What The Hobbit can learn from Star Wars
Advice from Mr Lucas to Mr Jackson:
As an admirer of your work, I am writing to you in anticipation of your soon to start filming Lord of the Rings prequel, The Hobbit. As a fan of filming prequels myself (I filmed three not two, which makes me vastly superior) I thought I could offer you some advice, man to man. Well man to hobbit.
You see Pete; this prequel business is bloody difficult. You wow the world, win awards, make millions of lovely green dough, and then when you finally get round to finishing your grandly conceived story- boom, the critics raise their irritatingly small heads. My advice- don’t bother. It will tarnish your reputation, ruin your dreams and result in you living life in a parody of the world you so lovingly created. But feel free to visit me at Skywalker ranch though, anytime.
George ‘feel the force’ Lucas
Ah, the Star Wars prequels. So well-conceived, so badly realised. Such a disappointment to fans worldwide who waited nigh on two decades to find out the back story to the world of Luke and Leia. It is always difficult following up such an epically successful film, let alone three, so in a way it wasn’t surprising that Star Wars I, II and III were such colossal failures. From terrible new characters such as Jar Jar Binks, to the wooden acting of Anakin to the sheer boredom of listening to political mumbojumble these films were a disaster from start to finish.
But fast forward a few years and here comes Peter Jackson, trying to succeed where Lucas failed. In following the immensely amazing Lord of the Rings films with a two part Hobbit adaptation, Jackson runs the risk of falling into the exact same pot holes that Lucas did. But never worry, help is at hand as here at BestForFilm, we have cunningly spied out these holes and are putting up huge ‘warning danger’ signs so that Jackson can safely negotiate and avoid these hazards. Phew.
Avoid coalitions between Dwarves and Wizards
Now firstly. Whatever you do- do not overcomplicate the plot with needlessly dull politics. Trade embargos might fascinate those involved, but they make a cinema audience start snoring. Especially when said politics isn’t even in English (What? It was? Hey, it is not my fault I do not understand regional dialects from outer space!) Now, in the Hobbit there are political forces at work- namely Dwarfial racial discrimination and the meeting of the wizards council to drive out Sauron from Mirkwood. While the dwarfs conjure enough laughs to pull off the slight political struggles, climaxing in the Battle of the Five Armies, the whole wizard debate is merely alluded to in the book- and it should stay this way in the film. Gandalf and Saruman had their chance to argue and debate (and fight in a wizened wizardy way) in the first trilogy, so there is no need to repeat it here. It detracts from the actual story- one small hobbit loose in the wilderness, facing dangers with limitless levels of courage and…no wait that was Frodo. Ah. Bilbo was a wimp? Not sure that is going to sit well with the audience…
Beware the dangers of recasting!
Recasting is a necessary evil of casting a character old then young. Here is where Jackson is much luckier with his chosen subject- elves, wizards and even men live extraordinarily long lives, meaning that generally speaking he can use the same cast. He is also onto a winner in that the time gap between the two sets of films is much smaller than in the case of Star Wars. Lucas meanwhile, had to recast the character of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Now, I have nothing against Ewan McGregor, I think he is a good solid actor. But trying to step into Alec Guinness’s shoes is like the ugly sister trying to fit into Cinderella’s glass slipper. It is just not physically possible. Guinness was a legend, his role beautifully understated, his ultimate sacrifice colossal. Whereas poor old McGregor was left with clunky dialogue, dull fights and the ignominy of being Samuel L. Jackson’s whipping boy. Now one of the few castings Jackson has had to make is the younger Bilbo, as Ian Holm would have been a tad senior to portrayal the young whippersnapper. So, into his role steps dum dum dum Martin Freeman. The casting is old news, so the drumroll was slightly unnecessary, but there you go. Freeman is slowly building up a following post Sherlock, and has the dry wit and sedated manner to play the tired and grumpy Bilbo. But has he got the charm and mischievous edge that Holm had? If not, Jackson please please, do not emphasise the parts in the story where frivolity is required. If he can’t do it, please don’t make us watch it. I can guarantee- audiences will weep if you do.
Do not let computers spoil the story
Lastly, let us discuss technology. The reason behind the lag between Star Wars trilogies was that Lucas was waiting for technology to catch up with his ideas, being unwilling to shoot without the enhancement of blue screen, CGI and other boyish geektastic programs. But in waiting for technology to catch up, he was so immersed in justifying his decision by filling the films with special effects that the story became the secondary concern. The Hobbit will rely on prosthetics to transform their main characters into pointy eared creatures, but will doubtless use CGI and motion capture technology for Gollum, the battle scenes and the eagles. Let’s hope Jackson uses this to enhance the film, as opposed to take away from the character arcs and plotlines. No one wants to see gratuitous Bilbo backflips, or orcs picking their noses half a mile away just because we can. Ok?
So there you have it, fingers crossed Jackson will heed these wise words and The Hobbit will be as amazing as The Lord of the Rings. All he has to do is avoid Jar Jar Binks lookalikes, keep true to the story and make sure everyone can actually act. Easy peasey.