It’s now officially official that Peter Jackson is directing The Hobbit. While Jackson directing a two-part adaptation had been considered a fait accompli for some time (since the previous announcement that he was directing), it is now absolutely, for sure going to happen, you bet. The repetition of the announcement makes one wonder, though, if all is as it seems.
While a movie of the magnitude expected by fans of Jackson’s instant classic Lord of The Rings trilogy certainly takes time, there are other factors at play beyond the challenges directly related to filmmaking. The rights to J.R.R. Tolkien’s work have been a source of vexation to would-be adapters for decades now, but there’s also the problem of the studio, MGM, that owns the rights to The Hobbit being enmeshed in protracted—and ugly—bankruptcy proceedings. (The same problem has befallen the non-SF James Bond series, of which you may have heard.)
It would not be beyond the realm of possibility for the announcement to be made to make an asset of MGM seem more valuable so that it might be sold at a higher price. The stability of The Hobbit project, with such a notable name attached—not to mention one with a directly related record of success—would certainly increase its value. One can hardly fault MGM for wanting to do so. However, there have been reports, since the previous announcement of Jackson’s assuming the director's chair, that the instability of the studio had him reluctant to commit his time and energy to the project. Whether this new announcement is a sign of Jackson’s reluctance subsiding—due to Warner Bros agreeing to fund the extremely expensive ($500 million for two 3D movies) proposition or MGM wanting it to appear that way is unclear.
Ultimately there is no concrete reason to doubt that Jackson is officially onboard and that The Hobbit is a go. That being the case, we will have to believe the first part of The Hobbit is being released in December 2012 when that day actually arrives. That is, if the Mayan apocalypse doesn't prove to be an insurmountable post-production hurdle.
Photo of Peter Jacskon by Jasmin Hunter