Following up on yesterday’s announcement from MGM and New Line that Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson will be producing two Hobbit films, I wanted to muse, for a few moments, on what those two Hobbit films will be.
It’s been rumored for a while that MGM wanted two Hobbit films — indeed, their production slate announcement fifteen months ago said two films based on The Hobbit.
Now we have confirmation. Two films.
The idea, as I understand it, is that the first film would be a relatively straightforward adaptation of The Hobbit. “There and Back Again,” basically.
Film two would be a bridge between The Hobbit and Fellowship of the Ring.
Perhaps it would be about the Hunt for the Ring — Gandalf talks a bit about that in Fellowship to Frodo, how he and Aragorn tracked down Gollum — and the moves the White Council made against Sauron and his stronghold of Dol Guldur. (Interestingly, this is what the video game Lord of the Rings: The White Council was going to be about — a struggle against Sauron in the pre-Fellowship time period.) We’d also probably have the rise of Denethor and the rise of Mordor, and the rebuilding of Barad Dur. The Aragorn/Arwen relationship would probably see some exploration as well, as Tolkien writes at length about that.
Film two intrigues me. It would have to be largely complete on its own — I actually don’t see much need or call for Hobbits in it — and it would have to end on some sort of emotionally satisfying note. Broad outlines of a story set between Bilbo’s return to Hobbiton and the Long-Expected Party would be possible. That’s the thing — it needs to be a story, it needs to be self-contained, and it needs to be satisfying on its own terms, while also fitting into The Hobbit and the three Lord of the Rings films. The destruction of Sauron’s fortress of Dol Guldur would be too early in the chronology for that to be a suitable climax for this new film. The recovery of Osgiliath would be almost too late (and wouldn’t really segue into Fellowship). No, it seems to me that the ideal final shot of the film would be this: Bilbo sitting in Bag End, the Ring in his hand, the day that the young Frodo comes to live with him. I think that the Ring would be the plot macguffin; indeed, it would almost have to be, as nothing else would have the audience pull. The powers of the film — the wizards, the Elves, even Denethor — think the Ring has been found (which is has, but they don’t know it’s in the Shire), and at the end of the film they come to the conclusion that the Ring hasn’t been found, that it’s still lost or, as Saruman believes in the books, that it’s been swept out to sea. So the film could end with Gandalf and Elrond believing that the Ring is no more, that Sauron’s power will eventually wane, and then, the final shot, of Bilbo and the Ring.
Yes, I do like that.
I’ve seen the speculation that it could be a series of vignettes taken from the Appendices to The Lord of the Rings. I mean, that could work, if you wanted someone on screen talking Hobbit geneologies. Hell, I could get on screen and talk the Shire calendar (I’m something of an expert — today is 30 Foreyule, for instance, and Friday, 2 Yule, is the first day of Hobbit year), but that would be a complete disaster at the box office. The problem, though, is obvious. An anthology film won’t put butts in seats, nor would it help New Line and MGM recoup the investment they’d made in the two films.
I am curious if there would be a novelization of Film Two. I can’t imagine it not being novelized — supposedly, Houghton Mifflin thought seriously of novelizing Jackson’s films (and before you wonder at the business acumen of novelizing a film based on a novel, I need only mention Fred Saberhagen’s novelization of Bram Stoker’s Dracula) — and I know I’d buy a Film Two novelization.
These are early days, yet, and there’s still a long time until the first Hobbit film hits the theaters. Who will be cast? Who will be directing? Lots of road yet to travel, but lots of room for speculation, too. I’m excited, can’t you tell?