The magic of shooting three epic fantasy movies all at once: as soon as the first film bows in theaters, the next installment is right on its heels. And you know what that means: promotion, promotion, promotion.
Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey arrived on Blu-ray this week after quietly passing the $1 billion worldwide mark earlier this month. That could have been the sign of a lull for the successful Tolkein franchise, but to ensure Middle Earth fever while also reminding us that he's actually the king of the fantasy world, Jackson held a live-streaming event to reveal to fans the very first footage of his 2013 follow-up, The Desolation of Smaug. Jacksons' reveal was for privileged purchasers of the Blu-ray only (with no plans in place to post the coveted footage online), but Hollywood.com was on hand to check out the footage and hear what the director had to say about the anticipated sequel. No rest on the road to the Lonely Mountain.
Sprinkled throughout the event were snippets from the upcoming film, though no cohesive trailer — that's saved for this summer, folks — as well as questions from fans and friends of Middle Earth. This, of course, included taped segments from Orlando Bloom, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Billy Boyd, Evangeline Lilly, Stephen Fry, Dominic Monaghan, and even Tolkein super-fan Stephen Colbert.
The newest footage revealed that a more extensive look into the backstory of The Necromancer — something new in store for the films versus the book. When asked if "The Necromancer [would] play a bigger role" in his version, Jackson was quick to quip "yes…but that's all I'm saying." The audience was then segued into footage of Gandalf and Radagast entering a dark, ominous, almost jail-esque cavern. The sequence is part of the "expansion" of The Hobbit that Jackson mentioned, which focuses largely on building out the story of The Necromancer, played by Smaug voicer and villain-du-jour, Benedict Cumberbatch.
The quick :30 seconds (if that) of footage opened on Gandalf seemingly on a quest of his own to find out why the sword Glamdring "got out into the world," only to discover that there's much more at play here — tying into this newer Necromancer storyline. The wizard Radagast appears (seemingly out of nowhere) and confusedly asks "why am I here, Gandalf?" There are doorways to the tombs where we meet the two wizards are covered with twisted and rusted ironwork: all doors to small rooms, destroyed. "This is not a nice place to meet," Gandalf stated, before Radagast followed up with the question "who's buried here?" Gandalf seems to take in all the destruction around him (the tomb/underground-looking prison is largely broken and destroyed), and explained that the destroyer of the cell/tomb spaces "would've been known only as a servant of evil." And when Radagast asked "who would break into such a foul place," Gandalf ominously stated "No one, these tombs were opened from the inside" before the scene cut away.
There was talk of hot dwarves (we're not the only ones obsessed), the visual creation of Mirkwood, Bard the Bowman, aka "one of the really cool things about the second movie," and even a "not quite there yet" sneak peek of Smaug's CGI creation (he was getting a wee bit of a wing-expansion). While Jackson cited "the confrontation between Smaug and Bilbo" as the scene he's most excited to see play out on screen, he did acknowledge that middle films — much like Middle Earth itself — can be quite the challenge. "It is complicated to do a middle film," Jackson explained, answering a fan question, "but the advantage is … we have multiple story lines ... and we can start following multiple characters." A solid change up from the first, very-linear (storyline-wise) plot of An Unexpected Journey.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug arrives Dec. 13, 2013. An Unexpected Journey is out now on Blu-ray in both 2D and 3D versions.
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[Photo Credit: Warner Brothers]