As of December 3, the early reviews for The Hobbit are pouring in. And if one thing is consistent, it’s that the reviews are inconsistent. That might just make it the best big screen prequel of all time.
Over the past 15 years, sequels and remakes have gotten even more popular as Hollywood struggles to reach a broad enough audience to reclaim its huge expenditures. But the red-headed step-child has been the prequel, which has disastrously disappointed fans when the big tent poles arrive. (Star Wars, Prometheus)
Why? What might set The Hobbit apart from the likes of Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd or X-men: First Class?
1. The Hobbit was not conceived as a prequel. It was the original story that The Lord of the Rings sprung out of. The original framework for the story isn’t forced to fit into a finite space, like the Star Wars prequels were.
2. You know how much Peter Jackson worships this universe. We won’t be expected to deal with any shaky “reboot” events in the story that don’t fit the other existing work. I’d have to say this was a huge mistake on the part of X-Men: First Class, Prometheus, and even JJ Abrams’ Star Trek.
3. It is truly connected to the other movies in the series. Some of you might bring up Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom as a prequel that worked (though not truly loved by fans the way Raiders of the Lost Ark is, to be sure.) However, Temple of Doom has no real relationship to the other movies. Indiana Jones is simply in both of them and Temple of Doom takes place earlier. There’s an element of anticipation in a connected story that Temple of Doom simply doesn't have.
4. The Lord of the Ring’s strongest characters will be back, complete with their great actors. Gandalf, Gollum, Bilbo, and Frodo will at least have something to do with this film, even if brief. As even the harshest of The Lord of the Rings critics would have to give credit to the performances of Ian McKellan, Andy Serkis, Ian Holm, and Elijah Wood, we know we’ll get to spend some time with favorite characters portrayed by the actors who brought them to life a decade ago.
5. Peter Jackson wields the closest thing to total control a director can get on a budget this big. While total control almost certainly hurt Star Wars for a lack of collaboration, I do believe that Phillipa Boyens, Fran Walsh, and a few million of Jackson’s other crew get to have a little more input, since they’re not shooting solely in front of a green screen.
6. The Hobbit will still feature epic action, spinning off from an epic action trilogy. Sorry, to my fellow Caprica fans, the Battlestar Gallactica prequel series brought great characters and stories, but lacked any real stakes through its run. While it may have been entertaining in a different way, fans were undoubtedly left wanting something more. That’s not likely to be the case in The Hobbit.
All that being said, Jackson has never been known for brevity. It’s likely that the total run time of The Hobbit movies will approach that of The Lord of the Rings,although it’s a much shorter book. And no one has ever said that The Lord of the Rings was too short.
For now, all we can do is cross our fingers that The Hobbit can finally break the prequel curse.