So The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is nearly upon us, excited? Well it’s a long-awaited return to Middle-earth for a start. The original trilogy was spectacular – some might say it was this generation’s Star Wars. Peter Jackson is back at the helm and, where possible, the original cast have returned. Even the new cast members look fantastic, what could go wrong?
Well it’s a prequel and the mention of Star Wars above is no accident, we will not be alone in remembering the excitement followed by crushing disappointment of The Phantom Menace back in 1999. The original creator was at the helm and it was more Star Wars, what could go wrong? The faults with that film are well documented but how about this for an argument; it wasn’t all Lucas’s fault. The problems experienced were simply endemic when making prequels. The film was so desperate to have things tie in with the classic trilogy that everything else fell by the wayside. Free of these constraints and Lucas could have written any story he wanted. Would the film have been any better, well no one knows but it would have had a fighting chance. Another problem is that everyone knew how it ended before it even began. Whilst there are some good scenes and the finales of each film aren’t too bad, the tension just isn’t there. The audience knew Anakin’s story arc before the trailer was even released and, let’s be honest, where is the appeal in that?
It’s not just Star Wars, think of the disappointment experienced when viewing Prometheus. Once again everything was in place for the film to be great, but it wasn’t. The first half of the film was fantastic but the problems started when Ridley Scott tried to tie everything in with the existing Alien universe. At this point things just stopped making sense. What was the black goo? Why did the tentacle creature implant Shaw with an alien – from what we have learned about the xenomorphs from the other films this in itself doesn’t make sense. The list of questions raised within the film doesn’t end there. Just consider if Prometheus had been a standalone project and how much more effort could have gone into the story if it hadn’t been awkwardly shackled to the Alien films.
Now, back to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. It’s a great book and a fantastic story already exists in J. R. R Tolkien’s book. So, unlike other prequels an engaging story already exists. However, consider that The Hobbit is only one book, not a trilogy, so why do we have three films heading our way? Aside from the obvious financial benefit to the studio, Jackson appears to want to link the stories more closely together, bridging the gap between The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring. Fundamentally this could be prove interesting, but let’s hope he doesn’t expend too much time and energy desperately trying to tie everything to the original trilogy and remembers to focus on a making damn good films in their own right.
Prequels in themselves can prove interesting to fans. There is an appeal to seeing on the big screen what has previously only existed in people’s imaginations. Film-makers just need to remember the inherent limitations they bring with them and make sure that their film works on its own merit as well as part of a bigger story… see you in the queue for The Hobbit!