Let’s Talk about “The Hobbit”

Considering the fact that I’m a huge Tolkien fan, you’d think I would have been excited about the upcoming Hobbit movie for a long time now. But it’s not entirely true. I was thrilled years ago when it was first announced, then my enthusiasm waned as the months dragged on, directors were added and dropped, and lengthy battles over rights, money and labor pushed the film ever further into the uncertain future.

It just started to seem like Peter Jackson’s control-freak behavior was pushing out a series of creative people who could have done great things with the story ““ for example, did you know Guillermo del Toro was on board for a while? Yeah, that didn’t last long. I doubt he and Peter Jackson talk anymore.

I got excited again at the beginning of this year when the delightful Ian McKellen blogged that he was soon to depart for New Zealand to begin filming. But last week, after several months of quiet, there was a relative rush of news from the set that got my heart racing again.

Two images from the New Zealand set were released online last week, and a collective shiver of excitement went through nerds throughout the Internet (myself included). At first I didn’t think it was a huge deal; I’ve always seen that kind of thing as a marketing trick used by the filmmakers to get people excited about their movie when it’s still too early to release a teaser trailer. But in this case, there was something really thrilling about seeing Tolkien’s world brought to life again, even if it was just a photograph. Martin Freeman, known best to Americans as “English Jim” in the original Office (and perhaps as Arthur Dent from the generally-hated film adaptation of Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy) looks to me to be a perfect Bilbo. And Ian McKellen looks mostly the same as he did in Lord of the Rings, which is, to me, a good thing.

There were also reports last week that Evangeline Lilly, formerly of Lost, has been cast as an elf. This may seem like strange casting at first, but if you aren’t familiar with the story you should know that the elves that factor prominently in the plot of The Hobbit are wood-elves, which are of a slightly different kind that the super-serious, ethereal-looking elves that populated the first three films. For example, the wood-elves get drunk. At least, they do in the book. Also, Jackson has already promised that they’re not going to make her a love interest for Legolas, which is a huge relief.

Oh, and that reminds me of something else I was skeptical about at first: they’re having Legolas and Galadriel both appear in the films. These characters don’t actually do anything during the Hobbit, but their characters were very much alive at the time, and Legolas specifically lives in Mirkwood, where the party in The Hobbit spends part of their adventure. It’s not particularly offensive to me that they would include these characters, not only because it at least makes sense, but because I certainly would be happy to see them again on film.

So, the point is, after years of building an emotional wall to protect myself from the possibility that this film would never get made, I’ve ended up getting really excited about the Hobbit movie, despite myself. (Oh, and I know it’s actually going to be released as two films, but it’s really just one big movie that they’re going to split into two parts. This was another thing that initially annoyed me but I am now on board with.) How is everyone else feeling? Also, I’m inspired to re-read the books in preparation for the film. This way I can start nitpicking and obsessing early on. Who’s with me? Book club, anyone?

I’m also happy to open up the floor to anyone who wants to nerd out about anything Tolkien-related. You could, for example, refer to our lively Goldberry discussion in this past weekend’s Open Thread.

Photo: Getty

9 thoughts on “Let’s Talk about “The Hobbit””

  1. I found the news that it’s being split into two movies very surprising- I can’t imagine where a natural splitting-off point might be. On the other hand, two feature-length films would hopefully be able to do the book proper justice, so- tradeoffs.

    I think Martin Freeman is PERFECT casting. Other commenters are excited about Benedict Cumberbatch as voice-of-Smaug and ME TOO :D The pair of them were very good in the recent Holmes miniseries and I think they’d play well off of each other even without Cumberbatch directly on screen.

    Eeeee I can’t wait.

    1. I imagine they’ll finish the first one just after the escape from Mirkwood. Then the second film would be Laketown, the mountain, and the final battle. I’m guessing.

      Otherwise I’m just really excited – especially about seeing more of the Mirkwood elves.

  2. I’m beyond thrilled, for selfish reasons. I lived in New Zealand when they were filming the final two films, got to hang out when the extras were dressing up as Orcs in Wellington, watched the premieres all over the news and experienced LOTR fever as celebrities were arriving all over NZ for the big day. It was just a huge, awesome experience. I’m a big Peter Jackson fan and those movies are close to my heart. I’m happy that they’re doing the Hobbit simply because I want to revisit those feelings of excitement and see my beloved second-home on film again. Also, love the cast.

  3. Honestly? I’m super-excited. Primarily because I think Martin Freeman is perfect for the role of Bilbo. Peter Jackson apparently thought so too, putting The Hobbit filming into the hiatus that it is currently on because Martin was already committed to doing the second series of Sherlock (I second the recommendation of this absolutely brilliant series)

    I know that Galadriel will be there because there is apparently going to be a scene with the White Council, which I think justifies her presence. The only reason I can think that they are bringing back Legolas and introducing Evangeline Lily’s character is that the Mirkwood scenes are going to be quite expanded from what we see in the book.

  4. Somewhat off topic, but I think I’m the one person who liked the HHGttG movie. What can I say? I love Mos Def, and Alan Rickman is a good giant-headed robot. But then again, I almost never hate movies. And I’ve seen some really bad movies.

    1. I…honestly didn’t hate it either! I think the biggest problem with it was that so much of the pleasure of reading the books was Adams’ way with words, and a lot of it was lost in the translation. The dialogue was still pretty good, but without excessive narration they can’t really use his ridiculous descriptions of things; they just have to show them being ridiculous, and it’s not the same.

      I have one friend who is still foaming at the mouth over Zooey Deschanel’s mis-casting as Trillian.

  5. Martin Freeman also played Watson in the BBC’s most recent adaptation of Sherlock Holmes (called Sherlock, made by Moffat, if you haven’t watched it, drop everything and do so) and that’s where I know him from.

    I’m a little concerned about Jackson’s shoe-horning Legolas and Galadriel into the story. It seems like a bit of a cheap ploy, somehow?

    1. I know, right? I don’t want this to turn into the Star Wars prequels all or something where they mess up the continuity. And while it makes perfect sense for Legolas to be there, I’m not sure what excuse Galadriel is going to have for hanging out in Mirkwood at that moment. Unless she’s in Rivendell, or perhaps doing that long-distance mind-reading talking with Elrond and he asks her to look out for them? I don’t know, sometimes I think Peter Jackson just likes the elves so much that he makes them seem like they are a part of, or in charge of, everything that happens on Middle-earth. They’re not!

      Anyway, clearly I have my concerns. But at the same time I’m willing to give it a chance because I like both of those characters and am finding myself excited to see them again!

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