The Oscar-winning filmmaker — who, as Smeagol scholars are well aware, directed the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy to much critical acclaim and financial success — had hinted about a third “Hobbit” during a recent appearance at Comic-Con. But today’s statement officially confirms that a third, not-yet-titled movie will follow “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” and ”The Hobbit: There and Back Again.” Part three of the Bilbo Baggins saga is slated for release in summer 2014. “Unexpected Journey” arrives this December.
In a statement posted to his Facebook page, Jackson noted that he and collaborators Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyles made the decision after watching an early cut of the first film-and-a-half’s worth of “The Hobbit.”
“All of which gave rise to a simple question: Do we take this chance to tell more of the tale?” Jackson said. “And the answer from our perspective as the filmmakers, and as fans, was an unreserved ‘yes.’”
When decisions are made to stretch a story into more movies than originally planned, it’s natural to assume that it is, at least in part, a money decision. By extending the “Harry Potter” franchise from seven films to eight, or “Twilight” from four movies to five, or “The Hunger Games” from three parts to four, each respective studio gets yet another guaranteed box office home run based on an established franchise.
Undoubtedly the studios backing “The Hobbit” — Warner Bros., New Line and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer — were happy about this “Hobbit” call for that reason. But given Jackson’s artistic integrity, this doesn’t seem like a straight-up money grab. If Jackson says that he, Boyles and Walsh (who also happens to be Jackson’s wife) agreed that they couldn’t tell the story properly in just two movies, then I am inclined to think narrative quality was more of a motivator than ticket sales.
Still, there is something to be said for keeping a story as streamlined as possible. The “Lord of the Rings” movies, as originally released, each clocked in around three hours, give or take. The extended editions later released on DVD and Blu-ray padded out the running times even more.
My only concern is that Jackson is skipping over the swiftly edited version of “The Hobbit” and going right for the extended edition, which may mean he’s getting bogged down into much detail. (In his statement, he noted that he wants to share “the richness of the story of ‘The Hobbit,’ as well as some of the related material in the appendices of ‘The Lord of the Rings.’”) Seriously, when a longer, director’s cut inevitably gets released, it may take an entire week to watch it.
Granted, this is a minor quibble over what most consider something to be celebrate: news that there will be more of Middle-earth for fans to savor, presented by the very capable Jackson. Indeed, in the short time since the New Zealander first posted the news about a third “Hobbit” on his Facebook page, he has already amassed more than 12,000 likes.