I'm still skeptical about the whole thing, but if Peter Jackson isn't directing, the choice of Guillermo Del Toro makes me cautiously optimistic. Not because I've loved everything he's done, but because his best work suggests that like Jackson, he has precisely the sort of flair for the tactile, the organic, and the grotesque that you need to make a fantasy world like Middle-Earth feel physically real. This is a place where a great many recent fantasy films fall short: The magic of the digital age lets filmmakers summon up fantastic landscapes at will, but too often - I'm thinking of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, The Golden Compass, and the Star Wars prequels, among others - the results have a glossy, unrealistic sheen to them, with too little of the gritty, bloody, fleshly reality that the best supernatural tales have always partaken of, whether on the screen or on the page. This was something that Jackson, with his background in gross-out horror, always seemed to understand, and the LOTR trilogy was vastly better for it; based on Del Toro's work to date - and the fact that he'll be warming up for his foray in Tolkien with an H.P. Lovecraft adaptation - I'd expect The Hobbit to do Jackson one better on this count, at least.
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