On The Hobbit Sequel

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? :)

7 thoughts on “On The Hobbit Sequel

  1. I’ll be intrigued to see the two films but I’m not sure when I would. I still haven’t seen The Return of the King. Yes, I’m a heathen of the highest order ;)

  2. Why not, instead of a Hobbit Sequel, which isn´t even a Tolkien book, make a series of movies on the Silmarillion stories? Turin Turambar would make one hell of a movie, and so would The Ballad of Beren & Luthien and many others as well, not to mention it would be much more commercial than that Hobbit sequel.

  3. Freddy, I don’t disagree. I’d love to see movies based on The Silmarillion.

    There’s one hitch, though. Christopher Tolkien hasn’t sold the movie rights to The Silmarillion, believing that all of his father’s work is unsuited to film. The movie rights to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings were sold by JRRT himself in the 1960s.

    That’s not to say that we won’t ever get The Silmarillion on screen someday. We will. But the film rights have to be sold first, and that’s not likely at the present.

  4. That´s funny. Christopher Tolkien had the nerve of publishing the unfinished drafts of LOTR (The return of the shadow,etc) for a mere economical profit (and I´m pretty shure J.R.R. Tolkien must be rolling over in his grave about this) but still feels too scrupulous about selling the rights to the movies of Silmarillion, even when his father had sold the rights to his most famous works. What a shame.

  5. As a fan of Tolkien’s world, I applaud Christopher Tolkien’s efforts at providing Tolkien’s audience with more pieces of the puzzle. If you think of The Lord of the Rings as an ancient English myth cycle that’s been rediscovered — which is very much how Tolkien thought of his world of Middle-Earth — then publishing The Book of Lost Tales is like having The High History of the Holy Grail up against a quarter of Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur; the stories are familiar, yet not.

    And as a writer myself, having access to the way Tolkien worked as a writer is nothing short of phenomenal. Especially with The Return of the Shadow it’s interesting to see the blind alleys that Tolkien wandered down before he figured out the approach to the story — or even what the story was. I have scraps and unfinished drafts of all sorts of stuff that I’ve written with neither rhyme nor reason, things that just came off the top of my head but for which I have no idea what they are or where they’re going. It’s interesting to see a writer’s process.

    Obviously, none of the History of Middle-Earth books are for the casual Tolkien reader. They’re not easy books to read.

    But neither is The Silmarillion an easy book to read.

    And though I’ve had The Children of Hurin since April, I’ve not actually sat down to read it. Perhaps over the holiday weekend. I did find something interesting in CJRT’s introduction to the book, though — he admits that The Silmarillion may not, because of its inaccesibility, be the right way for the casual Tolkien reader to approach certain of the major stories in the book.

    I do have to applaud CJRT for being generally scrupulous in how he’s presented the posthumous works. It’s clear where these works derive. It’s not like reading an Ernest Hemingway book published after his death, where serious editing has taken place to produce a work that, like The Garden of Eden as a prime example, doesn’t actually reflect the author’s intentions or work. The only book where CJRT may cross the line is with The Silmarillion, and even he admits that now — if he had to do The Silmarillion over today, he says he’d have done it differently.

    The movie issue, though. In these days where it seems like every book becomes a movie it seems odd that the Tolkien Estate would zealously guard the movie rights, when you’d think the critical and financial success of The Lord of the Rings films would put anything Tolkien into development.

    Rightly or wrongly, the decision is what it is. Will it change? Maybe. Someday. I think it’s actually inevitable. Perhaps as early as a decade from now.

    Would I like to see a series of films based on The Silmarillion? Actually, yeah I would. But I think I’d like to see something based on the Akallabeth first — the fall of Numenor — leading into the War of the Last Alliance. Like The Hobbit “sequel,” there’s a lot of stories in Middle-Earth that can be told, and JRRT gave us a lot of the pieces.

    Hell, as you can see above, I’ve already thought about how I would fit the pieces together from Bilbo’s return from Lonely Mountain to the Long-Expected Party.

    Some other creative person can do that, too. :)

  6. I wouldn’t think too deeply. Setting the book aside (something I am not in favor of – but something that will probably happen) – I would think that the intro from the first film in the trilogy will provide the entire storyline for the transitional film. Just a thought

  7. Agreed…
    My original thought when they announced doing two movies, and the obvious one being the Hobbit, my mind naturally figured that the second movie they were doing would be the Silmarillion.

    And although the Silmarillion is in fact a collection of tales, there is still some very important details that make for some concrete story telling. Like for example Morgoth being the original dark lord, and Sauron once being his general and a shape shifter in fact.

    On top of that showing the origin of the elves, the gods of Middle Earth, as well as the mythical silmaril jewels. Especially in the tale of Beren and Luthian, which even details the theft of one of the stones.

    I mean it makes a better contribution then two Hobbit films I’ll tell you that for sure.

    I mean I hope they make the true tale of the Hobbit into one film. I’d despise them if they break it up into a two parter movie. I want the Hobbit as a whole, just as each book of the entire Lord of the Rings was one entire movie as well (even if moments from books bled into and inbetween movies).

    So if they do fit everything into one movie like they properly should be able to, then really a Hobbit sequel is really nothing more then bridge details which lead to LotR. And I’m sorry but bridging details really to me aren’t worth while. I have read about it, but don’t care to see it really.

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