After the phenomenal success of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, it was a cinch that the studio would want to bring The Hobbit to the big screen. What followed was a project plagued by as many problems as Middle Earth itself. Peter Jackson, titanic director of the three existing films, backed out in order to pursue other endeavors and Guillermo del Toro stepped in; much to the delight of fans everywhere given his beautiful, fantastical Pan’s Labyrinth and the balls out action romp Hellboy II. All seemed well in The Shire until just this week, when it was announced that del Toro has also abdicated the director’s chair. The geek world is emitting a deafening buzz right now over who should replace Guillermo. To wit, I humbly submit my top candidates for the job.
One of the things that made the Lord of the Rings trilogy so indelible was how well Peter Jackson was able to transport us visually to Middle Earth. The cinematography in those films was just as breathtaking as the full-scale battles or snarling beasts. If there is one director who has demonstrated a unique visual style and prowess of form, light, and color, it’s Darren Aronofsky. Not only that, but with The Fountain, Aronofsky was able to merge that visual adeptness with a fantasy motif so I don’t feel he would be completely overwhelmed by the material.
Is he the first name that pops up in the rumor mill regarding this project? Of course not! However, Danny Boyle is one of the most versatile directors working today. He has skipped merrily from genre to genre and delivered almost every single time. Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Sunshine, and Slumdog Millionaire are all fantastic films though they could not be more different. I would love to see this genre mastery applied to an epic fantasy piece, one of the few in which he hasn’t dabbled, and the prospect of all his finite touches in the world of Tolkien is more than a bit titillating.
I am an enormous fan of the film The Good, the Bad, and the Weird; the Korean remake of the classic Sergio Leone film. It is a wild, madcap, and ultimately gorgeous retelling of the story with some marked Asian cinema flairs that only enhance the flavor. That being said, I think Ji-woon Kim’s qualifications for directing The Hobbit far exceed my personal bias towards his film. The Good, the Bad, and the Weird is about a bumbling thief who gets in way over his head and has to fight his way out of a number of sticky situations using both wit and weapon. Sound familiar? I would also love to see what landscape Ji-woon would use for Middle Earth as he did such an incredible job making the deserts of Mongolia as much a character in the film as the thief.
This will probably seem the most obvious and convenient choice, but Nolan is also a perfect choice when we consider exactly what this project would be. Peter Jackson’s trilogy was so monumentally successful and well received that in order for the studio to get any more mileage out of this tale, someone would have to come in and give us something we’ve never seen before while still rooting it within the canon. Not only that, but we’re talking about a prequel that must explore complex origins and reboot a franchise. I don’t need to tell you that Nolan has already shown unbelievable skill in both of those arenas. Beyond that, the reason I love every Christopher Nolan film I have ever seen is because the guy is an old-school director who understands the beauty and technique of storytelling. If your intention is to bring characters from the page to life, why not put that task in the hands of someone who already writes remarkable, fully realized characters?
If Peter Jackson isn’t going to step back up to the plate, who better than his protégé to give us the final, though technically first, chapter of the Lord of the Rings saga? What Blomkamp was able to create with District 9 with so meager a budget is astounding and I will not make the argument that he would therefore accomplish more with limitless funds at his disposable. Instead, what I would like to see is Blomkamp apply the same ingenuity and creativity to undertaking what would otherwise be a mega-budget production. We’ve seen the grandiose battles, the myriad effects, and the larger-than-life production designs. Trying to top that would prove a futile effort, but how great would it be to see a more intimate, yet still very exciting take on the story? Besides, Blomkamp is a giant geek and how can any of us say we wouldn’t want our beloved fantasy novel in the hands of a geek? I think Jackson can attest to this.