In further news of literary adaptations being stretched as far as they can go in the name of fidelity, as long as fidelity is what you call great heaping piles of cash, Peter Jackson yesterday posted on his Facebook page that his already-pushing-it-length-wise cinematic rendering of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit will, in fact, be spread over three films, and not the previously mooted two. Just so we’re clear: that means that once he’s completed this trilogy, Jackson will have devoted roughly as much screen time to Tolkien’s 310 page prologue to Lord of the Rings as he did a decade ago to the 1137 pages (plus maps) of Rings’ three volumes, which only got one film apiece, and at Jackson’s current rate would seemingly have ballooned to a nine film lifestyle choice.
In a letter to fans entitled “An unexpected journey”, Jackson describes sitting down to watch a rough cut of the now first two instalments of The Hobbit, which have recently finished filming, and asking himself ‘a simple question’: ‘do we take this chance to tell more of the tale? And the answer from our perspective as the filmmakers, and as fans, was an unreserved ‘yes.” You can probably just go ahead and insert ‘as lovers of making lots of money’ in there somewhere yourselves.
Which is all well and good, but fans may rightly wonder what exactly will constitute this third film. A revival of Tom Bombadil and Treebeard’s vaudevillian musical comedy act in Road to Mordor? Presumably, if Jackson and co. were working on the assumption that the story would be spread over two films, then Tolkien’s work would have been adapted on that basis, with nothing left to put in a third?
Not so, counters Jackson: ‘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. 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.’
Oh lord, yes, save us from a world in which the complete, no holds barred story of the Dwarves of Erebor goes unfilmed. Those whose interest in Tolkien began to wane sometime around the seventh of Return of the King‘s eleven or so endings will, of course, read this as the much simpler ‘more stuff with wizards, and that’, let out a long, slow sigh, and probably go see it anyway, because what else are you going to watch? That Shining prequel?