Larry D. Curtis, as part of the team at TheOneRing.net, has been comprehensively covering the works and adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien for more than a decade, making the not-for-profit site the leading source about The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings for fans and film makers world wide. Curtis is one of the lead content producers for the site and represents it at conventions and press functions. You can read his The Hobbit Countdown here at Movies.com every other week.
It is sometimes hard to remember that movie trailers and teasers are actually commercials with the job of promoting a product. Audiences like movies and so they tend to enjoy seeing future movie releases that might also be enjoyable; Trailers are without question two-minute commercials designed to convince consumers to spend more money.
Sometimes they give away far too much of the story or show the best funny moments from a comedy but their real job isn’t to do anything except convince audiences to buy movie tickets.
Rarely do commercials, Superbowls aside, have audiences eager with anticipation, but movie trailers can rally a fanbase. The Hunger Games trailer certainly energized fans of the book last week and probably audiences in general with its excellent design and stylistic approach to recreating the world presenting in the teen-targeted source material that has transcended its intended age group.
Andy Serkis let “slip” (call me cynical, but I think the information release was carefully orchestrated) to IGN that sometime before Christmas the world would get to see the first teaser from the first Hobbit film, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. That kind of news certainly can stir excitement among potential viewers, much to the delight of studio publicity departments who are on a mission to create appropriate buzz that can translate to extra box office money.
Variety then broke the possibility on Twitter Sunday night that Hobbit content could be on the front of Sherlock Holmes 2. “Expect to see THE DARK KNIGHT RISES trailer in front of SHERLOCK HOLMES 2... And MAYBE even a HOBBIT teaser,” tweeted Jeff Sneider (@TheInSneider). That lit social media up all last night and funny enough; it might even affect the opening of Sherlock.
I remember well in 2000 when the Lord of the Rings teaser hit the web, where 1.7 million hits of the material broke all kinds of records at the time. That followed on the heels of a similar effort for The Phantom Menace and the traffic that resulted compared to a new Star Wars film was a pretty good sign that regular people just might go watch those three movies that some were predicting would sink New Line Cinema.
The movie title logo on that first teaser can be found on movie tie-in novels but wasn’t what ended up on the films.
The stars that received top billing didn’t include then unknowns Orlando Bloom, Billy Boyd or Dominic Monaghan. When the first teaser trailer finally made it to theaters, many theorized that it helped the early box office for Thirteen Days because so many fans purchased tickets to be among the first to finally see Middle-earth images on the big screen. People scoff, but I personally observed several walk outs as soon at the teaser ended. (I stuck around and enjoyed the movie!) I still remember the hero shot where elves, dwarves, a wizard and hobbits with a pony were all shown in correct scale. Flabbergasting.
Here is, the world’s first look at Middle-earth, erasing a lot of thoughts that it couldn’t be done and that it couldn’t be done by Peter Jackson.
(For a record of all trailer releases for the LOTR films, please see TheOneRing.net archives.)
More than a decade later, it’s déjà vu as the return to Middle-earth is set to go beyond character screen grabs. Nearly a year to the day before the release of its first movie that few if any are predicting as failures, New Line Cinema, very much the little brother now to controlling Warner Bros., will tease fans for what promises to be an extremely busy and competitive 2012 movie landscape. Not only is the film year crowded, the presence of Batman on the same film even makes audience attention for those few minutes fierce. It will be fascinating to try to gauge audience reaction by sitting in a theater and listening to reaction.
Unless of course Variety isn’t right and The Hobbit ends up attached to the Jackson-produced Tintin in the U.S.. Rumors have The Hobbit intending to be a much more family-friendly effort (although there are some definitely scary possible scenes with spiders and epic battles) which could make Tintin attractive as a vehicle. Tweeters typed of perhaps going to see Sherlock just to experience a new Hobbit preview. I know shopping networks are on television but the idea of paying to watch a commercial is staggering.
What will we see?
Plan on something about a ring to be sure. Andy Serkis’ Gollum will be back to give less-fervent fans a reminder of what the connective tissue between LOTR and the Hobbit is. Martin Freeman’s earnest face will surely get the most screen time as the title character but expect the beloved Ian McKellen as Gandalf to be close behind in terms of time. With location shooting scheduled to turn to studio work early next year and last until June, it is clear that large portions of the adaptation have yet to go before cameras.
The riddle chapter between Bilbo and Gollum was long ago filmed to free up Serkis for his work as the film’s second unit director. As I wrote about last time, Jackson has delivered fans plenty of footage and glimpses of Middle-earth, but it is known that Hobbiton filming will not wrap until June, and from a marketing standpoint it makes a lot of sense for viewers to be visually reminded that they really want to go back to the setting of the beloved LOTR films.
What we better not see
Smaug The Magnificent should remain Smaug The Unknown for now. At the very most an eyeball or some other bit part of the great dragon could be revealed but much better instead to show nothing. Perhaps a voice and a Bilbo shot would do but lets hope the marketing folks are smart enough to hold back plenty. Perhaps the most iconic and influential dragon in literature and popular culture is probably the greatest visual secrets these films have and it should be guarded closely.
What we might see
Will Warners and the Jackson camp give us plot glimpses that expand the story we all know or will those be saved and or hidden? Will we get a flash of the Goblin vs. Dwarves war? The White Council? Radagast The Brown? The invented character Tauriel? Orlando Bloom back in his Legolas ears? I would guess yes on the introduced female character and then mostly I suspect the theme of the teaser will center on the return to the familiar.
With the large multi-helicopter production hitting places all over New Zealand’s South Island at places with names like: Canaan Downs, Blenheim, Dunedin, Nasby, Arrowtown, Wakatipu, Glenorchy and Strath Taieri, spy reports are pouring in to TheOneRing.net. The citizens of New Zealand and a lot of visitors are pretty fascinated by a big-money production adapting of one of the most beloved books of the last century. To Kiwis those geographic places sound common but to non-islanders it almost sounds like a collection of Middle-earth regions. And of course as the landscape proved in LOTR, the relatively young landmass has plenty of scenics. These reports come in almost daily now so rather than link to any, just be aware they are available.
Destination New Zealand
Turns out visiting the South Island was just irresistible so beginning November 30 for about two weeks, TheOneRing.net (me) will be on the ground reporting Hobbit. Expect plenty of photos, a look at the one-year countdown to the world premiere of the first movie in Wellington and interviews with anybody I can get my hands on.
Follow the adventures on @MrLDC and @theoneringnet when anything gets official. Updates on Facebook and of course TheOneRing.net and perhaps even right here on Movies.com!