• Following Us

  • Categories

  • Check out the Archives

  • Awards & Nominations

Why Del Toro Departing The Hobbit is a Good Thing…

The Hobbit is dead. Long live The Hobbit. Look, we all know it’s going to happen. Like the next James Bond film, the economics of the situation dictate that it must happen – a spin-off from The Lord of the Rings is too lucrative an opportunity to pass up, it’s an excuse to print money. Think of all the simple/theatrical/standard/deluxe/super/extended versions of the films have been released on video/DVD/HD DVD/Blu Ray. Now double that. So now you know why The Hobbit is going to happen, eventually. Unfortunately, I think we all know it’s not going to happen soon. And I’m here to tell you why Del Toro departing the film is actually a good thing.

Down the hobbit hole...

Note: This is part of a two-part article. Andrew over at the always wonderful Andrew at the Cinema is offering this article a jolly good rebuttal. Pop over and give it a read. Just make sure to spend a few minutes appreciating my flim-flam arguments before he pretty much destroys them with his advanced reasoning.

The simple fact is that, due to external concerns like the liquidation of MGM, The Hobbit isn’t going to happen soon. MGM doesn’t want to die, so they aren’t going to sell the rights to things that will make a tonne of money easily. So James Bond 23 and The Hobbit will be fought over and – let’s face it – aren’t going to be out within the next three or four years.

Here’s the catch, once a director like Del Toro is attached to the project, he’s handcuffed to it. It’s his baby, and he has to stand by it. He can do little things – maybe a TV commercial here, some producing there, a script revision or two – but he knows that, some dark night, the management of MGM or their creditors will assemble on a damp and rainy rooftop and turn on the “Hobbit” signal, which will shine of the dark sky, calling Del Toro to action.

He doesn’t know when it will happen. It could, improbably yet still possibly, never happen. And yet, it’s attached to project, he has to jump at the call. In the meantime, all these little projects are passing him by and his enthusiasm is weakening. Just a little, but sitting there twiddling your thumbs while the accountants do their thang can just wear you down. I’m thinking of all the movies we would miss if Del Toro sat forever in that MGM waiting room, like a director’s limbo. I’m also thinking of the slight resentment that Del Toro may eventually end up building towards a project that left him idle so long.

But this isn’t the only problem. Don’t get me wrong, Del Toro is a great director, and one with vision. Even those few people out there who disliked Pan’s Labyrinth admired the grim and beautiful design of it all. It’s the sort of wonderful fantasy world-building that The Lord of the Rings needs, to be entirely frank. But there’s a catch, and that catch is fairly self-evident: Peter Jackson has already put his stamp all over Middle Earth. He’s built it and defined it and made it all sorts of magical.

Now, Del Toro is no stranger to playing in somebody else’s sandbox. His version of the Blade mythos in Blade II was one of the mid-to-early examples of a superhero sequel surpassing the original film. He’s brought to life in a wonderfully inventive way Mike Mignola’s creations for Hell Boy and Hell Boy II. So, there’s no doubt he could offer quite an impressive reiteration of Peter Jackson’s reiteration of J.R.R. Tolkien. However, “quite impressive” doesn’t quite cut it when it comes to one of the most beloved books of all time (I even prefer The Hobbit to The Lord of the Rings). I love Hellboy II (the “Can’t Smile Without You” was one of my favourite scenes of 2008), but the truth is that Del Toro’s truly visionary work is the work he does channeling his own vision, rather than someone else’s.

Bilbo took the news of Del Toro's departure worse than most...

That’s why, despite the fact we all like all of his films, we love Pan’s Labrynth or The Devil’s Backbone just that little bit more. And this isn’t just about Del Toro, it’s about The Hobbit itself. I was never entirely convinced that Del Toro was the right director for the project in the first place, but maybe that’s just me.

The Hobbit is a very peculiar job. The Lord of the Rings are so universally beloved that it will take a very smooth hand to do it properly. The huge box office has ensured that Peter Jackson’s epic production design must be maintained – there’s relatively limited room work quirky additions to that framework. A director with his own particular style may actually hinder the project – I can’t imagine any of the investors being comfortable in reinventing any of the aesthetic of the original trilogy. It worked, so why change it?

That isn’t the sort of project that is friendly to a director with his own well-defined stylistic touches. Instead, I’d argue it’s more suited to a young up-and-comer who doesn’t come with the baggage of expectation, but has the skills to do the job. Del Toro always seemed an ill fit, and I wasn’t entirely sure his production design would sit with Peter Jackson’s. I like the idea of the young Neill Blomkamp taking the reigns quite a bit more. He’s a director who hasn’t got a list of audience expectations as long as his arms going into a franchise which already has its own expectations. He can do a lot more with less and – if I may be so bold – has demonstrated a more “Jacksonian” (it’s a word!) aesthetic to his work. I can see it fitting.

Now, Andrew has taken the other side of the fence. I suggest you pop over and give it a read. Let us know what you think: is Del Toro’s departure really a blessing in disguise?

6 Responses

  1. I was more excited by Toro’s future projects like Frankenstein, HP Lovecraft adaptation and other stuff like that.

    • Yep – I didn’t even know about the Lovecraft stuff. It’d be great to see some of that on the big screen.

  2. Destroyed? Advanced reasoning? Darren, you’re giving me way too much credit here. In the end, despite writing the “con” side of the conversation, I think you’ve got the right side of things here– del Toro free to start making movies again can only mean good things for cinema lovers. Sure, I think he could have directed the hell out of The Hobbit, but I’d rather not see him languish in director’s limbo.

    I think being “Jacksonian” is important, and I actually think del Toro has a lot in common with PJ, but I think equally important is the need to keep both properties feeling tonally distinct. I do wonder if del Toro may have gone too far down the Pan’s Labyrinth road with The Hobbit, which would have done it no favors whatsoever.

    Regarding Blade II: You’ll hear no argument from me. It’s superior to the original all around, though the original is still great.

    • Yep. i think we’re all agreed that more Del Toro sooner is a good thing. And thanks for the invite, ’twas great to take part.

  3. While I disagree for the most part about del Torro’s style not mixing with Jackson’s per say, I agree that it will be nice to see Guillermo work on a number of other projects. That, and I have faith that Blomkamp will be able to deliver if he is indeed tthe choice.

  4. TheOneRing.net is reporting that Blomkamp isn’t directing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: