Did you know that Peter Jackson’s new Hobbit film is the first of a trilogy? I didn’t. The news gives me mixed feelings.
The second trailer was released this week, and it all looks jolly impressive, featuring many returnees from Lord of the Rings, which first hit our screens 11 years ago. This will lead to the curious sensation of seeing a considerably older Gandalf pretending to be much younger, though Elrond and Galadriel don’t seem to have aged a day.
What worries me about a trilogy is that when we last saw Jackson in epic mode – his version of King Kong – he’d fallen headlong into his navel and was closely inspecting the fluff in the middle. It was a rambling, self-indulgent mess that would have been so much better if someone had come along and yelled no, no, no and made him cut out approximately half the film.
The Hobbit isn’t a long book. It’s my favourite thing I’ve read by Tolkein precisely because it is concise and doesn’t give itself leave to prattle. It just gets on with spinning and entertaining yarn and wraps it up once the salient points are covered before anyone has time to get bored. Seeing it epicified … I don’t know. It would be like taking the first Harry Potter book and splitting it into three and telling it as though it’s … not a children’s book. Sure, Potters 6 and 7 are definitely not children’s books, but the first few are, and we make the distinction as much through the literary style as through their themes. Ditto Hobbit: its straightforward language is aimed at younger readers in contrast to LOTR‘s flowery ramblings.
The other worry is that its production has been more dramatic than the book. Peter Jackson initially declined to direct, and Guillermo Del Toro stepped in. It might be unfashionable to say this, but I don’t think Del Toro has ever made a good film. He’s made collections of memorable setpieces and beautifully-shot scenes, but nothing that actually hangs together and works as a piece of cinema. Fortunately he departed and Jackson took the reins, but a Superman Returns-style mess is still possible.
Luckily the billion-and-one lawsuits between various parties have been settled, and it’s all wrapping up nicely for a winter release. It would be nice if this was a triumphant return for Jackson, at the very least we can expect an exceptionally beautiful movie to make us all glowy this festive season.