Contrary to the joy expressed by fans over the news that Guillermo Del Toro will be directing two HOBBIT films, Salon.Com’s Andrew O’Hehir thinks the whole thing is a bad idea. After expressing admiration for Tolkein, Peter Jackson’s LORD OF THE RINGS films, and Del Toro, O’Hehir asks:
First of all, hasn’t anybody noticed that del Toro has repeatedly said he doesn’t like Tolkien, and that he never finished reading “The Lord of the Rings”? Here’s what he told me in Cannes in 2006, when I asked him about the influence of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis on his own work: “I was never into heroic fantasy. At all. I don’t like little guys and dragons, hairy feet, hobbits — I’ve never been into that at all. I don’t like sword and sorcery, I hate all that stuff.”
Let’s see, he doesn’t like “little guys and dragons” or hairy-footed hobbits, and “The Hobbit” would be a movie about what, exactly? Seriously, I think del Toro was speaking from the heart, and I think he’s right. His aesthetic is darker, more Gothic and more grotesque than the Tolkien-via-Jackson universe; it derives more from the medieval mire of middle-European fairy tale than from the high-toned, pre-modern northern European epics Tolkien was channeling. And I’m riding a major bummer if del Toro is shelving “3993” (the third of his Spanish history-fantasy trilogy, after “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “The Devil’s Backbone”), his adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness” or his “Doctor Strange” blockbuster. All three of those projects are vastly better fits than the hairy-footed little guys and dragons.
Furthermore, O’Hehir thinks that Peter Jackson has morphed from a filmmaker into a tycoon with too many irons in the fire, a la Geroge Lucas, and he wonders whether Jackson and Del Toro can mesh their two sensibilities together.
I don’t know whether O’Hehir is right to worry over the last topic. with BLADE II, Del Toro showed he could walk in and do the job as a director for hire. If he could get along with the studio execs on that project, I’m sure he can find some kind of artistic truce with Jackson.
I do, however, share O’Hehir’s dubious feelings about making two prequels to LORD OF THE RINGS when one would have done just fine, thank you. Tolkien provided some back story to fill the gap between The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, but not really a plot, so the secodn prequel will not really be an adaptation so much as an original script. With such a shaky artisitic foundation for its existence, O’Hehir suspects the film was conceived by greedy studio execs.
Oh well, I go bemoan the delay of Del Toro’s other project, particularly the Lovecraft adaptation – which is vastly more interesting than returning to Middle Earth to make more cash. But, like O’Herir, I hope to be proved wrong by the final results.