried before - and yet the story in many respects and in terms of details arguably survived "intact" to a greater extent than in the case of "The Hobbit".

That, of course, may just be Warner Bros.' way, as opposed to New Line, even with a director who by the time of "The Hobbit" was a big deal and a fairly guaranteed product: hands-on and with a focus on making the story more marketable.

It's a bit startling that the budget for "The Hobbit trilogy" was so much greater. Surely inflation alone can't have accounted for that. But I suppose the returning actors are pricier now, in many cases as a result of the earlier films, and they were using more advanced effects technology.
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Old 11-12-2015, 05:23 PM   #26
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It's a bit startling that the budget for "The Hobbit trilogy" was so much greater. Surely inflation alone can't have accounted for that. But I suppose the returning actors are pricier now, in many cases as a result of the earlier films, and they were using more advanced effects technology.
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Old 11-12-2015, 08:56 PM   #27
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Oddly enough, "The Lord of the Rings" was almost certainly the more ambitious and risky project - Peter Jackson was not an established director at the time to nearly the extent he is now, and a complete film adaptation of the notoriously "unfilmable" text had never been really tried before - and yet the story in many respects and in terms of details arguably survived "intact" to a greater extent than in the case of "The Hobbit".
That's an interesting point. Yes, the initial risk was most certainly higher. New Line Cinema had no real evidence that a story like The Lord the the Rings was a financial viable film project. They couldn't know, for a fact, that these movies would be successful with a current general audience. However, they took this leap of faith, if you want to call it like that, based on the (reasonable) assumption that one of the most popular modern novels has created a lasting public demand for such films, which would thusly create a good profit.

The necessary threshold for the success of those movies would be, in this constellation, the story of the novels itself, since that's what The Lord of the Rings (as a brand, if you will) is, so far, publicly known and loved for. So it is only consecutive to tie these movies as closely as possible to the novel, while still keeping the films as attractive as possible for a person who hasn't read the books. They had to balance these things out.


The situation of "the Hobbit Trilogy" was entirely different. This time, the threshold for the success of the films was not the novel "The Hobbit", written by J.R.R. Tolkien, but the mind-blowing success of the previous Lord of the Rings films. They knew, for a fact, that there's a huge demand for movies like this (!). And, I think, that's what leaves the admirer of the original Hobbit novel necessarily unsatisfied. We, ironically, had the misfortune to not be in the main target group, so to speak.




* To be clear: This is, of course, my assumption and interpretation. I don't have any insider knowledge about the motivation of the producers to picturize The Lord of the Rings, or The Hobbit.
** I didn't consider previous adaptations (Bakshi etc.) in this train of thought to reduce complexity, to a certain extend.

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Old 11-13-2015, 01:46 AM   #28
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Those aren't things that PJ or the Screenwriters simply overlooked, misjudged or misunderstood. I find it hard to believe that the problem was the lack of ideas or a 'vague memory' (even though the result may feel this way). I'm thinking this way, because those things are relatively easy to spot and even easier to implement in the movie. If they wanted to only have a short appearance by Smaug, they could have done that. If they wanted to make Bilbo the real protagonist of this story, they could have done that. And if they wanted to have the dragonslayer appear, without a convoluted backstory, they could have done that as well. But, clearly, they didn't want to write the movies in that way. Instead, they chose to strip the story of those unconventional motifs.
Well, that's in part what I was trying to say, that they *chose* to- i.e. didn't *have* to.

It's said that Jackson was put under great pressure by the studio to give LotR the standard "Hollywood Treatment" (i.e. complete butchery) but dug in his heels and refused to do so; I'm sure he could have won such a battle this time around too.
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Old 11-13-2015, 01:53 AM   #29
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It's a bit startling that the budget for "The Hobbit trilogy" was so much greater. Surely inflation alone can't have accounted for that. But I suppose the returning actors are pricier now, in many cases as a result of the earlier films, and they were using more advanced effects technology.
And yet the effects in many cases look noticeably worse... it's really hard to see where that huge budget went, a lot of the time. I guess implementing the HFR took up a lot.
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Old 11-13-2015, 02:03 AM   #30
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And yet the effects in many cases look noticeably worse... it's really hard to see where that huge budget went, a lot of the time. I guess implementing the HFR took up a lot.
Yes I hear conflicting things about whether practical effects work or CGI is more expensive these days.
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The situation of "the Hobbit Trilogy" was entirely different. This time, the threshold for the success of the films was not the novel "The Hobbit", written by J.R.R. Tolkien, but the mind-blowing success of the previous Lord of the Rings films. They knew, for a fact, that there's a huge demand for movies like this (!). And, I think, that's what leaves the admirer of the original Hobbit novel necessarily unsatisfied. We, ironically, had the misfortune to not be in the main target group, so to speak.
Leaf, I think you've made some very interesting points here, which tie in to the idea of the "Hobbit" films as a prequel to the other films as well as being an adaptation of an existing text. What that leaves me with, of course, is the feeling that in my opinion they're not terribly successful as prequels to the earlier films.
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Old 11-14-2015, 09:36 AM   #31
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Sting I agree

Zigūr, I agree with what you said here to Leaf:

Leaf, I think you've made some very interesting points here, which tie in to the idea of the "Hobbit" films as a prequel to the other films as well as being an adaptation of an existing text. What that leaves me with, of course, is the feeling that in my opinion they're not terribly successful as prequels to the earlier films.

One particular problem I had with the Hobbit films, which made them worse than the Lord of the Rings films, was that the first group didn't even attempt to give an idea of the size of Middle-earth. The second category of films, for all (in my opinion) their many faults, gave the audience the fact that Middle-earth was big; and if there was a long distance between points A and B, it was going to take a long time to travel between the two, even if you were in a hurry.

I didn't see any attempt to deal with this in the Hobbit films, particularly regarding Mirkwood. It wouldn't have been too difficult (and there was certainly the time to spare!) to show how big, dark, and mysterious the wood was, and how few safe things there were to eat and drink, not to mention the enchanted river.
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Old 11-14-2015, 10:02 AM   #32
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I didn't see any attempt to deal with this in the Hobbit films, particularly regarding Mirkwood. It wouldn't have been too difficult (and there was certainly the time to spare!) to show how big, dark, and mysterious the wood was, and how few safe things there were to eat and drink, not to mention the enchanted river.
I wonder if an issue with this kind of thing was that they needed everything to look "right" on a 3D HFR camera, which affected what they could do with sets and constructed environments that needed to look real, as well as with makeup and practical effects.

I think perhaps my biggest issue with the Hobbit films as prequels to the Lord of the Rings films is that the visuals in the Hobbit films are much more stylised and/or exaggerated. Things like:

-the Dwarves' hairdos (especially Nori)

-Azog (especially compared to the soldier orcs of the earlier films) and other CGI creations, particularly the trolls used in the final film. They tried far too hard to make those trolls look weird and visually distinctive

-locations like Dol Guldur, Rhosgobel and Lake Town, which to me look very affectedly hodge-podge or ramshackle; they look designed to look chaotic rather than looking like they've organically come to look that way. By contrast, Edoras and Minas Tirith in the films look like places that could actually exist

I think this last part is especially noticeable when comparing the elements which returned from the other films, like Hobbiton and Rivendell, to those which were designed for these ones.
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Old 11-14-2015, 11:35 AM   #33
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-locations like Dol Guldur, Rhosgobel and Lake Town, which to me look very affectedly hodge-podge or ramshackle; they look designed to look chaotic rather than looking like they've organically come to look that way. By contrast, Edoras and Minas Tirith in the films look like places that could actually exist.

I think this last part is especially noticeable when comparing the elements which returned from the other films, like Hobbiton and Rivendell, to those which were designed for these ones.
The issue is, and always has been, that left to his own devices and being allowed to drift from the original plot leads Peter Jackson into excess and all but destroys a suspension of disbelief.

Dol Guldur is not necessarily described by Tolkien in any way that would lead to PJ adhering to a book description (like in the case of Minas Tirith, which is described in detail). Dol Guldur, as depicted by PJ, is Halloweenish -- a ghostly graveyard of trite tricks, whereas Minas Morgul in the LotR films is genuinely creepy because there is not an excess of eerie tomfoolery that makes it seem like a Disneyworld haunted ride. It's like Sauron hired a ghostly decorator to spread cobwebs and strew crumbly edifices about for a photo shoot for the magazine Haunted Architectural Digest.

Lake-town looks like PJ borrowed the set from the dreadful 1980s Popeye movie that featured Robin Williams. You've not seen it? Go on YouTube and check out the architectural elements:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-HbIkCjDbk

Again, like the Chutes 'n' Ladders(TM) lunacy of Goblintown, Lake-town is set up for stunts 'n' chases, and does not at all look like the drawings Tolkien made. Not at all, not one bit. Tolkien's depiction is reminiscent of Northern European prehistoric villages built on piles offshore, but with more medieval architecture, as Michael Martinez offers here:

http://middle-earth.xenite.org/2011/...in-the-hobbit/

It seems purpose built and orderly, whereas PJ's looks like a kindling and recycled wood convention, precarious and architecturally ludicrous.

Rhosgobel? As I have said previously, the whole Radagast shtick was lifted almost wholesale from T.H. White's The Once and Future King, with Radagast's bird droppings an exact match for Merlyn, and the interior of the wizard's abode sharing many elements. And while I cherish the works of White, his work is fairly incongruous to that of Tolkien's and PJ borrowed the most clownish aspects of Merlyn and none of his character. Once again, PJ, left to his own devices, creates a silly character (on a C.S. Lewis bunny sled, no less) that would make Tom Bombadil blush in embarrassment.
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Old 11-14-2015, 05:55 PM   #34
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I think those are very good points, Morthoron; and to bring the discussion back around, would observe that the production design of Laketown or Dol Guldur couldn't have been driven by any impetus to make the films more (or less) commercial, but rather can only be explained by an imagination straitjacketed by conventional Hollywood memes. Perhaps it's worth suggesting that the sort of mind which can't discern that White's and Tolkien's universes have utterly different "feels" is not one which is qualified to adapt Tolkien.
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Old 11-15-2015, 07:57 AM   #35
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I think those are very good points, Morthoron; and to bring the discussion back around, would observe that the production design of Laketown or Dol Guldur couldn't have been driven by any impetus to make the films more (or less) commercial, but rather can only be explained by an imagination straitjacketed by conventional Hollywood memes. Perhaps it's worth suggesting that the sort of mind which can't discern that White's and Tolkien's universes have utterly different "feels" is not one which is qualified to adapt Tolkien.
Jackson is a big kid, and while that sort of attitude has its charms and can be quite admirable, even enviable, on occasion, from a storytelling standpoint it can wear thin relatively quickly. The utter lack of nuance and sophistication from a screenwriting standpoint is evident whenever Jackson diverges from the original story or invents items broadcloth where little information exists.

This relates back to what Jackson really loves, and that is what every boy loves. He loves those B-grade buckets-of-blood horror movies that he began his career with. He loves big, scary monsters, the more and the bigger the better, hence his remake of King Kong. He loves cartoons and comic books, and has brought comic characters to the screen. One can tell the juvenile delight Jackson has for special effects in his commentary (the one that I remember is his demanding the WitchKing's mace be bigger in the duel with Eowyn, and he was not satisfied until it grew to ridiculous proportions). Jackson loves what every other little kid loves about the film making process. However, all that naiveté and adolescent adoration for film has its price.

When Tolkien wrote The Hobbit, he certainly wrote it for his children, but the motifs, naming conventions and dialogue all harken to his philological studies. This is why so many of us felt that we had read our very first "grown-up" book when we were children. It was an accomplishment that we cherished. The ingenious method by which Tolkien took a stolid, middle-age Hobbit and made him a reluctant hero, interspersing a gentle and genuine wit with some very adult observations (the section where he describes Goblins/Orcs as the sort who eventually invented the weapons of mass destruction that plague modern humanity comes to mind), but all the while left us clamoring for further vistas of Middle-earth, is what make the book a classic.

Jackson, on the other hand, worked in reverse, hence the title of this thread "Adaptation by Vague Recollection". He certainly read The Hobbit. He even read the Appendices from RotK. But he did so much like a miner digs for ore. Once the metal is removed from its native soil, it is melted and mixed with alloys and hammered and molded until it barely resembles the original element in it virgin state. Bilbo is relegated from central hero; in fact, he is swallowed into the collective chaos Jackson presented, and we as viewers are no longer treated as children striving to be adults, but are relegated to interminable chase scenes, incessant adolescent jokes about bodily functions, and menacing monsters and villains that played no part in the original story, or ones that are conflagrated into overblown and overwrought enormity. Even the addled attempt at romance is written like a teenager would write fan-fiction, with all the silly dialogue and stilted plots a neophyte writer would stumble through on his or her way to becoming an adult and discovering sophistication.
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Old 11-20-2015, 08:53 AM   #36
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Sting An interesting admission

People here might find this interesting. In the UK newspaper The Guardian, on 19th November, there is a reference to a featurette in The Battle of Five Armies DVD, in which Peter Jackson admitted that, due to Guillermo Del Toro's departure, he 'started shooting the movie with most of it not prepped at all'.

He also said:

“You’re going on to a set and you’re winging it, you’ve got these massively complicated scenes, no storyboards and you’re making it up there and then on the spot […] I spent most of The Hobbit feeling like I was not on top of it ][…] even from a script point of view Fran [Walsh], Philippa [Boyens] and I hadn’t got the entire scripts written to our satisfaction so that was a very high pressure situation.”

If you would like to read more, here is the link:

http://www.theguardian.com/film/2015...ade-the-hobbit
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Old 11-20-2015, 02:09 PM   #37
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People here might find this interesting. In the UK newspaper The Guardian, on 19th November, there is a reference to a featurette in The Battle of Five Armies DVD, in which Peter Jackson admitted that, due to Guillermo Del Toro's departure, he 'started shooting the movie with most of it not prepped at all'.
Good thing, maybe. If he'd had time to set it up like he wanted, we might have seen Elrond and Gandalf duelling in loincloths at the White Council for the love of Galadriel.
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Old 11-20-2015, 08:18 PM   #38
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Good thing, maybe. If he'd had time to set it up like he wanted, we might have seen Elrond and Gandalf duelling in loincloths at the White Council for the love of Galadriel.
Wouldn't the term be Glóincloths?
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Old 11-20-2015, 09:06 PM   #39
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Wouldn't the term be Glóincloths?
I beg to Bifur. Dwarf-size garments lead to unintended uncloaking.
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Old 11-21-2015, 12:30 AM   #40
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Peter Jackson admitted that, due to Guillermo Del Toro's departure, he 'started shooting the movie with most of it not prepped at all'.
This might make sense of a few things. That being said, I know this has been said before, but judging by comments Del Toro has made, I suspect his "Hobbit" would have been just as misguided as Jackson's, although perhaps in different ways.

His idea of a spring-summer-autumn-winter palette for the West - Wilderland and Mirkwood - Lake Town (I think) - the Mountain might have been visually interesting, for instance, but things like armoured trolls rolling into balls to move around (droidekas?) and Thorin having thorns on his helmet "because his name is Thorin" (it's from a Norse root meaning 'thunder', nothing to do with the English word for the spiky bits on a plant) are pure head-in-hands stuff.
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