Guillermo "Pan's Labyrinth" Del Toro is switching into high gear on his next project, a two-movie adaptation of The Hobbit. This novel is the prequel to Lord of the Rings, and tells the story of Frodo's uncle Bilbo Baggins, the hobbit who helped slay a dragon. Though it's not nearly as epic as LoTR in scope, Del Toro revealed yesterday that he and producer Peter Jackson think it merits two movies that tell one, continuous story. Sounds like what the Wachowski Brothers did with the two Matrix sequels, which were basically one movie broken in half and released within months of each other. Can this work better than the Matrix sequels did? Del Toro told iF magazine:
The book is such an effortless read and it seems like it goes like a breeze, but there are so many events in The Hobbit. Especially if you’re taking into account, ancillary stuff, there’s so much there. It really is barely containable into two movies.
He added that these films are basically one movie, not a "bridge" to LoTR:
That was spoken about early on, as I said, we stopped talking about in terms of a bridge film, it’s a single film. We said, “we’re talking about a ‘film’ and we’re talking about two chapters of a film or two episodes.”
It's hard to say no to more monster-making from Del Toro and Jackson, who have proven themselves masters of the genre. But it remains to be seen whether the format of two highly-connected films really works for audiences: The Matrix sequels didn't do as well as studios hoped, and the only other major director to try this format recently was Quentin Tarantino with Kill Bill. What these couplet movies had in common was that both were extremely bloated. There's a lot to admire in Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions, and the same goes for Kill Bill 1 and 2. Still, both got bogged down in long sequences (endless dialog, fight scenes that went from beautiful to boring) that would have reached their proper destinations on the editing room floor if the directors had been disciplined enough to make just one movie. My concern is that The Hobbit might go the same way as these precedents. Jackson took three epic LoTR books and made three nearly stand-alone movies. Now he's steering Del Toro to make two long movies out of one book? Sure there's a lot going on in the book, but what feels fast-paced and "effortless" in JRR Tolkein's prose could come across as overlong and gratuitous on screen. Audiences already complained about some of the excesses of Return of the King — did we really need the 10-minute slo-mo reunion scene, for instance? Imagine if Jackson had made each book into two movies. You're talking about a lot of Ent poetry readings. I hope Del Toro can make his Hobbit flicks intense and poignant, but I fear the two-movie format will give us world-building lard. Hobbit Updates [via iF magazine]