The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – Why Three Movies? Peter Jackson Explains

by Yo Snyder

When it was first announced that Peter Jackson was bringing The Lord
of the Rings trilogy to the big screen, there were many that were
convinced it would never work. That series of books was among the
original “unfilmable” films. There was just no way to capture the
essence of Tolkien’s material in a convincing, satisfying way on the big
screen. Even a trilogy of movies wouldn’t be enough to really do the
series justice. Three movies later, however, that’s exactly what was
done. Interestingly, when it comes to the prequel, The Hobbit,
the concern has been slightly different. Originally intended as just two
movies, eventually the project turned into a trilogy of its own, and
suddenly fans were worried that it would be too many movies for one
book. Is there really enough material there to justify three movies?
Well, we had a chance to talk with Peter Jackson and some others about
that recently, and they had some pretty convincing arguments as to why
it was the right choice.

Now, I’ve always understood that there
are things that have to change to get a book to the big screen, and I’ve
always been the pragmatic sort that would rather have a good movie
rather than a literal movie that follows the book word for word because
that rarely leads to a good movie. In the case of The Hobbit
though, it almost seems like you could do that and still not have enough
material for three films. But not so fast, there’s more going in the
text than you may realize. Here’s what Peter Jackson had to say about
it: “It’s a very good question [why three movies?], and it kind of
surprised us too, I have to say, because we were originally were doing
two films. But, you know, it’s really a question of what you leave out.
It’s a misleading book, it’s written at a very breathless pace so that
pretty major events in the story are covered in two or three pages by
Tolkien. It was written sort of like almost a children’s bedtime story.
So once you start to develop the scenes, and plus you want to do a
little bit more character development and character conflict than what
was in the original book, plus the fact that we can also adapt the
appendices from The Return of the King, which is a hundred odd pages of material that Tolkien developed that sort of takes plus around the time of The Hobbit. So we wanted to sort of expand the story of The Hobbit
a little bit more, and since Tolkien himself wrote that material to tie
it in a bit more to The Lord of the Rings, which is a book he wrote
seventeen or eighteen years after The Hobbit. So all those factors combine, give us the material to do it.”

Peter Jackson wasn’t the only director who had an opinion on this. Andy
Serkis, who most will know as the embodiment as Gollum in The Lord of
the Rings, not only reprises his role, but also served as second-unit
director on the film, so he was very much involved with the process, and
had a few insights of his own on the whole one book/three movies
discussion: “It definitely warrants three films. These pictures are
under-layed and textured and layered with incredible detail. The dwarf
characters, for instance, in the book, in Tolkien’s book, they’re very
thinly sketched and are actually an amorphous group, whereas every
single dwarf you will get know over the course of this journey. They all
have very developed arcs. You will care, you will get to know them and
see how they cope with the world. And also, because these films, The Hobbit,
isn’t going to live in a separate universe, it’s entirely, as you see
in the first film, the grander themes are woven in to the texture of it.
In order to do that fully and allowing each character to have their
moment and to play their part, you will absolutely need three films to
do that properly. I mean, I don’t know if you’ve felt it, but the films
to me seem to really shoot along and condensing it into two films seems
pretty much impossible now.” 

Interestingly, Sir Ian McKellen had a
few insights on this subject from the perspective of the fans, and also
a thought about whether or not is was all a marketing scheme: “Anyone
who thinks Peter Jackson would fall for market forces rather than the
artistic imperative doesn’t know the guy, all you have to do is examine
the body of his work. And, you know, if we had just made one movie, The Hobbit,
the fact is that all the fans, and I’m thinking now of the eight, nine,
ten year old boys and girls, they would watch it a thousand times.
Well, they now have three films they can watch a thousand times. It
isn’t enough. And if you don’t quite plug in to that, I sympathize with
you, these movies are not for you. Talk to any nine year old, they
haven’t just seen Lord of the Rings once, they’ve seen twice, maybe
three times in a day. And how much better they should be seeing that, a
great film served with huge artistic endeavor and achievement rather
than other things that they could watch.” 

So there you go, the cast and crew explaining why exactly The Hobbit
did indeed need three movies to adequately tell the story in movie
form. What do you think? Agree, disagree? Do you have some thoughts of
your own on the matter? Share in the comments below, and don’t miss the
first of The Hobbit trilogy, An Unexpected Journey, in theaters December 14th.