Since I’m a complete fool for Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, I kept pretty close tabs on his pissing match with New Line Cinema, which was the roadblock to any possibility of Jackson returning to Middle-earth for a film version of The Hobbit. And, once the financial dispute was settled and Jackson and New Line became friends again, I paid close attention to the question of who would be the best choice to direct, since Jackson’s plate was too full to permit him to take control of the project.
Much as I admire what Jackson accomplished with The Lord of the Rings, it’s just as well he’ll be restricting himself to executive producer and script supervision duties. The Hobbit doesn’t have the same emotional weight as its outsized sequel, and Jackson has outgrown the project. He’d already outgrown his dream of remaking King Kong when he finally got the chance to do it, and his attempts to deepen the material merely emphasized the silliness of the story.
All along the geek-tower, the consensus has been that the director’s title should go either to Sam Raimi or Guillermo Del Toro, and I’m happy to hear that Del Toro is now the heir apparent. Raimi is a fine director — I wish as many people had gone to see A Simple Plan as went to see the blowsy, overlong Spiderman II — but he’s simply not in the same weight class as Del Toro, whose Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone are landmarks of dark fantasy. Del Toro’s a strong enough artist in his own right to keep from being overwhelmed by what Jackson has done already, yet enough of a geek fanboy to pay it proper respect even as he follows his own vision for Middle-earth. (As much as I approved of the hugely talented Alphonse Cuaron getting the third Harry Potter movie after two doses of Chris Columbus hackwork, Cuaron’s work on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban made the series into something of an artistic grab bag.) And though it must pain Del Toro to know he won’t be able to come up with his own Balrog, he can console himself with the knowledge that he’ll be getting the chance to put Lake Town and Smaug on the big screen.
Dances With Mermaids was too young to see the three Jackson films with me. I look forward to revisiting Middle-earth in the cineplex with her sitting beside me.