For years now, "mockbuster" company The Asylum has made a decent living off of well-timed films like Transmorphers, Almighty Thor, and Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies, using those funds to perform the public service of keeping actors such as Mario Van Peebles and Richard Grieco off the streets. Like the grandchildren who roll their eyes yet keep their mouths shut when their poor, addled grandparents buy these DVDs for them off the Wal-Mart sales rack, most studios have simply accepted The Asylum's parasitic business practices as an annoying fact of life. However, unlike most disappointed grandchildren, sometimes they sue.
Often these suits are settled out of court, but Warner Bros. just took it one step further by suing over The Asylum's impending release Age Of The Hobbits—a film that should not be confused with Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: Time No Longer Has Any Meaning—and winning a restraining order against it. This despite the fact that Age Of The Hobbits knows that it and The Hobbit are meant to be together, just give it one more chance. Age Of The Hobbits didn't mean to scare you. Sometimes Age Of The Hobbits just loves you too much.
Anyway, at the hearing, a federal judge was presented with findings from a recent survey undertaken by Warner Bros., which revealed that "approximately 30 to 40 percent of survey respondents" were confused about whether a film titled Age Of The Hobbits might have any relation to The Hobbit. Presumably this survey was based on title alone, and not on actual viewing of the film in which, according to the official synopsis, "The last village of clever, peace-loving Hobbits is attacked and enslaved by the Java Men, komodo-worshiping, dragon-riding cannibals," and also Bai Ling is there. Otherwise, those 30 to 40 percent of survey respondents were likely similarly confused about whether their being asked about Hobbits means that they, too, are in The Hobbit.
Here is a trailer. Again, this is not a trailer for The Hobbit. That's a different movie.
In its defense, The Asylum naturally claimed fair use, saying with a straight face, "Age Of The Hobbits is about the real-life human subspecies, Homo Floresiensis, discovered in 2003 in Indonesia, which have been uniformly referred to as ‘Hobbits’ in the scientific community." And as though citing "SCIENCE!" were not already rejoinder enough, the company also pointed to the clear disclaimer on its DVD artwork, reading, "They're not Tolkien's Hobbits… They're real." Nevertheless, a judge ultimately decided that "there is substantial likelihood that consumers will be confused by Age Of Hobbits and mistakenly purchase the film intending to purchase The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," as purchasers of a Hobbit DVD that has a picture of Stargate SG-1's Christopher Judge and Bai Ling on it—particularly those who believe they are purchasing said DVD the very week that The Hobbit is released into theaters—are unlikely to have much familiarity with anthropology or reading.
Warner Bros. has, of course, since issued a rather gloating victory statement. "This victory underscores the importance of protecting the unique work of our industry’s creative community from companies like Asylum, whose cynical business model is designed to profit from the work of others," Warner Bros. said of The Asylum's attempt to profit cynically from their mining of three movies and associated merchandising out of the slim novel written by a long-dead author. And just so we're clear, none of those movies stars Bai Ling or has komodo-worshipping cannibals, according to the law.
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