After the success of the Lord of the Rings movies, a big-budget adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s earlier novel, The Hobbit, seemed inevitable. What wasn’t so predictable was that it would become a sprawling trilogy to match its predecessor.
The Hobbit is set in Middle-earth and takes place about 60 years before The Lord of the Rings. It tells the story of Bilbo Baggins, a set-in-his-ways hobbit who reluctantly embarks on a long journey to help a group of dispossessed dwarves reclaim their former stronghold of the Lonely Mountain and the riches held inside from a fearsome dragon. On the way, Bilbo Baggins encounters a strange creature called Gollum and inadvertently becomes the new owner of a mysterious gold ring.
Tolkien published The Hobbit, or There and Back Again in 1937 to immediate success. The Lord of the Rings was intended to follow a similar format to The Hobbit, but Tolkien spent many years developing his Middle-earth mythology. That epic storyline wouldn’t appear in print until 17 years later. The Hobbit is a slimmer volume than the three-book saga that followed, at about a fifth of the length.
The Hobbit is regarded as a children’s book since its themes aren’t as dark as the high fantasy trilogy that followed it. The company of Bilbo Baggins, twelve dwarves, and a gentler Gandalf the Grey make for a more lighthearted quest across Middle-earth. As Tolkien expanded the concept of his fantasy universe, he revised specific points of The Hobbit in later editions. When it came to the big-budget adaptation, the critical factor was that The Hobbit came after the phenomenally successful Lord of the Rings. As such, the prequel’s fun is balanced with increased threat and foreshadowing that bridges to the epic threat that dominated winter cinema at the start of the 21st century.
Becoming A Trilogy
The Hobbit was in Peter Jackson’s mind as far back as 1995, before he concentrated on bringing The Lord of the Rings to the big screen. Several legal issues mired the aftermath of that trilogy’s release and massive success, including a dispute between the director and New Line Cinema. However, that was settled by 2007 when New Line and new production partner MGM confirmed that Peter Jackson would be an executive producer of two new Hobbit films. The first was intended to follow the book’s plot, while the second bridged that adaptation with The Lord of the Rings.
In 2008, it was announced that Guillermo del Toro would direct the films. He soon began an extensive plotting and scripting process with Jackson and his wife and production partner Fran Walsh. Unfortunately, financial concerns at MGM delayed the project further. Always a director with a stockpile of projects in development, del Toro departed the project two years after he joined, stating that the project hadn’t officially been greenlit.
After del Toro’s departure, Peter Jackson picked up the reins despite a demanding production schedule and his long-running concern that it couldn’t compete with his experience directing the earlier trilogy. In 2012 Jackson confirmed that the story had been extended to three films, over a year after filming had begun in New Zealand. Taking the overall structure of Tolkien’s novel, the movies built additional content from mythology taken from the writer’s appendices and extended Middle-earth works like The Silmarillion. Alongside that, the films included scenes set during the events of The Lord of the Rings as well as original content.
The Hobbit Watch Order
Unlike The Lord of the Rings, you won’t get much of a clue as to how to watch the Hobbit films from the original book. Split into a trilogy, here are the names of the movies and their correct viewing order:
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)
How To Watch The Hobbit
The Hobbit has enjoyed full home media release and is available to stream on Amazon Prime or HBO MAX.
Like the earlier trilogy, extended editions appeared after each Hobbit film’s release. For the whole experience, you’d have to set aside 8 hours and 52 minutes to watch the sequence back-to-back. Two and a half hours shorter than watching all three extended editions of The Lord of the Rings.
What’s Next For The Lord Of The Rings Franchise?
Fans of Middle-earth can expect further adventures to reach the screen soon, although in a period even further back than The Hobbit.
In November 2017, Amazon purchased the television rights to the Lord of the Rings for $250 million and committed $1 billion to five seasons of a new show, making it the most expensive television production of all time.
Little is known about the series so far, beyond the release of a teaser image in August 2021. However, it is believed that the show takes place during the Second Age of Middle-earth, thousands of years before the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The first season completed filming in New Zealand in 2021, with the second scheduled to start shooting in 2022 after the production relocates to the UK. It is expected to arrive on Amazon Prime on September 22, 2022, otherwise known as Hobbit Day.