ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Jeremy Telman
Oklahoma City University
School of Law

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Hobbit and the Meaning of a Bargain

I recently saw the last Hobbit movie, The Battle of the Five Armies.  I found it highly entertaining and was delighted to find a discussion about contracts between Bard, the leader of Laketown, and the King of the Dwarves, Thorin Oakenshield, during a pivotal moment in the movie.  The two engage in a back-and-forth about the meaning of a bargain, contract defenses (coercion and duress), and the importance of keeping promises.  In short, all the issues that come up regularly on this blog.  This isn't the first time that contracts have come up in a Hobbit movie. The morality of promise-keeping is an important theme in the movie as it has been in the others. 

Speaking of the Hobbit, the Weinstein brothers have lost their fight against Warner Bros. over the profits to the last two Hobbit movies.  As discussed previously on this blog, the issue involved the meaning of "first motion picture" of each book but not "remakes."  The Hobbit book was split into three movies and the Weinsteins argued that they should get a percentage from each movie; Warner Bros. claimed that they should only get royalties from the first Hobbit movie.  Unfortunately for contracts enthusiasts, the matter was sent to arbitration against the wishes of the Weinstein Bros. who wanted it to play out in court so we may never find out the basis for the arbitrator's ruling.

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I'm glad you posted on this. I offer two readings of the film:

1. The entire thing is an allegory for the benefits of settlement. It seems like the five armies are going to war, but it's really about the horrors of commercial litigation. If Thorin had just been willing to sit down with Bard and the Elves and listened to the sage advice of Grey & Baggins LLP, all of the carnage could have been avoided.

2. WB/Times Warner is a lot more clever than Sony. This film is obviously an allegory on the same theme as "The Interview." Think about it! Doesn't Thorin (a diminutive, chubby, irrational dictator) remind you of someone? And the two main Orcs -- there's a lot of make-up, but Rogen and Franco are still recognizable in Bolg and Azog.

Posted by: Jeremy Telman | Dec 24, 2014 6:44:38 AM