What The Hobbit must have

With producer Peter Jackson and director Guillermo Del Toro set to host a live chat Saturday about their impending film adaptation of The Hobbit, movie site The Deadbolt has posted an excellent article about the "Seven Things We Want From The Hobbit." They’re spot-on. There’s a lot of detail to each one, but the site’s seven basic demands are:

1. It has to be funny.
2. It needs to work as a stand-alone film.
3. The whole movie can’t be about the Battle of the Five Armies.
4. Smaug needs to be a classic movie villain first, dragon second.
5. Don’t cut out all of the songs.
6. Explain the ring.
7. Don’t be afraid to make Gandalf a bit of a bastard.

In the item about Smaug, I particularly like this bit:

Renaissance festivals and lackluster CGI have defanged the dragon for modern
film audiences, so how can Del Toro hope to make Smaug as cool as he needs to
be? Our advice – concentrate on the drama and dialogue of the Smaug scenes first
and worry about his design later. Smaug, first and foremost, needs to be a
classic villain – we’re talking Hannibal Lecter, Darth Vader, Hans Gruber, etc.
– and we need to be much more afraid of his words and demeanor than his spiky
claws or teeth. In fact, Del Toro should use the scene in No Country for Old
Men between Anton Chigurh and the gas station owner as the model for the
tone and level of raised stakes in the Bilbo/Smaug scenes. Chigurh was so scary
it didn’t even matter that he had the haircut that he did, so if Smaug’s
character is handled correctly, it shouldn’t matter that movie audiences aren’t
afraid of dragons anymore.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Welcome, InstaPundit readers! If you’re interested in this topic, you should definitely read the Deadbolt article. It has way more detail than I’ve included here.

24 Responses to “What The Hobbit must have”

  1. Alasdair says:

    You speciesist !

    *Everyone* knows that Dragons are Ancient and Wise and Benevolent ! The other stories are propaganda by Orcs and Dark Elves !

    Dragons like Maidens because Dragons find that conversations with Maidens tend to be more refined, more tender, more satisfying …

  2. Mikey NTH says:

    During the conversations with Bilbo just emphasize Smaug’s personality.

    Smug. Vicious. Amused. Intelligent. Overwhelming presence. Slightly suave.

    Remember, he is a cat playing with a mouse until he drops all pretence and shows what an evil bastard he really is, and how he earned every inch of that reputation.

    (Query: What would a Patriot missile battery do to a dragon in flight?)

  3. Mikee says:

    The special effects for dragons reached the necessary stage of acceptability with the film DRAGONSLAYER back in the very early 80’s. With untranslated Latin used by the wizard, peasants and nobility who were for the most part very “Middle Ages” and facile religious subplots, the only thing the movie did that was jarring was cast a pretty boy with curly blond hair in the lead – and even that worked out OK as he quickly found that looks and charm got him not very far with a dragon….

    So Smaug will work visually, have no doubt of it. As long as the book’s story line is adhered to more than not, the film will be a grand success.

  4. MEC2 says:

    While digitally rendered, I found the dragon in Beowulf to be the best depiction of late.

    Reign of Fire had decent ones as well.

    Just don’t give me Dragonheart. Yikes.

  5. Patrick Carroll says:

    I want Mke Myers to voice Smaug, in the style of Dr. Evil.

    Oh, come on! You know you want to see a dragon say “…and I want a golden toilet, but it’s just not on, baby!”

  6. Sigivald says:

    In other words, it should be just like the animated version, only not animated.

  7. Matt says:

    On the point of humor, as funny as the arrival of the dwarves/breakfast part is, it will be even funnier if they include the backstory to it (recounted in Unfinished Tales). Not only is Gandalf conning Bilbo into going with Thorin & Co., he is conning Thorin into taking Bilbo (having inadvertently given the dwarves the impression that Bilbo is a burglar). And the whole thing nearly blows up in his face as the dwarves are less than impressed by Bilbo; the only thing that saves the whole plan is the map.

    A problem I see in adapting the narrative in the book to a movie is Gandalf’s disappearance prior to entering Mirkwood. In the book, Tolkien gets away with very little explanation, but I’m not so sure that will work in the movie.

    Adding the White Council, the battle to expel Sauron from Dol Guldur, and other backstory material is almost a necessity if Jackson/Del Toro want to stretch the story out over two movies, set Bilbo’s adventure within the context of the broader War of the Ring story, and generally make it more “prequelish”.

  8. tbrosz says:

    Richard Boone voiced Smaug in the animated version. Let’s hope this version does half that well.

  9. Kevin says:

    I say Smaug should be modeled on Glaurung, Tolkien’s dragon in The Silmarillion. That was one icy bastard. He’d rather drive you to suicide by laying a guilt trip on you than to roast you alive like any old low-life worm.

  10. pursesnatcher says:

    I no longer have any confidence that Hollywood can make a serious movie about the very serious kinds of things that Tolkien described. For example, the last episode of the Lord of The Rings was the very point of the entire series of books. We must be willing to fight and to do so bloodily at home as well as away to destroy the infection of evil. Indeed evil easily infects the moreally weak. The movie simply skipped in its entirety The Cleansing of the Shire.

    Who cares what they do with The Hobbit?

  11. Tim McDonald says:

    What the TWO Hobbit movies should include.

    The beginning of the Arwen/Aragorn/Denethor story, where Elrond informs Aragorn if he is to have Arwen then he must be king of the united Gondor/Arnor kingdom. Aragorn in his youth goes to Gondor, rises to prominence in the service of Denethor’s father, leads the Gondorian navy to into the harbor of the Pirates of Umbar, and burns the place to the ground! I DEMAND TO SEE THAT SCENE! The clensing of Dol Guldur. The Battle of 5 Armies and of course the battle with Smaug.

  12. Mike says:

    Um, Tim, why should the movie(s) include events that are not included in the novel the movie(s) is/are based on?

  13. dan says:

    Those are a pretty good list – first and foremost, the film should not be given to Jackson; the brand has proven it can attract $billions even with a hippie idiot like Jackson at the helm.

    Since that isn’t going to happen, YES – make it a Lot like the animated movie, that would be great. But just as another poster alluded to, treat the themes of evil and good seriously, and not as some form of propaganda to sneer at. In the Lord of the Rings Jackson completely misrendered Gandalf’s character, and Sam and Frodo were pathetic – there was no inner nobility and strength, despite their size, which is the basic point of these stories. They just sort of stumbled along, quavering, until… the end.

    Do not make Gollum funny or sympathetic in The Hobbit! The one flickering moment of Bilbo’s recognition of his empathy for Gollum is a second or two long – conveyed without dialogue, just as in the book!

    Resist the urge to make the battle more than a gigantic fanfare at the end; everyone knows when they first read it what they loved was the Shire, the slow development of the plot, then the increasingly fantastic encounters. Personally I remember feeling like that was a footnote to the great obyssey I’d just read. Make the movie as subtle as the book is! The whole lovely thing about the narrative is how you begin with basically a Victorian gentleman in his little suburb and draw him out into the fantastic world, culminating in the totally unlikely revelation of his central role in it. Stay true to the book – if some scene or sentiment strikes you as prejudiced or ideological, resist the temptation to editorialize over Tolkein! The fact that you are required to make the movie does not in any way put you in a such a position of authority – you, Mr. Jackson, should be completely invisible! And if you have to make it 3 hours, make it 3 hours, or don’t make it! Don’t f-ck this up!

  14. dan says:

    *…then the increasingly fantastic encounters, and Biblo’s growing self-confidence through his trials along with his growing significance to the group – from grocer, to burglar, to unlikley hero.

  15. OMFG_LOL says:

    I’ll be satisfied if they only get a better actor for Bilbo this time: Danny Devito. Short, jolly, never met an ale he didn’t like. Why, he starts out halfway to hobbithood without even acting!

  16. Blademonkey says:

    As long as it ain’t turned into “In the Name of The King” or similar Renfaire rejects, I’m good.


  17. Sigfried says:

    I agree with the comments saying it should be at least as well done as the animated version. tbrosz is so very right- the voice of Richard Boone as Smaug was the crowning achievement of that version. When he said “Hello, thief. I can’t see you, but I can smell you.” it had a powerful creepiness rarely experienced in modern film, and far more effective than anything in Jackson’s three movies loosely based on a novel by Tolkien.

  18. Pauly says:

    The one thing I really want Smaug to be is to be HUGE. In the books he’s something like 500 feet long (from memory). He has to have the physical presence to lay waste to a goodly sized town and bring down half a mountainside.

    Nothing some wimpy teenager (yes I am looking at you Eragon) could ride. We’re talking about some “opening scene from Star Wars where the star destroyer goes on forever” shots.

  19. El Cerdo says:

    NO SONGS! None! Those God-awful pieces of fecal mater almost ruined the whole thing!

  20. dmoss says:

    Don’t make everyone gay. That nearly ruined lord of the Rings. I have no interest in watching a gay hobbit and a dozen of his gay dwarf friends prancing about Middle Earth chewing the scenery. If you have to have gay characters, make the ogres gay.

  21. Chris says:

    Burns writes: “We’re sure that there’s some footnote or appendix that explains why Bilbo could wear the ring for weeks and be fine and why, several years later, the ring turned Frodo into an emo-looking mess. ”

    Actually, there isn’t. And here Jackson is to blame for ridiculously exaggerating the effect of wearing the Ring in his movies. I suspect what they will have to do is drastically reduce the amount of time Bilbo wears it.

  22. Chris says:

    Burns writes: “We’re sure that there’s some footnote or appendix that explains why Bilbo could wear the ring for weeks and be fine and why, several years later, the ring turned Frodo into an emo-looking mess. ”

    Actually, there isn’t. And here Jackson is to blame for ridiculously exaggerating the effect of wearing the Ring in his movies. I suspect what they will have to do is drastically reduce the amount of time Bilbo wears it.

  23. John Davies says:

    Tim Curry.