Several years ago, Mark Ordesky told us that New Line have rights to make not just The Hobbit but a second "LOTR prequel", covering the events leading up to those depicted in LOTR. Since then, we've always assumed that we would be asked to make The Hobbit and possibly this second film, back to back, as we did the original movies. We assumed that our lawsuit with the studio would come to a natural conclusion and we would then be free to discuss our ideas with the studio, get excited and jump on board. We've assumed that we would possibly get started on development and design next year, whilst filming The Lovely Bones. We even had a meeting planned with MGM executives to talk through our schedule.The person who posted this on TheOneRing.net is treating the news as if it were the end of the world, but I'm less fussed. For one thing, I'm wary of the attitude, which has become all-too-common in Harry Potter fandom and which I was hoping that Tolkien fandom would be wise enough to avoid, of inextricably binding the films to the novels. I liked Jackson's adaptation of The Lord of the Rings precisely because it wasn't exactly Tolkien's novel. The core narrative was the same, but there were enough individual touches--changes both good and bad--for the work to stand on its own, as an alternate version of the book. If the director New Line hires botches The Hobbit and this vaguely described prequel, I won't feel that the books have been tarnished in any way, any more than I think Christopher Columbus' Harry Potter movies reflect poorly on J.K. Rowling's novels (and anyway, let's not pretend that Jackson and Walsh's involvement would have guaranteed a successful adaptation--remember King Kong, AKA the most expensive nap I've ever taken?). That said, I suppose it's possible that I would be less sanguine if the work in question were one that I were more attached to--I'm fond of The Hobbit, but I don't feel that Jackson's trilogy is incomplete without it.
However last week, Mark Ordesky called Ken and told him that New Line would no longer be requiring our services on the Hobbit and the LOTR 'prequel'. This was a courtesy call to let us know that the studio was now actively looking to hire another filmmaker for both projects.
What does worry me, however, is the unspecified prequel. I assume the plan is to adapt one of the Middle Earth origin stories from The Silmarillion, and the potential for disaster in that case strikes me as being far greater than in a botched adaptation of The Hobbit. There's a hell of a lot more wiggle room in The Silmarillion--the plot, after all, is more or less missing. A hack writer could easily introduce elements that don't belong in Tolkien's Middle Earth, and create an unholy mess.