It’s been almost ten years since Peter Jackson‘s final installment of Lord of the Rings was bequeathed unto the world. That’s a long time to go without a hobbit, a dwarf, or even an orc in your life. So when 2012’s San Diego Comic-Con let loose with some new footage for Jackson’s upcoming big screen adaptation of Tolkien’s The Hobbit (the first of a two-part feature experience), it was like coming back home again. Here’s what Jackson and the cast were on hand to show:
The montage included footage from both Unexpected Journey and There and Back Again — pointing to the fact that both halves are really one singular film. The clip begins with a voiceover from Gandalf over familiar shots of Hobbiton. “Far to the east, over ridges and rivers, young woodlands and wastelands. lies a single solitary peak.” Inside of Bilbo Baggins’ home, we see the ensemble of Dwarves around the table arguing. Rumors have spread that a dragon may potentially attack the humans. The dwarves want to do something about it — but they have no way of getting in. Thankfully, that’s where Gandalf comes in. He has a key! And he wants Bilbo to be the dainty burglar to sneak into Smaug’s chamber.
There’s a great playfulness in the scene, a level of comedy we didn’t see much of in the original Lord of the Rings trilogy. Makes sense considering Hobbit is often cited as a more kid friendly adventure, but the casting of Martin Freeman plays a huge part in the film’s levity. His British humor stylings are on full display here, from awkward juggling of words to slapstick comedy (when Bilbo learns he’s going on the Dwarven quest, he takes a breath before collapsing on the floor).
The montage launches into an edit of quick clips teasing new and familiar faces. We see Gandalf meeting Saruman (Christopher Lee). Shots of the dwarves running through the forest. Gandalf in Rivendell. A shot of a boat going through a canal in Laketown. Lots of larger-than-life settings and actions that are even more colorful and fantastical than LOTR. Almost closer to Neverending Story than the original trilogy.
To prove The Hobbit is more than just grand shots of Middle Earth, we saw a scene between Bilbo and Gollum in Goblin Caves. The two compete in “a game of riddles,” with Gollum having his own back-and-forth with himself. The new-and-improved Gollum looks slick and Andy Serkis returns with the same manic performance that won him praise back in LOTR. Freeman shows off more of his amazing comic timing — if only there was more Gollum in the movie!
Back in Rivendell, Galadriel asks Gandalf why he chose the halfling to accompany him on his journey. Proving Ian McKellen hasn’t lost any of his ability to wax poetically like a wise old grandfather, the delivers a monologue on friendship and courage that’s blissfully heartwarming. “Small things that keeps the darkness at bay.” It wins over Galadriel, who tells the wizard, “If you should ever need my help, I will come.” The final full scene is an exchange between Gandalf and Bilbo that hints at events down the road. “You’ve changed since we’ve left the Shire.” Bilbo struggles to tell him about The Ring, its power already begin to mesmerize him. He holds back, and it’s a fascinating piece of drama on Freeman’s end. He’s tempted and a little bit evil. Where will he be when we leave him in movie number two?
The footage rounded out with an epic montage of scenes. A rock creature throws a boulder at the gang. Ogres and goblins galore. Legolas shows up for a cameo, thrusting his bow and arrow in the faces of the dwarves. A new character, Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) defends with doubles swords against a band of baddies. Any idea we had about The Hobbit losing the “epicness” of Lord of the Rings are thrown straight out the window at the reel’s conclusion. A new spin, a new cast, but the same heart and meticulous treatment that made the trilogy a modern classic.
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[Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures]