Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy was seen as the perfect marriage of art and commerce upon its completion. It was adored by audiences and critics alike. Upon the unveiling of the trilogy’s third chapter, The Return of the King, it was heralded as being superior to both the original Star Wars and Godfather trilogies. It swept the 2004 Oscars, becoming the most successful film in Academy Awards history. It also became only the second film up until that time to gross over a billion dollars at the worldwide box office. Surely, such a prosperous endeavor should one day yield even more wondrous fruit. Well, as it turns out, J.R.R Tolkien has another such tale ripe for cinematic adaptation. For that reason, Peter Jackson has decided to revisit Middle Earth one final time.
At the behest of the powerful wizard known as Gandalf the Grey, the hobbit Bilbo Baggins embarks on a grand quest. The fate of the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor hangs in the balance. Bilbo is meant to confront the dragon Smaug, who holds the kingdom in his clutches. To aid Bilbo on this perilous quest, he is accompanied by 13 dwarves. This unlikely war party will be led by the legendary warrior Thorin Oakenshield. They will encounter a great many mythical beasts and wondrous sights along the way. Bilbo’s mettle will indeed be tested, as he will come to know the temptations of the one ring. He will also cross paths with an obsessive and unsightly little creature known as Gollum. Gollum’s lust for the ring, which he lovingly calls “precious,” is but one of the many treacherous obstacles in Bilbo’s path.
The Hobbit’s journey to the big screen was almost as perilous as the one described in the book itself. What would seem like a forgone conclusion came to be as the result of much legal wrangling in the wake of the first three films’ success. During such time, the directorial reigns changed hands quite a bit. At one point, Guillermo Del Toro was set to helm. Per his departure, many other names had been mentioned. Finally, in October of 2010, it was confirmed that Jackson himself would indeed direct. The story would be split into two films, one titled The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and the other The Hobbit: There and Back Again.
The films first official trailer bears Jackson’s undeniable signature. The lush backgrounds and majestic cinematography have returned, as has the ethereal mood of the LOTR trilogy. This film obviously takes itself every bit as seriously as its pedigree would suggest. As before, Ian McKellen’s presence infuses his every scene with Shakespearian grandeur. That feeling of familiarity is indeed the trailer’s greatest asset. A song that begins near the middle of the trailer adds a sense of foreboding, as does the appearance Gollum.
The biggest question is whether or not the two installments of The Hobbit will be received as warmly as their predecessors. There has been a bit of a reassessment of the LOTR trilogy in the last 8 years or so among fans and critics. It was conspicuously absent from many of the “best of the previous decade” lists that appeared in January of 2010. This may have more than a little bit to do with Peter Jackson’s emphasis on meticulous craftsmanship over engaging storytelling. The LOTR films looked great, but lacked warmth and heart. For that reason, they have not become perennial favorites in the vein of the original Star Wars trilogy. They are the blockbuster equivalent of a beautiful painting, meant to gazed upon but not touched.
Revisionism aside, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will indeed be one of the most anticipated films of next year, if not of all time. A billion dollar worldwide gross is all but assured, as are a certain measure of critical accolades. Peter Jackson has suffered a couple of disappointments since being lavished with golden statues back in 2004. Could this be his return to form, or will it simply be an ill-fated attempt to go home again? As Gandalf might say, one rarely returns from such a journey unchanged. In 2004, Jackson returned a king. What fate awaits him this time?
Follow Malice Intended on Twitter @ http://twitter.com/renaissance1977
Follow Us on Twitter @ http://twitter.com/planetill
Join Us on the Planet Ill Facebook Group for more discussion
Follow us on Networked Blog