In The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, director Peter Jackson set up the premise of the franchise by having a large group of dwarves show up at Bilbo Baggins' house; that ill-fated meeting would turn into the adventure that served as the original novel's plot. But in the follow-up movies, the dwarves became less important to the story. According to actor John Callen, who portrayed the dwarf Oin, he and his fellow dwarf actors eventually felt like they had become more like the "world's highest paid extras."
Callen made this statement during a documentary that attempted to look at what went wrong with The Hobbit trilogy of movies. After the success of the Lord of the Rings films, no one even expected that The Hobbit as a movie franchise could fail. The first sign of trouble, though, came when it was announced that The Hobbit would be a trilogy. Considering how small the original novel is, most fans knew this meant that a lot of additional plots would need to get added to the overall story for length. In the end, those additions did not register well with critics or audiences. There was also a change in directorial vision from the movies: at first, Guillermo del Toro was set to direct, but after delays, he dropped out and Peter Jackson took over.
In an interview with Lindsay Ellis, Callen spoke about how the story of The Hobbit lost its focus and discussed his experience along with that of his fellow dwarf actors during filming:
"Even though we were in the core cast, we really did feel at some point that we were actually becoming the world's highest paid extras. Whether it had to do with the fact that the studios had said, 'Actually they're all right, these dwarves, yes, but the real stories are the battle between Thorin and the evil orcs, it's the story of the relationship between Radagast and Gandalf and finding Galandriel again and getting her help.' If that is what the studios were pushing for, then they certainly got what they wanted. What I think they missed out on was the heart that we started with."
During the interview, Callen also spoke about the camaraderie of the dwarf actors and how important that was to the first Hobbit movie. In one of their first scenes, the dwarves' chilling rendition of "Misty Mountain" had Tolkien fans clamoring for more. But then the dwarves became less important in the final two films. This lack of focus is why a lot of Tolkien fans felt betrayed by The Hobbit trilogy, even going so far as to making the claim that it was worse than the Star Wars prequel trilogy. The Hobbit movies ended up changing a lot from the books, and most moviegoers agree that those changes did not work.
Although the last film in The Hobbit franchise released in 2014, many Tolkien fans would probably still agree with Callen's assessment. The movies were certainly problematic in more ways than one. Perhaps in looking at those problems from the actors' perspective, though, Hollywood can avoid making similar missteps when adapting beloved book franchises in the future.
Source: Lindsay Ellis
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