First, it was confirmed that Orlando Bloom would reprise his role as Legolas in The Hobbit production now being filmed by Peter Jackson and company down in New Zealand. As many of you know, while Legolas features prominently in The Lord of the Rings, the blond elf does not appear in J.R.R. Tolkien’s earlier book, The Hobbit.
Then, a few days ago, the news was made official that The Hobbit would in fact be two films. (The rumor mill knew this for eons.) “The first film, titled The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, will be released on December 14, 2012. The second film, titled The Hobbit: There and Back Again, is slated for release the following year, on December 13, 2013,” it was declared on the production’s Hobbit Blog.
The simple choice to make two more complex films out of one simple, 300-odd-page kid’s book has pricked up the ears of some fans—i.e., me, for one—and has made other fans prickly.
Upping the ante was what Peter Jackson revealed on his Facebook page earlier this week about the plot of The Hobbit movie:
“I’m not going to say just what and when, but I will confirm that both the White Council and Dol Guldur will feature in the movies. And not just in one scene either. Just how to visualise it has been a challenge, but fortunately Alan Lee and John Howe went crazy with ideas, and it should look pretty cool.”
For the unwashed, Dol Guldur is Sauron’s fortified hangout and HQ in the forest of Mirkwood for more than a millennia of the Third Age (back when he goes by the handle of the Necromancer). The White Council is sort of like the Council of Elrond, an All-Star assembly of Middle-earth heroes, formed in response to the rise of Dol Guldur. The members include the Wizards Saruman the White and Gandalf the Grey, Lady Galadriel of Lothlórien, Master Elrond of Rivendell and a few others. These goings-on are only alluded to in The Hobbit.
The latest announcement explains the reason why Cate Blanchett will be back to reprise her role as Galadriel. It also makes sense that Christopher Lee will be back to play Saruman (although, as of yet, this has not been confirmed). Less clear is how Legolas/Bloom will be integrated into the movie.
To work in these elements, Jackson and the other screenwriters have made it clear they’ll be adding material not actually in The Hobbit, but drawn from other sources in the Tolkien lengendarium. But as reported in The Guardian and elsewhere, some question the wisdom of this move. Is turning what is essentially a kid’s book into high epic fantasy more along the lines of The Lord of the Rings such a great idea? Remember, both in tone and in treatment, The Hobbit was written for and targeted mainly to children, with very little of the heady, wearying Sturm und Drang of LOTR.
Of course, PJ and the gang at Wingnut and Weta have not only oodles of fans to please, but oodles of money to make. And most of those LOTR fans are movie fans first and foremost, not readers of the trilogy. So fashioning a plot and movie look-and-feel that’s as seamless with the Middle-earth millions already know from the LOTR movies makes money sense.
Tolkien purists put their trust in Jackson the first time around and, squabbling aside, most were generally pleased with the elements he added and subtracted to LOTR. The appearance of Legolas, the White Council and Dol Guldur is plausible; these logically would have happened concurrent with the events of The Hobbit.
Still, I can imagine the most fevrent fans of The Hobbit (the book) might want to revoke Jackson’s creative license.
But I can also imagine the cheers in the audience when Legolas appears wherever he’s going to appear. We’ll have to wait till Christmas of next year out find out.