Three Hobbit Films?

My immediate thought after seeing The Return of the King for the first time was something along the lines of, “wow”. That thought was quickly followed by, “When is The Hobbit going to be made?” It seemed the logical thing to do. After three successful film adaptations of Tolkien’s masterpiece trilogy, The Hobbit just had to be made. It took several years, but eventually rumors started to solidify into realities, and it looked like Guillermo Del Toro was going to take the helm with Peter Jackson, our original tour guide of Middle Earth, as producer. This wasn’t thrilling news. As imaginative a director Del Toro is, in my mind at least, he wasn’t the right fit for the slightly more fantastical and fun world of The Hobbit. The trilogy’s prequel is very much a children’s story, and far more light hearted than the events of the War of the Ring. Soon troubles came to the production. However they were a (in my opinion) a blessing in disguise as Del Toro felt he must leave the film and we were left wondering who would step up to the plate. Peter Jackson. Honestly, who better? It only made sense.

            Then production finally started to move along, and we were told to expect two films based on The Hobbit. The reaction by and large was “huh? how?” and with good reason. The Hobbit is short, and tells a story of singular focus. It doesn’t have the same epic quality that its successors do. But Jackson and co. thought they could do it, by expanding on the story with events from Tolkien’s vast appendices. It seemed possible, if not a bit gutsy. They’re dealing with the work of someone who is considered to be among the greatest storytellers of the last century, so much of that information is there, even if Tolkien never expressly narrated it to us. It was an ambitious plan to say the least. However I kept hope, after all Jackson’s original three films are exceptional pieces of cinema. They are crowning achievements of character driven and emotional story telling told on the grandest of scales. I had faith they could do this and create two excellent and exciting films that would elaborate on the world of Middle Earth while giving us Bilbo’s greatest adventure.

            Recently rumors started to appear of developing plans of a third film, and today it was confirmed by Jackson himself. How could that be? Jackson was already stretching himself on two. Three? Really? It seems absurd. As detailed as Tolkien’s notes are about Middle Earth, its inhabitants, and its most important events, not everything was given a complete narrative. What Jackson is doing is weaving a new narrative from the footnotes of Middle Earth’s history. Tolkien created a world so fully formed that this feels like a possibility. Writers do it all the time with our own history. We love stories that tell of fictional characters participating in historical events. One of my favorite books, Time and Again, does just that, using actual newspaper clippings, historical photos, and true events to weave the story of a character that never existed, but could have. The difference here is, of course, that as far as we know Middle Earth does not exist anywhere but in the mind of Tolkien, and even though that world has been shared with us we are not privy to every last detail of its inner workings. As a people we seem eager to accept alternate versions of our own history, or even the past of individuals, but we are hesitant to adapt the fictional world created by one man. Suddenly it’s sacrilegious to even consider changing, adding, or altering a preexisting story.

            I don’t know if that’s true. Although for saying so I’m sure there are many who would see my head on a stick up on the ramparts of Minas Morgul. I think that there is a good and proper way to respectfully adapt another author’s work. What I do not know is if Jackson will succeed in his endeavor. What I like to believe is that he has every good-natured intention of doing so. I adore The Lord of the Rings in both book and film form. I think that Jackson adapted the novels in the absolute best way possible, creating the absolute best movies that could have been created from that incredible source material. Now he is venturing into unknown territory, he is in the dark and his footing isn’t as sure as it was last time. He may succeed, he could craft an excellent expansion on the lore of Middle Earth, or he might not. He doesn’t know how it’ll all turn out, but he has the courage and the guts to go for it. And isn’t that what Bilbo did?