Embark on an epic adventure as Peter Jackson, Academy Award®-winning director of The Lord of the Rings trilogy unveils The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first of a series of three films adapting the enduringly popular masterpiece The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien.
Set 60 years before The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey follows the titular Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), as he is recruited by the Wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and thirteen Dwarves, led by the legendary Dwarf warrior Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage). With little more than a map they can’t completely read and Thorin’s consuming drive to reclaim his homeland and legacy, Bilbo is swept up in an epic journey through the treacherous and wondrous Wild on a quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf city of Erebor, which was long ago raided and conquered by the dragon Smaug.
Since setting off on his odyssey to make The Lord of the Rings films, The Hobbit has never been far from Jackson’s mind. When the skies cleared for Jackson and his collaborators to begin the adaptation process, they initially decided to divide the story up into two films. Only in the thick of production, when an early cut of the first film had been assembled, did the true scope of the project reveal itself, and “two became three.”
Jackson says he drew on both Tolkien’s intricate and layered 1937 novel and an additional treasure trove of material the revered English writer, professor and philologist developed in the decades after The Hobbit was first published. “At the end of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien included 125 pages of appendices which provide more backstory to the history of Middle-earth. This included describing some of the politics and events that occur during the years pertaining to The Hobbit,” he explains. “This new material was more serious, darker in tone, and more in line with The Lord of the Rings.”
So, Jackson and his collaborators on the screenplay—Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, his fellow Oscar-winning co-writers on The Lord of the Rings films, along with Guillermo del Toro—set about piecing the material together. “With these films, we wanted to take the charm and humor of The Hobbit and blend it with some of the back story and tone of the appendices,” Jackson notes. “I didn’t want these to feel like children’s films any more than The Lord of the Rings. We wanted to make the very best films we could, films we’d like to see.”
Working alongside Jackson throughout production were Boyens and Walsh, who adds that they found touchstones to Tolkien’s later imaginings within The Hobbit itself. “The Hobbit is much more playful than The Lord of the Rings,” Walsh notes. “We always saw it as a slightly more golden-lighted fairy tale, and it was written as that. But, by the time we get to the end, I think Tolkien pulls himself into the place where he would begin that epic journey of writing The Lord of the Rings. The nature of honor and leadership and power—those big themes that are quite prevalent in The Lord of the Rings—were sleeping and being awakened towards the end of The Hobbit.”
And then the long and ever-evolving journey to adapt the piece began. “It was quite easy, surprisingly easy, to fall back into this world,” comments Boyens, whom Jackson describes as “the world’s biggest Tolkien geek.” “It felt right, because we do dearly love these characters. I think it was fate that we made The Lord of the Rings first. I think The Hobbit films are better for it. This would be a different type of film without having gone through the experiences we did with the incredible cast we had on The Lord of the Rings.”
For Jackson, the process of dreaming and doing never ends. Once he and his team have wrapped this film, they will begin on the central film in the trilogy, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and then on to the finale, The Hobbit: There and Back Again. But, the filmmaker says, even then, it’s never over, “because the day that we finish the movie, usually within a day or two of it premiering, suddenly the movie exists in a whole different form. People still write us who have seen The Lord of the Rings, kids who have just seen it for the first time. And that’s part of the joy of making films. You’re realizing that you’ve created something that is entertaining people and will hopefully entertain people for years to come after we’re all gone. It doesn’t end with the completion of the film, not really. The real satisfaction comes when the movie begins screening in cinemas - it leaves your hands and passes into the hands of those it was made for – the audience.”
A production of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM), “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” will be released in the Philippines by Warner Bros. Pictures on December 13, 2012.
The second film, “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” will be released on December 13, 2013, to be followed by “The Hobbit: There and Back Again” on July 18, 2014.