A funny thing happened on the way back to The Shire: everybody started picking on The Hobbit. Earlier this year I felt like a villain for poo pooing the movie's 48fps presentation at CinemaCon, but I wasn't alone. Nobody seemed to like the footage, and the tide of opinion quickly turned against the presentation format. As a result Warner Bros has dialed back their 48fps screenings to virtually none. It's unlikely that you'll be able to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey at the intended framerate.
But that was just the beginning. Recent weeks have seen The Hobbit taking lots of public opinion hits. People grumbled at the two films being turned into a trilogy. Everybody seemed to find the Dennys food tie-ins utterly ridiculous. And then came the accusations that 27 animals died during the filming of the movie because of poor conditions at an off-set farm. And then the Tolkein estate, who has never been a fan of the Lord of the Rings movies, got legal over some Hobbit slot machines, claiming the original 1960s era rights deals didn't include such things, or digital exploitation.
It seems like the movie can't catch a break, and nobody's even seen it yet. They will be seeing it soon, with an embargo date of December 3rd, so expect reactions to come pouring in. Will those reactions be tempered by all the negative press the movie has been getting? Will The Hobbit benefit from taking lots of PR black eyes? Or are the PR black eyes indicative of a general malaise about the project in general?
One thing that Warner Bros and Peter Jackson should take as a good sign: these sorts of negative stories preceded Avatar and Titanic. There's a sense that the press bristles at displays of directorial hubris like these. The big targets are too juicy to ignore. Some of The Hobbit's bad press comes from outside the chattering classes, but the fact that EVERY site picked up the dead animals story tells you something.
I find myself on the side that wants to take The Hobbit aside and clean its wounds. Yes, making that small children's book is an act of auterial hubris, and yes, Jackson's post-Rings output is... spotty, but let's remember those early behind the scenes videos. It seemed like he found the spark of enthusiasm needed to make this great. Could The Hobbit trilogy be the next Prequels? Yeah, I guess. I'm ready for that. But right now, a few days out from seeing it, I'm hoping that every naysayer - myself included - has to eat their words for second breakfast.