Bilbo Baggy – Is Jackson getting a bit too carried away with The Hobbit?

After finally putting my mind to it and staying up until gone one o’clock last Friday night I finally managed to finish reading the 1939 Tolkien novel; The Hobbit. I was told by many people that I should have read it sooner, and that it was classic and all of the other usual comments that are made about the novel. Having read it now I can see why it has received the high status it has, it is a triumph of a book and one of the best books I have ever read. However this is where the problem the lies now in terms of the film, having read the book and now have a full understanding of the events that occur within the story, I have doubts as to how three films are going to be made from the source material.

Originally the book was going to be made in to two separate films, but further down the production line Jackson revealed that he had shot too much footage and didn’t want to remove any because he felt it to be important. This lead us to the decision of three films being made now instead of the initially proposed two. Personally I am on the side of the fence that believes two films that are two hours each would be enough to give justice to the book. The other side of the fence supports the decision to keep it at three films that are near enough three hours each. Here’s the thing for me, I’m not going to criticise Peter Jackson because he is an excellent film maker and I admire his style, but in the case of The Hobbit I feel that it is going to be a little bit baggy.

After watching the first film I did feel entertained and I enjoyed the experience, I thought Martin Freeman was absolutely superb as Bilbo Baggins and gave a perfect performance. However now that I have read the book I’m seeing how much baggage there is to the first film and just how slowly it moves. There is a lot of time taken for the events of the film to get going and to actually kick start and push Bilbo out of The Shire, which took, as far as I am aware, near enough 40 minutes whilst in the book it only took 29 pages. It was described by a lot of people as Bilbo Baggy because it could have possibly been shortened.

On the other hand I do have to take in to account the effect that the timing of the film had. Firstly it can be said that the time it took for Bilbo to leave The Shire was quite dramatically effective because it builds up suspense and keeps the audience engaged, not to mention how much it adds to the development of Bilbo’s character. Also I can’t really complain because I do really like it when it takes time for a true character to emerge. It was well worth 40 minutes of my time to wait for the sight of Martin Freeman running as fast as he could shouting “I’m going on an adventure!” which gave me goosebumps beyond belief. Taking time for a character to emerge is something I have admired in a lot of films recently, such as the latest installments to both the James Bond and Batman series, which both took a lot of time to put their title role characters back in action. And in both cases it was well worth the wait and made me jump out of my seat and shout cheerfully at the screen.

Overall the first Hobbit installment took 163 minutes, which is very close bordering in to three hours, and this takes up six chapters (or 104 pages) of the book, leaving only nine chapters (172 pages) left to be covered. Potentially problematic? I think it could be because to me where the first film ends, could easily be set as the half way point, leaving enough room in the second film to cover the other section of events. So now that we know where the second film picks up from, and from the title ‘The Desolation Of Smaug’ it is safe to say we now where the second film will end, it doesn’t leave an awful lot of material left to cover in the last film. This leads me to worry about whether or not Jackson is going to do a bit of a Helms Deep with The Battle Of Five Armies and make it into less of a sequence and more half a film, which would be a bit excessive. I won’t go in to detail as to what the previously mentioned battle is just in case anyone reading has not read the book, but I would still say I have my concerns for that section of the story. It is relatively short but could easily be put through the Jackson way of processing events and be converted in to a large section of film, just like with the battle of Helms Deep. I’m not saying the battle of Helms Deep wasn’t good, because it was a magnificent piece of film, I’m just a little worried we may have to sit through a similar sequence.

The idea of a film being too long is one that I know some people don’t see as a problem because it’s still an entertaining experience and provides the audience with a different universe they can be immersed in to for a temporary period. I won’t dispute those comments because it is true, running time isn’t a main factor that influences how you feel about a film, but for me in some cases it can make a film loose it’s substance an interest factor. If a film becomes too long it can sag, so the story becomes dragged out, the characters become less interesting, and you loose interest in general because you’re wanting to see the end of the film come about some time in the next year. An example for me would be Avatar. It was aimlessly long so the story became very boring, to the point where I started picking out flaws just to keep myself entertained, it got to the point where the characters meant nothing to me anymore and I didn’t care about them, it’s exhausting trying to put the effort in to take an active interest in the film. I’m not trying to say that this is what happened in the case of The Hobbit, but in some places the story did feel stretched and there were some sequences that didn’t need to be dragged out for as long as they were.

I will point out now that what I have said about the length of the first Hobbit film may have some biasing to it based on the additions to the story that have been made for the film. I understand there are certain factors that do add to the length of the film such as the narrative structure of adding an older Bilbo to somewhat tell the story, the adding of Radagast’s character and his input to the story, the pale Orc has been added as a main villain which takes a massive toll on the events of the film to the extent of hijacking what the events are centered around, and of course the branch of the Necromancer situation that brings about many spin off branches to events and lengthy discussions among the characters . All of these elements will no doubt feature in the other two films and will have a minor effect on the running times for the films, but if my guesses are correct then they shouldn’t have a large impact. I know for a fact already that there is more being added to the next film that isn’t in the book so it’ll be interesting to see how the speed of the film compares to the speed of the book based on how much drag is added.

To sum up all I can really say is that I enjoyed the book massively, the first film was very good despite being possibly too long, and I won’t be surprised if there are sections to the coming films that makes the story sag a little. It is bound to happen because Jackson does make films that are incredibly long, if you don’t believe me then go back and watch King Kong and Return Of The King. I still stand by what I have said before, I believe that two films would be enough to cover such a small book, but all we can do is trust Peter Jackson and be prepared for the very long journey ahead. Hopefully the Bilbo Baggy effect will wear off and the films substance won’t sag, but by the looks of the things the films running times will be like a journey through Mirkwood Forest; you can’t be certain as to just how long it’s going to last…

Please feel free to leave any comments you have on the matter, I’m always interested to know what others think about my ramblings.

Until the next time I shall leave you with the heavily though provoking actions and motives stated by Gandfalf in the first film; what made him leave was looking ahead, but what brought him back was looking behind him.