Have We Said Our “Last Goodbye” to Middle Earth?

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Photo: Warner Bros

With the final Hobbit film out in cinemas next week, many fans have been preparing themselves to say goodbye to Middle Earth. We have heard Billy Boyd’s mournful ditty “The Last Goodbye,” and choked up over the accompanying music video. Not to mention we’ve trained our bladders to ensure we don’t miss a minute of what is sure to be an epic conclusion. But what if this was not “the end of the journey”? At least not yet, according to hints from star Sir Ian McKellen at last night’s premiere for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.

“I was told by Peter [Jackson] in 2001 [after The Return of the King] that that was the end, that it was all over,” McKellen who stars as the wizard Gandalf in all six Middle Earth films told the BBC. “Here we are 13 years later. So I don’t believe necessarily this is the end of the journey.”

While he went on to explain about how films and stories get a new life when new audiences are brought to them, even years after they were released, many speculate that this is not the end of Jackson’s journey with Tolkien’s masterpiece.

Those that know the books were stunned when it was announced that The Hobbit was initially going to be released as two films. When it was later revealed that it, like Lord of the Rings, would in fact be a trilogy due to the amount of material they had shot, fans were stumped trying to work out how the children’s story could span three Peter Jackson-length movies. By delving into some of the unfinished tales and a bit of artistic license, three movies were indeed created, though both An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug felt overlong at times with certain scenes inserted or extended for no apparent reason but for filler.

Is there ever too much of a good thing? Apparently not when it comes to Tolkien, especially when we have the vast amount of pre-history Middle Earth material captured in The Silmarillion. Though nowhere near as engaging or as popular as The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings, the posthumous publication tells the tales of life in Middle Earth from creation up until the emergence of Sauron, the forging of the rings of power and Sauron’s eventual defeat and the passing of the one ring to Isildur (Aragorn’s ancestor).

Having dedicated a large proportion of his life to bringing these works to the big screen, many speculate it will be difficult for Jackson to leave it all behind and the lure of revisiting Middle Earth, much like the one ring itself, might be too much to resist.

But not all cast members agree with McKellen. Richard Armitage, who plays dwarf Thorin Oakenshield, King under the Mountain, told reporters at the London premiere that “I don’t think we’ll see Middle Earth on the big screen again.”

As much as I love the films and the books, I do think it is time to leave Middle Earth. Whether it is because I don’t have as deep a love of The Hobbit as I do for Lord of the Rings, or whether there was too many filler scenes added to The Hobbit films, but I have not had a connection to this trilogy on the same scale as with Lord of the Rings. I’ve enjoyed each film but I haven’t had this urge to see them again and again. I haven’t had a connection with any of the characters like I did with so many in Lord of the Rings and, to be honest, I still couldn’t identify each dwarf by name. Though, to be fair, I’ve never had a deep love of the book so that could play a part also.

Regardless of whether we journey there and back again, the six films that Jackson has created are timeless and as long as we keep watching them, as Sir Ian McKellen remarks, “the thing goes on living.”

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is in cinemas next week and in Australia on Boxing Day.

Clare Sidoti
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