One hobbit will rule them all—for now, at least. A California federal judge has issued a temporary restraining order barring the release of Age of the Hobbits, a low-budget straight-to-video release from an independent film production company called The Asylum that was slated for release on Tuesday, just days before the opening of director Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Warner Bros., New Line, MGM, and Hobbit producer Saul Zaentz filed suit against The Asylum last month, charging that the company was trying to infringe on their copyrights and confuse consumers with its film.
In response, The Asylum contended that Age of the Hobbits has nothing to do with the world of J.R.R. Tolkien but is, in fact, an action-adventure film about the pre-human hominid species homo floresiensis, which has been nicknamed “hobbits” in scientific literature—an argument that, as he wrote in his ruling, the judge found “disingenuous.”
In recent years, The Asylum has established itself as one of the preeminent makers of so-called “mockbusters,” low-budget knockoffs of big-budget studio movies, with releases like Transmorphers: Fall of Man, Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies, Snakes on a Train, and Paranormal Entity. The Age of the Hobbits case marks the second time the company has faced legal action from a major studio this year.
This spring, Universal filed suit against the company over its Battleship mockbuster, American Battleship; The Asylum changed its film’s title to American Warships. The judge in the Age of the Hobbits case has set a Jan. 28 hearing to determine whether the temporary hold on the film’s release will become permanent.