The Hobbit and The Phantom Menace: a few similarities

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the first part of a prequel trilogy that takes place decades before another trilogy, namely The Lord of the Rings. This is the most obvious thing that Peter Jackson’s newest film has in common with Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace, but are there any others?

Consider this:

One writer compared the movie’s version of Radagast the Brown, a somewhat silly wizard who was not depicted in the previous films, to Jar Jar Binks.

Another writer says a scene of Radagast trying to outrun some orcs on a sled pulled by bunnies “strongly recalls” the pod-race sequence in The Phantom Menace.

The introduction of a slightly coarser sense of humour to Middle Earth — embodied here by the quasi-drug subtext to some of Radagast’s scenes and lines like “If you have the balls for it” — roughly parallels the introduction of fart and poop humour to the Star Wars universe via the Jar Jar Binks character.

The dwarves are acting upon a prophecy that was never mentioned in the original trilogy, just like Qui-Gon Jinn did.

The Hobbit is based on a children’s story and therefore aims for a younger sensibility, not unlike how The Phantom Menace was the first Star Wars film to co-star a child (indeed, multiple children, once we take Anakin’s friends into account).

There wasn’t enough material in the book version of The Hobbit to warrant a full trilogy, so Jackson padded it out with lots of filler. Likewise, George Lucas once admitted that most of his notes for the Star Wars prequels pertained to Episode III, and thus, “in order to get Phantom Menace to two hours, I had to use a lot of Hamburger Helper.”

The Hobbit pushes a new digital technology (48fps projection), the same way The Phantom Menace sort-of did. (If memory serves, George Lucas did some of the Phantom Menace re-shoots in 2K — not the whole movie, just a few scenes — and he was already asserting, back in 1999, that Episode II would be shot in 2K and therefore he wanted theatres everywhere to have digital projectors by the time Episode II came out. It didn’t happen quite as quickly as he wanted, in the end, but still…)

The one thing these two films don’t have in common is that Lucas shot his prequels one at a time, whereas Jackson shot his trilogy all in one go. So, when everyone realized how bad The Phantom Menace was, it was still possible — in theory, at least — to hope that certain course corrections could be made before Lucas turned to Episodes II and III. But in the case of The Hobbit, barring extensive reshoots, it’s a safe bet that the next two films will give us more of the same.

So, are there any other points of comparison we could make?

About Peter T. Chattaway

Peter T. Chattaway was the regular film critic for BC Christian News from 1992 to 2011. In addition to his film column, which won multiple awards from the Evangelical Press Association, the Canadian Church Press and the Fellowship of Christian Newspapers, his news and opinion pieces have appeared in such publications as Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Bible Review and the Vancouver Sun. He also contributed essays to the books Re-Viewing The Passion: Mel Gibson’s Film and Its Critics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004) and Scandalizing Jesus?: Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ Fifty Years on (Continuum, 2005).

  • http://decentfilms.com SDG

    FWIW, the Goblin King strongly suggested to me Peter Jackson’s homage to, or version of, Boss Nass: an obese CGI king of a kingdom below the surface, with a showy vocal performance by a distinctively deep-voiced actor (Barry Humphries, the voice of Bruce the shark in Finding Nemo), and whose fat jiggles distractingly as he moves his head.

  • http://modigmovie.com Modigliani

    The ring = Anakin
    Sarumon = Palpatine
    Sauron = The Emperor
    Gandalf = Older Jedi
    Bilbo = Obi Wan

  • Rina

    You forgot Azog = Maul.

  • http://southerngospelyankee.wordpress.com yankeegospelgirl

    I’m personally hoping that Jackson’s love for the material will show up better in the next two installments since he’s left himself much of the story’s meat still to work with after #1. Think about Beorn, guys! We haven’t seen Beorn yet. All bets are off ’til we’ve seen what they do with him. And Smaug too.

  • Fred Garvin

    Jar-Jar was squeezed into virtually every scene; Jackson had the decency to use Radagast and his bunny sleigh sparingly.

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