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.