Tell “The Hobbit” Screenwriters: What Do You Hope They Get Right?

Tell “The Hobbit” Screenwriters: What Do You Hope They Get Right? April 5, 2008

I was rereading a chapter of Watership Down the other night, refreshing my memory on the way that Richard Adams builds such excruciating suspense without sacrificing beautiful descriptive language. And I began worrying about what might happen when Hollywood gets around to cooking up another big-screen version of this great story.

That got me worrying about The Hobbit… again. (As if I don’t have enough to worry about.)

Let’s compose an open letter to the screenwriters of The Hobbit, now that we have some idea of who they’ll be. Let’s tell them our concerns…

When Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring opened, the Internet nearly exploded as fans voiced their views on what the filmmakers got right and what they got wrong. The buzz took on dimensions Star Wars had never known simply because there was Source Material, and often that material differed in substantial ways with what we saw onscreen.

Let’s pretend that the screenwriting team for The Hobbit is paying attention to what the fans want to see. What scenes in The Hobbit are closest to your heart? What lines are most important in the story? What can you imagine the filmmakers might be tempted to do in revising and expanding the story, and would you agree, or would your stand up in defense of Tolkien’s own story?

What would think if they gave Bilbo a love interest? Surely, in a story that contains no prominent female character at all, that’s going to be a temptation.

What would you think if they found ways to bring younger versions of characters from The Fellowship into this story? Would you cheer that choice? Or would you boo it as an obvious ploy to try and copy “what worked” in the earlier films?

What other points of contention do you anticipate?

If you could send the screenwriters a wish-list, what would the main points be?

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6 responses to “Tell “The Hobbit” Screenwriters: What Do You Hope They Get Right?”

  1. Also, since it is a del Toro film, I want to see Gandalf plaid by Federico Luppi and Ron Perlman as the voice of Smaug.

  2. Don’t preserve the flaws just because it might anger some purists. No, there are no female characters in The Hobbit. That’s a bad thing. Lewis and Tolkien’s misogyny keeps many feminists, both male and female, from enjoying these powerful myths. (I say this as a feminist whose wife still cries during the Rankin Bass cartoon. I’m grateful we discovered myth before theory.) But why would a female character need to be a love interest? This film will not only be Tolkien’s story, but Guillermo del Toro’s, and a del Toro film with no Ofelia or Carmen or even, dare I say, a Liz Sherman or Dr. Tyler would surely suffer.

    I want to see Legolas among the elves who capture Bilbo and the dwarves. He doesn’t need lines, it needn’t even be Orlando Bloom, but I want to see him, even if he’s just standing there… giving approval.

  3. I agree that the outdoor adventure should be the main focus of the film, as it was in the book. A large part of the book was simply about Bilbo’s wonderment at seeing the wider world for the first time. Unlike Frodo and Sam, who saw wonders in the midst of a life or death struggle, Bilbo was, in his mind, on a very great adventure and he rarely had any reason to doubt that he would survive to the end.

    I agree that there are adventures aplenty in The Hobbit, and there is little need to embellish for the sake of action. I fear though, that the continued plan to turn it into two movies will mean that we will get an extended prologue of Dwarves fighting Smaug and an extended epilogue of Gandalf in the tower of the Necromancer of Mirkwood. Or, even worse, we’ll get all that mixed right in with the story of Bilbo, so we’ll be constantly cutting away to catch up with Gandalf. The whole point of The Hobbit was that Gandalf was MYSTERIOUS, and he simply came and went as he pleased, with little or no explanation.

    After the overlong festival of narcissism that Return of the King turned into, I have low hopes for any Tolkein film from Peter Jackson(unless he decides to make Roverdom, which would be great). Del Toro’s presence gives me great hope, but still tempered by the fact that Jackson, Boyens and Walsh will be behind the scenes.

    No matter what, I’ll probably still love the Rankin/Bass film better, since I’ve loved it for as long as I can remember.

  4. Dave Nelson’s advice is excellent. Read the Hobbit for what it is and go from there. Do not start with the LOTR movies.

    Have respect and make a self-sufficient and working script. Then add a few carfully placed allussions to the LOTR.

    What scene is most important to me? The scene when Bilbo re-enters the shire a recites a very serious poem. Gandalf looks at Bilbo is surprise and tells Bilbo that he has changed.

    Unfortunatly the single most important line in the book (in my little world) could not be trasnlated to a movie in any fashion. It is the closing paragraph of the chapter in Eagle’s eyrie. (wow. I have no idea how to spell that word) Tolkiendrops us a beautful line about Bilbo having a dream in which he is searching for something and he doesn’t know what it is. As I said totally intransferably as far as a movie to book is concerned.

    I wouldn’t be totally opposed to cameo from previous LOTR actors. AS LONG as they are there to add to the story, not distract from it. Heck I wouldn’t even mind seeing Orlando a little bit. As a minor character. Other characters my opinion would very. You would have to try very hard to sell me on some (such as members of the White Council, Galadriel and Saruman. Even Gimli is technicaly old enough) There is a lot of room for short fullfilling cameo’s and a lot of room for painful tortue.

    Let’s hope some screenwriters spend some thoughtful time reading and rereading the Hobbit.

  5. Looking Closer reader Dave Nelson sent his opinion to me via email. Here it is:

    The following opinion was The screenwriters should be urged to depend on the book. They should ignore the existence of any LOTR movies. The movie of “The Hobbit” should be based on fresh readings of what Tolkien wrote; no commitments should be made ahead of time to any of the actors from Jackson’s movies, to New Zealand, to WETA CGI, etc. etc. There are no females at all in the book. The urge to introduce them should be resisted.

    At the same time, we are talking here about a movie for release in, say, 2010, not a children’s book from 1937. The “Tra-la-la-la-lally” Rivendell stuff probably cannot make the transition. In any event it represents an immature stage in Tolkien’s own conception of Elves.

    The pacing of the movie should reflect that of the book. The book is well stocked with adventures; no additional ones are needed. Much of the book is simply about journeying and being outdoors. Tolkien had much feeling for that kind of experience. It should come across in the movie as much as possible. The audience will probably come around, for the most part. Those who insist on battening on slam-bang fights, chases, etc. don’t have to attend.

    Dale Nelson

    Do you agree?

  6. As far as bringing in characters from The Fellowship in, I wouldn’t mind minor, brief cameos of certain Hobbit characters as long as they don’t detract from the story.

    My real concern is having Legolas present in Thranduil’s Halls, with Orlando Bloom reprising the role. I can totally see them writing him into the story to sell the movie more.

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