It was ten years ago this month that The Fellowship of the Ring, the first part in one of the most ambitious sagas ever filmed, was released. Now, we have our first look at the prequel to that trilogy. And…it looks pretty much like those other three films.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, out next December, brings back Ian McKellen as Gandalf and introduces Martin Freeman (the British Office, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) as a young Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm in the original films). Also returning are Cate Blanchett as Galadriel and Andy Serkis, who has had a banner year with roles in Rise of the Planet of the Apes and The Adventures of Tintin, as Gollum.
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Is it possible to feel nostalgia for something that is only a decade old? Of course it is. And that’s exactly the feeling one gets from watching this trailer, which throws us right back into Middle-earth. We see some familiar sets (Bag-End, the Shire, Rivendell), hear some of that familiar Howard Shore score (the eight-note theme that closes the trailer is the one that opens the Fellowship of the Ring) and fly high with some of those familiar Peter Jackson helicopter tracking shots over the New Zealand countryside.
Speaking of Jackson, he’s back as director, producer and co-writer, which may be why everything seems so familiar. We’ll sadly never know a new Lord of the Rings story without Peter Jackson behind the camera — and yes, that is sad, for as good a job as he did with the first trilogy, J.R.R. Tolkien’s world could use someone with a different eye. For a while, there, Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) was to be that person. Originally attached as director, del Toro worked on the film for two years, and lived in New Zealand for nine months, before heading back to the U.S. on account of delay after delay caused by the bad financial situation of co-rights holder MGM. (del Toro is credited, along with Jackson, Phillipa Boyens and Fran Walsh, as a co-writer.) His “ornate aesthetic,” as a profile in the New Yorker characterized his style, would have been at strong odds with Jackson’s naturalistic approach. And that would have been great.
Instead, it appears as if we’ll have a Lord of the Rings redux. With a dragon. (I haven’t read The Hobbit, but I hear there’s a dragon.) And in 3-D. Which will be weird if the 3-D craze has died out by next December. As Hollywood likes to do these days, the novel has been broken up into two parts. The Hobbit: There and Back Again will follow in 2013, after which point Jackson will be forced to try something new. Other than the massively hyped and under appreciated King Kong and the undeniable flop The Lovely Bones, he will have spent the majority of the past decade and a half working on the same material. It’s time for something new.
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