Fans who braved temperatures that dipped down to, oh, 60 degrees and camped overnight at the San Diego Convention Center last week were rewarded at Comic-Con with around 12 minutes of footage from Peter Jackson’s pair of films based on The Hobbit. It was received with great enthusiasm — we're talking screams, tears, jumping, stomping of feet and momentary insanity.
Camping out and long lines are part of the Con experience these days — an unfortunate evolution — and Jackson, taking the podium and displacing moderator Chris Hardwick, called the passionate folks willing to wait “poor sods,” and sympathetically “poor, poor bastards.”
To get started on tracking The Hobbit at Comic-Con, here's Peter Jackson's latest production video (released today), which follows the film as it hits up the convention.
TheOneRing.net felt somewhat the same way, and, in fact, not only did Sir Ian McKellen stop by the line outside the infamous 6,500-seat Hall H the previous night, but so did a batch of staff members from the site to play trivia, hand out buttons, food and moral support.
Lines to the other much less star-powered Hobbit panel also required great waiting, with roughly 1,000 people filling every seat of Thursday’s TORn presentation titled, TheOneRing.net: The Truth About The Hobbit. What truth did we dispense as a panel of six with no burden to promote the film and no official company line to deliver? (Full disclosure: I was a panel participant and co-author of the content.)
A Few Truths Revealed:
-- An eye-witness reaction to the 48fps content from CinemaCon earlier this year
-- Photos taken on The Hobbit set while embedded for five weeks
-- Pro and con opinions on invented characters, 3D and 48fps
-- An image of Radagast that few realize they have already seen
-- Character costumes different from promotional material, also in the public realm
Also special effects master Sir Richard Taylor showed up to a great ovation to speak about his crew’s hard work, and he even tossed out some armor bits to the crowd made by his own Weta Workshop.
The Warner Bros. panel had a gargantuan dose of celebrity fireworks too, and, of course, those twelve delicious minutes of footage. Jackson quickly jumped right into the showcase reel with a brief disclaimer that some of the effects weren’t finished and that the music was temporary. LOTR composer Howard Shore and the London Philharmonic Orchestra begin work in “five or six weeks.” As if anybody minded ...
Opening with the green hills of The Shire and everybody’s favorite grey wizard, we jumped into the familiar home of Bilbo Baggins. The footage is really the first flavor of the acting performance that Martin Freeman gives as Bilbo. He is vulnerable, a little naïve and relatable, and fans seemed to respond enthusiastically to his turn.
Character interactions between Bilbo and the Dwarves set the tone up front as they negotiate the terms of his contract. The audience was given a taste of the flavor of the strong and sometimes stern leadership of Thorin Oakenshield.
Gandalf and new wizard Radagast also had some screen time together. Ian McKellen is as familiar and popular to Middle-earth audiences as can be, but Sylvester McCoy and his nature-loving self are new. It looks as though he will be viewed as a gentle soul with bunnies pulling his sled and a hat that serves as home to birds. He isn’t particularly tidy either and will be a character with a good dose of humor surrounded by wildlife.
With 2nd Unit Director and performance-capture specialist Andy Serkis on hand, Jackson of course included some footage of him as Gollum opposite Freeman performing perhaps the single most famous bit of the book, where the two engage in riddles in the dark. Freeman tries to keep Gollum at bay with his clumsy sword Sting and the two decide to play a game.
“Games? We loves games, don’t we precious!” Gollum said, turning his dual personalities on and off quickly in the short clip. Visually, this seems to be an advanced version of the creature we all know with more performance captured. This character’s full realization may make the one from The Lord of the Rings films seem dated. It was the first part of the film to go before cameras, freeing Serkis to switch over to the director’s chair.
We then see an intimate scene (not a romantic one) between Galadriel and Gandalf, openly carrying his fears.
Next audiences were treated to Bilbo and the moment of his first conflict in telling the truth about the ring, electing not to tell Gandalf what he found in Gollum’s cave, fingering the gold ring in his pocket.
Gandalf: You’ve changed, Bilbo Baggins.
Bilbo: I found something in the cave”
Gandalf: What did you find?
Bilbo: My courage
Gandalf: Your courage? Good, you’ll need it
Audiences then loved a great montage of footage strong on the action including the first look at Tauriel, a warrior elf, played by Evangeline Lily.
The panel went directly to a Q&A at that point with gushing fans that relate so powerfully to the films and those who make them that each one felt the need to preface their question with an explanation of where their passion came from.
Martin Freeman on being new:
“In all honesty, it might sound a bit disingenuous to say, but I honestly didn’t feel a huge amount of pressure. I certainly didn’t feel intimidated. And obviously you can’t really take intimidation or pressure to work with you, because you won’t do your best work, and you won’t do your best playing, which is an actor’s job."
Peter Jackson on his cameo:
“I actually haven’t shot my cameo yet, but I’m due to shoot it tomorrow when I get back to New Zealand, seriously. I won’t be difficult to spot this time around, but I’m not going to tell you where I am. I’m the handsome one. You’ll recognize me.”
Philippa Boyens on Tauriel:
“She’s our redhead. We created her for that reason. To bring that energy into the film, that feminine energy. We believe it’s completely within the spirit of Tolkien. You know, we tried really hard, and she wanted that more than anything, herself. She didn’t want it to be a ploy. We wanted her to sit in the world, and I think you guys are going to fall in love with her.”
Richard Armitage on prosthetics:
“We went through quite an evolution with the look for Thorin, and of course, all of the dwarves, who are very clearly defined by their features. Working in a prosthetic like that was one of the biggest challenges because you really have to work your face harder to portray what you’re trying to express inside, and on day one I really didn’t think I was going to make it.“
Elijah Wood on the watched footage:
“I was blown away! Extraordinary. I mean, the footage as well was so, I mean it’s incredible, but it has these amazingly emotional moments. And that’s, I think, at the heart of what Peter does in his storytelling. And to see that presence in this footage. Because I’m so distant from this, truly. I really went to New Zealand for a month last year to do a bit of work, but… it’s beautiful. I was made to feel emotional watching that footage. And to see everyone here. It’s wonderful.”
Jackson on editing his film:
“Look, at the end of the day, you end up with a film that’s too long. And so for purely, for what the studio and the distributors need, you need to trim it down a little bit. Which we try and do. We’re not very good at making short movies, unfortunately. Still a skill I’ve never mastered. But, um, anyway, you kind of end up with a theatrical film, at a length that you think is what it should be for the experience.”
Serkis on directing:
“I was only supposed to be coming back for two weeks to play Gollum again. Which I was very much looking forward to, of course. And then about a month before I was about to come down to New Zealand I got an e-mail from Fran who says: “Andy, I know you’ve probably got something on, but we’d like you to come and direct the second unit. And so, would you mind coming down for a year and a half instead of two weeks?”
Unofficial word out of Warner Bros. offices is that after the company gets through its massive Dark Knight Rises promotions in a few weeks, all efforts will turn to The Hobbit.
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. You can reach him at MrCere@TheOneRing.net.