Thursday, 20 December 2007

"As long as they don't adapt The Adventures of Tom Bombadil..."

Peter Jackson’s team, New Line and MGM are adapting The Hobbit.

It really is the time of year for miracles as the stalemate of litigation, shared rights, and bureaucratic meandering has finally come to an end. A couple of days ago I would have said The Dark Knight was the only film I was looking forward to (that and maybe the mysterious Cloverfield but only if, as rumours suggest, it’s based on Lovecraft). Now this glorious duology of films, slated for release in 2010 and 2011, are what I simply cannot wait to see.

While this is some of the best movie news a fantasy fan could hope to hear as it essentially means a further visit to Peter Jackson’s cinematic vision of Middle Earth, I have a niggling concern about their plans; principally the trumpeted “sequel to “The Hobbit.”” The Lord of the Rings is the sequel to The Hobbit and that’s been filmed rather triumphantly already. Ain’t It Cool News (who simultaneously announced the news and succeeded in devaluing the exclamation mark) postulates that the second film will be a bridge between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

In terms of dramatic narrative it doesn’t seem like a good idea. The voluminous appendix to The Lord of the Rings reveals these events between the timelines: Gollum searches for his ring and meets Shelob, Sauron declares himself and rebuilds Barad-Dûr, the White Council meets and then Saruman shacks up in Isengard, Aragorn “undertakes his great journeys and errantries”, whatever they may be, before meeting Arwen, Frodo is born and adopted, and Balin fails to colonise Moria. There are not even very many minor events. The only significant event that is not in the books is the Istari’s attack of Dol Guldur parallel with Bilbo going to the Lonely Mountain. That could also comprise the bit from Unfinished Tales were Gandalf discovers that Sauron has taken residence in Mirkwood, takes the key of Erebor from Thráin, and then runs to the Shire. That White Council/Early Sauron conflict is all interesting stuff but since there’s very little information on it in the books, a script-writer would be flying blind with no idea about true sequence of events or character interaction (apart from necessary conflict between Gandalf and Saruman but that already came to a head in LOTR). There’s not even much indication of what form Sauron/The Necromancer would take. That film could be done but odds are it wouldn’t be Tolkien.

Splitting The Hobbit into two might be a better idea. There’s a somewhat natural mid-point cliff-hanger when the party get captured by the Elves. That’d leave plenty of time in the second film to confront Smaug and have an epic Battle of the Five Armies with a handy opportunity for plot recap when the party reach Lake-town.

Why are New Line so keen for two films? The script can’t have been written yet surely and so it seems odd to specifically announce two films where one would suffice for the moment. Maybe it’s because their ‘new Lord of the Rings’ beginning with The Golden Compass is not doing well. Maybe they want another Oscar-bait movie. Maybe they’ve just come to their senses. Far be it from me to accuse New Line of being money-grabbing but since they’ve just resolved litigation against that very charge, it’s difficult not to.

I only complain because I love. I love Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy and I love Tolkien’s entire Middle Earth literature. The truth is that this news could not be more perfect; if there’s anyone who can deliver not one but two Hobbit films and deliver them well, it is Peter Jackson’s team. It’s going to be intriguing to see how this develops in what suddenly seems a long gap between now and 2010.

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