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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Movie Discussion: The Hobbit:
Do directors need to make their own mark on the story?


Jan 22 2013, 2:00pm

Post #1 of 24 (801 views)
Do directors need to make their own mark on the story? Can't Post

Let's pretend The Hobbit...the book mind you...was exactly like the movie (minus the dumbing down of the language for the masses). Azog was a constant threat, Radagast was tearing around in his bunnysled, all the Goblin Town antics were just as the book describes, Tauriel was, well, doing whatever she does. The book is now exactly as PJ thinks The Hobbit should be on the big screen.

The question is, would PJ still change it? I feel like directors are compelled to change things, for good or worse. Perhaps if they're going to invest X number of weeks/months/years in a film, they want to have their own input on the story instead of having to do a perfect scene-for-scene, line-for-line remake. Even if the book was exactly as PJ is shooting it now, we'd still have multiple huge changes because most directors just have to change things, for the better (imo, usually worse).

Grey Havens

Jan 22 2013, 2:15pm

Post #2 of 24 (496 views)
If Tolkien had written a screenplay... [In reply to] Can't Post

Sure, maybe Jackson would have felt less need to deviate. But then "The Hobbit" would not be a classic, widely translated and popular novel someone needs to adapt, would it?


Jan 22 2013, 2:42pm

Post #3 of 24 (466 views)
If PJ were only making a movie about the Hobbit... [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm sure he would have left all of that out. But then it wouldn't tie into LotR, and many people would be confused. I don't think there's anything wrong with using Tolkien's own notes and history to create a richer story. I don't think we can speak to Tauriel's role, as we have not even seen it and don't know how it fits into the overall movie (although people love to argue about it already- nevermind the fact that there are no women characters at all in the Hobbit, you'd think the addition of one character in a minor role would not be such a problem).

I think PJ was compelled to change things in the Hobbit because the lack of characterization or drama would have made a very boring movie. To be honest, as an adult, the Hobbit is not a very exciting read (although I loved it as a child). It's rather flat, too quick with action, and lacking details. I don't see why any director making the Hobbit wouldn't try to correct at least some of those problems, lest the film have them, too.


Jan 22 2013, 3:11pm

Post #4 of 24 (428 views)
As an artist myself... [In reply to] Can't Post

Absolutely. A filmmaker wouldn't be much of an artist if they were happy to just regurgitate someone else's work. As a designer I get asked to replicate other people's work all the time. But I work with my clients to give them something similar but with my stamp of creativity. I can't think of anything worse as an artist then to reject ones own creativity to just redo it as is.

One thing that I find interesting is how some fans of Tolkien think that these films are Tolkien's films. And I guess that's why they get so upset when they don't match with the books. The fact of the matter is its "Peter Jackson's LoTR and The Hobbit" on film, not Tolkien's.


Jan 22 2013, 3:12pm

Post #5 of 24 (418 views)
Language didn't feel dumbed down [In reply to] Can't Post

There's barely any dialogue in the book anyway. Just finished reading it again, and most of the dialogue is condensed, like "The dwarves were dismayed Gandalf was leaving. 'You can't just leave! Well fine then, go!' said most of the dwarves." None of the dwarves have their own separate dialogues (aside from a few, contradiction aside).

But I do not think the book adapted word-for-word would have worked as a film. It's a little too silly at times and not enough "action" to make it an epic blockbuster. A lot of the action scenes (like Goblin-town) are only 2 pages, if that, and very condensed. If you want an epic film, you'll have to expand on that. I think what PJ did worked well for the movie, and, dare I say it, wish some of the things PJ did actually happened in the book.

Lover of Medieval Fantasy
"I know what I must do. It's just... I'm afraid to do it."


Jan 22 2013, 3:16pm

Post #6 of 24 (429 views)
To put it bluntly: yes, they do! [In reply to] Can't Post

Directing a film is a creative enterprise and most directors wouldn't be satisfied with just copying someone's else story. Why should they feel the need to adapt it if they're hardly allowed any sense of creative freedom or put their own stamp on it? If a director followed the original story almost literally, I think the consequences would be an uninspired and at the very best quite mediocre result (like the first two Harry Potter films)

Even with the differences between books and film as medium, an adaptation always involves a process of selection of what seems most essential or interesting about the underlying story/themes and an elimination of elements that do not fit into this storyline. And if it's not just a verbatim rendition of the original story, the adaptation involves a series of decisions about how to translate the underlying story/themes effectively to a visual medium, including adding scenes or changing scenes.

There are many ways of going about an adaptation and I won't go about trying to make a number of examples, although discussing different approaches to an adaptation could be interesting in itself.

On the whole, I find now that it's less interesting to consider additions to the original story as changes in themselves and more interesting to discuss how well they are executed and work in the film. For instance I find that the Goblin Town antics are bad because they exhibit IMO boring and derivative film making, which doesn't feel in sync with the rest of the film: it feels wildly unrealistic and at the same time it lacks any flair of the fantastical. I have no problem with Azog, since he's added probably mostly because of the pacing, which I consider a relevant issue for any film maker. He also provides a link to Thorin's back story and motivation for going on the quest. Radagast's bunny sled chase fits nicely into the comedy of the film, I found it both genuinely funny and whimsical and very much in the spirit of the original story.


Jan 22 2013, 3:57pm

Post #7 of 24 (393 views)
From a stage perspective [In reply to] Can't Post

Every director puts their own concept onto a show. I've done some plays twice or three times, and each time it's very different. Granted, Shakespeare is often done with weird concepts, and not always well, but that's up to the director and the budget. Even big Broadway musicals have subtle changes made by directors. Films aren't going to be any different. It's an ego-driven business.

So, yes, they have their own idea of what they want to see. They make that judgement. Some do it better than others.

From a film business perspective: The only way that something like The Hobbit and LOTR would ever get a novel-like treatment would be through some art-house treatment of the story, with only subtle changes. Or a mini-series on BBC or US public broadcasting. However, they would be expensive productions, and there would still be some expectation of return for the movie company TV production company that makes them.

These are also films that are going to live in people's memories for a long time. I don't see the next version and director going backwards in time to make them simpler and less exciting. The line has already been crossed.


Jan 22 2013, 4:10pm

Post #8 of 24 (389 views)
well, people will complain no matter what [In reply to] Can't Post

George Lucas invented Star Wars, wrote everything for it, is the intellectual owner of everything that it is because it is his world. And people tried to crucify him for his vision. People would complain now even if Tolkien were alive, and had written and directed these movies because it would not be their own idea of what was supposed to happen. That is the source of every argument and complaint I see on these boards. It wasn't my idea so I don't like it. People seem to be unable to view another person's vision without complaining that their input was not used.

So yes, a director will put his or her own spin on a story. Look at the upcoming Superman movie, it looks neat, we know the Superman story well, but this is a new director and new treatment. New stamp on the story.

"clever hobbits to climb so high!"
Check out my writing www.jdstudios.wordpress.com


Jan 22 2013, 4:20pm

Post #9 of 24 (390 views)
A good example of this... [In reply to] Can't Post

...is GoT on HBO. Many people have complained about the changes made to the tv series...but the author of the books is actually working on the tv series (and even wrote some of the episodes himself). He has even stated many times in interviews that what he wrote in the book won't completely translate to film. That's just the nature of the medium.

People just need to see the films and the book at two sides of the same coin. One side will look different from the other, but both have the same value.


Jan 22 2013, 4:47pm

Post #10 of 24 (353 views)
Yes // [In reply to] Can't Post


Tol Eressea

Jan 22 2013, 4:54pm

Post #11 of 24 (365 views)
but the author is on board with the changes [In reply to] Can't Post

they might be 2 sides to the same coin but the changes Jackson made were at times outrageous and ridiculous. Changing all of the dwarven back story just to give Thorin a nemesis was the worst idea I have ever heard. The book as it was written would not have worked on film but it would have worked with minor tweaking and not massive rewrites like what we were given. That I think is the biggest problem so called purists have, not that they changed things but the extent of how drastically they did change things. (bringing a character that was dead and without a head in the book and appendices to making him a main characters nemesis is drastic)

Again GoT at least the author, who wrote the original work, is on board with the changes. Much like the Harry Potter franchise with J K Rowlings having creative veto power over changes to her books. Which all changes made in those films were done so without her permission. No one from the Tolkien estate has sanctioned any of Jackson's changes, why not put Peter Jackson's the Hobbit as the title then? I understand artists want to make something their own but in the case of literature such as Tolkien, or Dickens, or Shakespeare they should swallow their pride put their ego aside and tell the story the way it was meant to be told. Which is the way the author wrote it. Tolkien abandoned rewriting his own work and for good reason, Jackson should have taken that as a big hint.

Personally I think when Jackson stuck to the facts as Tolkien wrote them his films were superb. Everything in the book the Hobbit IMO is translatable to film and it could have been done very faithfully with minor tweaking... But instead Jackson made up his own fan fiction to insert into the story which IMO fell way short of the parts that told Tolkien's real tale of Bilbo Baggins. Which is who the story was about... not the dwarves, not Gandalf... Bilbo. Yes Gandalf and the dwarves were major players in the tale but not the main player. Jackson wants to try and make them equal which they are not. Had they stuck to the story in the book instead of having to make up a large part of it, I think the film would have been much better... But that's just my opinionWink

(This post was edited by sinister71 on Jan 22 2013, 4:57pm)

Tol Eressea

Jan 22 2013, 5:21pm

Post #12 of 24 (352 views)
However... [In reply to] Can't Post

Jackson did invite Christopher Tolkien to consult on the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Christopher refused the invitation. This, of course, was his right, as it is Peter Jackson's right to still make the movies, with or without the Tolkien Estate participation.

I'm ok with the changes. I enjoy some of them actually more than the books, others less. At the end of the day, I appreciate each medium for what it is and I am not robbed of the enjoyment of either because of their variance.


Middle Earth is New Zealand!

"Question everything, embrace the bad, and hold on to the good."


Jan 22 2013, 5:31pm

Post #13 of 24 (353 views)
PJ didn't need "sanctioning"... [In reply to] Can't Post

...as it was Tolkien himself that gave up that right when he sold the movie rights decades ago. Also, people want to argue how much this story was changed...but I don't see that at all. If anything, PJ was loyal to the book to a fault in many critics' eyes (not my own). Many complain that they spend too much time on the "Unexpected Party" scene, or that it feels episodic in nature (going from one danger to the next). Just because PJ didn't kill off one (not very important) character earlier in the story doesn't completely change everything. Neither does adding Radagast. Since the addition of these two, let's see what happens in the movie:

1. They go to Rivendell (happens in the book)
2. They go to the Misty Mountains (happens in the book)
3. They see Stone Giants (embellished in the movies, but mentioned in the book)
4. They are caught by Goblins (happens in the book)
5. They escape with Gandalf's help (happens in the book)
6. Bilbo gets the ring from Gollum (happens EXACTLY like the book)
7. They are attacked by orcs (still happened in the book, whether or not Azog was there)
8. Fight between Thorin and Azog (didn't happen in the book, but added a nice climax)
9. Are saved by the Eagles and deposited on the carrock before Beorn's house (happens in the book)

So, I'm still trying to figure out how Azog or Radagast's addition to this story changed it. It doesn't look like it changed it very much to me. Everything else is minor details. They still seem to be on their way to Erebor and Smaug. Unless those characters mess that up in some way, I think this is nitpicking.


Jan 22 2013, 6:34pm

Post #14 of 24 (325 views)
We need one of those...if the Hobbit were directed by...threads... [In reply to] Can't Post

just for perspective


Jan 22 2013, 6:42pm

Post #15 of 24 (321 views)
How about Michael Bay? [In reply to] Can't Post

Unexplained Party - lots of racist jokes, only lasts about 10 seconds before something crashes through the door...something explodes for no reason

Trolls - more racist jokes, lots of jumpy camera work...and the trolls explode when the dawn breaks

Rivendell - Somehow work in a bad romantic kiss scene with Galadriel and Thorin, even though it makes no sense

Goblin Town - Can't see anything because it's really dark and it was shot in bad lighting, but somehow the camerawork still manages to make you sick because of jumpiness. Everything EXPLODES as they all jump out of the exit of the mountain in slow motion (along with rolling fireball)

End Scene - Pine cones turn into grenades, Eagle drop exploding bombs, and instead of the tree falling off of the cliff, the whole cliff falls off of the cliff in an earthquake.

Hmm...I'm sure I didn't add enough explosions in there...

(This post was edited by bborchar on Jan 22 2013, 6:43pm)


Jan 22 2013, 7:37pm

Post #16 of 24 (311 views)
Yes, absolutely. Adaptation is a legitimate form of storytelling, and PJ made legitimate choices... [In reply to] Can't Post

Adapting The Hobbit to a post-LOTR audience is tricky business.

Anyone who thinks going the kiddie route would have been the most successful is deluded, IMHO. Children's films don't make a billion. Family-friendly films don't make a billion. Jackson is adapting a children's version (The Hobbit) of an event in Middle earth (The Quest of Erebor) and decided to go with the latter in his adaptation. The word-of-mouth campaign against this film would have been harsh if it turned out to be a kiddie film.

This was a legitimate choice and was much better than the alternative would have been, in my humble estimation.

Characters and subplots were added to connect the episodic feel of The Hobbit. Now the Trolls, The spiders and the corruption of Mirkwood, its effect on the elves, goblins and Laketown are connected with the mysterious rise of an ancient evil. (And Mirkwood always was anyway). The Company are experiencing dangers that are rooted in a greater evil than Smaug alone. It is a bigger world than the Wilderland of The Hobbit. It is Middle-Earth.

I think PJ made some hard choices and they paid off. And they were legitimate choice that were there in Tolkien. Some were stretched, but there is very little that came out of whole cloth.


Jan 22 2013, 10:37pm

Post #17 of 24 (269 views)
Let's not forget [In reply to] Can't Post

That without some amount of sellout, we might not have gotten the whole three movie package. Look what happened to Bakshi...


Jan 22 2013, 10:44pm

Post #18 of 24 (276 views)
I may be in the minority... [In reply to] Can't Post

...but I never liked Bakshi's version...I just didn't like the character designs.


Jan 23 2013, 9:08am

Post #19 of 24 (214 views)
Yes [In reply to] Can't Post

It's the same as illustration - well, it is illustration really, with the addition of movement and sound. Alan Lee's illustrated version of The Hobbit is different from Michael Hague's, or Tolkien's own, though all are recognisably the same story. Ask an artist to interpret a work and it will be filtered through that artist's style, vision, tastes and ideas - that's the whole point, isn't it?

And with film you have all the business of adaptation. The Hobbit is conceived and written for the printed page. It has a narrator. It's meant to be read, not acted and viewed. Anyone who took on the charge of bringing it to the screen would have had to interpret the story and make changes, to achieve on film what the writer achieves on the page.


Jan 23 2013, 5:01pm

Post #20 of 24 (195 views)
And...that's why it was ultimately unsuccessful I suppose [In reply to] Can't Post

There wasn't enough common vision of Middle-earth. Agreed.

Wielder of Anduril
The Shire

Jan 23 2013, 6:46pm

Post #21 of 24 (189 views)
If they are worth anything, they will. [In reply to] Can't Post

The author and director are working in different mediums and many techniques are going to need some translation when you go back and forth between the two.

In the end, the director's responsibility is to the film they make, not the book they are adapting (unless of course they are contractually obligated). How closely to follow the book is their decision.

Even if the director's goal is to convey the same themes and messages the author conveyed, there are liklely going to be changes made. More often than not, I'd say changes are necessary.


Jan 23 2013, 6:52pm

Post #22 of 24 (186 views)
I actually think [In reply to] Can't Post

the last two Harry Potter films were mediocre. The first two were excellent atmospheric pieces.


Jan 23 2013, 9:06pm

Post #23 of 24 (182 views)
George Lucas [In reply to] Can't Post

Let's give Bilbo the desire to become a Wizard. And bring Bard into the story earlier, but make him more like-I don't know--Han Solo? Do we need all of those dwarves? Just make them a couple of Brownies. And people respond to babies. Let's get a baby in there. And the Necromancer? Tolkien didn't have enough female characters, so let's make him a woman. Oh, and give her a daugher as well; we can give Han, I mean Bard, a relationship with her. And the dragon? Hell--let's make him a two-headed dragon!

'There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world.' - Gandalf the Grey, The Fellowship of the Ring


Jan 24 2013, 9:54am

Post #24 of 24 (230 views)
well [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, there is always a question of taste and what appeals to you, and the first two Harry Potter films had a clear 80's adventure film flair which many people love and have a soft spot for.

Actually I think the first two and the last two films of the HP franchise suffered from some of the same problems even if they were very different films stylistically. They all repeated too much of the plot of the books and stuck to it too literally. Considering how much plot and how much exposition and after the fact-explanations Rowling puts into her novels, copying the plot of her novels in a film doesn't work particularly well: it weakens the pacing and makes the films feel overstuffed or messy. The first two films lacked any sense of independence vis vis the original story, while the two last films made several changes, but still stuck so closely to the plot of the original story that the structure and pacing of the films suffered from it.


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