Was reading Rateliff’s History of the Hobbit; and this is my excuse for this Hobbit-movie-speculation repost (scroll down a bit) from the days before we knew Guillermo del Toro would be directing — so this has nothing to do with him, and everything with the way Hollywood mangles things.
Because reading Rateliff’s History — a history of the surviving drafts and early versions of the book, that is; a delightful set — has made me, again and again, think that the book has so many glorious little bits that could so easily end up cast away, much like the Golden Compass movie that had all the big parts, and nothing else, and as a result was a dismal, rushing thing. (Then again, there’s space in a two-movie set-up, and the writers are no novices.)
Because if I don’t get to see Thorin quaking and calling Bilbo “a descendant of rats”, I will be most unhappy. If I don’t get Smaug conversing with Bilbo, full of power, insight and malice, no mere dumb roaring thing —
“I don’t know if it has occurred to you that, even if you could steal the gold bit by bit — a matter of a hundred years or so — you could not get it very far? Not much use on the mountain-side? Not much use in the forest? Bless me! Had you never thought of the catch? A fourteenth share, I suppose, or something like it, those were the terms, eh? But what about delivery? What about cartage? What about armed guards and tolls?” And Smaug laughed aloud.
— if I don’t get Beorn, doubtful and dangerous, and the dwarves, overcome by greed, and the other little bits of subtlety and gray, I shall be unhappy. (Yeah, big frickin’ deal and all. And I could very well do without the Rivendell choir of silly elves.)
Then again, in Peter Jackson’s the Lord of the Rings movies I disliked a lot of the changes and decisions: I loathed Denethor’s exaggerated lunacy, and his ridiculous end; I disliked the changes to Faramir and the drama at Mount Doom; I frowned at the action-movie gymnastics in Moria and Aragorn’s mystical connections and wolf acrobatics, and all the showy flash, bang, clash and glitter: but over all these gripes I loved the movies, and love them still. (And I understand everyone doesn’t agree with me when I say the especially enjoyable parts of the books include the whole Council of Elrond — not all people are as patient as I, and a thousand-page book is much less likely than a four-hour movie to make your buttocks bleed.)
* * *
An office somewhere in Hollywood. A director’s phone rings; it is his lord, the dread studio executive, calling.
Executive: Hiya! I’m calling about this new Hoggit —
Executive: — Hobbit film of ours. It’s a prequel to those previous three megahits, right?
Director: Uh, yes.
Executive: Excellent. Love the idea, by the way. Grand concept, grand concept. Maybe we could expand it into a prequel trilogy, huh? Just asking. Now, what people really want to see are the previous heroes coming back.
Director: Well, the film’s got Bilbo, and Gandalf —
Executive: Gandalf. Splendid. Everyone loves wizards. But we need more. How about a young Frodo? That’s maximum appeal, pure maximum appeal. Put Frodo in. And we need that, uh, that pointy eared guy —
Executive: — yep, him too. And put that funny short guy in too.
Director: Well, I suppose I could write Legolas in into the Mirkwood scenes; he’s a son of the Elvenking and all, and Gimli — the short guy — could make an appearance after the Battle of Five Armies —
Executive: Super! But there’s one really serious lack in here, you know. We’re really worried about that. No movie works without it.
Director: We’ve got a dragon…
Executive: Splendid! No movie works without a fricking big dragon either! But what you really need is a romantic subplot.
Executive: Hear me out. A spunky hobbit maiden decides to follow this, um, this Bilbo — couldn’t we change that to Frodo? — whom she is secretly in love with. Bilbo — I’ll just call him Frodo for now — Frodo doesn’t approve, so she’s sneaky, and pretends to be one of the, uh, short — short — one of the dwarfs. Then she’s exposed, and Frodo tells her to go back, but she won’t. And she saves his life!
Director: Uh —
Executive: And this whole stuff with spiders has to be cut. It’s been done already, and it’s too scary. Couldn’t you put the ringwraiths in there? And this big eye guy?
Director: Well, Dol Guldur —
Executive: Bravo! And we need a tagline — here’s one — “Love was stronger than a dragon.” Super, right?
Director: Ahm, —
Executive: Just listen! We have a stable of talented young writers ready to create at least twenty-seven interquels in book form for this — ‘the Further Adventures of Young Frodo’ we call them. A trilogy of trilogies of trilogies. And, by the way, drop the eagles. Much too corny. Put in some gnomes with flying machines. And make this big hairy guy a full bear, all the time — talking bears are in. And Elrond needs to be evil. And Gandalf doesn’t go away gallivanting on his own. And what’s Frodo doing, being knocked out during the deci-fricking-sive battle? We need Frodo out there, battling the Orc King, alone, for the rule of all Middle-Earth! When at the very last moment this… this dwarf whatsit jumps in and takes the bullet… Orcs have guns, right? …for Frodo! Tragedy and victory! Except he can’t really die.
Director: Well —
Executive: And this fellow Bard needs to be cut. A totally extraneous character. Make Frodo shoot the arrow instead. And put a prophecy in there somewhere. “Not by the hand of man will he fall; only by the hand of a halfling.” Better still, make Candy shoot the arrow.
Director: W— who?
Executive: Candy, the spunky hobbit maiden. And a good thing that you mentioned names. Any chance that we can use those, you know, traditional seven dwarf names? Are they copyrighted or something? Find that out. If nothing else, we’ll have to call them Dwarf Two, Dwarf Three and so on — make it into a running gag — people can’t memorize so many names.
Director: The fana—
Executive: Wait! I have it! You have Frodo, Candy, Gandalf, Legolas, Gimli, and four dwarves. Then you can make a running gag out of Frodo saying that “It would be better to have hobbits instead” — hilarious, a little bow to those folks that have seen the original trilogy. A little nod to the fans. And we think that the name’s very important.
Director: Um, we can lose the “There and back again” if —
Executive: No, that’s not the problem. Brand recognition. People have to immediately notice that this is the same ring-hauling stuff as the Original Trilogy. We’re thinking like: “The Lord of the Rings Saga Prequel Trilogy: Episode One: The Return of the Hobbit: Or There And Back Again”! That’s something!
Director: Uh —
Executive: Don’t worry. It’s original. Legal legerdemain. We just add a little bit of Star Wars parody and we’re covered. No trouble. But all the drinking and smoking has to go; can’t have that in a kid-friendly movie. And we’re a bit worried about the big battle at the end; what about if we make Gandalf conjure up the sun, so they all turn to stone! That’s huge! And it’s foreshadowed by those three big Danish guys —
Executive: — Danish guys turning to stone! Abso-bulously-lutely superhuge! One more thing: the riddles.
Director: Oh yes, the Gollum —
Executive: The riddles have to go. Fabu-solutely-lously supercorny. Have Frodo and Gollum fight over a pit of lava — nice foreshadowing, what? — and just when Frodo’s about to lose, Candy finds the ring, puts it on, and shoots lighting out of her fingers and zaps Gollum straight into the lava! I can hear the standing fricking ovations already! Then they kiss; supatastic! That’d be the end of the first movie —
Director: Um —
Executive: — the second one would end with Frodo and Candy sneaking out to kill the dragon alone — you know, original derring-do, while the dwarfs are kidnapped by a bunch of evil orcs. In the third part we’d have Frodo duelling the dragon over the flaming pits of the Lonely Volcano — protected only by the force field of the ring! — until Candy comes and shoots the dragon! And reveals that the dragon was Bilbo, bewitched by the big eye guy, all along! Think of the cheers! Bilbo swears revenge, Frodo and Candy get married, and then everyone lives happily ever after! Super! Call me when you’d got these little changes worked in; it was nice talking to you! Bye!
The call ends; the Director sighs and has a brief vision of irate fans doing unspeakable things to his carcass with trowels, corkscrews and mathoms.