Why The Hobbit Trilogy Failed

Last weekend, I attempted to re-watch Peter Jackson's The Hobbit trilogy with my kids. They'd recently enjoyed the LOTR movies and were keen to see more Middle Earth adventures.

"It's probably not as bad as I remember," I thought to myself. "And maybe the extended editions do a better job of tying everything together." NOPE.

The artistic failure of The Hobbit is one of the great tragedies of modern cinema. After the huge success of Jackson's The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, the world was expecting something far grander than the tired and bloated fanfic we ended up with.

Granted, the source material is slighter and arguably less suitable for the big screen than LOTR - but these are obstacles other adaptations have managed to overcome. (Where The Wild Things Are was a picture book. Pirates Of The Caribbean was a bloody theme park ride.)

There really is no excuse. In over nine hours of movies, the only good bit is Smaug the dragon. So what went wrong?

The Everything In Middle Earth YouTube channel explores some of the reasons The Hobbit failed. In addition to nitpicking the film's artistic flaws (of which there are many) it also shines a light on the poor filmmaking decisions behind the scenes - from Jackson's initial reluctance to direct to the last-minute decision to split two movies into three.

Fair warning: the presentation is decidedly low-fi - it's basically a podcast interspersed with movie stills - but it does a pretty good job of explaining why Jackson's return to Middle Earth backfired spectacularly.

For a slicker and more detailed take, check out Lindsay Ellis' epic two-part evisceration below:


Comments

    Oh, we're trotting this one out again ? OK.
    I think the assertion that it was a 'failure' was firmly rebutted the last time, but let's recap:
    First off, definition of failure:
    1. lack of success.
    2. the neglect or omission of expected or required action.
    (there's more, but not relevant)

    Financially
    Clearly, US$3Bn is a win for an $180M investment, so financially it was a success.
    And as word of mouth travels faster than movie distribution, if the second trilogy really was a stinker, then box office attendance would have dropped significantly.
    Now you might think the first one had carried the second one financially, but they all made roughly the same amount in takings and the two trilogies combined made just under US$6Bn ($5.8).
    Score: Hobbit: 1 Lindsay Ellis: 0

    Artistically
    Whilst art is very broad (and often abused) definition, films are at their core, visual storytelling.
    Did the film trilogy provide a visualisation of the saga, without knowing the core background, or having read the books ? Yes
    Did the trilogy provide a story without having viewed or heard about the first trilogy, either in book form or movie ? Yes
    Did the movie provide entertainment. Subjective, but for the most part, yes
    Score: Hobbit: 2 Lindsay Ellis: 0

    So, the movies fulfilled all those requirements, and exceeds the parameters for failure, which leaves the question - how did it fail ?
    Take a seat, this is going to be unpleasant.

    Expectations
    It wasn't the movies that failed, it was you.
    Your expectations were based on the first movie trilogy, and you kept (and possibly enhanced) those expectations for the following one.
    The director did not guarantee that the movies were going to be 'bigger, better', and apart from the professional liars that are marketing departments, there was no external reason to believe that the movies would indeed exceed the impact of the first - which was a key element in your expectation baseline.
    Whilst this is a normal process, psychologically speaking, it would have been very difficult to do so with the second trilogy. Link: https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/cui-bono/201802/the-psychology-expectations

    Lindsay herself confirms this "LotR: FotR was so good, it made me angry" and then proceeds to outline why this has happened with 'This was back when franchises were a gamble" but without providing the insight.
    News flash: franchises are always a gamble. A franchise is simply a more structured mitigation against that gamble, but it does not eliminate it. As a result, the first movie is often made to have as much impact as possible, to keep that interest for future movies, and that was the obvious insight that was missed.

    Given the very detailed and intricate storyline that is the saga, and the passionate and outspoken nature of the audience, evidenced by the first trilogy, Peter Jackson would have been open to criticism, no matter what he did.
    Regardless, the phenomenal amount of work he had to do to get the first trilogy, not only the legal dance steps between Miramax and New Line, but also in getting that authenticity for the movies (ie: using 20,000 NZ cricket fans to provide the Uruk-Hai war chants, between innings) probably meant he dialled back his efforts for the second trilogy.

    Incidentally, movie franchises have been around for decades.
    Star Wars
    James Bond
    The Godfather
    The Matrix
    Jurassic Park

    etc etc

    Overall, the talkpiece is essentially a droll outlining of how the second trilogy didn't meet her expectations. Yeah, we got that in the first 5 mins.

    Final Score: Hobbit: 2 Lindsay Ellis: 0 New Line Cinemas: 5.8Bn

    I liked it.
    But I just watched the movie without going into the feelings and trying to second guess the producer.
    and I had read most of the books. (I didn’t read The Silmarilion)

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