Lightning in a Bottle, an unfilmable story.
Last year, after a decade of speculation, failed starts and mountains of expectation, Peter Jackson released The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first in a trilogy of films adapting J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic fantasy novel, The Hobbit, for the big screen. Following in the footsteps of its bigger brother, Jackson’s adaptation of Lord of the Rings, a modern film classic in its own right, The Hobbit was almost destined to disappoint. With his first trilogy, Jackson captured lightning in a bottle. He took the movie industry by storm, and revitalized mainstream excitement for fantasy to a level not seen since the ’80s. He did so, somehow, by executing an enormous passion project that seemed almost impossible under the circumstances: no major stars, a production and special effects company that no one had heard of, a story deemed unfilmable by many fans, and a film industry that had not seen anything of its scale since Lucas’ Star Wars (which, in itself, faced many challenges and doubters before it found success.)
When Jackson first approached New Line Cinema, he pitched them on an adaptation of The Hobbit, with a two-film adaptation of Lord of the Rings to follow. As these things go, film rights to The Hobbit were split between two companies (which would again later impede production of The Hobbit trilogy we know today), while Lord of the Rings was entirely under the umbrella of New Line Cinema’s owner, Saul Zaentz. Jackson, a relative unknown in the world of big budget Hollywood films, was given the reigns to one of the most revered entertainment properties in the world. Continue reading
Remember back in your younger days when the hours would fly by as you dug through your bin of LEGO, bounded only by the limits of your imagination? Grown now, Alice Finch and David Frank have taken that concept to another level with their enormous recreation of Rivendell, The Last Homely House west of the Mountains, from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.
“This, of course, isn’t Finch or Frank’s first LEGO project,” explains Stew Shearer of The Escapist. “Both, in the past, took part in a collaborative project based on Hobbiton, another Tolkien location. Finch has also done a recreation of Hogwarts Castle, while Frank has built several complex castles. The two chose to build Rivendell in part because they believed it to “the ultimate challenge.”
This imagining, which takes visual cues from Peter Jackson’s film adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels, measures in at 10′ by 5′ and contains over 200,000 pieces of LEGO. Certainly puts my old childhood creations to shame. But, damnit, those had heart! This Rivendell just has… immense amounts of creative vision, talent and hardwork.
If there’s one takeaway from the first film in Peter Jackson’s film adaptation of The Hobbit, it’s that the writer/director’s tinkering with Tolkien’s lore, ostensibly for the sake of making a more
bloated exciting theatre-going experience, was less than successful. The additions of Azog, Radagast’s plight against the Necromancer, the absurdity in the hall of the Goblin King, and anything to do with the White Council were unnecessary to Bilbo’s story (which, at the end of the day, is what The Hobbit should be about), and raised concerns about the decision to extend the series of films from two volumes into a trilogy.
On the eve of the release of the second film, The Desolation of Smaug, Peter Jackson recently discussed the decision to add and expand on the characters of three elves, including fan favourite Legolas, played again by Orlando Bloom, and newcomer Tauriel, played by Evangeline Lily. “People always ask about Evangeline’s character Tauriel and why we felt the need to create her,” Jackson said, via /Film. “But in The Hobbit novel, [the dwarves] are captured by the elves and they escape in the barrels. And it’s a memorable part of the book but the Elf King is not even named. He doesn’t have a name. And it was only later on that Tolkien decided it should be Thranduil and he also decided he should have a son when Lord of the Rings was written 18-19 years later. He created the character of the son of the king. Continue reading
Trailer is here.
Huzzah! I’m just going to pretend I didn’t see that bit where the elves are snowboarding through the trees and shooting arrows at the Dwarves as they escape in the barrels. Nothing to see here folks, move along!
Oh, and, Smaug. Yum.
According to First Things, J.R.R. Tolkien once nixed a film adaptation of his classic novel, Lord of the Rings, by the Beatles. Better yet, the film was to be directed by Stanley Kubrick.
Via Patheos, First Things lays out the original plans:
Once upon a time, the Fab Four—having slain the pop charts—decided to set their sights on the Dark Lord Sauron by making a Lord of the Rings feature, starring themselves. One man dared stand in their way: J.R.R. Tolkien.
According to Peter Jackson, who knows a little something about making Lord of the Rings movies, John Lennon was the Beatle most keen on LOTR back in the ’60s—and he wanted to play Gollum, while Paul McCartney would play Frodo, Ringo Starr would take on Sam and George Harrison would beard it up for Gandalf. And he approached a pre-2001 Stanley Kubrick to direct.
More details came from a conversation between Paul McCartney and Peter Jackson, who successfully managed to coerce the Tolkien estate into giving up the film rights to the trilogy (something that Christopher Tolkien still hasn’t lived down):
McCartney told Jackson about the failed scheme when the two bumped into each other at the Academy Awards: “It was something John was driving and J.R.R. Tolkien still had the film rights at that stage but he didn’t like the idea of the Beatles doing it. So he killed it,” Jackson told the Wellington Evening Post in 2002.
“There probably would’ve been some good songs coming off the album,” said Jackson.
That Tolkien didn’t care for the Beatles will come as no surprise to fans of either one, but Tolkien’s letters give us a hint that his opposition to the Beatles may have had a more personal dimension.
I think the real question, though, is whether the Beatles/Kubrick film would have managed to feel even more like an acid trip than the terribly awesome (or awesomely terrible) Ralph Bakshi adaptation.