Why ‘The Hobbit’ Shows Us It’s Time To Let Trilogies Go

This week marks a rare achievement for Hollywood; instead of spending two hours on a three-hundred page book, they’re going to turn it into a nearly nine-hour movie trilogy, with The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug taking up theaters this week. And they’ve got reason to: ‘The Hobbit’ has already paid for the next two films on the back of the first one. But it also shows why it’s time to let the trilogy die.

Why? Well, a few reasons.

More Movie Trilogies Squeeze A Story For Far Too Long

As bad as The Hobbit is, in this respect, and spending nearly an hour sitting in Bilbo’s house was pretty painful, there’s a lot more agony on the horizon. It seems that every franchise, no matter what it is, is required to have a trilogy plan in place. Just as an example, the upcoming Terminator reboot is not only the start of a planned trilogy of movies, there’s also a TV series they expect us to watch. This is a series where you can fit the plot on a matchbook, and the sequel was essentially a remake of the first one; how are they going to squeeze three movies and a TV series out of it?

The answer, of course, is greed; over the last twenty years, a movie isn’t allowed to be just a movie. It’s got to be a TV series, a video game series, and have a direct-to-video animated movie as well; studios want to make money, and these things tend to make money.

Trilogies Are Increasingly Badly Paced

Stories told across multiple movies tend to be not as good as they could be, simply because they have to be incomplete. Does anybody else remember, at the end of Back To The Future II, feeling enormously ripped off that the movie ended on a “To Be Continued?” I was seven and I knew that was shameless. Or for a more modern example, how about The Matrix Reloaded? To say nothing of the ongoing attempt to squeeze just that bit more out of a franchise by splitting the last movie in twain; looking right at you, Harry Potter.

It’s not that there are bad trilogies; the original Star Wars, Indiana Jones and The Dark Knight spring to mind. But those were also trilogies made up of three discrete films that you can watch separately and enjoy on their own merits.

It’s Presumptuous

Finally, there’s the fact that frankly, it’s kind of asinine to just blindly expect the audience to pay for a trilogy of movies. Part of the problem with the recent attempts to capture some of that Hunger Games money with books like The Mortal Instruments and Percy Jackson is that they came with the built-in assumption that you were going to stick around for the entire series. As a result, they were less movies and more very expensive television pilots, and the grosses wound up matching that lack of effort.

It’s not that a trilogy is a bad idea, but we’d rather see three good movies from a franchise, than one good movie stretched out across three films. Inevitably, The Hobbit will be cut into one two-hour feature by fans, and worryingly, that might be the best movie to come out of the three.