December 9, 2012

Jackson tackles another Tolkien challenge

The director of the 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy returns with a three-part adaptation of the novelist's 'The Hobbit.'

By JOHN HORN / McClatchy Newspapers

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Hugo Weaving as the elven leader Elrond, left, director Peter Jackson and Ian McKellen as Gandalf the Grey on the set of the fantasy adventure, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.”

Warner Bros.

In not only "The Lord of the Rings" but also in "King Kong" and "The Frighteners," Jackson has excelled at creating memorable creatures, and "The Hobbit" provides a great test: Smaug is arguably one of the best-known dragons in literature, and yet moviegoers of all generations believe they know what a dragon, not just Tolkien's fearful beast, should look like.

"The trouble with redesigning dragons is that if you really get fruity with it, it suddenly starts to look like some sort of monster from another planet – you very quickly can go into science-fiction territory," Jackson said. "I don't want to do that. I mean, people expect a dragon. 'The Hobbit' is one of the most famous dragon stories in the world, really. So I'm not trying to step away from the dragon. I just want to present the most venal, scary, decrepit, nasty dragon that I possibly can."

Perhaps Jackson's greatest storytelling challenge is Tolkien's almost steadfast refusal to engage in exposition and allegory. People can read into "The Hobbit" whatever they want, but Jackson isn't going to help confirm anyone's theories.

"I just like to tell stories," Jackson said. "I don't set out to try to preach to people and put hidden meaning into things. I just think if you can entertain people and give people a good time at the movies you're doing your job well. I don't think it's any more complicated than that."

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