One of the more talked-about rumors that's been circulating on the Internet lately is the possibility that Neill Blomkamp, the director of "District 9," will be taking over for Guillermo del Toro as the director of "The Hobbit." Peter Jackson of course did the original "Lord of the Rings" trilogy and for quite some time del Toro had been booked to helm the two-part telling of J.R.R. Tolkien's "Rings" prequel novel. Unfortunately for fans, a protracted pre-production process coupled with studio woes led del Toro to announce quite recently that he'd been forced to move on to other commitments.
Which officially leaves the "Hobbit" director's chair vacant. Since the news broke at the end of May, there's been no shortage of speculation and rumor about who might take over. Jackson is the obvious choice of course, given his experience in bringing Middle-earth to life, but he's not interested. Blomkamp certainly makes sense as well; Jackson helped shepherd "District 9" into existence and many regard the South African director as Jackson's protégé.
Me? I'm torn. "District 9" was a stunning piece of film, especially for a first-time effort. But does the natural talent on display there coupled with the Jackson connection automatically mean that Blomkamp is an ideal second choice? Let's consider, after the jump of course.
The Jackson Connection
This is perhaps the most obvious reason that Blomkamp is ideal. Jackson was going to have some level of close involvement no matter who directed the films, even del Toro. But with Blomkamp at the helm, there's no question that the "Rings" architect would operate as a guiding force in some fundamental ways. Plus, the learning experience for Blomkamp would be tremendous. He did an incredible amount with very, very little on "District 9"... just imagine what he'd be able to accomplish with a nine-figure budget, WETA at his fingertips and Jackson whispering into his ear.
Fresh, Young Eyes
This other pro isn't as obvious, but I think it's just as important, if not moreso, than Blomkamp's connection to Jackson. The "Lord of the Rings" trilogy was an exceptionally faithful adaptation, maybe not textually but certainly spiritually. The main story beats are all there of course, but Jackson also managed to bring Tolkien's Middle-earth to life in a way that really fit the tone of the books.
The thing about "The Hobbit" is that it's actually a tonal departure from the "Rings" trilogy. While it certainly has its darker moments, Bilbo's adventures have a much lighter tone. Whether or not Blomkamp is the right guy to capture that tone remains to be seen, but his own take would certainly differ from Jackson's. And "District 9" has enough lightness in its relatively dire narrative to convince me that Blomkamp could bring the same balanced duality to "The Hobbit."
Blomkamp has repeatedly expressed an interest in science fiction. "District 9" is firmly rooted in that world, for one. He's also said that he'd be down for a sequel, but that he has another project in mind as his follow-up... another sci-fi project, with its own socially/politically relevant themes. He hasn't offered anything more specific than that, but it's clear that Blomkamp's chief interest lies in science fiction storytelling. "The Hobbit" is straight fantasy, with trolls and magic and talking trees and the rest of it. There's certainly nothing wrong with a filmmaker straying outside of his or her comfort zone. I'm just not sure "The Hobbit" is the best platform for such an experiment.
Lack Of Interest
More problematic than his sci-fi leanings is Blomkamp's stated lack of interest in blockbuster filmmaking. He said as much last year in an interview: "I’m not particularly interested in massive budget films, or creating huge spectacles that some young directors might be attracted to," he said. "The Hobbit" is definitely a massive budget film, a huge spectacle film. The scope of the story isn't quite as epic as the one in the "Rings" trilogy, but we're still talking about a tale that features a massive dragon and its treasure hoard, a lengthy journey through multiple environments and a climactic Battle of the Five Armies. This is spectacle defined. Blomkamp certainly proved himself capable of delivering stylish action on a budget... but "The Hobbit" really requires more of a full-blown, balls-to-the-wall treatment.
What say you readers? Is Blomkamp right for this gig? Do you hope that he gets it? How would a Neill Blomkamp-conceived take on "The Hobbit" look, do you think?