Adapting ‘The Hobbit’ for the Big Screen

As I mentioned briefly in my Top Ten Films of 2012 list, I really wanted The Hobbit to be great, and although it is certainly an enjoyable film, something about it just doesn’t seem quite right. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the book is essentially meant for children, and as such it is above all about adventure, not about some epic mission or battle between good and evil. In this way, it is episodic – it describes the various adventures Bilbo encounters on his journey instead of some grand overarching plot (although there is of course an end goal in mind). And of course, most obviously, the book is short. Much shorter than each of the installments of Lord of the Rings, which were each turned into one film, while this shorter work is being turned into three. There just simply isn’t enough to the story to make it to three 2.5- to 3-hour movies without it feeling a little strained. And it definitely did.

Adapting works from one medium to another is extremely common right now, whether it involves literature, film, television, video games, etc. This is something that writers of all kind need to take note of. The struggles of cross-media adaptation are many, and usually directly related to the work and media forms at hand, but The Hobbit represents one example of a literature-to-film adaptation that doesn’t quite work in some ways.

Philippa Boyens, one of the screenwriters on both the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit, discussed the struggles of adapting The Hobbit for the big screen in a recent interview. While admitting the difficulties involved in such a task, she defends the choices of the writers, producers, director, and studio. What do you think of her take?

Hobbit Week: A Conversation with Hobbit Screenwriter Philippa Boyens
Ethan Gilsdorf @ Wired

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If you have quibbles or major beefs about how The Hobbit was adapted for Peter Jackson’s movie trilogy, Philippa Boyens has answers.

The production has been surrounded in controversy, ever since it was announced that the 300-odd page novel by J.R.R. Tolkien would become not one film, but two. Then, in July, Jackson, Warner Brothers Pictures and MGM dropped the bomb that the adaptation would encompass three films. Many cried foul. Other cried greed.”

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