Friday, August 26, 2016

Remembering the Premiere of the First R-Rated Tolkien Film

A year ago today, I posted an article on (now defunct) about the then forthcoming showings of the three extended versions of the Hobbit movies in theaters by Fathom Events. October 7, 2015 would be the date of the first public showing of the extended The Battle of the Five Armies, one week before the digital version became available for download. The following reproduces the text of the article. My discussion of the "adult" nature of The Hobbit I feel is important to preserve with the context intact. 

All three extended version 'Hobbit' movies to hit select theaters in October

It's official. Fathom Events announced Tuesday they will show all three extended versions of "The Hobbit" in select theaters this October. Rumors of these events surfaced as early as August 3, but details were sketchy. Last Friday, Fathom Events had reportedly posted links to buy tickets, but this was apparently premature. The announcement made yesterday to the media is official, and you may now purchase tickets online through the Fathom Events website.

"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" extended edition will be shown Monday, October 5, 2015 at 7:30 p.m. The extended edition of "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" hits the big screen Wednesday, October 7, 2015 at 7:30 p.m. And, a week before the movie becomes available on Digital HD, and over a month before it will be available on DVD and Blu-ray, the extended edition of "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" makes its cinema debut Tuesday, October 13, 2015 at 7:30 p.m.

The longer version of "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" will be the first of Peter Jackson's Middle-earth films to be rated R. This had been reported as early as August 6, and was confirmed by the official press release. The MPAA rating is ironic given the fact the Lord of the Rings books are much darker than the "children's book" titled The Hobbit.

Greg Wright, who edited the coverage of Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" films on, wrote an article for back in 2007 when the Hobbit movies had just been greenlit. His comments are of interest given the more adult nature of the Hobbit films—especially the last extended edition.

"Complicating matters is the general perception amongst many fans—a sentimental, romanticized, and unexamined perception—that The Hobbit is a light, whimsical fantasy. It is not. It is, in fact, an allegorical bildungsroman, a coming-of-age tale, a story of loss of innocence. It’s about children no longer covering their eyes in terror and imagining giants and bogies, but rather coming to see the world with eyes wide open and finding out that the most dangerous monsters may be some of their fellow adventurers. The conventions of fantasy may dispose of Smaug quite neatly; dealing with Thorin—or Bilbo’s own complicity in a Great Wrong—is another matter entirely, but one which is at the heart of The Hobbit."

For Wright, the adult nature of The Hobbit comes not so much from the violence between good and evil, but how Bilbo learns to deal with the evil he finds within his friends... and himself. Greg goes on to speculate about how the book on film would play out, and rightly predicts Jackson and crew would choose to follow the darker tone of the previous trilogy, "regardless of the 'violence' it does to Tolkien’s original tale."

For better or worse, the R rating is Jackson's final stamp on his vision of JRR Tolkien's Middle-earth. What exactly that will look like remains to be seen – on screens small and large. 

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