Saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey last night. I can't tell you what I thought of it, because at the time I'm writing this, I have yet to actually go see it. This is like one of those "temporal anomaly" thingamabobs in Star Trek; Edith Keeler, is that you?
An Unexpected Journey is the first of three, count 'em, three movies based on J.R.R. Tolkien's book, and it's nearly three hours long. This sort of thing made sense when we were talking about three separate books, as was the case with the Lord of the Rings, which was what we refer to as a "trilogy."
There can be little doubt that Peter Jackson, like other directors before him, has become drunk on power. Can he, or any of his contemporaries be stopped?
The Hobbit thing wasn't really surprising. When your previous trilogy grosses almost three billion dollars, studios tend to loosen the reins on things like "notes" and "editorial control." I doubt anybody at New Line batted an eye when Jackson said -- apparently with a straight face -- he wanted to make three movies.
Then again,The Hobbit was roughly 300 pages when it was first published. At his current pace, Jackson will create nine or ten hours of movie footage for a book that one could read in just about the amount of time it would take you to sit through one of the films.
Yeah, I know, he's including all the "supplementary" stuff like what Gandalf was doing when he disappeared for long stretches of time, and the movies will answer important questions raised by the book, like, "Wouldn't it be great if this battle sequence stretched out for 30 minutes?" And, "I wonder what Galadriel was up to this whole time? You know, Galadriel, the character we don't even know exists at this point?"
If this condition has a name, it should probably be something like George Lucas Syndrome, for the first director I can think of who parlayed massive financial success into total editorial control of his films (Victor Fleming didn't live long enough after Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz to capitalize, for example, and we'll just take it as a given that Walt Disney was a megalomaniac from the get-go). Lucas, in fact, would be No. 1 on this list if not for removing himself by signing the rights to Star Wars over to Disney.
So who else is there? You could probably include Christopher Nolan, whose $1 billion haul for The Dark Knight contributed to the bloated Dark Knight Rises. However, sometimes one of these guys uses their powers for good, such as using a portion of your TDK leverage to get something like Inception made.
Steven Spielberg ranked pretty high on this list for a long time, and would've made a serious post-Lucas claim to the top spot on the basis of War Horse alone, except that Lincoln managed to dial back some of the Spielbergisms. Screenwriter Tony Kushner deserves a lot of that credit, however, and Lincoln still lingered a good 20 minutes past its logical endpoint.
Okay, it's several hours later and i just got back from The Hobbit. Decent flick, but holy Helm Hammerhand, Jackson really is going to pad the shit out of these: gratuitous character cameos, ridiculously protracted action sequences (see also King Kong), and about two dozen of those sweeping helicopter shots of the
fellowship company traipsing across New Zealand. Clearly the only way to put an end to this is for all of you to take a stand and refuse to buy tickets.
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