Saturday, April 26, 2008

Uh-oh: del Toro hates heroic fantasy?

The bloom appears to be already off the rose of newly-signed The Hobbit director Guillermo del Toro--and the ink on his New Line Cinema contract isn't even dry. Del Toro, who has gained commercial fame and critical acceptance for films like Hellboy and Pan's Labyrinth, and who seemed like a good fit for the project--although I haven't seen any of his films--apparently does not like nor has ever cared for J.R.R. Tolkien or classic fantasy, according to this Salon article. Here's the excerpt, taken from an interview between Salon and del Toro back in 2006:

I couldn't help thinking of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis in this film [Pan's Labyrinth]. Were you a fan of those books?

I was never into heroic fantasy. At all. I don't like little guys and dragons, hairy feet, hobbits -- I've never been into that at all. I don't like sword and sorcery, I hate all that stuff.

C.S. Lewis was another thing. I really enjoyed him as a kid, but he's too Catholic for me. It's not something as an adult I can feel comfortable relating to.

Needless to say this does not bode well for The Hobbit. My first reaction was, "That sucks, but maybe he'll just stick to a by-the-numbers adaptation of a nice script by LOTR screenwriters Philippa Boyens/Fran Walsh/Peter Jackson." But that hope quickly dissipated. A director has to be invested, body and soul, in a film for it to work. Especially a project like The Hobbit and its sequel, which according to published reports will take a hefty four years to complete from writing to filming. That's a lot of time to spend with a film whose source you don't much care for.

Perhaps del Toro will channel his dislike into his own vision of Middle Earth and create something unique and artistic with The Hobbit. But even if it succeeds artistically, it won't be Tolkien. And if it isn't Tolkien, or something reasonably close, I won't be happy. Say what you will about Peter Jackson's LOTR (and it has its share of detractors), but it hewed pretty closely to the books. Where it did deviate in plot or character, it remained true in spirit and intention. I can't see how someone who "[doesn't] like little guys and dragons, hairy feet, and hobbits" can direct The Hobbit with any passion, let alone faithfulness to the source material. Am I missing something here?

7 comments:

trollsmyth said...

Er, yeah, ok. Paint me skeptical. Seriously, rent "Hellboy" and then tell me that del Toro doesn't like heroic fantasy.

I think what he doesn't like is the happy-shiny, Smurfs-style goody-goody fantasy. But that man is down with heroic fantasy, he just doesn't know what it is.

But I could be wrong.

Julie D. said...

Wait a minute ... did del Toro watch his own Pan's Labyrinth? There weren't hobbits and the landscape was rather dark ... but it was all about heroic fantasy and a little girl's heroism at that. Yes, it was interspersed with "quick, turn away your eyes" brutality but that was well telegraphed and just served as a telling counterpoint that showed exactly what a true hero really is. As for the Catholicism comment, he inadvertently turned in a major commentary on Heaven and Hell, complete with a Father and Mary-ish figure to boot. If you ask my 17-year-old what that movie is about she automatically says, "How to get to Heaven."

Brian Murphy said...

Hey guys, to be fair (and as I've said in several past posts), I have somehow managed to miss watching any of del Toro's other films. This does very much handicap my ability to make an informed determination as to whether he's a good choice to direct The Hobbit. I really must rent Pan's Labyrinth!

I have no doubt that del Toro is quite capable and will probably produce something great, but I hope that that "something" is recognizably Tolkien. I don't want to see a dark, weirdly fantastical Hobbit; what I'd like is dwarves poring over treasure maps, elven singing in Rivendell, and a reluctant, home and hearth-loving Bilbo becoming a hero.

If del Toro can deliver this than I'm willing to forgive anything negative he has to say about traditional fantasy.

trollsmyth said...

If you've got any tolerance for the comicbook genre, you might give Hellboy a rent as well. It's a fun action flick.

Julie D. said...

Oh, I think that he can do it ... but you are right in that it can't be a dark fantasy. The beginning of The Lord of the Rings trilogy captures very well the bright fantastic that follows most of Bilbo's adventures (except perhaps for his encounter with Gollum beneath the mountains). I'd forgotten just how involved the story is until I began thinking about this as a movie. I'm getting excited ...

trollsmyth said...

Well, Bilbo and Golem.

And then the spiders.

And then being captured by the elves.

And then, just when everything is supposed to be good and happy, there's all the tragedy leading up to the Battle of the Five Armies that made me cry when I read it for the first time as a kid.

There's a lot of ugly-grim in there. There's evil, and then there's stupid that, in its way, is even worse. It'll be interesting to see how they handle it.

- Brian

andy said...

"As for the Catholicism comment, he inadvertently turned in a major commentary on Heaven and Hell, complete with a Father and Mary-ish figure to boot. If you ask my 17-year-old what that movie is about she automatically says, "How to get to Heaven.""

The funny thing about Catholics is that no matter how much they might protest otherwise they never really stop being Catholic. Del Toro keeps saying "I'm not a Catholic anymore" but his movies are loaded with it ;)

As for his directing The Hobbit, I think he'll do an excellent job but it'll probably be a little heavier on the grotesque than maybe some want.