I admit, when I first heard talk of “a third ‘Hobbit’ movie” from the floor of Comic-Con, I was skeptical. Reporters Quickbeam and Justin brought back footage from a press conference (that you can watch right here) breaking the story that additional shooting was a possibility, directly from Peter Jackson’s mouth. I downplayed it because from a five-week set visit I knew the team was going to return to shooting right after Comic-Con. I thought the media was being its usual bombastic self by calling a little more shooting “a third “Hobbit” movie. They absolutely had it posted first, breaking the story so kudos to them, but I dismissed it. How quickly things change.
Now it seems inevitable that this will happen. Jackson clearly has the will or he wouldn’t have spoken about it so fully. The studio clearly has the will because they are talking about it instead of dismissing it. So what would this mean besides another year of happy blood sweat and tears at TheOneRing.net? Lets look at all the facts and see if we can’t come to some
conclusions educated guesses.
ON THE RECORD, WHAT WAS SAID:
Jackson spoke about this, very likely not by accident, from the television press line meet-and-greet at Comic-Con that took place before the famous Hall H event for fans. (Watch the first two or three minutes of Jackson’s own production diary #8 for the best account of Hall H.) He did it in front of a lot of websites with video and cameras. He knew it would get out to fans and he responded to a question will a full answer instead of a dismissal or a quick comment. The reaction on Twitter has been very interesting, as detailed in the story below.
So if you didn’t follow the link above, to get up to speed, watch it below:
Then he did the Hall H thing and it didn’t hurt matters than he delivered 12 minutes of “Hobbit” footage that viewers went bananas for. But, rumors kept on churning and a Warner Bros. spokesperson said there were “. . . no planned or surprise announcements involving a third film. The plan was always for two.” Venturing a guess, the conversation about extra footage had started, the studio wasn’t ready to deliver an announcement but the rumor was out there and Jackson seized the chance to energize the influential fans. It worked.
No matter what happens in the conversations and the logistics, I gathered from my stint on “The Hobbit” set that there will be significant filming next year anyway. The production seemed to be working at a fast, efficient clip but there was always going to be significant shooting in 2013, or so I thought. To me, this sounded like more stuff for extended editions of the films, which is why I scoffed at reports of “three ‘Hobbit’ films.” I think I rolled my eyes at headlines.
By the afternoon press conference, it was a red hot topic. This is what Jackson had to say:
It’s all very premature. We have got incredible source material with the appendices. The Hobbit is obviously the novel, but we also have the rights to use this 125 pages of additional notes that Tolkien expanded the world of “The Hobbit” that’s published at the end of “Return of the King.” We’ve used some of that so far, just in the last few weeks as we’ve been prepping out the shooting and thinking about the shape of the story. Eventually Philippa [Boyens] and Fran [Walsh] and I have been talking to the studio about other things that we haven’t been able to shoot and seeing if we could possibly persuade them to do a few more weeks of shooting. It’ll be more than a few weeks actually, a bit of shooting, additional shooting next year. What form that will end up taking, the discussions are pretty early so there isn’t anything to report. But certainly there’s other parts of the story that we’d like to tell that we haven’t had a chance to tell yet. So we’re just trying to have those conversations with the studio at the moment.
CLUES FROM WHAT WE KNOW
Jackson wasn’t backing away from the possibility, but he did say that it was early, that there “isn’t anything to report,” perhaps relieving the studio from pressure if things didn’t work out. An actual third “Hobbit” film seemed pretty far fetched to me. Not everybody noticed, but we all received a very clear indication of where the first film was going to end when Entertainment Weekly released a montage of “Hobbit” images. The whole thing laid out “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” film rather nicely. Look just below for the whole, split sequentially in two parts.
So a quick glance provides audiences with many of the events of the films including the final scene, a Dwarven escape out of bonds into floating barrels. We know where “Unexpected Journey,” film ends.
So is this third film talk actually valid? Can two more films be pieced together out of what is left in the story plus what is contained in the appendicies after we already know the content of film one? Or could that actually change as well? Recent stories by the Los Angeles Times and Hollywood Reporter indicate that a third film definitely is a strong possibility.
This, from the HR piece, was particularly telling:
. . .the filmmaker has concluded that he wants to turn his upcoming two-film adaptation of the J.R.R. Tolkien epic into a trilogy.
That, to me, came from people in the know, meshes better than any story out there with what TheOneRing knows. It says shooting would be for about two months next summer (North America’s summer presumably). It seems Jackson thought about it, mentioned it to the studio, floated the idea at Comic-Con and is energized and now wants to do it, or at least that is how I read it.
I trust that Hollywood Reporter story for the best accuracy and fans who want to read it carefully might find further clues.
Reports in New Zealand are that he was at the top of his game during “The Hobbit,” shoot. It seemingly went well and actors seem happy despite the length of the shoot. The team seems creative and energized and ready to keep telling the story of Middle-earth. But, shooting movies, especially big ones with a big crew and big logistical needs costs big money. So WB is into two films for something like $500 million. For another, say $100 million or less, they now have three films to collect box office from, three different home video sales items to ring up. Instead of grossing $2 billion for a $500 million investment, they get to dream of $3 billion for $600 million. Seems like smart finances. It also fills a hole in the 2014 schedule, which will please stock holders and best of all, the desire to make the film didn’t come from marketing or merchandising, it came from the creative team involved. It also seems the only time to do this is now and not try to start the whole thing up from scratch in two years. The right people, the big movie-making machine that helps Jackson realize his vision, is in place.
One big challenge, probably the biggest after somebody says “yes” for the money is convincing, paying and scheduling on-screen talent. It will be a logistical challenge to align all the
planets stars to make this happen. And, smart actors with smart agents will get a pay raise. Still, the return on investment will probably be big enough for the studio that they are willing to over pay a little.
So what material is this that Jackson is talking about? Most book readers are aware that at the end of the “Lord of the Rings,” author J.R.R. Tolkien included about 100 pages (in my copy) of extra material in the Appendix. Film-only fans need to know that Tolkien had a much larger vision of Middle-earth than LOTR or the films could showcase and he used these pages to flesh out some history culture, languages and legends. So what is in them? Glad you asked.
A complete list of the content is down the page but there seems to be a few obvious possibilities of what might be incorporated into Middle-earth cinema. This isn’t a guess of what Jackson’s team is doing or thinking about, just what is available to them.
Besides some overlap of “The Silmarillion,” here is a history of kings and rulers and that includes familiar characters like Denathor, Boromir and Faramir. There is also a rough and tough guy called Aragorn who has some wild adventures including the very specific “Tale of Aragorn and Arwen.” Think cinema audiences would like that?
It could be that Jackson’s writing team wants to fill in the blanks and tie the two “Hobbit” films right into the “Lord of the Rings,” films. Once upon a time this was called the bridge movie which was abandoned so “The Hobbit” could get the royal, two-movie treatment but we know at least the thought was there at one time.
There is a section on Durin’s Folk, or Dwarves, who we alredy know will be making a big showing in the already filmed “Hobbit” movies. The writings include exciting details about a great battle with goblins and we already have clues that some of this history will be in the two planned films because of the presence of bad guys named Azog and Bolg (Conan Stevens). These characters come directly from Appendix A. Called The Battle of Azanulbizar, there is some great dramatic and hate-filled motivating material here, that I suspect and fervently hope is already in “The Hobbit” films.
In the same section we also learn more about Dain Ironfoot, played by Billy Connolly and this drips with potential but might be somewhat confusing in the complicated Dwarven shuffle. Fingers crossed that this is in already or will be with added shooting time.
Also here, the rise of the Witch King of Angmar and his decimation of the kings of men and his showdown against Glorfindel and the famous prophecy “and not by the hand of man will he fall.” This reference to Eowyn would also be a nice tie to the LOTR trilogy, although it seems unlikely. (But really, really cool!) Weathertop could also figure in here and then have more meaning in the LOTR films because it was a featured great tower that housed a palantir and was the center of a real estate dispute (war) that obviously left a memorable ruin in the LOTR films.
Taking place at the same time as some of the oldest flashbacks in LOTR, we have Thranduil and the establishing of the Silvan Elves. More Lee Pace? Yes please. Would PJ want to tackle the glory of Numenor? Seems a bit complex.
If Jackson wanted, he could depict the whole battle that was happening in the north while the siege of Minas Tirith was happening in “The Lord of the Rings,” in the south. The events are very related and it would be a strong, powerful tie to link the sets of films together. There is powerful heroism and friendship that would play great on the big screen. Related events happening at the same time that is also thick with drama is pretty good stuff.
Here too are mentions of post-LOTR events, especially with Hobbits and the final entry explains the final fates of Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli but that seems unlikely.
APPENDIX C, D, F
If Jackson can make a good film from family trees, explanations of calendars, languages and spelling will George Lucas promise to never make another film again?
THE APPENDIX INDEX
APPENDIX A – ANNALS OF THE KINGS AND RULERS
Annals of the Kings and Rulers
I The Númenórean Kings
II The House of Eorl
III Durin’s Folk
APPENDIX B – THE TALE OF YEARS (CHRONOLOGY OF THE WESTLANDS)
APPENDIX C – FAMILY TREES (HOBBITS)
APPENDIX D – CALENDARS
Shire Calendar for use in all years
APPENDIX E – WRITING AND SPELLING
I Pronunciation of Words and Names
I The Languages and Peoples of the Third Age
II On Translation
REARRANGE THE CONTENT?
Jackson specifically mentioned the appendicies, which is why we thumb through them above, but what if he only wants to add some background (like a fleshed out Battle of Azanulbizar please!) and put off the end of “The Hobbit,” until the third film. Is it possible? Could it be done effectively?
Could film two, “The Hobbit: There and Back Again,” end and still leave plenty of story for a third film that genuinely is “The Hobbit,” and not a bridge film? Maybe. It would probably need a new title though as there wouldn’t be a “going back again” happening just yet. Smaug The Golden, Smaug the Magnificent and his battle with Bard and Laketown could be the climax of the film. In the previously scheduled second film, Jackson has the challenge of making that magnificent event happen and then giving viewers another climactic action with the massive Battle of Five Armies that must seem even more grand. These events distinctly do not happen at the same time, so they can’t be tied together in a film’s structure as happening concurrently without major, fundamental changes to plot and character of the base story. Jackson did manage an epic battle with a balrog and still managed an emotional ending in FOTR, so it may not be as tricky as suspected at first blush.
So, could the political enmity between Dwarves and Elves and Men and Orcs provide enough plot, complete with thick history, to be its own movie? Is the White Council busy in the same time frame giving Gandalf urgent business too? Is Radagast and his legion of bunnies, birds and rodents to make the world safe at the same time? Perhaps the conflict against the Necromancer will also be moved to this time frame.
Is there any chance that Jackson would change film 1, make it shorter, leave film 2 with more stuff? An educated guess only but no.
So far we don’t have the clues needed to figure it all out, or at least I don’t.
THE BEST OPTIONS
Three options seem most viable:
1) Shorten 1 and 2 to give content to 3
2) Flesh out 2 and 3 with history to give depth to armed conflict
3) End “The Hobbit” with 2 films and create the once imagined bridge film
So fans, what should it be and what will it be? I have a hunch it will be option three but Jackson, already in 3D-48fps-uncharted-territory, having just sprung a third film on the world in an unprecedented move and way, all stemming from a 75-year-old children’s book, well, that guy just might do anything.
Some aren’t pleased or are skeptical that this can or will work and many instantly think of people trying to make another pile of money. For me, if I get more Middle-earth and more appendicies on screen (especially Glorfindel or *GASP* Tom Bombadil on a Jackson whim) I am happy for it. I don’t look forward to seeing extensions of new-to-the-film content. If Jackson and WB take this risk and I don’t like the end result, I can already read a book but I believe this is coming from the right (creative) place. It may be a long, long while before we see another Middle-earth film and there are some rich nuggets in the appendicies for Jackson and company to mine.