Friday, August 31, 2012

Release Dates and Titles for The Hobbit Trilogy confirmed!

You can look forward to completing your journey with "The Hobbit: There and Back Again" on July 18, 2014. According to Latino Review, the third film of The Hobbit Trilogy will be releasing on the very same juicy mid-July date that The Dark Knight occupied in 2008 (a window that, between Nolan and Potter, Warner has had "dibs" on ever since). So WB has at least one sure-fire mega-hit that summer. Which, judging from the release schedule for that year posted on Box Office Mojo, they kinda need. A lot.

By the way, am I the only one who finds it odd that The Hobbit Trilogy will release on Fridays rather than the yearly Wednesday dates used by the LOTR trilogy? If they held off until December 19th, they could release The Hobbit Part I eleven years to the day after Fellowship. I dunno, just seems a bit odd to pass up publicity like that.

More after the jump...

Interestingly enough, this newly-announced date for Hobbit 3 is going to cause a bit of a clash with Fox's sequel to X-men: First Class, which had had been eying this very same date for its "Days of Future Past" adaptation. I'm guessing Fox will blink first, likely opting for the late-July spot that worked so well for Captain America: The first Avenger.

Anyway, here's a bit from the Latino Review article with details on the second Hobbit film's new title, and some other stuff:

The Studios also announced the title of the second installment in the franchise, “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” which will be released on December 13, 2013. The first film in the trilogy, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” opens this holiday season, on December 14, 2012. Shot in 3D 48 frames-per-second, the trilogy of films will be released in High Frame Rate (HFR) 3D, other 3D formats, IMAX and 2D.

Dan Fellman, President of Domestic Distribution, Warner Bros. Pictures, stated:

“We wanted to have a shorter gap between the second and third films of ‘The Hobbit’ Trilogy. Opening in July affords us not only the perfect summer tentpole, but fans will have less time to wait for the finale of this epic adventure.”

Veronika Kwan Vandenberg, President of International Distribution, Warner Bros. Pictures, added:

“‘The Hobbit: There and Back Again’ will be an action spectacle and an emotional conclusion for this already much-anticipated trilogy. Opening in the summer will maximize playability for what promises to be an event film for fans the world over.”

So maybe it's just me, but those two statements seem to play as: "Hey guys, since we're drawing this out even more we won't make you wait a whole year for the end." followed by "And guess what a summer slot means to US!"

In all seriousness, I at least like the title "The Desolation of Smaug." And from what I can tell, it looks like Warner is very much taking the "Harry Potter" approach, splitting things so that the final film is more or less the climax to the entire endeavor, comes only half-a-year or so after the lead-up to said finale, and secures a prime summer release date. If it draws the same numbers as Harry Potter (or even remotely close), WB will be very happy indeed.

What does worry me is that this more or less cements the "structure" of the 3 films, and shows how things have settled since the late-in-the-game decision to rejigger the planned pair of movies into a trilogy. To whit, the original outline had roughly 2/3 of the text of The Hobbit (as well as whatever they pulled from the Appendices that could be in any remotely tangential way related) make up "An Unexpected Journey." This would leave the last 100 pages or so to the second film, which would include both the face-off with the dragon and the Battle of Five Armies (or the First Battle of Dale for you super-nerds).

NOW however, that final 100 pages seems to be divided into TWO films (unless they completely changed the structure of the first film 5 months out from release, which is a pitfall all its own). That. . . strikes me as problematic on many levels. For one, if we're assuming that the second film ends with Smaug's death (which the title HEAVILY implies), that leaves exactly one major event to fill the entire final film. That's very light indeed, especially given that it's only a single chapter in the book. I know that Harry Potter 7.5 largely took place during the Battle of Hogwarts, but that worked because the movie heavily focused on the main characters and their actions during the battle. Bilbo's involvement in the final showdown in The Hobbit is MUCH smaller. Hell, he's not even conscious for most of it. And it's not like the "Elsewhere in Middle-earth..." material can get much play here either, as Gandalf is back for the finale, not running around with the White Council.

I can't deny that this is a financially sound plan for the studios involved (especially since there are 2 major backers for this project) as I'm sure that a trilogy will be much more profitable than a one- or two-film adaptation. But I can't help feeling far more trepidation about this than I did for The Lord of the Rings leading up to its release. That was a project perfectly-suited to a film trilogy, who's show-runners had fought tooth and nail for the ideal circumstances to make a respectful adaptation that honored to the spirit of the work. Your personal mileage may vary on how much the films succeeded in that regard (for my money they did immensely, if not quite perfectly), but you can't deny the intent.

This feels more like someone brainstorming "Hey, Lord of the Rings was awesome and profitable, let's do more! Look, Tolkien wrote another book that's got a few of the same characters. . . I know, we should totally adapt that and make it just like The Lord of the Rings! We can fill it full of connections to the original trilogy, have lots of cameos from familiar characters, show this one character's beginnings, and embellish on largely unimportant elements that fans might recognize!"

Apart from sounding uncomfortably like Lucas' approach to the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy (yep, I just went there), that completely flies in the face of everything that the smaller, more intimate novel was about. The Hobbit was a bedtime story, a fairy tale rather than an epic myth. Forcing it into the same mold as The Lord of the Rings (which the film-makers have seemed intent on doing from the beginning) seems to me the very opposite of a respectful adaptation that honors the spirit of the work.

And that makes me very sad when I really want to be overjoyed at the prospect of seeing one of my most beloved books come to life. But I still hold out hope, even if only a fool's hope.

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