Apparently, when it comes to Middle-earth, director Peter Jackson thinks three is the magic number. Last month at Comic-Con, Jackson teased fans with the idea that he was interested in pushing beyond his planned two-film adaptation of The Hobbit. Today, after weeks of intensive talks with Warner Bros., New Line, and MGM over how exactly that might be achieved, Jackson announced on his Facebook page that he is, in fact, going to turn The Hobbit into a trilogy.
“It is only at the end of a shoot that you finally get the chance to sit down and have a look at the film you have made,” Jackson wrote. “Recently Fran [Walsh], Phil[lippa Boyens] and I did just this when we watched for the first time an early cut of the first movie — and a large chunk of the second. We were really pleased with the way the story was coming together, in particular, the strength of the characters and the cast who have brought them to life. All of which gave rise to a simple question: do we take this chance to tell more of the tale? And the answer from our perspective as the filmmakers, and as fans, was an unreserved ‘yes.’”
How exactly The Hobbit will be turned into a three-film series is still somewhat unclear, though. As Jackson has acknowledged, The Hobbit is a slender story compared with the far more sprawling and complex Lord of the Rings trilogy. But the director is drawing not only on the original book, but also on more than a hundred pages of appendices Tolkien later wrote that expanded on the world of The Hobbit. Jackson is obviously confident that all of this material taken together can sustain three films and hinted in his announcement at what narrative elements will be incorporated to fill out the trilogy.
“We know how much of the story of Bilbo Baggins, the Wizard Gandalf, the Dwarves of Erebor, the rise of the Necromancer, and the Battle of Dol Guldur will remain untold if we do not take this chance,” he wrote. “The richness of the story of The Hobbit, as well as some of the related material in the appendices of The Lord of the Rings, allows us to tell the full story of the adventures of Bilbo Baggins and the part he played in the sometimes dangerous, but at all times exciting, history of Middle-earth.”
The first installment in the trilogy, subtitled An Unexpected Journey, hits theaters Dec. 14, 2012. The second film is slated for Dec. 13, 2013. The last installment will hit theaters in the summer of 2014.