28 April 2014

Thoughts on the title change of Jackons' third Hobbit movie

Sir Peter Jackson recently announced that the third installment of his cinematic adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit will no longer be subtitled There and Back Again but The Battle of the Five Armies. Shaun Gunner of The Tolkien Society agrees with this change, as do I (though I think it should be The Battle of Five Armies, without the second unnecessary "the"), and suggests it is partly for the sake of profits, which is likely true.

I knew the The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug did well in theaters but not as well as The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Gunner, though, notes something rather important to the movie studio that I had not known before:
This is particularly salient in light of the fact that the second Hobbit film grossed $67 million less than the first (highly unusual in itself), that both films failed to take more at the box office than The Return of the King (and that’s not even factoring in inflation), and that The Desolation of Smaug fell behind Iron Man 3, Frozen and Despicable Me 2 in box office takings for 2013.

Here we have to ask what Gunner did not: Why were the revenues from The Desolation of Smaug so much less than An Unexpected Journey? It cannot be because Tolkien fans no were Tolkien fans; rather, I submit ticket sales were so low because they are more Tolkien fans than Jackson fans.

I am happy to say that I am part of the reason The Desolation of Smaug did not do as well as An Unexpected Journey; the first movie I saw four times in the theater (in a growing attempt to determine if I liked it, which I partly did, given that it is not Tolkien's The Hobbit)  and the second only twice, so greatly did I dislike it; what is more, I own An Unexpected Journey on DVD/Blu Ray, but I have not even considered buying The Desolation of Smaug because it so little resembles the work of the subcreator of Middle-earth.

If the studios, as Gunner suggests, are concerned about increasing their profits, which I'm sure they are, they would do well to convince Jackson to do what he can to repair much of the harm he and his writers did to the story in the many and unnecessary departures from the actual text. The changes, as I wrote in my review, feel forced and contrived and do help but hinder the story. These changes are the reason I only saw the movie twice and never considered buying it.

There is some small hope that The Battle of the Five Armies will more closely resemble the actual story, though it will be impossible to correct the many departures and additions made in the film. If Jackson and company are concerned about their revenue from the third installment, they would do well to heed this advice.

When The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is released in theatres, I will go see it, more out of some bizarre curiosity than anything else; I have no real confidence in the third installment. However, if it it proves better than the second installment, I may say it more than once.


  1. I hold out hope that after the three movies are finished Jackson will release a "truncated" cut that eliminates his additions and folds the story into a tight 2 hours.

    1. That's an intriguing way to repair the harm done.