Peter Jackson is back taking us to Middle Earth for his second chapter of his Hobbit journey, teased in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug trailer. We caught up with Jackson recently and up front he addressed the idea of doing something some J.R.R. Tolkien fans would see as sacrilege, creating a new character that was not in The Hobbit book. Evangeline Lilly is Tauriel and honestly, she is a great addition to a story that was first of all, lacking any female characters.
“In The Hobbit novel, they (the dwarves) get captured by the elves and they escape through the bowels and there’s a memorable part of the book. But, the elf king isn’t even named! It was only later on that Tolkien decided that he should be Thranduil and he also decided that he had a son (Legolas) when The Lord of the Rings was written, 18 years later. He created the character of the son of the king,” Jackson said.
“So, you have the material there, but you can’t have a scene in a film that’s a memorable scene and not have just one person as the elf. We wanted three Elven characters who were all different. That’s the thing too is to create characters who have conflict with one another and who have different agendas. I mean Thranduil, Legolas and Tauriel are all on different flight paths, which makes it more interesting to write the narratives through their eyes.”
There was also some criticism as to why he turned one book into a three-film trilogy. After seeing The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, for us it seemed to be a necessary decision to fully allow the adventure to intersect with the development of characters that were worthy of the screen time that honestly added to the resonance of the entire piece.
“You just want your narrative of the film to be told through either the dialogue that the characters are saying or the actions that they do. So that’s really why we ended up giving it the sort of depth and explore some of the character depth that we had done with Lord of the Rings,” Jackson admitted.
And ultimately, Jackson knew that these films would be watched as one unit of a cohesive universe that is Tolkien’s Middle Earth. “I also was acutely aware that there was going to be, ultimately, this cycle of releasing a movie every year, knowing that was six films. I expected (An Unexpected) Journey to be the beginning and Return of the King to be the end. I did want to have a unity. I didn’t want to make The Hobbit feel any more simple or any less. I just wanted it to feel like it was the same filmmakers.”
Jackson gathered his cast and crew in New Zealand for 10 weeks of pick-ups to fill in the holes necessary to make The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and The Hobbit: There and Back Again fuller. It was during that time that ironically, Jackson felt he could have kept going!
“It was actually interesting because by the time we were done with pick-ups I was just getting in my groove,” Jackson said and laughed. “It was interesting to get completely into the narrative of the story because as a filmmaker I was getting swept along with the characters day to day. So the filmmaker is on the same journey as the dwarves to some degree over that period of time.”
What fans will notice about the second film in this trilogy, much as Two Towers did for The Lord of the Rings trilogy, is you don’t have to spend minutes with plot exploration. “The good thing with the middle film is that you don’t have to set things up, you can just drop into the story assuming that no one is going to see this film that didn’t see the first one,” Jackson said.
The filmmaker is also keenly aware that his six Tolkien films are just beginning their journey. “As much as the romance of the big screen, the 3D, and everything else is that the ultimate life of these movies is going to be one on Blu-Rays, download and hopefully for years to come. That is where they are going to find their ultimate resting place. So you are telling a continuous story. It’s three movies but it is telling one narrative arc and you are trying to make each film work individually. This is the part in the middle where you pick up your foot and put it on the gas pedal.”
When asked about the idea of fans having to wait a year for the next chapter of his films, like with The Hobbit trilogy and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, he thinks fans of the Tolkien series have it easy! “I remember when I was 17 to 19 years old. I remember the big Empire Strikes Back cliffhanger,” Jackson said.
“It was like three years before the next one came out. We’re being pretty generous with one year!”