The Hobbit Countdown runs every other week and geeks out on all things related to Peter Jackson's upcoming trilogy based on The Hobbit.
The floodgates officially opened October 1 and since then there has been a steady stream of Hobbit marketing. Products are at Toys "R" Us, images are scattered across websites and word about Hobbit excitement is building-- if you live in Norway you might even already have tickets. Fans waited about a week to be the first in the world to buy tickets. In fact, it is hard to keep up here with all the latest, so here is a shotgun blast to keep you current.
Howard Shore is back to do the soundtracks for the three Hobbit films but that hasn’t been news for a decade. Shore’s Oscar-winning soundtracks for the Lord of the Rings trilogy were part of those films’ signatures and his participation is as important as anybody’s. Even when director Peter Jackson was not going to take the helm of the films, Shore was onboard, taking his musical themes and motifs of Middle-earth and tying together the two sets of film trilogies. So Shore was always a given.
But just as in those films, Jackson’s team and the studio wants a popular song to help market the film and to produce soundtrack revenue. With a $500 million investment in the films, it is simply good business to generate as many streams of revenue as possible. The Rings films produced two very successful commercial songs from Enya and Annie Lennox. The former was nominated for an Academy Award with her “May It Be.” Lennox, with "Into The West," won the Oscar, helping to make this trio of Hobbit films a good place to have a tune show up in the credits. Howard Shore and Phillipa Boyens also collaborate on the unusual and fresh "Gollum’s Song."
This time around, Instead of women performing, as in all three Rings films, Neil Finn will provide music and words. Finn is actually a New Zealand native but is best known for his work on guitar and vocals with Crowded House, made up mostly of Australians. He also co-fronted Split Endz and had a successful solo career. The Hobbit book, which contains exactly zero female characters, has a much less feminine flavor than the Rings films. Jackson has plans to have important female characters, but it seems entirely appropriate to have a man singing in the credits.
No other details are available and it will be fascinating to see what tone Finn takes for the first of three films that spring from a children’s story and likely, especially in the first film, will be more lighthearted than Jackson’s Rings trilogy.
The first film, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, is now two months away, and that means you can go to a toy store near you (although apparently not all stores yet) and pick up Hobbit characters off the shelf. Some of those bad guys have been kept secret from the public but now are revealed in various places. If you can read French, or even if you just like to look at pictures in French, this website has the most comprehensive listing of characters with toy images and clues. It can load slowly, but if you want to spoil yourself with images, the presentation is nice.
But, even better, one of the best looks at villains yet has come courtesy of a Warner Bros. poster. Bolg, a nasty and XL-sized Orc lurks behind the hero shots of Thorin, Fili and Kili. We can confirm the identity of Bolg because of the toy page where we also see nasty Yazneg. As of yet, Azog has not been revealed. For the unfamiliar, Bolg and Azog are a father-and-son team who figure prominently in the Goblin-Dwarf wars which, taken from the LOTR Appendicies, show up in the Hobbit movie. There is a strong indication that Bolg will play a role in a bad-guy fortress Dol Guldor.
Meanwhile another troop of goblins, particularly the grotesque Great Goblin (Barry Humphries), appears in the same underground caverns where Bilbo meets Gollum and a certain One Ring. He is a massive creature and will not only be a great goblin on-screen, but pick him up at the toy store and he has a definite heft and is a great toy. For the budget-minded, he's the most fun Hobbit product yet.
Warner Bros. announced its home video 2013 slate in early October and included on the calendar was The Hobbit as part of the “to be determined” schedule. After it was reported, Warner Bros. released a revised schedule for next year and suddenly The Hobbit wasn’t on it.
So will we have an extended version of the films? Nothing is official at this point (except that it isn’t on the schedule) but the answer is a very probable yes. Before any readers jump on Warner for double dipping, give the studio credit for announcing the extended versions up front so that consumers know what to expect when they want the first film at home but can know right away there will also be a longer version.
Pulling it off the calendar is really more of a way to wait and make sure that the film performs at the box office and that fans, consumers, want even more Hobbit than the three films drawn from one book. It is all but sure to be on the in-house Warner Bros. schedule but has likely been pulled from the consumer schedule so it doesn’t appear that the studio, partnered with MGM and subsidy New Line on the project, is counting its chickens before they hatch.
But unless the enterprise is a monumental failure commercially and artistically, there will almost certainly be extended editions of each and every Hobbit film. Jackson already needed three movies instead of two and has said on the record that his team can’t seem to make short films. This is also the kind of film that the motion picture industry uses to push better technology and convinces consumers to enter the Blu-ray market instead of sticking with inferior DVDs.
Even More Products and Spoilers
A Flickr stream has an interesting revelation about The Hobbit films from a sequence that may reach store shelves a whole year before it hits theaters. The first Hobbit film ends before the dwarves and Bilbo Baggins get tangled up with some nasty spiders. However, because of the late split of two films into three, products based on the two-film plan are out with more coming.
One such Hobbit LEGO set called “Escape from the Mirkwood Spiders” shows the spider action sequence with some unexpected characters, specifically Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and female elf warrior Tauriel (Evangeline Lily). They certainly didn’t show up anywhere in the book, much less here, where Bilbo makes a rescue. Will this bother fans of the immensely popular book or will movie viewers be glad to see more beautiful people on-screen? This could cause potential controversy.
Far less controversial are some pretty astounding stamps and coins with film imagery. They are produced by New Zealand (marketed at Middle-earth these days) so it may be time to pay your Kiwi friends to send you postcards or currency.
As film time draws closer, we will do our best to keep you updated, so stay tuned!
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 worldwide. Curtis represents the site at conventions and events around the U.S. including the San Diego Comic-Con. You can read his The Hobbit Countdown here at Movies.com every other week.