The two-part movie adaptation of The Hobbit suffered a blow this past weekend when director Guillermo del Toro dropped out of the film. The acclaimed Mexican filmmaker has been working with Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson for years now trying to get The Hobbit ready for theaters, but due to the financial woes of MGM, and delays to The Hobbit's schedule, del Toro simply couldn't wait any longer.
Since Guillermo del Toro announced that he was leaving The Hobbit, the Web has been ablaze with talk of possible replacements, with two clear frontrunners emerging from the debate: Peter Jackson and Children of Men director Alfonso Curaón.
Ok, so this is a big "duh" for anybody who truly loves a J.R.R. Tolkien film done right. Peter Jackson has already turned Lord of the Rings into a multi-award-winning box office behemoth - and, truthfully speaking, long before Guillermo del Toro was a the "it" guy for The Hobbit, fans were clamoring for Jackson to continue the work he started on Middle Earth by helming a Hobbit film and turning his Tolkien trilogy into a full-blown Quadrilogy epic.
Jackson's passion for the project is unquestionable: he's spent the last few years helping del Toro get The Hobbit ready for production, and is even producing the massive project. When MGM started to go under, it was no doubt Jackson's clout with New Line/Warner Bros. that bought the studio in to help share the financial burden. It's safe to assume that Jackson would jump in to direct The Hobbit - if only to guide this lost at sea ship back to shore. The only question left is whether or not he's in a position to do so.
[caption id="attachment_6842" align="aligncenter" width="538" caption="Jackson and del Toro"][/caption]
Jackson's manager, Ken Kamins, recently spoke to Deadline stating that while Jackson himself may be publicly saying 'I'll direct The Hobbit if I had to,' the director actually has very real and binding contractual obligations that will keep him tied down for now:
"When Peter says that directing himself is one angle he'd explore if he had to, that means, if we can't find another director who is right for the films that everyone can agree on, and, if at that time, the other studios involved in his other projects would relieve him of his obligations.'"
Might Warner Bros. shift mountains to put Jackson back on Middle Earth duty? Maybe, we'll see (it would definitely be a good investment). But if Jackson is ultimately unable to take the job, I know a great second pick...
Cuarón, the famed director of Great Expectations, Y Tu mamá también, and Children of Men, has been stacking up serious critical (and commercial) cred with each new film that he does. Cuarón truly embodies the old-school definition of a cinematic "aueter"; no matter if he's working on an indie film budget, a major studio prestige piece or a summer blockbuster, Cuarón's creative vision and unique artistic style always seem to grab and hold viewers, leaving an indelible impression.
Cuarón certainly proved that he can make art out of anything with the 2004 film Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. That film stands as the favorite of many Harry Potter movie lovers, in large part due to the way in which Cuarón's vision transformed the film from a middling chapter of a fantasy series, into a movie that felt like a complete thematic journey, beautifully rendered on the screen like one of those paintings-in-motion you would find Hogwarts Castle.
Let's not forget about the one-take tracking shot sequences Cuarón is famous for. Children of Men will always be remembered for its one-take sequences - especially the climatic scene of Clive Owen running through a dystopian urban ghetto, searching building to building for a missing baby, even as rebel fighters battle a military brigade with automatic gunfire and tank shells going off everywhere. Gorgeous, heart-pounding, epic filmmaking.
I can imagine it now: sweeping one-take sequences of Bilbo Baggins fleeing through the goblin caves beneath the Misty Mountains, or running in terror from the giant spiders in the black forest of Mirkwood. I can imagine Cuarón turning the very land of Middle Earth into a character of the film (as he did the Whomping Willow in Harry Potter) connecting us to the body of the world that so many Tolkien geeks already wish they could live in...
It would be pretty awesome.
In the end, you want a Hobbit director who won't just match Peter Jackson's achievement with Lord of the Rings - you want a director who will match that achievement (or best it) in his own fresh, unexpected and unique way. Personally, I want to travel back to Middle Earth and once again be surprised and enchanted by what I find, rather than feeling like I'm just visiting some old friend. For my money, Cuarón is the man who can make that happen.
The director currently has a list of upcoming films on his IMDb resume, including the sci-fi/mystery Gravity, which it is rumored he is in talks for. So really, we're facing the same potential problem with Cuarón as we are with Jackson: the man may be too busy at the moment. We'll keep you updated.
Do you agree that Alfonso Cuarón is a strong choice to direct The Hobbit? Would you rather see somebody like Neill Blompkamp (District 9), at the helm? Let your opinion be heard in the comments section.
BONUS: Check out me and some other Blogosphere big names on Script to Screen, discussing the Guillermo del Toro's departure from The Hobbit and where we think the project is headed. You get to see your old buddy Outlaw in a rare appearance (try not to be smitten :-P )!
At this point, I don't think anybody can say for sure if/when The Hobbit will be in theaters.
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Sources: Deadline & Script to Screen