Defining The Tone Of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The first movie in The Hobbit trilogy, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, is nearly upon us, ans there’s a major feature on it in the new issue of SFX (#229, in the shops tomorrow, Wednesday 14 November). It includes an interview with Gandalf himself – Ian McKellen – as well as a longer chat with the trilogy’s co-scripter, Philippa Bowens, and star Andy Serkis (Gollum). Here’s an extract in which they talk about the tone of the trilogy to whet your appetites…

Some fans have expressed concern that melding The Hobbit – a book Tolkien composed with his own children in mind – with his later, weightier work will rob the former of its light spirit. Might it lose its intimate tone? Step forward Andy Serkis, who reprises his role as Gollum but also assumes duties behind the camera as second unit director:

“We saw our version of The Hobbit as an extension or prequel, so it can be thought of as six films. But it has just tons of humour in it! The characters are very vivid, especially the Dwarves – they’re individual and exciting and fun. There are characters and sub-plots which give it this texture and depth like Rings, but that isn’t to say it doesn’t have a brighter tone.”

Philippa Boyens agrees: “Even though Professor Tolkien did write it for children, it was always set against a larger whole. There are very strong elements that lead you into the wider mythology embedded in The Hobbit. But we wanted very much to keep its unique tone, that’s part of its charm! So we worked very hard at that, especially in this first film, which is your introduction to it all. The Dwarves, for instance, are very different to a bunch of posh Elves on a quest – they’re much more like a rugby team!”

It was while integrating all the explanatory material from the appendices and composing the framing structure that the writers realised they had not just the two planned films, but also enough for a third. Boyens again: “It was a very natural process. When we looked at what we’d shot we felt like it was really working, and had the qualities you need to engage people in three films. A three-film structure gives us room to deal with some of the trickier elements in the story. The dragon dies about two thirds of the way through the book! The ‘story’ is basically over: they’ve got to the mountain, they’ve got their gold… But Professor Tolkien chose for that not to be the case. And the remaining chapters have a very different pace; they are the parts that lead you into the world of Lord Of The Rings.”

SFX 229 is on sale Wednesday 14 November. From that date you’ll be able to order a copy from here.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – New TV Trailer And Soundtrack Extract
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – 15 Character Posters
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Safety Briefing