Lord of the Rings, Two Towers, Gollum

New Line Cinema

I want to see The Hobbit on the big screen and am worried about the delays. Do all the setbacks mean the movies are doomed?
—Rothar, Penn., via the A.B. inbox

The Orcs of Delay have thundered through the Elven glade of fantasy filmmaking, but The Hobbit is one tough movie (or, rather, two), forged in the halls of Khazad-dûm! And with that my dorky analogies end.

Besides, haven't you heard the latest rumors about who's coming in to direct? It's very promising news for Lord of the Rings fans:

Yes, there seems to be a rumor about a new director for the pair of Rings prequels every five seconds. First Peter Jackson (who's producing and writing) was not interested, and Guillermo Del Toro was in. Then del Toro was out—frustrated, he indicated, by production delays—and, somewhere along the way, Neill Blomkamp (District 9) supposedly was in. You know, before he actually was out

But the very, very latest rumor seems solid: That Jackson has returned as the No. 1 candidate to direct. Specifically, Deadline Hollywood says he's negotiating with Warner Brothers this very second, prepping to come thundering forth, Andúril swinging, to save Middle-earth once and for all.

Still, there's also plenty of confusion going on at the studio level. Two studios, MGM and Warner Brothers, have partial rights, but MGM is in huge financial trouble that seems to be slowing down everything and alienating directors like del Toro.

Whatever's going down, don't take all that backstage drama to mean disaster for fans. Why? One word: money.

"The producers have spent a lot of money developing this—a lot on sets and costumes and prep work that's already been done," explains Borys Kit, who runs the respected Heat Vision blog for The Hollywood Reporter. "They have a lot of money invested, so they're not going to let those movie rights go away."

Just how far have the Hobbit filmmakers gotten in the process?

"We have designed all the creatures," del Toro said in a recent press conference to promote, Splice, a film he produced. "We've designed the sets and the wardrobe. We have done animatics and planned battles sequences. We are very, very prepared for when it is finally triggered."

And don't forget: The three movies Jackson has already directed about J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth earned close to $3 billion at the worldwide box office—pluse a record-breaking pile of Oscars.

And get this: Producers are still so optimistic about the two new movies that they even hope to have all of us arriving in Hobbiton on the original release schedule—December 2012—Kit tells me.

Sorry, thought my Middle-earth analogies were done there, but, like Gollum, they just keep showing up at inconvenient times.

I swear I'm done now.

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