Could Tolkien Have Fixed The Hobbit Films?

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Post by davidjoneshoward on Fri Aug 28, 2015 8:19 pm

This is not a well known fact but in 1960 had planned on rewriting the Hobbit into a mature, lord of the rings like novel, although he gave up after 3 chapters in after the advise from a good friend to stop (Mad). You could find it in The History of the Hobbit, Volume II. For anyone interested, it's well worth checking out. The only way to read it however is by purchasing the book, so instead you could read this, which has the gist of it:

http://www.minastirith.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=print_topic;f=3;t=000219

After finding out about this it's always left me wondering: if this vision was completed, could this fix PJ's vision of the films? Yes and no, in my opinion. If PJ adapted TH from the 1960 rewrite, I'm sure there would still be many things he didn't get right about it. Meaning we'd always have places like this forum to complain about it. Though I must admit that's the least of my concerns. What I would be seriously concerned about is that regardless of whether PJ is adapting a children's story or adult story his big, big ego would come in the way and he would take liberties that needn't be taken.

On the plus side, I'm sure if we got the adaptation that's based on the 1960 rewrite rather than the original, then we'd get a movie that is darker because the material is already darker, instead of the material feeling like a forced attempt to be darker. In addition to that, I think we'd get considerably less transitions to stupid fart jokes, and the dialogue would be much better because the screenwriters wouldn't have to make it up this time. In short, everything would be better because it's all done for PJ and it wouldn't be COMPLETELY coming out his own ass.

Any thoughts regarding this? Do you think PJ would be stupid enough to add Azog this time around if he was given the opportunity? Do you think Bard would have had two daughters and a dead wife?


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Post by halfwise on Fri Aug 28, 2015 8:34 pm

I think it may have helped. The problem with PJ isn't his ego - I don't think he has a huge ego. I think it's that his vision is too childish: there's just things he wants to see on screen come hell or high water. He thinks it would be great to see a battle on the rapids with dwarves in barrels. He gets caught up in the look and forgets the logic.

If he had been given more to work with (like LotR) this may have quelled some of his impulses.

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Post by davidjoneshoward on Fri Aug 28, 2015 8:54 pm

Interesting you mention that, halfwise. I wonder how Tolkien would have handled the barrel riding scene in the 1960 rewrite. Probably would have been exactly like was in the book, except it paid a lot more attention to detail. I a lot more interested in how they would have conveyed the battle of five armies while Bilbo is asleep, and how Thorin, Fili and Kili would have specifically died (and maybe some more deaths along the way eh?)

Tolkien probably wouldn't have put the Dol Gul Dor subplot in at all (but would have made it better than PJ), just a few references is all that's needed, and I would have been happy
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Post by Pettytyrant101 on Fri Aug 28, 2015 9:04 pm

he gave up 3 chapters in after the advise from a good friend to stop- Daviejones

I think the advice he got was crucial however- it no longer felt like TH.
This is exactly the problem encountered by PJ when trying to alter the tone to LotR's- its not that you cant do it, its that you cant do it without killing at heart the very things which make TH the Hobbit.
And its important to remember Tolkien agreed and never looked on the decision. He was in the end more concern with preserving the feel of the original work and it meaning than he was it fitting more neatly into the tone of LotR's.

The difference between Tolkien and PJ, in this and so many other matters, is Tolkien knew when to stop.

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Post by davidjoneshoward on Fri Aug 28, 2015 9:25 pm

you cant do it without killing at heart the very things which make TH the Hobbit. - Petty

Regardless I still think it's unfortunate he stopped. For me reading this new more mature version isn't about trying to preserve anything of the original, it's about looking the depicted events in an alternate point of view (the way it actually occurred); it's about getting deep into all of the characters instead of just Bilbo, Thorin, and Gandalf.
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Post by Radaghast on Fri Aug 28, 2015 11:08 pm

davidjoneshoward wrote:This is not a well known fact but in 1960 had planned on rewriting the Hobbit into a mature, lord of the rings like novel, although he gave up after 3 chapters in after the advise from a good friend to stop (Mad).
I'm glad he did stop, though I wish a few more things could have been tailored to fit in better with TLotR. But, at the end of the day, TH is a children's story and that's probably how it's regarded in Middle-earth as well. The stuff that doesn't jive all that well with TLotR is just stuff thrown in for the kiddies.

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Post by Mrs Figg on Sat Aug 29, 2015 12:02 am

I actually think you can sum up the differences between PJ and Tolkien with one scene, the barrel ride. As Halfy said, PJ just wanted some geewizz acrobatic technological wizardry, so he went for it big time. all his toys came out to play. if you read Tolkiens version all you really get is Bilbo's loneliness and his uncomfortable horrible cold. You get the impression of a huge expanse of stone cold water, anxiety and feeling ill. that's it. compare and contrast to Legolas doing the fandango on someones head and you get my drift.

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Post by dak on Sat Aug 29, 2015 2:23 am

If Tolkien had written it with a darker tone it still wouldn't have been enough. It's a smaller story with not enough epicness for a Lotr prequel. I wonder how Jackson would have padded out Lotr if it had been a lot shorter.

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Post by davidjoneshoward on Sat Aug 29, 2015 4:35 am

dak wrote:If Tolkien had written it with a darker tone it still wouldn't have been enough. It's a smaller story with not enough epicness for a Lotr prequel. I wonder how Jackson would have padded out Lotr if it had been a lot shorter.

That's the beauty of it all. It wouldn't have been as padded even if the story was smaller than LOTR because Tolkien would have been driving the vision, not PJ.

Also Peter Jackson already did pad LOTR somewhat:

-Aragorn falling off the cliff when everyone knew he wasn't dead

-Showing Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli beg the ghosts to come fight when that could easily been implied and still be effective

-Forcing Sam to Leave (but personally I loved this addition, though I could see why this added drama seems like padding)

-Elves showing up at Helms Deep (I have mixed feelings about this: ½ of me likes the idea of the elves honoring the alliance with men one last time, and another ½ of me feels it misses the entire point of the battle. What was the point of the whole drama with how the Rohirim would survive with such limited numbers if they were just about to be saved by the elves?)

-Faramir becoming a threat to Frodo and Sam (again I liked it because it made the character more complex, but after that his character turned so noble it seemed like an inconsistency)

Theres tons more of it if I thought about it. Funny how it's hard to find any padded parts in FotR — back when he didn't have the entire studios money to his expense
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Post by Forest Shepherd on Sat Aug 29, 2015 4:39 am

dak wrote:If Tolkien had written it with a darker tone it still wouldn't have been enough. It's a smaller story with not enough epicness for a Lotr prequel. I wonder how Jackson would have padded out Lotr if it had been a lot shorter.

I just can't imagine the 20th century's fantasy epic being a lot shorter than it was. And I really don't want to imagine what additions Jackson and Co. would create in order to pad out this shorter work.

Also, the logic there simply does not follow. If LotR were a shorter work, no matter its popularity, the film executives that Jackson had gone to would not have greenlighted an expanded trilogy-version of the book. It would have been a single film instead.
I think we forget sometimes that the current film industry's affection for sci-fi and fantasy trilogies is something that has come about thanks in large part to the LotR films. We are putting the horse before the cart to say that Jackson would ever have had the opportunity to expand LotR if it were not as long as it was, considering that it was almost condensed into a single film at one point.

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Post by davidjoneshoward on Sat Aug 29, 2015 4:41 am

Mrs Figg wrote:I actually think you can sum up the differences between PJ and Tolkien with one scene, the barrel ride. As Halfy said, PJ just wanted some geewizz acrobatic technological wizardry, so he went for it big time. all his toys came out to play. if you read Tolkiens version all you really get is Bilbo's loneliness and his uncomfortable horrible cold. You get the impression of a huge expanse of stone cold water, anxiety and feeling ill. that's it. compare and contrast to Legolas doing the fandango on someones head and you get my drift.

I felt like they drove the theme of Bilbo's loneliness and uncomfortableness in AUJ right home. It may have not been as subtle as LOTR, but it was still established as an ongoing struggle for Bilbo throughout the whole mess of a film. Then after that, Bilbo's struggle arc ended abruptly, just like the Bilbo fitting in arc ended to, for no reason. Those arcs should have been going on up until spider scene, not after the eagle scene.
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Post by dak on Sat Aug 29, 2015 10:34 am

Forest Shepherd wrote:
I just can't imagine the 20th century's fantasy epic being a lot shorter than it was. And I really don't want to imagine what additions Jackson and Co. would create in order to pad out this shorter work.

Yeah if it wasn't the story it was it might never have been made. Just wondering why he messed around with the Hobbit so much in comparison with Lotr.

Forest Shepherd wrote:
I think we forget sometimes that the current film industry's affection for sci-fi and fantasy trilogies is something that has come about thanks in large part to the LotR films.

That I don't really see. Star Wars, Back to the Future, Road Warrior, Indiana Jones, Evil Dead trilogies were a common pattern before LoTR.

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Post by halfwise on Sat Aug 29, 2015 1:07 pm

The sci-fi was established since Star Wars (though that was maybe 1/4 fantasy). Not totally sure but I think Conan helped establish fantasy. If the Princess Bride had been a box office rather than a rental hit then it would have anchored fantasy, but otherwise I think LotR cemented it.

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Post by Mrs Figg on Sat Aug 29, 2015 4:35 pm

LOTR deffo cemented it. They tried epic fantasy before. although I did like 'Krull' a lot. Embarassed its quite nice with Portugese dubbing. Laughing


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Post by halfwise on Sat Aug 29, 2015 5:20 pm

Never seen Krull before. Very Happy Kind of hysterical how for no apparent reason they cribbed the opening visual from Star Wars. May have to add this to my netflix queue.

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Post by Mrs Figg on Sat Aug 29, 2015 5:24 pm

theres some excellent actors in Krull apart from the two main characters. Its vastly entertaining in a cheesy 80s kind of way. its quite endearing how innocent it all is.


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Post by Eldorion on Sun Aug 30, 2015 12:42 am

Although Tolkien's abortive Hobbit re-write was useful "propaganda" for the filmmakers and some of their apologists in recent years, I don't think it would've stopped PJ from making further changes. The White Council stuff, the endless LOTR callbacks, and the changes to motivation (including the resurrection of Azog and the Necromancer being the prime mover behind the Battle of Five Armies) would likely not have appeared even in a completed rewrite.

davidjoneshoward wrote:although he gave up after 3 chapters in after the advise from a good friend to stop (Mad).

I think what needs to be emphasized here is that Tolkien was not one to give up on an idea just because people advised him against it, even if he was close to and/or respected the opinions of those giving him that advice. That he abandoned the Hobbit rewrite so early and at the first negative feedback he received indicates that his heart wasn't set on it to begin with, despite his well-documented dislike of The Hobbit's style in his later life.
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Post by Eldorion on Sun Aug 30, 2015 12:49 am

dak wrote:Yeah if it wasn't the story it was it might never have been made. Just wondering why he messed around with the Hobbit so much in comparison with Lotr.

Tolkien had a well-documented dislike of The Hobbit's tone as a "children's book", but he also had a lot more time to revise The Hobbit.  He also had a long period to revise LOTR before it's publication, some 5-6 years elapsed between the book's completion and its appearance in print.  That said, he did quite a bit with LOTR too.  There was the full second edition in the mid-'60s, the secondary set of edits from that same time (the 2.5 edition, if you will, which for a long time was isolated to the Ballantine Books edition), and various notes and and minor revisions he made over the years.

That I don't really see. Star Wars, Back to the Future, Road Warrior, Indiana Jones, Evil Dead trilogies were a common pattern before LoTR.

I agree that sci-fi was well established by the '80s, in large part due to the success of Star Wars, although that was by no means the first.  But even though Star Wars is a genre-straddler with many elements of epic fantasy in it, it's legacy has primarily been on sci-fi (and especially space opera) rather than fantasy.  There was an '80s fantasy boom of sorts but those films remained niche and low budget, and very few could be considered epic fantasy anyway.  It was the near-simultaneous success of LOTR and the HP films that briefly made epic fantasy a thing in cinema, though several failed copycats later this nascent trend was absorbed into the more successful YA movie boom, with the exception of the ongoing but mostly failed efforts to turn fairy tales into epic fantasies.  However, Game of Thrones (which would not have been made without the success of LOTR) is in the process of beginning a new epic fantasy TV boom, though whether this burns out as quickly as the movie one from last decade remains to be seen.


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Post by Eldorion on Sun Aug 30, 2015 12:55 am

halfwise wrote:The sci-fi was established since Star Wars (though that was maybe 1/4 fantasy).  Not totally sure but I think Conan helped establish fantasy.  If the Princess Bride had been a box office rather than a rental hit then it would have anchored fantasy, but otherwise I think LotR cemented it.

I think it's difficult to speak of "fantasy" a single genre.  Fairy tale movies have been a cultural mainstay since Snow White and the Seven Dwarves back in the '30s, though of course their popularity in terms of new releases has fluctuated considerably from decade to decade.  Heroic/low fantasy movies such as Conan get churned out regularly as low-budget pandering projects, same as high concept sci-fi action films.  However, very few have achieved the cult status that you see regularly in the sci-fi genre.  Mythological films seen an uptick in popularity whenever sword-and-sandal/historical epic films come back in vogue, and they're probably the closest to epic fantasy that we saw for a long time.  But the combination of high budgetary demands, perceived (or real) niche interest, and lack of successful trend-setters left epic fantasy in the dark for a long time.  Although it's worth noting that it wasn't until the 1970s that epic fantasy really took off beyond Tolkien, Lewis, and arguably Le Guin (though I've always felt her work is substantially different from the first two such that I'm not comfortable just lumping it in).
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Post by Pettytyrant101 on Sun Aug 30, 2015 3:40 pm

My memories of the time immediately after the first Conan with Arnie was that it sparked a whole slew of similar sword and sorcery films- not just its own sequels but stuff like Red Sonja, Beast Master, Krull, Hawk the Slayer, and a ton of straight to video stuff, I mean a ton of cheap quickly knocked out Conan ripoffs- most of whom are probably lost mercifully to time and utter obscurity- but as a fantasy nut at young age I lapped them all up.

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Post by David H on Sun Aug 30, 2015 4:39 pm

I remember those. Rolling Eyes

One day back in 1981 I slipped off to the Sci Fi Convention at the Seattle Center when I should have been studying (well, maybe it was 3 days Embarassed ).

They showed us sneak peak footage of Conan while it was still in production and had hardly any buzz yet. It was like nothing we'd ever seen before!

I remember a lot of murmuring about "That's not science fiction! What's it doing HERE?" But I'd enjoyed the Howard short stories years before, and I couldn't wait for it's release!

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Post by Pettytyrant101 on Sun Aug 30, 2015 4:56 pm

The first Conan was a true blockbuster- and it looked unlike any sort of fantasy film before it- what it reminded me off most was the old Cecil B Demille biblical epics, they had that feel of scale, location shooting and this was combined with a more gritty reality.
And it was superbly shot and directed and lit.

The city especially reminds me of those old biblical epics-

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But it was also just really good on the eyes, every shot well framed-

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And even little moments were somehow epic-

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Post by Eldorion on Sun Aug 30, 2015 6:14 pm

Somehow I don't think that last shot is really from the movie. Laughing

But yeah, I think it's fair to say that Conan the movie did for heroic/low fantasy what LOTR the movie did for epic/high fantasy.  Which is fitting because the respective source material for both had much the same impact on written fantasy subgenres.
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Post by Pettytyrant101 on Sun Aug 30, 2015 6:23 pm

Somehow I don't think that last shot is really from the movie.- ELdo

Its from the epilogue, its only a still with the narration about the future Conan the King being a tale for another day scrolling over it.
It was supposed to set up the sequels as originally envisioned- Babrabrian first then um something I cant remember an King the final part of the trilogy, each film he grows and learns more about some aspect necessary to his eventual destined kingship.

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Post by halfwise on Sun Aug 30, 2015 6:26 pm

Petty - get with the culture. That's Conan photoshopped onto the Iron Throne from Game of Thrones.

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