In retrospect it was never going to be easy for Peter Jackson to replicate the success of The Lord Of The Rings trilogy. Jackson’s epic adaptation of J.R.R Tolkien’s masterwork was a mammoth undertaking and a risky gamble that managed to pay off in an artistic and financial level. It was never Jackson’s intention to return to middle-earth and direct The Hobbit and it was a burden he should never have had to bear. Guillermo Del Toro was originally supposed to help the prequel but like the infamous ring at the centre of Tolkien’s lore – the story was trying to get back to its master.
Jackson delved back into the world of Hobbits, wizards elves and dwarves and expanded Tolkien’s work from two to three films. He threw everything he could into this second trilogy and its as if he wanted to make sure that he would never have to cross the fiery terrain of Mordor ever again. However, the Jackson who directed The Hobbit is not the same man who helmed The Lord Of The Rings movies. When Jackson began filming the first trilogy in 1999 he was a Hollywood outsider, a filmmaker in his 30s best know for quirky low budget movies. The Jackson of The Hobbit was a middle-aged, multi-millionaire Oscar winner sitting side-by-side with the likes of Steven Spielberg and James Cameron. Over the course of the intervening decade, Jackson’s passion turned to digital technology and like Cameron and Robert Zemeckis before him looked at this as a way of expanding his filmmaking tools. The world of blockbuster movies changed over that decade and the digital sheen of The Hobbit meant that it was never going to have the same earthy quality enjoyed by The Lord Of The Rings.
The Hobbit is Peter Jackson playing with his new toys on an epic scale. In a way it’s similar to what George Lucas did with his Star Wars prequel movies. Like Lucas, Jackson was never going to please everyone with his prequel trilogy. Anticipation was high and expectations were never going to be met. It’s obvious that Jackson knew this and he wanted to deliver a new series of movies on his own terms – even if he knew he was bound for a backlash. He pushed technological boundaries with motion capture and frame-rate using the financial resources of Warner Bros and MGM. If he was going to make these movies, then he was going to get something out of it on a creative level.
The Hobbit was never going to match the unprecedented success of The Lord Of The Rings. Jackson had to condense the Rings text into three movies, while he worked hard to expand The Hobbit’s narrative to fill a trilogy. However, the newer movies are very different in tone. Rings was a weighty and dark look what evil can do to man, while The Hobbit is a light-heated adventure. Age softens everyone and the years have turned the young Peter Jackson into the older and softer movie-making statesman. That’s on display in these extended blu-rays of The Hobbit – but maybe time will be kinder to these movies once disappointment and expectation have faded into the mists of time.
The Hobbit comes with a mind-boggling array of extras. You’ll feel like you directed these movies yourself once you’ve waded through the commentaries, featurettes and documentaries. It doesn’t get any more comprehensive than this.