So, I was trying to get some other stuff done during the long Memorial Day weekend and thinking I could take a break from constantly monitoring the news as surely nothing earth shattering would happen in the movie world over the three days. However, all it took was one quick look to find I was late to learn of the geek movie bombshell of all time, or at least this month.
Via Mike Fleming and Anne Thompson comes the following: it seems that MGM’s serious fiscal troubles have delayed things as long as cowriter-director Guillermo del Toro’s insanely busy career can stand. Therefore, despite the huge amount of preparation that’s already been done, he is stepping aside as director of the two-planned films of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit,” the “Lord of the Rings” follow-up inspired by the children’s novel that preceded the literary LOTR, later turned into the glorious three part epic directed by Peter Jackson. Del Toro will, however, continue working on the screenplays for the upcoming films.
Del Toro — one of my favorite filmmakers now working and, by all accounts and signs, a real stand-up guy — gave the bad news, alongside Peter Jackson, to those who care most, the devoted fans of the late author J.R.R. Tolkien, at theonering.net. It’s definitely being portrayed as the most amicable of semi-partings with both del Toro and Peter Jackson, the LOTR director who’s been overseeing the entire Tolkien project, chiming in. Here’s part of del Toro’s statement:
“After nearly two years of living, breathing and designing a world as rich as Tolkien’s Middle Earth, I must, with great regret, take leave from helming these wonderful pictures. I remain grateful to Peter, [co-writers] Fran [Walsh] and Philippa Boyens, New Line and Warner Brothers and to all my crew in New Zealand. I’ve been privileged to work in one of the greatest countries on earth with some of the best people ever in our craft and my life will be forever changed. The blessings have been plenty…Both as a co-writer and as a director, I wish the production nothing but the very best of luck and I will be first in line to see the finished product.”
Guessing about who the replacement director has already started. Early word is that it likely will not be the obvious choice, Peter Jackson, who it’s safe to say, has done enough for the Tolkien legacy — though Anne Thompson reports he told a New Zealand newspaper he would consider doing it if he had to “to protect Warner Brothers’ investment.” At this point, I’d say so many different things could happen it’s useless to speculate, but that won’t stop anyone.
A sprained ankle and other unexciting matters sidelined me yestereday, but now I can use my imposed semi-immobility for bloggy purposes.
* THR is claiming an exclusive that a date has finally been set for the two-part Peter Jackson/Guillermo del Toro collaboration, “The Hobbit.” (That’s with an assist from the late J.R.R. Tolkien, of course.) There was some apparent confusion earlier in the day, but it now looks like the two films will be released in Christmas of 2012 and 2013. That’s a year off from the original plan for the LOTR follow-up/prequel (though LOTR is technically the sequel here). Though this article doesn’t mention it, at least part of the problem was widely supposed to be the decline and fall of MGM.
* I’m not at all sure how the “poison pill” actually works but it appears that a decision by authorities up in British Columbia — which is, like, part of an entirely different country than ours and everything — will make it easier for Carl Icahn to attempt his hostile takeover of Lionsgate.
* Bill Murray is apparently bound and determined to be the proverbial turd in the “Ghostbusters 3” punchbowl. It wasn’t a punch I had my heart set on, in any case, much as I liked the first one.
* Just the day before yesterday I was part of a press round-table with the affable, stylish French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet (“Amelie,” “City of Lost Children”). Someone brought up his adapatation of the acclaimed, fantastical Booker Prize-winning novel, The Life of Pi, a project which the vagaries of movie-making had apparently forced him to give up on. Today, Anne Thompson brings word that it appears that the project has been picked up by another strong directorial hand, Ang Lee. And, guess what, it’ll be 3-D. Lee’s one of the movies’ great humanists still working, so I’m sure the film won’t be overwhelmed by effects.
I was really hoping to have time for a decent Friday night/end of week movie news dump, but the truth of the matter is that I’ve no time to do one of my usual semi-comprehensive end of week looks at movie news tonight. Fortunately, outside of continuing discussions of how the receipts of “Kick-Ass” will turn out over the weekend, not a huge amount that’s too earth shattering is going on.
However, I do have time for one item that will definitely put a mild damper on the days of hobbit-heads of all shapes and sizes, and aren’t almost all of us at least slightly hobbit-headed. We have word — really more in the nature of a reminder — from none other than producer Peter Jackson that the all-but promised twin film adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien‘s unintended prelude to The Lord of the Rings books, The Hobbit, to be directed by Guillermo del Toro aren’t exactly a 100% completely done deal yet, though I’d be beyond shocked if they somehow didn’t happen considering the talent involved and the success of the earlier films.
Nevertheless, the films have not been greenlit and, therefore, no start date has been set. For the same reason, no actual casting has been done. Oh, and by the way, the script was only finished last week. (Well, some movies don’t have a script when shooting starts. Some good ones, too — but not too many that weren’t made by Billy Wilder and none that requires this level of technical preparation.)
Of course, considering everything, doing the films should be a slam dunk but, as previously mentioned in many places the ongoing disaster and ensuing sale of MGM has simply gotten in the way. The Playlist has the details and the, er, gentle reminders to be cool, though most of the actual news is contained in this brief interview with Moviefone.
In the meantime, well, any excuse to run this great musical moment from “Flight of the Chonchords.” How often can you summarize over 10 hours worth of movie in under two minutes, and with such a good collection of beats?
Okay, so this doesn’t technically come out until April 6th, but seeing as how I’m already planning to cover a much bigger release that week (hint: it shares the same title), it’s probably as good a time as any to discuss the Blu-ray release of Ralph Bakshi’s 1978 film, “The Lord of the Rings.” Although it once held the honor of being the only cinematic adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous text (and hence the reason why it still has its share of supporters), Bakshi’s animated version isn’t even remotely deserving of having the word “classic” appear on the cover.
In fact, there are so many things wrong with this movie that it’s hard to believe anyone actually likes it. The biggest problem is with Bakshi’s decision to incorporate rotoscoped live action footage alongside the traditional cel-shaded animation, because while it might have seemed ambitiously artistic at the time, it comes off looking incredibly hokey. It’s also quite distracting, often making the animation look worse than it really is. Then again, I’ve never really been a fan of Bakshi’s work, so his reputation as an artist is completely lost on me.
Of course, even if you can get past the shoddy animation, Bakshi’s version only encompasses the first two books in the trilogy, abruptly ending after Gandalf saves the day at Isengard with no real concern for the fact that there’s still more story left to tell. Fans eventually did get to see the finale to the animated tale in 1983’s equally disappointing “The Return of the King” (albeit without Bakshi’s involvement), but it doesn’t make its absence in “The Lord of the Rings” any less bewildering. Obviously, it’s easy to criticize the film when the only thing you can compare it to is Peter Jackson’s award-winning trilogy, but how can you not? After all, the only reason people put up with Bakshi’s film in the first place is because it was the only one available. And now that Jackson’s movies are being released on Blu-ray as well, you’d probably be better off just forgetting this edition ever existed. Heck, I just watched it a few hours ago and I already have.
There is joy in Middle Earth as the suit over the accounting of the immense take of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings film cycle has been settled. (Nikki Finke says it was nearly $6 billion.) The terms are being kept secret, but this is a separate matter from the already settled action between New Line and Peter Jackson, which ended his relationship with former New Line Prez Bob Shaye under some extremely acrimonious conditions. This means there’s nothing likely to stand in the way of Guillermo del Toro’s upcoming films of Tolkien’s The Hobbit.
It’s also worth recalling that this isn’t the first time the Tolkiens — who were partners in the suit with the Rupert Murdoch’s Harper Collins publishing megalith — have been allegedly deprived of what’s rightfully theirs and been involved in successful legal action. The question is, what’s more corrupting — the power of cash or you-know-what?