Why Peter Jackson Really Wants Three Hobbit Movies—and You Do, Too

Sure, producers are set to earn a lot of cash--like, $1 blllion worth. But fans should be happy, too

By Leslie Gornstein Aug 05, 2012 1:00 PMTags
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Why must the beloved Hobbit novel be stretched over three films? Must all of Hollywood be so greedy?
—Holly, via the inbox

Sure, you can look at the latest news from The Shire from a purely cynical viewpoint—after all, the Lord of the Rings film franchise has grossed close to $3 billion worldwide. But just because J.R.R. Tolkien wrote one novel, and Peter Jackson is giving us three films, doesn't mean that the decision was solely about money.

In fact, fans who love The Hobbit book most are thrilled, and we're not talking about accountants or greedy dragons living under a mountain.

Yes, it has been confirmed that Peter Jackson's two-part Hobbit movie is now going to be three. It doesn't look like there will be any new footage shot, however. Apparently Jackson has captured three films' worth of footage, and he wants as much of it to be seen as possible.

Still, the announcement has spurred speculation that this is a money grab, at least, for the producers and distributors.

"Lots of pre-existing source material, plus a huge built in-and obsessed audience, divided by the cost savings in producing three films simultaneously, certainly equals more profit opportunity," talent manager and former Hollywood exec Marrissa O'Leary tells me.

But if you think this is just about money, you don't know the whole story.

"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, allows us to tell the full story of the adventures of Bilbo Baggins and the part he played in the sometimes dangerous, but at all times exciting, history of Middle-earth," Jackson himself said on his Facebook page.

In other words, the director isn't just using the Hobbit novel as source material. He's also, apparently, using other tales that Tolkien wrote to tell a fuller tale. So, in a way, the trilogy we will see starting in December won't be based on just The Hobbit. It'll be based on a whole lot of other, more obscure Tolkien-ology—maybe even stuff you never knew existed.

"It's totally natural to be skeptical," says Corey Olsen, who teaches J.R.R. Tolkien and medieval literature at Washington College in Maryland. "But what people have to realize is that Tolkien did a lot more work on this tale in the decades that followed" the original novel release.

For example, much of what the wizard Gandalf sees or does takes place "off-screen" in the Hobbit novel, but it's revealed in other Tolkien writings. Ditto with the White Council, and if you're a dweeb like me, you know exactly what that is.

Either way, Jackson sure does, and that should be a comfort to any fan.

"We know how much of the story of Bilbo Baggins, the Wizard Gandalf, the Dwarves of Erebor, the rise of the Necromancer, and the Battle of Dol Guldur will remain untold if we do not take this chance," he said on his Facebook page.

So there.