Journey to Middle Earth

Peter Jackson's adaptation of 'The Hobbit' pushes the technological boundaries of film

Nine years after The Return of the King, the concluding third of his magnificent film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, hit theatres, director Peter Jackson has unveiled the first part of his translation of The Hobbit. As many have pointed out, The Hobbit is a lighter, slighter book than any of the three Rings volumes. When Jackson announced it would be made into two, then three, films, many condemned the move as either a naked cash-grab or the overindulgence of a Tolkien superfan, whose blockbusting grosses and Oscar sweep (The Return of the King won 11 categories in 2003, including Best Picture and Best Director) had, in effect, given him the "one ring to (over)rule them all."

My own enthusiasm for a screen Hobbit — a novel I've never returned to nor really even thought about much since I read it as a grade-schooler — took a big hit when Guillermo Del Toro, the writer/ director of Pan's Labyrinth and other extraordinary films of a fantasy/ sci-fi/ horror bent, left the project during its budget-related delays. Jackson, who'd initially planned only to produce the Hobbit movies, settled back into the director's chair. In the years since he became Hollywood's hobbit-king, he'd directed a remake of King Kong (underrated, in my opinion) and a little-loved adaptation of Alice Sebold's novel The Lovely Bones.

Jackson told the BBC he was already deep into shooting his two scripted Hobbit pictures when it occurred to him that the addition of material from the Rings trilogy's roughly 100 pages of appendices could sufficiently fatten the story to make a three-part adaptation worthwhile. He has patiently defended his decision on the grounds that he knew he would never return to Middle Earth again, so why not give the Tolkien fandom — of which he is himself a fervent part — one more film to savour?

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