Well, the news is out – Peter Jackson’s two-film adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit is going to become a trilogy. Jackson – and many of his cast and crew – shared the news over night, after rumours were rife that the film maker was looking at footage and thinking expanding the story.
“We know how much of the story of Bilbo Baggins, the Wizard Gandalf, the Dwarves of Erebor, the rise of the Necromancer, and the Battle of Dol Guldur will remain untold if we do not take this chance,” Jackson said via his Facebook page. “The richness of the story of The Hobbit, as well as some of the related material in the appendices of The Lord of the Rings, allows us to tell the full story of the adventures of Bilbo Baggins and the part he played in the sometimes dangerous, but at all times exciting, history of Middle-earth.”
Which, of course, begs the question – just what might we see in a Hobbit trilogy?
There are two options, the latter of which is, from a Tolkien fan’s point of view, far more interesting. Jackson could well be looking at early cuts and seeing the potential to simply expand on what he’s already filmed. After all, the success of the Extended Cuts of the Lord of the Rings films shows that there’s a market for showing more of these epic tales. Doubtless, there’s reams of footage already shot that could be edited back in to more fully realise Bilbo Baggins’ journey.
What intrigues me, however, is the thought that we might end up seeing something else again.
Lord of... Moria?
It’s interesting that Jackson refers to the Necromancer and the Battle of Dol Guldur, because, to my knowledge, these were always going to be shown in the film. If you know The Hobbit in novel form, this is what Gandalf’s off doing while Bilbo and the Dwarves are journeying through Mirkwood, and fooling around with Wood Elves. The Grey Wizard is off with the rest of the White Council – Elrond, Galadriel, Saruman and others, dealing with the Necromancer. The Necromancer turns out to be none other then Sauron, the big bad from an elder time that is the unseen antagonist in The Lord of the Rings.
This is why Kate Blanchett and many other original trilogy alumni returned for The Hobbit – if you’re showing the White Council, which is an entirely canonical inclusion, you need these actors. In the first trailer, we even see Gandalf skulking about Dol Guldur.
So how much more of this can really be shown? Adding more existing footage is one thing, but what if PJ’s got something even more ambitious in mind – especially given filming’s already wrapped on the originally planned two films?
You can call this wishlisting – and, really, that’s exactly what I’m doing – what if he wants to film some more stuff. A third film is three-and-a-half years away, so there’s certainly time to put more footage in the can. Plus, if the name of the second part of the trilogy – There and Back Again – isn’t changing, I think we can safely assume it will concern the ending of The Hobbit, with Bilbo returning to The Shire.
This brings me to the two options for that third film. Perhaps An Unexpected Journey and There and Back Again will be more or less just what we see in the book, complete with Gandalf’s departure and arrival just in the nick of time at The Battle of the Five Armies. Then the third film might show what he was doing, with the White Council taking on the Necromancer, making the second and third films more or less concurrent.
If Jackson’s feeling like he needs more room for that plot line – and it was a vitally important one to the mythology of Third Age Middle Earth – giving it its own film makes sense. However, with his Lord of the Rings trilogy, he was far more comfortable intercutting events, rather than using Tolkien’s method of presenting entire concurrent narratives in whole blocks. Frodo and Sam’s journey to Mordor is pretty much told in two large chunks, for instance, not spread throughout the rest of the narrative.
So if Jackson’s giving the attack on Dol Guldur its own film, he’s kind of breaking his own rules, as it were.
And this is what intrigues me. In his Facebook announcement, Jackson mentions Tolkien’s appendices; some of my favourite moments of Middle Earth history take place in the Appendices to The Lord of the Rings – the excellent foretelling by Elrond of Arwen’s fate in Middle Earth in the films is taken, word for word, in parts, from the Appendices, and we learn a lot more about what the rest of the Fellowship, and indeed Middle Earth, did after the book’s end. But we also learn a lot more about events between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, too, and there are two interesting points here that Jackson could use to make The Hobbit Trilogy work as something that leads directly to The Lord of the Rings.
First up, we learn a lot about Aragorn’s early life, and while I admit a certain wistful glee at the idea of seeing the adventures of not quite young Aragorn, the tale that would be really epic to see is the continuing adventures of the Dwarves.
In The Lord of the Rings we get to see the abject failure of Balin – one of the thirteen dwarves that accompany Bilbo – and his attempt to recolonise Khazad-Dum, or Moria. What if we actually got to see more of that? Balin leads a whole party of Dwarves into Moria, and over a span of years actually starts mining Mithril again, as is recounted in the scene in The Lord of the Rings when Gandalf reads out the account of the doomed colony. Jackson opened with a long prologue that set up the War of the Ring in his first films, and he could do much the same in The Hobbit, with the tales of enmity between Goblins and Dwarves before The Hobbit, the coming of the Dragon, and the great Diaspora of the Dwarves... The Lord of the Rings is really two stories – Frodo’s own tale, interwoven with the larger tale of the Ring War – and the same could be done with The Hobbit, by placing Bilbo’s adventures in the context of the greater tale of the Dwarves, and their rise and fall.
Of course, all this giddy excitement only really matters if you’re as much of a fan of the books – and the films – as, well, I am. For some the notion of adding more to what is, basically, a very simple tale well told will be anathema. But I love Middle Earth for its richness, and anything that gives me more of that depth is a good thing.
Bring on three Hobbit movies!