There is no joy in Hobbiton today

November 20, 2006

Looks like Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema have parted ways on any plans for enlisting Jackson and his creative team for The Hobbit. Since I’m pretty much a complete fool for the three Lord of the Rings films that Jackson directed, this is not very happy news. Though The Hobbit doesn’t have anywhere near the emotional heft or grandeur of its outsized sequel, it certainly would have been fun to see the same creative minds and some of the same actors making one last trip to Middle-earth.

Apparently the sticking point was the lawsuit Jackson filed against New Line over its accounting of the immense revenues generated by the three films: New Line wanted to make a settlement part of the deal for making The Hobbit, while Jackson wanted it to remain a separate legal matter, settled separately before he agreed to take on the project. Hollywood accounting is the stuff of legend, and Jackson would have stood to make a lot more money if he’d taken New Line’s tack, so I’m inclined to believe Jackson’s version. The question now is whether they can find a director to match Jackson’s artistry — that and whether any of the key carry-over actors, like Ian McKellen, will sign on or tell New Line/MGM to go fly a kite.

One of the things I appreciated about The Lord of the Rings was that making it took old fashioned Hollywood balls, and every gamble paid off handsomely. New Line gambled by commiting to three big movies with Peter Jackson, a little-known Kiwi filmmaker whose portfolio consisted of a couple of splattery cult movies (Bad Taste, Brain Dead), an art-house hit (Heavenly Creatures) and a resounding flop (The Frighteners). Jackson rose to the occasion by taking on a literary property that had defeated everyone from Stanley Kubrick to John Boorman and turning it into a multi-billion dollar blockbuster that swept the Oscar field and continues to generate spinoff revenue.

The Hobbit should have been their victory lap together. Instead, it’s on track to become — well, I won’t assume a schlockfest is on the horizon. But so far there isn’t a lot of evidence to support optimism.

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