The Hobbit — the anticipation begins


Now that Guillermo Del Toro has officially been hired to direct The Hobbit and its sequel, the anticipation and speculation have begun. How will the new film fit, stylistically, with The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003) — or will it? Why did it take so long to finalize the deal, given that reports of Del Toro’s involvement were first reported three months ago? And will the resulting films be any good?

Christopher Campbell runs through some of the reasons why it might have taken three months for Del Toro to sign on the dotted line: He wanted to make sure there wouldn’t be too much clashing between his creative vision and Peter Jackson’s, he had to assure another studio with whom he has a four-picture deal that he wouldn’t forget all about them while he spends the next four years in New Zealand, he wanted to make the announcement closer to the release of Hellboy II: The Golden Army — which comes out in July. Are there any other possibilities?

Andrew O’Hehir worries that Del Toro is a bad choice for this franchise, and indeed that The Hobbit and especially its sequel are already compromised by the motives of their makers:

Let me be clear: I’m a big fan of Tolkien’s books, Jackson’s film trilogy and most of del Toro’s movies. (We can discuss “Mimic,” which has its defenders, some other time.) At least on the surface, it’s a natural fit, and I hope my premonition is wrong. But this whole project smells to me of hubris, and indeed of something worse: It smells of George Lucas.

First of all, hasn’t anybody noticed that del Toro has repeatedly said he doesn’t like Tolkien, and that he never finished reading “The Lord of the Rings”? Here’s what he told me in Cannes in 2006, when I asked him about the influence of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis on his own work: “I was never into heroic fantasy. At all. I don’t like little guys and dragons, hairy feet, hobbits — I’ve never been into that at all. I don’t like sword and sorcery, I hate all that stuff.”

Let’s see, he doesn’t like “little guys and dragons” or hairy-footed hobbits, and “The Hobbit” would be a movie about what, exactly? Seriously, I think del Toro was speaking from the heart, and I think he’s right. His aesthetic is darker, more Gothic and more grotesque than the Tolkien-via-Jackson universe; it derives more from the medieval mire of middle-European fairy tale than from the high-toned, pre-modern northern European epics Tolkien was channeling. . . .

For his part, Del Toro gave an exclusive interview to TheOneRing.net and hinted at what he might do differently from Jackson:

The only thing I will be pushing for more in these films that the other three are full animatronics and animatronic creatures enhanced with CGI, as opposed to CGI creatures themselves. We really want to take the state-of-the-art animatronics and take a leap ten years into the future with the technology we will develop for the creatures in the movie. We have every intention to do for animatronics and special effects what the other films did for virtual reality.

Another thing people will notice, at the beginning of the film will be the palette, that will be slightly different, the world will be the same but it will be a more ‘golden’ world, a more wide-eyed world. But by no means will we depart from the canon, we will take the three previous films as canon. When I become part of a world that I love, such as this, I really come with a lot of enthusiasm and hard work, and we know we are recreating and creating a world that is part of the mythos of millions of people and we will approach it as passionately and respectfully as it needs to be taken.

Let’s hope it all works out and the naysayers have it all wrong.

About Peter T. Chattaway

Peter T. Chattaway was the regular film critic for BC Christian News from 1992 to 2011. In addition to his film column, which won multiple awards from the Evangelical Press Association, the Canadian Church Press and the Fellowship of Christian Newspapers, his news and opinion pieces have appeared in such publications as Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Bible Review and the Vancouver Sun. He also contributed essays to the books Re-Viewing The Passion: Mel Gibson’s Film and Its Critics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004) and Scandalizing Jesus?: Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ Fifty Years on (Continuum, 2005).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05192245958769676651 P. Little

    I was never into heroic fantasy. At all. I don’t like little guys and dragons, hairy feet, hobbits — I’ve never been into that at all. I don’t like sword and sorcery, I hate all that stuff. (2006)

    When I become part of a world that I love, such as this, I really come with a lot of enthusiasm and hard work… (2008)

    Seriously? In two years, he’s gone from “hating” all that stuff to “loving” the world? Seems hard to believe, and definitely has me curious as to which statement was closer to the truth.

  • http://www.jesterminute.com Jake

    Never seen the film but one of my all time greats in this category has to be Labyrinth starriing David Bowie. An awesome film and very entertaining for kids and adults.


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