Friday, July 9, 2010

Letting Go of The Hobbit

One month ago, the news came down that after investing over two years in development Guiellermo Del Toro was abandoning the post of director on the Hobbit movies. Soon after, word followed that Ian McKellen was hinting that the window for him to reprise the role of Gandalf was closing as well. When it was announced that Peter Jackson himself would pick back up the reigns personally for a return trip to Middle Earth it seemed to breathe new excitement into a flatlining project, but personally I can't feel anything but weariness.

I'm calling it. Put down the electric paddles and mark the hour. It's time to let this one go.

Of course no one is going to do that. There is, first and foremost, way too much money to be made from a Hobbit movie, to say nothing of one split into two parts for no discernible reason. (It's all the rage!) Furthermore, there is a small nation's worth of artists - costume designers, model builders, art directors, etc. - who've spent the last three year creating legions of goblins and trolls, and no one is too eager to flush all that work down the toilet because MGM can't get their act together and settle the foreign dvd distribution rights, or whatever nonsense is holding them up this week.

If only there was some convenient metaphor for some thing people just can't bring themselves to let go of.

Here's the thing: We don't need these movies. There is nothing to be added to Jackson's accomplishment with the Rings trilogy. Nothing left to be said. It's a compliment, really. Jackson picked the bones clean with his films. It's done. Taking it back up now would be a superfluous victory lap. No doubt they'd be fine films, and they would open huge, and we would go through the motions of comparing and contrasting with the first trilogy, and they would be guaranteed Oscar nominations in the tech categories, and that's all just fine. But it would be an empty exercise. What's the point? What would The Hobbit accomplish that Return of the King didn't? Why do it when you could be doing something new?

The fact that Del Toro was attached is what prevented me from reaching this conclusion earlier. Nothing an artist of his caliber does can be dismissed out of hand, and his interpretation of the material could have proved an essential statement. Now that the project has dragged Peter Jackson back down the Hobbit hole I must protest. This project has become a black hole, sucking up the time and energy of the two premier fantasy filmmakers of our time. If I thought too hard about the Pan's Labrynth-level work that could have been made while Del Toro was filling sketch books with doodles of Smaug I could get very sad indeed.

No doubt the fans will violently disagree with me, saying that the Hobbit is its own tale deserving its own adaptation. They should be ignored. Fans are too emotionally involved and tend to get greedy when they've gotten their wish fulfilled. Fans thought they wanted more Hannibal Lecter movies, more Matrix, more Pirates, more Star Wars, and more Indiana Jones. Every time they would have done well to just move on already, but that's not in the DNA of the superfan. "Leave them wanting more," is often the wisest course, but it is never going to be a concept embraced by the mob.

Mind you, I'm not saying The Hobbit should never be made. But this group of artists needs to step away. Mission accomplished, Peter Jackson. Leave The Hobbit to the next class of filmmakers. When some of the new breed want to measure themselves against the pros The Hobbit will be waiting there for them to pick up where you left off. Shake off The Lovely Bones, find a new challenge, and then take a good long look at George Lucas and ask if you want to be known as the guy who didn't know when to say when.

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