The source of the debate is this statement from GDT:
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.
Talk about painting yourself into a corner! GDT made these statements in Cannes to Salon in 2006 while promoting PAN'S LABYRINTH, and LOTR fans have had it in the back of their minds ever since.
Guillermo finally responded to this statement in May 2008 during an online chat with fans:
Guillermo del Toro: ...I stand by the general lines of my statement in 2006. When that statement was made- at different times during PANS LABYRINTH’s promotion, many a time I made the distinctive call to say that althought I had not read Tolkien outside THE HOBBIT I had been fascinated by the Trilogy films. A statement that I already had the chance to make in 2005 when PJ, Fran and I met about HALO.
So, no, generally I am NOT a “Sword and Sorcery” guy or a “Fantasy” guy- By the same token, I’m not a sci-fi guy but I would make a film based on Ellison in a second- or on Sturgeon or Bradbury or Matheson.
I’m not into Barbarians with swords but i would kill to tackle Fafhrd and Grey Mouse… and so on and so forth… I’m a believer but not a Dogmatic.
Allow me to put a final, finer point to our discussion. The aesthetics of HELLBOY II are completely Pop and color-saturated, much more comic book / modern than I would ever use in THE HOBBIT but- I spend two years creating a world of Fairies, Elves, Trolls, etc.
Two Years. A career / creative decision that precedes any inkling of THE HOBBIT. I wrote the script years before I met with PJ or Fran. In other words I dedicated the last 6 years of my career (between PL and HBII) to create Fantastical world inhabited by Fairies, Fauns, Ogres, Trolls, Elves, etc.
In that respect- I guess I am a Fantasy guy when the particular world appeals to me. Back in the Jurassic Period (1992 / 1993) when CRONOS won the Critic’s Week at Cannes I was referred to as an “art house guy”- I followed that with a giant cockroach movie that proved successful enough to spawn two sequels and allow me to co-finance THE DEVILS BACKBONE which send me back to being an “art house guy”.
Then I did BLADE II and people thought of me as an “Action guy”- PJ went through a similar mercurial career with HEAVENLY CREATURES, BAD TASTE, DEAD ALIVE, etc I squirm away from a tag and I hope I can avoid being just a “Fantasy guy” after PL, HBII and H…
I do the tales I love (regardless of what shelf Barnes & Noble classifies the book under) and I love the HOBBIT.
I love it enough to give it half a decade of my life and move half a world away to do it.
Guillermo's commitment to this project (a big chunk of his life and substantial relocation) says a lot. But let me underline his statements about why he loves this project - Guillermo LOVES fairy tales - and he considers THE HOBBIT as a Fairy Tale. Here is a statement from his introduction on the TORN message boards:
At the age of 11 I read THE HOBBIT and it enchanted me as only a classic Fairy Tale can- it had enough darkness and dread and emotion to make a profound impression that lasted me until now. Beorn, Mirkwood, the Wargs, Smaug, the Riddles in the Dark, they all have lived in me for many years... Nevertheless at that early age, the rest of Tolkien proved to contain Geography and Genealogy too complex for my prepubescent brain... I was never propelled into an aleatory addiction to sub-genres like Sword & Sorcery or indiscriminate fantasies about magical this or that- Like any other genre or subgenre there's a great abundance that makes it hard to discern when a new "trilogy" or "chronicle" comes from as genuine a place as Tolkien's...
GDT sees themes in THE HOBBIT that are very interesting to him, specifically, "the illusory nature of possession, the sins of hoarding and the banality of war". I believe Guillermo's attraction to these themes will lend considerable gravitas to this story, elevating it above a mere "fantasy adventure tale." Guillermo has done some of his best stuff when working in fantasy metaphors, specifically when relating to war, namely DEVIL'S BACKBONE and PAN'S LABYRINTH.
I believe for the reasons mentioned, Guillermo will bring the same love and passion to THE HOBBIT as those two deeply personal projects.