With the embargo over on reviews for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, I’ve seen numerous reviews pop up in my email. Several of which discuss The Hobbit as being a prequel. In some ways I suppose this is true. As far as the movies go, an argument can be made that since The Hobbit was made after the LOTRs films, that it is indeed a prequel. The inclusion of Elijah Wood’s Frodo as something of a bridge between the two series also gives credence to the idea.
However, I’ve been frustrated reading some of the reviews, because they seem to be taking the prequel concept too far. More than one article has compared the film to George Lucas’ three Star Wars prequels. Excuse me, but this is like comparing apples and oranges. On the one hand, we have a beloved series of books that were adapted for the big screen. These films were lauded by fans and critics alike and in some ways opened the door for their predecessor to be adapted as well. On the other had, we have a well loved trilogy, so popular throughout the decades that three prequels were created from scratch (or at least close to) to capitalize on the huge fan base and to take advantage of the newer technology that befits such fantasy films.
So what’s the problem with the comparison? The Hobbit is a literary treasure. Even those who don’t care for it can at least concede that it has stood the test of time. People love this book and pass it on from parent to child. Adapting the book to film wasn’t just a money making scheme. Don’t get me wrong, I know studios and directors aren’t going to get behind a film they think will fail, but this was a project that came to the table with solid material to begin with. We aren’t walking into the theater expecting to have the back story of LOTRs filled in for us. Rather, we are going to see Tolkien’s original foray into Middle Earth take shape. We know the story and want to see Peter Jackson put his magical touch on it (at least those of us who have read the books and liked the trilogy).
The same can’t be said for something like Star Wars. Studios were trading on the name there. George Lucas had a few bits and pieces to take from the original trilogy, but essentially he started from scratch with three new movies. There was no tried and true material loved by fans for decades to prop the new movies up–just nostalgia and the hopes of fans of the original.
Yes, there will be comparisons between The Hobbit and LOTRs, it is only natural with the same screenwriters and film makers at the helm. But film critics, please try and remember that The Hobbit came first. This wasn’t one of Hollywood’s “we’re fresh out of ideas, let’s make a prequel” maneuvers. This is a work that people have waited a long time to see adapted. Not because it precedes LOTRs, but because we love it in its own right.