Peter Jackson got his Comic-Con wish - his adaptation of JRR Tolkein's The Hobbit will be expanded to three movies. Here's his official statement:
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. Recently Fran, Phil 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.'
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. 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.
So, without further ado and on behalf of New Line Cinema, Warner Bros. Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Wingnut Films, and the entire cast and crew of “The Hobbit” films, I’d like to announce that two films will become three.
It has been an unexpected journey indeed, and in the words of Professor Tolkien himself, "a tale that grew in the telling."
It seems to me that the first Hobbit movie, subtitled An Unexpected Journey, is too far along to change. From what I've seen it seems as though the film ends with Bilbo and the company of dwarves escaping in barrels, headed towards Lake Town. In a regular movie this would be the beginning of the third act, but I can see all the Lake Town business getting expanded to an entire film. So assuming that the first film goes that far - past Gollum and the spiders of Mirkwood and the goblins - what the hell is left for the third movie?
I ask because Jackson's statement makes it seem like the third film will continue Bilbo's adventure - and his adventure ends when Smaug ends. He makes it sound like the third film is not a bridge film between The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring, but rather the conclusion of The Hobbit. Knowing that Jackson plans to go back for additional shooting in the summer, does this mean the second film - currently titled There and Back Again, but surely about to be changed - gets totally reworked?
Then there's the question of what the new film will be called. Will There and Back Again get pushed back to film three? According to Slashfilm Warner Bros has registered some domains that give clues - The Desolation of Smaug is one, and Riddles in the Dark is another. Riddles refers to the Gollum chapter of the book, which should pop up in film one. So is Riddles off the table? The Desolation of Smaug would make a good second film title, if Bilbo et al are arriving near the Lonely Mountain at the beginning of that film.
But who knows. And who knows if this is a good idea. I like to trust Peter Jackson, but his post-LOTR films have not been as great as I would hope. I like to think that returning to Middle Earth will do him good - and obviously he's loving it there, as this third film seems motivated by him - but do we really need a fairly slim children's novel stretched out to six plus hours, spread over three years (the first two films will debut on the next two Christmases, the third film will hit summer 2014). It seems extreme; if he were approaching the original trilogy like this, Lord of the Rings would be six films long (and there would be precedent, as the 'trilogy' is actually one novel divided into six books that were packed as three volumes).