Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. This is it… the last of my panel coverage and the only one I’m a bit behind on. Saturday-Sunday morning I just about killed myself to post up as much panel coverage as I could, but The Hobbit was always the one at the end of the line and had to wait an extra day for me to finally knock it out.
It was kind of intimidating to write-up, actually. Peter Jackson and crew threw the gauntlet down with over 12 minutes of footage plus a production diary about the wrap of production on The Hobbit. That’s a whole lot.
I’m also in a weird place with the movie, having spent so much time on the set with the crew and cast I just have zero objectivity when it comes to this film, so I’m going to do my best to keep any critique out of the footage description because I know me saying “this is awesome” carries little weight when I’ve been so entwined in the production.
The whole shebang started with the lights going down and Misty Mountains reverberating through the hall, to huge cheers, followed by the next production diary featuring many of the dwarves and crew greeting Comic-Con, including the lovely Leith McPherson, the dialect coach on the films, go said hello to Comic-Con in Dwarvish… she knew her audience, they ate it up!
The diary also featured first looks at some not-yet revealed characters, including Luke Evans’ Bard who has long hair, shadow of a beard with a thicker goatee and spent some of the diary dodging huge flame spurts as he jumped across the roofs of Laketown. We got to see some fire stunts from Smaug’s attack on Laketown, too, including a nice bit with one of the stunties being blown through a doorway by a ball of flame, flipping over a railing and landing in the water of the lake.
Another nice bit was seeing the oversize Beorn’s house interior, built so that the very large Beorn’s furniture was the right scale for the short dwarves. I kept expecting to see Lily Tomlin pop up in there… The look of the house was very wooden and very inviting, hand-made tables, chairs, etc.
There was also some behind the scenes shots of William Kircher’s Bifur (ax-head guy) getting pelted by dead fish in his barrel which was quite fun.
Oh, and we got our first look at Stephen Fry as the Master of Laketown, too. When it cut to him, with his unwashed stringy hair, Fry moved his hands in front of his face calling out “Spoiler Alert! Spoiler Alert!” That was quite fun. He also compared bellies with his stand-in.
Even more crazy was seeing a bit of Bilbo in Smaug’s layer, giant Scrooge McDuck mountains of coins surrounding him. They even showed one crew member on his hands a knees in the piles of gold coins feeling around, telling the camera he lost his wedding ring.
No dragon, of course, or even a hint at Benedict Cumberbatch’s voice, but we did get to see some of Martin Freeman’s work in this scene from what looked like a rehearsal. He’s kneeling down in the gold and standing up as he says, “Dwarves will take some catching… and so do burglars!” as he mimes putting the one ring on his finger. When he does that makes an explosion sound with his mouth and laughs at the BTS camera.
Oh, and we got to see Martin doing some exaggerated karate moves with the stunties, playing around between set-ups.
The final day of shooting involved Mirkwood, with crazy twisted trees. Gandalf says, “I need a horse!” Someone asks, “Where are you going!?!” “In search of answers!” and then Peter calls for cut and says, “Well, unless anybody else has anything they want to shoot, I think we should call that a day.”
Some shots of the post-wrap celebrating on the set and a passionate, humble speech from Peter to his crew, thanking them for supporting him over the last 18 months, and the diary ended and Peter came out on stage.
I’m not sure if that diary will be shown online in any form, but we do know there’ll be some production diary that involves Comic-Con because Peter was filming the crowd with his iPhone, which he said will be included in the Comic-Con diary. “I’ve been recruited as the second unit cinematographer.”
”I guess we should probably run you a bit of footage, shouldn’t we?” Peter warned us that the footage is unfinished, with a temporary soundtrack comprised of some of Howard Shore’s Lord of the Rings score and some bits and pieces from other movies (Shore starts scoring with the London Philharmonic in about 5 or 6 weeks) and all the effects shots are unfinished. “There are some that look quite good and some that are a bit dodgy,” he said. There was only one wide Gollum shot that looked off to me, honestly. Most of it looked damn near finished to me.
He also let us know that there are some bits from Film 2 in the mix. Then they ran the big footage, which was quite a lot, as I mentioned above.
Unlike the technology focused Cinemacon footage presentation, this one was all about the footage. Shown in 24fps 2D the content was the centerpiece. Jackson chose long sequences to anchor the footage instead of a typical quickly cut sizzle reel.
”The dragon, Smaug (pronounced Sm-Ow-g), has not been seen for 60 years. Eyes look East to the mountain assessing, wondering, weighing the risk. Perhaps the vast wealth of our people lies unprotected. Do we sit back while others claim what’s rightfully ours or do we seize this chance to take back Erebor?!?” says Thorin around Bilbo’s dinner table and then we get that full scene, which leads to Bilbo being hired as the burglar, much to his dismay.
This sequence is the “I cannot guarantee his safety,” bit from the trailer and it really seems to set up the character of the group, especially Bilbo who is eavesdropping the whole conversation doesn’t realize Gandalf’s about to pull him into the adventure.
When he realizes this he panics a little bit, but there is a side of him that wants to go. And then he’s handed the contract and bristles when he’s told it covers the usual stuff “out of pocket expenses, remuneration, funeral expenses.” He quickly looks through the long paper. Mumbling, “… company shall not be responsible for injuries resulting from lacerations, evisceration… incineration?!?”
James Nesbitt’s Bofur then excitedly starts talking about the dragon. “Think furnace with wings!” Bilbo’s head swims and he fights a faint… and loses.
The footage also gave us our first glimpses at two fresh characters. First being Radagast the Brown as played by Sylvester “I’m a Timelord” McCoy. We see him nursing a hedgehog back to life. He’s a ratty figure, long dark beard, side of his head covered in bird poop, big (but not pointy) hat and wooden staff. There was a second shot with him as he lifted his hat and let a few birds fly under it. He’s a great character and I can’t wait to see how he comes across in the film. I dare say from what I saw on location and in this bit of footage I believe he’ll be an audience favorite.
The next big chunk of a scene was Gollum and Bilbo meeting. What was interesting for me in this sequence was seeing how they divided up the scene between Gollum and Smeagol. Gollum wants to eat this hobbit, Smeagol seems overjoyed at having a bit of intelligent company. It’s Smeagol who wants to play the game of riddles and hearing Serkis back in the role is amazing. You forget just how much empathy he injects into Smeagol. I love that guy.
”If I win, you’ll show me the way out?” “(Smeagol to Bilbo) Yes! Yes! (Gollum to Smeagol) And if it loses, what then? (Smeagol to Gollum) If it loses, precious, then we eats it! (Smeagol to Bilbo, matter of factly) If Baggins loses we eats it whole.” Martin Freeman holds this moment, milking it for an appropriate amount of laughs before going “Fair enough” and sheathing Sting.
Probably the most emotional part of the footage was the scene between Gandalf and Galadriel in Rivendell that you see in the trailer. She’s asking him why he invited the Halfling to join the quest. “I don’t know,” he says. “Saruman believes that it is only great power that can hold evil in check. That is not what I have found. I have found that it is the small things, every day deeds from ordinary folk, that keeps the darkness at bay. Simple acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? Perhaps it is because I am afraid. He gives me courage.”
McKellen kills it in this scene, if I may be so bold. He shows why Gandalf the Grey is so much more of an interesting character than Gandalf the White. He’s admits his fear, shows vulnerability, but also shows the great power of love. It’s a beautifully written and performed scene and Cate Blanchett shows much grace by her comforting gesture, her brushing Gandalf’s hair out of his eyes. It’s the scene that got to the most out of any of the footage, no matter how cool it is to see Bilbo pick up the ring or the red-headed Tauriel (Evangeline Lily) slicing up some Orcs or Legolas doing a slide through the leaves in Mirkwood, aiming an elvish arrow at our dwarves, it’s the quiet moments of connection like the one between Gandalf and Galadriel that make this feel the most like Lord of the Rings to me.
One more thing to describe before getting to the panel info, another important aspect to this movie is Bilbo’s relationship with the ring and the hold it has over him.
Again, this is a small, character-driven moment between Gandalf and Bilbo. “You’ve changed, Bilbo Baggins. You’re not the same hobbit who left the Shire.” “I was going to tell you… I… found something in the goblin tunnels.” “Found what? What did you find?” Bilbo is fingering the ring in his pocket, finding it hard to tell this wizard who he trusts with his life what he clearly wants to tell him. Gandalf’s interest increases and Bilbo finally says, “My courage.” Which is both true and false at the same time. He did find his courage, but he can’t reveal to the wizard what that courage was born from. It’s an incredibly smart scene and very well played.
Gandalf finishes with “Good. You’ll need it” as we see bits of crazy fantasy threats, like orcs, goblins, a Stone Giant (literally a man-shaped mountain-sized figure) tossing a giant boulder at the fellowship of dwarves on a rainy mountain ridge and the trolls holding Bilbo upside down.
Huge reaction from the crowd, of course. I love being in the Hall when they really get into something. It’s like being at the Geek Superbowl.
The panel featured Peter, Philippa Boyens, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Sir Ian McKellen and a surprise appearance by Elijah Wood, who they just found wandering around being nerdy and brought him up on the stage. Here are some tidbits:
-Peter hasn’t shot his cameo yet, but he’s shooting it this week as they do one last round of pick up shots for An Unexpected Journey. “I’m going to be a bit difficult to spot this time around and I’m not going to tell you where I am.”
-Philippa Boyens talked about creating Tauriel because it is such a boys story that they needed to have a little feminine energy. She wanted to assure us all that they believe it’s completely within the spirit of Tolkien’s universe and isn’t just thrown in to have a lady around.
-Will Peter ever do The Silmarillion? “I the chances of me living until I’m 110 are very remote.” –PJ He followed it up by saying that The Tolkien Estate 100% owns Silmarillion and the Tolkien Estate doesn’t like the movies at all “so I wouldn’t imagine the Silmarillion is going anywhere for a very long time.”
-After a very emotional, heartfelt speech from Andy Serkis about the honor it was for him to direct the second unit on The Hobbit films and work with those amazing people, he dropped a few F-bombs as Gollum when asked to bring the voice out. “(Gollum) For fuck’s sake, do I have to? (Smeagol) You said you weren’t going to whore yourself! You said it! (Gollum) But when you sit in front of six thousand five hundred fucking people what are you going to do, precious?!?”
And that’ll about do it for the Hobbit panel/footage. Sorry, I editorialized a little bit more than I intended to, but I couldn’t help myself. I’m a geek, sue me.
That also brings my panel coverage from Comic-Con 2012 to a close. I hope you guys enjoyed following along. I have a couple interviews hitting next week and I know Capone has a shit-ton more posting from his Con craziness!
Oh, and if you were following my An Unexpected Journey posts from the set of The Hobbit… well, let’s just say next week I’ll be getting the ol’ fingers nice and limber and doing some writing. Stay tuned!