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April 10, 2013

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – a sneak preview of first footage

Running rings round Tolkien? … Peter Jackson on the set of The Hobbit.

Running rings round Tolkien? … Peter Jackson on the set of The Hobbit.

Peter Jackson’s preview of the sequel to the Rings prequel shows the director taking fresh liberties with Tolkien’s work.

By Ben Child

The first instalment in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, An Unexpected Journey, may not have swept the board at the Oscars or even ended up as one of the year’s best-reviewed films, but audiences seemed to warm to the New Zealand film-maker’s epic, expanded take on (the first third of) JRR Tolkien‘s gentle and breezy 1937 children’s fantasy. At some point along the line there are going to be some very confused youngsters dipping into the 250-page book after watching all three movies and wondering what on Middle-earth happened to Radagast, Galadriel, Saruman and all that fighting, but hey … childhood’s tough.

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February 2, 2013

Think of Bread in General: On Making Books Into Movies



By Alan Levinovitz

When Christopher Tolkien recently broke a 40-year public silence in Le Monde, he did not have kind words for Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings: “They eviscerated the book by making it an action movie for young people aged 15 to 25, and it seems that The Hobbit will be the same kind of film.”

Tolkien snubbed an invitation to meet with Jackson, and, as his father’s literary executor, he has sworn not to allow adaptations of material over which he has control (like The Silmarillion). Had it been his choice, Jackson’s blockbusters would likely never have been produced, and certainly not in their present form. But it wasn’t his choice. In 1969, United Artists made a prescient purchase from the elder Tolkien: £100,000 for full rights to movies and derived products for The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. And that was that.

The result, according to Christopher Tolkien, was nothing less than disastrous: “[J.R.R.] Tolkien has become a monster, devoured by his own popularity and absorbed into the absurdity of our time. The chasm between the beauty and seriousness of the work, and what it has become, has overwhelmed me. The commercialization has reduced the aesthetic and philosophical impact of the creation to nothing.”

Admirers of Jackson’s work may find such comments a touch melodramatic, if not downright inaccurate. Salman Rushdie, for instance, appears to favor the films over the originals: “Jackson’s cinematic style, sweeping, lyrical, by turns intimate and epic, is greatly preferable to Tolkien’s prose style, which veers alarmingly between windbaggery, archness, pomposity, and achieves something like humanity, and ordinary English, only in the parts about hobbits.”

Then again, there’s A.O. Scott on The Hobbit: “Tolkien’s inventive, episodic tale of a modest homebody on a dangerous journey has been turned into an overscale and plodding spectacle.”

Taste is a difficult thing to arbitrate, making debates like these fun but virtually irresolvable. Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that the participants all share a common assumption, which often remains unexamined. Rushdie puts it simply: “Everyone accepts that stories and movies are different things.” Indeed. But how, exactly? Is one a higher art form than the other? More illuminating? More demanding? Does one strengthen children’s brains while the other is more likely to rot them?

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November 23, 2012

Tolkien estate sues Hobbit producers over video and gambling games

The Hobbit: an unexpected journey to the lawyers

Lawsuit alleges Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit merchandising infringes copyright and upsets fans.

By Alison Flood

“Irreparable harm” has been done to JRR Tolkien’s legacy by gambling games featuring characters from The Lord of the Rings, according to an $80m (£50m) lawsuit filed by the Tolkien estate against the producers of the imminent film of The Hobbit.

The suit [PDF], filed in a Los Angeles court on Monday, sees the Tolkien estate, its trustees and publisher HarperCollins taking legal action against Warner Bros, its subsidiary New Line Productions and the Saul Zaentz Company’s Middle-earth Enterprises. It alleges that they have infringed the copyright granted to them by releasing gambling games and online video games based on Tolkien’s inventions, claiming that the 1969 sale of film rights only included limited merchandising rights to use characters, places, objects and events referenced in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. These limited rights included the right to sell “tangible” products such as “figurines, tableware, stationery items, clothing, and the like”, but did not include “electronic or digital rights, rights in media yet to be devised or other intangibles such as rights in services”.

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December 22, 2011

First Trailer for Peter Jackson’s ‘The Hobbit’ Is Here!

The Hobbit

By Rob W. Hart

It’s still hard to believe that movies based on JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit are actually happening. Years of legal wrangling and a failed start with director Guillermo del Toro made it seem like we’d have to live with Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy as the only cinematic interpretation of Tolkien’s work–which, admittedly, is not a bad thing to live with.

Then Jackson stepped back up to the plate, made the brilliant decision to cast Martin Freeman as Bilbo, and said he’d make two films out of The Hobbit.

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October 25, 2011

Tolkien’s Hobbit drawings published to mark 75th anniversary

The Art of the Hobbit reveals Tolkien's visual imagination through 100 works. Photograph: JRR Tolkien, courtesy of the Tolkien estate/HarperCollins

Extensive collection of illustrations and paintings show fantasy author was an accomplished artist.

By Alison Flood

A swath of JRR Tolkien’s original illustrations for The Hobbit are to be published for the first time this week as part of celebrations to mark the 75th anniversary of the book’s publication.

The published version of The Hobbit includes around 20 illustrations by its author, as well as the well-known dust jacket painting of the mountains which Bilbo Baggins passes through on his adventures. But when HarperCollins began preparing for the book’s 75th anniversary next year, the publisher discovered Tolkien had actually created more than 100 illustrations, which lay buried in his archive at the Bodleian Library in Oxford and were only recently digitised.

“That was a surprise. I thought there might be 40-50 in total,” said publisher David Brawn. “But there are 110 Hobbit pictures, about two dozen of which haven’t been published before.”

Ranging from line drawings in ink to watercolours and sketches, the collected drawings will be published on 27 October as The Art of the Hobbit. HarperCollins hopes the collection and the anniversary will shed new light on the fantasy author – and on his first novel.

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March 8, 2011

Hobbit films may be given separate titles

New Line Cinema has registered the subtitles There and Back Again and An/The Unexpected Journey for Peter Jackson’s forthcoming pair of Hobbit films, say reports.

By Ben Child

Say my name ... the cast of The Hobbit in New Zealand. Photograph: Marty Melville/Getty Images

Each of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films was allocated its own name. Now it seems that the film-maker’s forthcoming pair of Hobbit films may also be individually monikered.

JRR Tolkien fan site reports that New Line Studios, the Warner Brothers offshoot that is co-producing the two movies alongside MGM, has registered titles for the new project. It has not been confirmed that either will be used when the movies hit cinemas in 2012 and 2013, but for what it’s worth, they are The Hobbit: There and Back Again and The Hobbit: An/The Unexpected Journey.

 At first glance, the two titles do not appear to be obvious names for separate instalments, though each would be a fitting tag for the project as a whole. There and Back Again is Tolkien’s own alternative title for The Hobbit, while “My Unexpected Journey” is one of Bilbo Baggins’s discarded titles for the fictional Red Book of Westmarch, a manuscript detailing the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings from the perspectives of their protagonists.                                                           

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