Like it or not, we're getting a third "Hobbit" movie. What started as rumors at Comic-Con became firm negotiations last week, and on Monday, it was announced that the as-yet untitled third film will follow six months or so after the already-scheduled second, "The Hobbit: There And Back Again," in the summer of 2014. Beyond that it's likely to feature additional scenes from the appendices, not much is known about Peter Jackson's actual plans, only that deals are in place for the actors, Warner Bros have given the go-ahead, and additional filming will take place in the near future, likely for two months or so.
Given that the deals for "The Hobbit" were said to among the most complicated that Hollywood's ever seen, it's no great surprise that The Hollywood Reporter says that this was somewhat touch-and-go; one insider is quoted as saying that "If anybody had been a big hindrance, it wouldn't have happened. It was such a short window of time to make this decision, if anybody had said no, it would have been two movies." But even then, it still sounds like it's going to be a complicated process to get the film made, not least because no one seems to have a clear idea of exactly what they're making yet.
The trade reveals that while the third film is expected to cost an additional $100 million or so, without marketing (between half and one third of the roughly $250 million cost of each of the other films), there's no exact budget for the film, because there's no script for it yet. This isn't exactly a surprise: Jackson only decided on this three-film approach in the last month or so, and has been busy directing battle-scene pick-ups, and promoting the film at Comic-Con, so likely hasn't had the chance to sit down with co-writers Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens and a copy of Final Draft.
But it's indicative of the problem we've had with this idea since it first emerged: Jackson and his writing partners (who also included Guillermo Del Toro on the pre-existing scripts) already spent at least a year structuring the story to be told over two parts. It's unclear how much of the first film he'll be able to change at this relatively late date, but we've always been skeptical of the idea that cannibalizing parts one and two to create a third film will lead to more satisfying narratives.
We could be wrong: as New Line president Toby Emmerich reminds THR, "As cynics have pointed out, 'The Hobbit' is not an exceptionally long book, but Peter has phenomenal creative integrity and truly believes this is the best way to tell the story. We all had to trust each other, and Peter, and we sincerely believe it will be great." And it certainly makes financial sense — spend another $100 million on a third film, and get another $1 billion for your trouble? You'd be a fool of a took not to. But the films weren't conceived in this way, they're being changed on the fly, and in our experience, that's unlikely to make them any better.
But as we said, it's happening whether you want it to or not, And as for the title of the third film, The One Ring have dug up some strong possibilities, as they've discovered that the titles "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" and "The Hobbit: The Battle Of Five Armies" have been registered as potential film names by Warner Bros. The former refers to the giant dragon (to be played by Benedict Cumberbatch) who guards the pile of treasure that Bilbo & Co seeks, while the latter refers to the giant clash between Goblins, Wargs, Humans, Dwarves & Elves late in the novel. There's no guarantee that either will be the ones used, but it's certainly an indication of what they could be, and what the content of the third film might involve.
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" hits theaters on December 14th, 2012, "The Hobbit: There And…" on December 13th, 2013, and "The Hobbit: …Back Again" in the summer of 2014.