It's old news that Guillermo Del Toro has left The Hobbit so he can work on a movie that will actually get made sometime before 2018. Despite the fact that MGM is collapsing and no one can move forward on this production until a myriad of legal issues are dealt with, there is still much talk circulating over who will replace him in the director's chair and tell the story of a young Bilbo Baggins, as he first discovers the One Ring and fights dragons and so forth. Recently, four names have risen to the top of the list. Take each with a grain of salt, of course, as nothing is set in stone and nothing will probably be set in stone for some time yet.

The first name that's come up is none other than Peter Jackson, visionary director of the original Lord of the Rings trilogy and the man who made a movie where the hero straps a lawnmower to hist chest and runs through a crowd of zombies. He was always going to be involved in The Hobbit as a writer and producer, but after two expensive disapointments in a row (the bloated King Kong and the critically reviled The Lovely Bones), this may very well be what Jackson needs to get his mojo back: a certified hit, no matter what. He's also the natural choice, returning to what he started and wrapping things up in his personal style. Because I love giving random things arbitrary scores, I give this choice an "A" for Awesome.

The second name that's being bandied around is David Yates, the director of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and the upcoming two-part Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Yates, a former BBC director who somehow managed to leap aboard one of the most popular film series' of all time and make the best entries in the series, is an interesting choice for several reasons. He's got plenty of experience making expensive fantasy films for fans with unrivaled expectations. He's a solid filmmaker with a good eye and a keen sense of pace. He'll also be the first real cross-over between the two biggest fantasy franchises of the past decade, so he'll make for some interesting IMDB trivia. I give this choice a "C" for Could Work.

The third name is David Dobkin, the visionary director behind The Wedding Crashers and Fred Claus. I have nothing to add. I give this choice an "I" for Icky.

The final name to rear its ugly head is none other than Brett Ratner, the director of the Rush Hour series. This wouldn't be the first time Ratner has jumped on board another franchise when it was in a dire position, having helmed X-Men: The Last Stand after Matthew Vaughn left the film. I don't want to come off as a big 'ol jerk when I say Ratner has absolutely no business directing The Hobbit because that would require a sense of scope and beauty and grace that he simply lacks, but I think every movie fan out there agrees with me on that. I give this choice an "F" for F*cking Awful.

As these folks battle it out for The Hobbit, what's Del Toro up to? I'm praying to the Ancient Ones that he gets his At the Mountains of Madness adaptation rolling, but one rumor is that he's in talks with Universal about doing a new take on Van Helsing, which seems like an awful idea until you remember that Del Toro loves old-school monster stuff and would probably make it work. Whatever he does next, I'll be in the theater.

As for The Hobbit...who knows at this point. I'd be lying if I said anyone knows anything.

(Via Slashfilm, Coming Soon and Deadline)