Comic Con 2012: The Hobbit panel, with Peter Jackson, Ian McKellen and more!
Warner Bros. decided to wrap up their considerable line-up with Peter Jackson's THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY. Instead of starting the traditional way, with a moderator introducing the guest and then showing off the footage, the panel opened up with an approximately 10-minute long featurette. Got to give the folks what they want.
Made up of behind-the-scenes footage from the final few days on the Wellington set of the film, the featurette was crafted specifically for Comic-Con, with most of the actors (many of them playing dwarves, in costume) addressing the San Diego audience directly. Most of what we were shown was taking place on a sound-stage, in front of green screens, but there were plenty of impressive sets to be seen as well. (It looks as if an entire village was built on one stage, complete with water everywhere, while another stage was filled with gold pieces. Like, millions of gold pieces.) Familiar faces popped up throughout: Cate Blanchett, Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom and of course Andy Serkis , who we also saw directing second unit on the movie. (For those interested, the scene involved Legolas shooting arrows at some unseen foe, always a crowd-pleaser.)
It was something sweet for the LORD OF THE RINGS fans, but not quite as sweet as what was to come. After the footage screened, moderator Chris Hardwick introduced Jackson, who came out on stage and immediately took the podium (Peter doesn't wait around to be asked to do anything.) Jackson is at work on another featurette at the moment, so he took out a camera and asked the whole audience to say “Hi from Comic-Con!” So if you end up seeing that on a Blu-ray one day, that's me the 250th row, third from the aisle.) Jackson then got down to the business of showing even more footage, this the real deal: sequences from the actual film, which is still in post-production.
- First scene shows Gandalf and the company of dwarves in Bilbo Baggins' home in the Shire. They discuss going to face the dragon Smaug. Bilbo is a mostly impassive participant in this discussion, until it becomes obvious that Gandalf wants him to accompany them, for he is an expert burglar. Neither he nor the dwarves are excited about the prospect, but Gandalf is insistent, and no one is going to argue with him. Thorin Oakenshield, the leader of the dwarves, tells Galndalf that he won't be responsible for what happens to Bilbo, that he can't guarantee he'll survive the adventure.
- Second scene has Gandalf and Galadriel (Blanchett) talking about the former's decision to bring Bilbo along. Gandalf, in effect, responds that it's because Bilbo is an ordinary person, someone good, and that he actually gives Gandalf courage.
- Third scene depicts a conversation between Bilbo and Gollum, who looks just as amazingly-rendered as ever. (You can even tell that he's younger here than in the LOTR trilogy.) Gollum wants to play a game with Bilbo, who just wants to leave the cave they're in. Gollum, of course, is in the middle of having an argument with himself, and Bilbo is quite unnerved by the creature.
(I should interject here and say that Martin Freeman appears to be perfect at Bilbo. Just the right amount of wit and innocence is at play on his face at any given moment; it's clear that Jackson has injected the right person into the right role yet again.)
- In another sequence, Bilbo finds the ring - that ring – and pockets it. Moments later, he and Gandalf have a conversation, where it's obvious that Gandalf notices a change in Bilbo. Bilbo is about to confess to what he's found, but hesitates, then lies.
- Finally, a small montage of footage from the flick rolled, highlighting some fantastic effects work and fearsome monsters, such as orcs, trolls and a giant rock-creature. Couldn't tell you exactly how these things fit into the tale, but they looked terrific - that rock-creature especially. We caught a brief glimpse of Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) in action, and looking really beautiful.
After the footage was finished (approximately 12 minutes worth!), Jackson once again took the podium and introduced the rest of the panel, which included Freeman, McKellen, Serkis, co-writer Philippa Boyans, Richard Armitage (Thorin) and special guest Elijah Wood. The Q+A kicked off and here's what we learned:
- Jackson will be shooting a cameo in the film, but didn't tell us where he'll be.
- The character of Tauriel (Lilly) was apparently created specifically for the film because the filmmakers were “feeling the weight” of such a male-dominated story. (I say “apparently” because, if I'm being honest, I'm not familiar with the source material.)
- Jackson was asked if he had any plans to make a film out of Tolkien's posthumous work,The Silmarillion. Jackson said that it was very remote; it's owned by the Tolkien estate, not a studio, so he doesn't imagine it will go anywhere for quite a while.
- Freeman wasn't intimidated by taking on the role of Bilbo. Once he met Jackson, he felt comfortable. He said Jackson and his partners really wanted him to be in the film.
- Jackson was asked what the process is of choosing which scenes will wind up in the theatrical cut, and which scenes will ultimately wind up in the extended version. Jackson replied that they write the script as they're shooting, which is why they wind up shooting so much, but it's only at the end of production that they can look at what they have and start assembling it. Then they realize where there's repetition, where there are slow patches, etc. And they always end up with a movie that is too long for the distributor's taste. But the truth is, they don't know what scenes are going to get cut until the very end of the process. Rest assured, there will be extended cuts of THE HOBBIT on Blu-ray/DVD.
- Hardwick asked Serkis what it was like coming back. Serkis replied that Jackson invited him to work with the second unit (for a year and a half), which he couldn't turn down. One scene that he shot with Freeman lasted two weeks. He called the experience a huge film education for him, and mentioned that the schedule was always changing.
- Hardwick tentatively asked Serkis to “do the voice.” Serkis immediately went into Gollum mode and unleashed a few profanities. I frankly couldn't hear all of what he said – other than “for f*cks sake!” - because the crowd was cheering so loudly. Such is often the case at Comic-Con.
My opinion of what was shown? Hell, it looked like a Peter Jackson-directed version of THE HOBBIT. Literally nothing about it should look different; it seems to be exactly what fans of LORD OF THE RINGS have been dreaming about for almost a decade. I will admit that after the first teaser trailer debuted a few months ago, I was skeptical; just not a very good promo piece for the film. What I saw at Comic-Con changed my mind completely, because THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY looks simply great.
|Extra Tidbit:||The only thing missing? Smaug!|