Robbie shares his concerns over the Hobbit’s difficult journey to the big screen
In 2004, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, swept the boards at the Academy Awards winning in all eleven categories it was nominated for (including Best Picture and Best Director for Peter Jackson). This record breaking occasion is unlikely to be matched again by the new trilogy based on J. R. R.Tolkien’s work.
But my ambivalence about The Hobbit’s success is not unfounded or rooted in some fanboy fanaticism that the original LOTR trilogy can never be matched in its sheer brilliance. A quick look at the chequered production history of the new trilogy gives us much reason to fear that our return to Middle Earth may not be as a pleasurable second time around.
Given, as mentioned above, the incredible critical (and commercial) success of the LOTR trilogy it may seem surprising to some that it has taken this long for the producers to adapt The Hobbit for the screen. Indeed Hollywood is not known to let a certifiable cash cow rest. But this delay is not from lack of trying. As early as 2006 MGM made it clear that they desired to team up with New Line Cinema (the studio behind the LOTR) to make The Hobbit with Peter Jackson once again directing. This would all have been very well had it not been for a particularly acrimonious legal dispute which Jackson and New Line were engaged in over the former’s belief that he had not been paid his ‘dues’. Having been hardly left impoverished by LOTR’s massive box office receipts, New Line labeled Jackson as ‘greedy’.
But the marital dispute would not get in the way of New Line raising a big beautiful blockbuster beast to fill their coffers and pressed ahead with finding a new director, demoting Jackson to lowly ‘producer’. In 2008 Guillermo del Toro was hired to direct the now two-part adaptation of the book. For any fan who was shocked at the prospect of Jackson not in the directing chair, del Toro was by far the next best thing. His work on Pan’s Labyrinth showed there were few better directors who could balance fantasy and larger than life characters than him.
So production pressed on, despite more legal disputes with the Tolkien estate over money (obviously Tolkien’s main concern when writing his masterpieces). But by 2010, MGM’s own financial problems caused del Toro to depart from the project leaving Jackson to seemingly slide back into the directing chair. Fans were saddened but relieved that Jackson was still willing to direct the project and finally the film entered pre-production in March 2011, after a brief industrial dispute with the New Zealand actors’ unions.
Now here we are, only months away from the first installment in what is now a trilogy (a decision made for purely artistic reasons obviously) and I’m left with some serious anxiety. I want the film to be good more than anyone, but having sat through a number of trailers and read reports of a somewhat frosty reception to footage shown at a LOTR nerd convention, I’m left wondering whether quality has been sacrificed for commercial interests. From what I’ve seen the CGI looks sloppy, the dwarfs too silly and Jackson’s submission to the 3D gimmick leaves me uncertain. But I am ever hopeful even if it is, as Gandalf says, “A fool’s hope”.