'The Hobbit' finally escapes the trolls
It's taken a long time -- longer than it takes most movies to be shot, released and come out on DVD -- but "The Hobbit" is now a real film. A pair of them.
After being widely known for weeks that a deal for to finance the Peter Jackson-directed 3-D franchise was coming together, as my colleagues Claudia Eller and Ben Fritz at Company Town have been reporting, the news came officially this evening via press release from New Line and MGM that the movies were going forward (pending a labor dispute between Jackson and performers' unions).
Production on the first film starts in February in New Zealand (again, pending that labor issue). The second gets shot right after, or even overlaps a little with it, and the movies would hit theaters in December of 2012 and 2013.
“Exploring Tolkien’s Middle-earth goes way beyond a normal film-making experience,” Jackson says in the release. "It’s an all-immersive journey into a very special place of imagination, beauty and drama." (And, he might have have added, an all-immersive journey into the vagaries of film financing.)
There are questions both creative and marketing around the next pictures to be adapted from a J.R.R. Tolkien fantasy novel. The technological scope of Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy was groundbreaking, but in a post-"Avatar" world, that bar is now much higher.
And while fanboys will scrutinize the movie with their own lens, the reception among the critics and awards community will be almost as interesting. After all, the third "LOTR" swept through the Oscars, but it took goodwill accumulated from the two previous movies. Will the first "Hobbit" get to build on that or will it need to start from scratch?
There also will be an interesting race to the multiplex between "The Hobbit" and "At the Mountains of Madness," another large-scale fantasy project, this one from the man who for a long time was going to direct "Hobbit," Guillermo Del Toro. Both movies are expected to start production at roughly the same time, and comparisons and what-ifs inevitably will follow.
Today, though, the fans are simply breathing a sigh of relief. Or maybe just fainting.
-- Steven Zeitchik
Photo: Peter Jackson and Miranda Otto on the set of "The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King." Credit: New Line
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