Like most sentient beings, I loved the “Lord of the Rings” films. I didn’t convert my parents’ basement into the Shire or shave hair off the dog and glue it to my feet or write my diary in an elfin language or anything like that — but upon leaving the screening for “Fellowship of the Ring” I did call a friend and say, “I want to drive my car off a bridge so that I can die with Lord of the Rings having been the last movie I saw.” Which, OK, might have been overstating it slightly. But still.
But then we remembered: There’s another “Lord of the Rings” book that Peter Jackson could adapt! It’s “The Hobbit,” and it’s a prequel! Ian Holm couldn’t play Bilbo (he’s young in the book), but Ian McKellen could still play Gandalf! As long as Peter Jackson was directing and someone named Ian was in the cast, it would be just like getting another LOTR movie!
Unfortunately, as everyone now knows, the issue was very complicated. Jackson wanted to make a Hobbit movie, but there got to be bad blood between him and New Line over LOTR royalties, and then there were questions about which studio owned the rights to the “The Hobbit” anyway. The latter problem could be solved easily — studios tend to work out their differences quickly when they stand to make hundreds of millions of dollars — but Jackson’s beef with New Line had stubborn people on both sides.
Then we got another Christmas gift in 2007 in the form of “The Golden Compass” crashing and burning at the box office. It was the latest in a string of disappointments for New Line, and next thing you know they’re announcing they’ve worked out their differences with Peter Jackson and the “Hobbit” movie is back on track! It could be coincidental, of course, but I prefer to think that New Line head Bob Shaye was pooping his pants over the failure of “Golden Compass” and finally broke the glass on the “In Case of Emergency, Kiss and Make Up with Peter Jackson” fire extinguisher.
I am excited. All LOTR fans are excited. But I am also nervous, for the following reasons:
Jackson will executive-produce but does not plan to direct.
Much of what we loved about the LOTR adaptations was Jackson’s touch. If he gets Sam Raimi to do it (as has been widely reported), we might be OK; they have similar styles. But if it’s not Raimi? Heaven help us. [Jackson wound up directing after all.]
They’re making two movies.
“The Hobbit” is one book. It’s not even a particularly long book. You could do it in two hours. How will it be spread into two movies, each of them at Jackson’s typical length of three hours? Apparently the second film will fill in the gaps between “The Hobbit” and “Fellowship of the Ring,” but that’s very dicey territory there. It reeks of double dipping. Let’s not be greedy here. [They made three movies.]
It’s hard to recapture the magic.
The LOTR films were shot consecutively over 18 months in New Zealand. The cast members became like family, even getting tattoos to commemorate their remarkable experience. Jackson was like a big furry hobbit father to them all. The three LOTR films feel like one huge story, all cut from the same cloth. Don’t we all know from personal experience that it’s hard — often impossible — to recreate something magnificent? [I got this one right.]
These Hobbit movies may turn out to be great. I hope they are! But we’re kidding ourselves if we think they’re going to repeat the once-in-a-lifetime achievement of the LOTR series. Now if you’ll excuse me, the life-size Arwen doll that I married in a private ceremony last summer has dinner waiting for me.
Some of these jokes were cannibalized from a song I wrote, “Is It Weird? (The Lord of the Rings Song).” I make no apologies for stealing from myself.