SDCC 2012: Peter Jacksons Shows Off 12 Minutes of 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey'

Sunday, 15 July 2012 11:06 Written by  iamrogue
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SDCC 2012: Peter Jacksons Shows Off 12 Minutes of 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey'

If you can't take San Diego to Middle Earth, you bring a little bit of Middle Earth to San Diego.  That's what Peter Jackson and company did in Hall H at Comic-Con yesterday.  The director used the opportunity to exhibit a whopping twelve and a half minutes of footage from his two-part adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkein's first Middle Earth novel, The Hobbit.  While most of the footage was from the first prequel, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, there was also a taste of the second, The Hobbit: There and Back Again.

It's been almost a decade since The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King concluded Jackson's wildly ambitious adaptation of Tolkein's legendary novel trilogy, and the glimpse at The Hobbit enabled no small amount of warm fuzzy nostalgia, returning to locations such as the Shire and Rivendell, while also bringing back Ian McKelle as Gandalf the Grey, Andy Serkis's Gollum, and Cate Blanchett as Galadriel. 

That's not say it was all nostalgia, though, as the footage also gave a feel for Martin Freeman's performance as the younger Bilbo Baggins, and basically, he looks perfect.

The Hobbit panel was part of the huge Warner Bros. presentation, which was the centerpiece of Hall H's Saturday schedule, taking up two hours and thirty minutes of the schedule right in the middle of the day.  After the Pacific Rim and Man of Steel panels impressed mightily, Warner Bros. closed up shop with the panel for The Hobbit.

This panel began with one of Jackson and company's infectious behind the scenes production blogs, this one chronicling the last five days of the massive shoot on both movies.  The takeaway from the video is that everyone grew very close during the production, and that the environment in Wellington, New Zealand is wholesomely communal and generally wonderful.  The blog featured a tribute to Andy Serkis, who also served as second-unit director, and looks at Luke Evans as Bard the Bowman doing stuntwork, Stephen Fry as the Master of Lake-town, and Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel, an elf character invented specifically for the film.  While many fans have expressed concern over the non-Tolkein character, during the panel co-writer Philippa Boyens explained that Tauriel's inclusion is the result of a story that leans very heavily on male characters, so there was a need for some feminine energy.

Following the blog, Jackson then took the stage while filming the audience for yet another production blog.  Naturally, he got a huge response.  Jackson brought Boyens onstage then wasted no time jumping into the actual footage.  While early pre-Comic-Con reports suggested that the panel would include a look at material in 48fps 3D, this was not the case, so it's impossible to say just how the final film will look in 48fps based on this footage, shown at standard 24fps.

The footage started with its longest uninterrupted scene, set in the familiar confines of Bag End, Bilbo's hobbit hole.  The place is exceedingly crowded between Bilbo, Gandalf, and a dozen dwarfs all cramped into the small residence, trying to establish a plan for their journey to retrieve stolen goods for the dragon Smaug.  Bilbo's hermetical nature and reluctance to even go on a journey inspire some humor, and the tone is notably more playful than past films, what with their epic trappings and slightly apocalyptic feel.

From there, the footage shoots through several locations, including Rivendell, and a number of characters from both films.  A shot of Gandalf the Grey kicking ass isimpossible to resist, and it gives way to scene between the wizard and Blanchett as Galadriel.  Galadriel is curious as to why Gandalf chose Bilbo for this adventure, and the wizard replies that his contemporary Saruman (played once again by Christopher Lee) believes in brute power to overcome evil, while Gandalf himself sees the seemingly trivial kindnesses of ordinary folk as the key to saving Middle Earth, adding that Bilbo gives him courage.

The big moment in the footage, though, was Bilbo's interaction with Gollum, undoubtedly the breakout character of the Lord of the Rings films.  Lost in a series of caves and brandishing his orc-sensing blade Sting in fear, Bilbo runs into Gollum.  Seeking a way out of the caves, Bilbo agrees to play Gollum's game of riddles.  If he wins, Gollum will tell him the way out, if he loses, Gollum will eat him whole.  The emaciated creature looks very much as he did nine years ago, but with many subtle improvements to his texture and expressiveness.

In order to get the crowd properly riled, the footage concluded with a rapid-fire montage of action beats.  Once it concluded, Jackson was joined onstage by Serkis, Freeman, McKellen, Richard Armitage, and Elijah Wood, who briefly reprises his Frodo Baggins role in the new movies.  In the Q&A that followed, Jackson revealed that the sequence between Bilbo and Gollum was filmed over two weeks in order to make it feel like a stage play.  Jackson also mentioned that he has not yet shot his customary cameo, and that composer Howard Shore will begin scoring the first film in the next six weeks or so.

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