Jackson to produce “The Hobbit”

Tolkien fans rejoice.
At long last, New Line has confirmed that “The Hobbit” will come to the big screen. Peter Jackson is on board, but he’s not directing, he’s producing. And, the book will apparently be split in half and made into two films.

From The Associated Press:

After publicly feuding for more than a year, “Lord of the Rings” director Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema have reached agreement to make J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit,” a planned two-film prequel to the blockbuster trilogy.
Jackson, who directed “Rings,” will serve as executive producer for two “Hobbit” pictures. They will tell the story of how the young hobbit Bilbo Baggins originally came to possess the nefarious One Ring that Frodo, his adopted heir, needed three films to dispose of.
A director for the films has yet to be named. Production is tentatively set to begin in 2009 with a release planned for 2010, and the sequel following in 2011.

I’m glad to see “The Hobbit” will be adapted after all, though I’m a little worried about who will direct it and if that person will do as well as Jackson did in directing the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.
Also, it had never occurred to me that maybe they’d split the book up into two films — which I think is an excellent idea. It should allow for a more thorough telling of the story — and maybe shorter film lengths — than if it was all crammed into one movie.
And that’s really, in my opinion, the bane of adapting book to film. It’s taking a medium that tends to have deeply developed characters and backstory in maybe 300 or 500 or 1000 pages and adapting it to a medium that thrives on visual storytelling — avoiding exorbitant amounts of dialogue, voice-over, etc. — and generally amounts to about a minute’s worth of film per page of script. So, merely taking your average 300-page edition of “The Hobbit” and using that formula amounts to 5 hours of viewing pleasure. Eek. That’s far from exact, but gives you an idea of what it is to adapt from book to screen.
It seems to me the screenwriters and director will be able to cut much less of “The Hobbit” than was cut of “Lord of the Rings,” but I’d imagine there will still be some trimming — not to mention outright changes.
Which, to the behest of the purists I’m sure, is fine with me, as long as the changes are good. I’m a big fan of Tolkien’s works — I re-read the “Lord of the Rings” books often and I’ve even read the whole “Silmarillion” and all the “Unfinished Tales” — but I honestly thought the scriptwriters on the LOTR movies made some smart changes to bring the books into the film medium.
I try not to judge a film adaptation of a book based on every little detail being intact. I think they need to be judged separately, as separate works, one as a book and one as a film. If you want great examples of why this is so, just take a look at Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” and Francis Ford Coppola’s adapted “Apocalypse Now” or James Jones’ “The Thin Red Line” and Terrence Malick’s adapted version of it.
What do you think? Excited for more hobbits on the big screen? Are you a purist when it comes to adapting books to film?

About Matt Eyer

Breaking News Editor at the York Daily Record/Sunday News. Follow me on Twitter @mjeyer.
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