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the hobbit

Should Peter Jackson Give Up on The Hobbit?

The Hobbit just can't catch a break. The attempt to prequelize the Lord of the Rings saga famously lost director Guillermo Del Toro in May after troubled MGM couldn't guarantee a green light, and since then, there's been one new problem after another. The two-film production is still without a director and a lead actor — series godfather Peter Jackson remains commitment-phobic about helming The Hobbit himself, and intended star Martin Freeman is committed to the BBC show Sherlock — and now several actors guilds have told performers to refuse work on the non-union production.

Jackson has responded by threatening to move the production to Eastern Europe (even though sets are already standing in New Zealand), but there's another option he has that might be better. This is Peter Jackson's chance to do the right thing and shut The Hobbit down — for good.

At this point, it seems like the universe is conspiring against the movie, and by now, we should have learned to trust the universe when it comes to troubled, long-delayed film projects. Decades of forced development didn't help when it came to the Star Wars prequels or Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull — in fact, the endless, collective anticipation for those films made the eventual letdown even worse. The same goes for Ghostbusters 3 and the Arrested Development movie, should they ever shoot: Can they possibly live up to the expectations we already have in our heads?

Meeting that lofty standard is a fool's errand, and it's why Jackson has so far declined the Hobbit gig, since he'd have to compete with the shadow cast by his original trilogy. It's also why producers have had trouble lining up a marquee director; though The Hobbit initially interested A-listers like Del Toro and Sam Raimi, when Del Toro bailed, the only names that still wanted to come onboard were journeyman directors like Brett Ratner and David Dobkin.

Certainly, it's admirable that Jackson has kept The Hobbit alive despite its constant setbacks: He's no doubt thinking of the hundreds already employed by the project, which went into preproduction over two years ago. Still, could anyone blame him for taking the hint and quietly shutting it down? Even the most ardent Lord of the Rings fanboy couldn't possibly want to see the reluctant Jackson direct The Hobbit merely out of a sense of obligation; the project needed a self-starting fanboy like Del Toro, not a depleted director whose heart isn't quite in it. Sure, there'd be a fan outcry, but it's nothing that back-to-back-to-back viewings of the Lord of the Rings extended cuts couldn't salve. Besides, there's already a perfect film version of The Hobbit that geeks can console themselves with: the one they've been imagining for years on their own. What could possibly top that?

Photo: New Line Cinema