Continuing on with this massively exciting day in Hall H at Comic-Con 2012, director Peter Jackson brought us some new footage from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey as well as some looks at scenes from the second part of the adaptation, There and Back Again. Jackson shot his two-part adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkein’s novel in 3D at 48 frames-per-second, and following the mixed reaction from CinemaCon I was really hoping to be able to judge the footage myself. Alas, Jackson opted to screen the new footage in 2D and at 24fps. Nevertheless, we still got to see footage from Jackson’s return to Middle Earth and hear from the lovely Andy Serkis, Ian McKellen, Elijah Wood and more.
Hit the jump for my full recap of the panel.
As the panel began, the lights went down and the “Misty Mountains” song from the trailer began playing while that enormous banner that was previously released began unrolling across the expanded screen; it’s safe to say I got crazy chills. The video then went right into the latest video blog, which focuses on the end of principal photography. Chances are the blog will be up by the time this recap is posted, but it included a nice tribute to Andy Serkis’ work as second-unit director and gave us our first look at the characters played by Lee Pace, Stephen Fry, and Luke Evans.
Jackson came onstage holding up his phone to record the audience and announced that he was filming what would become part of another video blog for fans that couldn’t make it to Comic-Con. He introduced co-writer Phillipa Boyens (she also co-wrote The Lord of the Rings trilogy with Jackson and Fran Walsh), and then ran a few clips ran that featured footage from both movies. And by a few clips, I mean a shit ton of footage (12 and a half minutes in total):
- The opening clip was the longest of the bunch, as we saw Gandalf, Bilbo and the dwarves all together at Bag End arguing over how to go about reclaiming what is theirs from the dragon Smaug. There was a great deal of humor sprinkled throughout, with Freeman getting the biggest laughs for his reluctance to join the dwarves on their journey.
- The footage then went to a short montage that featured Rivendell, Christopher Lee as Saruman, and Fry as Master of Laketown.
- We then saw a great scene that showed Gandalf getting into the action with his sword/staff combo, followed later by a lower energy—but no less exciting—scene between Gandalf and Galadriel (played by Cate Blanchette). It’s a sweet and touching scene between the two, with Galadriel acting as a reassuring presence for Gandalf.
- Next was a wonderful scene between Bilbo and Gollum. Though it’s only been 9 years since The Return of the King, the amazing advances in visual effects are evident with this newly rendered Gollum. He looks gorgeous and even more lifelike than before. It also appears that they’ve done some subtle work to make him look younger than he does in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which is a nice touch. Bilbo and Gollum participated in the “Game of Riddles,” and laughs were abundant.
- We then saw a scene between Gandalf and Bilbo with the former telling Bilbo that he’s changed and isn’t the same person that left The Shire. Bilbo handles The Ring in his pocket while trying to decide if he should tell Gandalf about it, before simply saying that he “found courage.”
- The last sequence was a montage of great-looking action scenes (likely from the second film) that showed the trolls, a quick look at Evangeline Lilly’s character, and a fantastic shot of Orlando Bloom as Legolas drawing an arrow and aiming at the group of dwarves. Cue crowd going wild.
Like I said, the footage was shown at 24fps and there wasn’t really anything that seemed particularly “off.” It was tantamount to watching a Blu-ray on a really good high HD television. Jackson’s visuals from The Lord of the Rings are still prevalent throughout, but there’s definitely a lighter tone given the material.
Jackson then introduced the other members of the panel, as Serkis took the stage to a warm reception, followed by Richard Armitage (Thorin Oakenshield), Martin Freeman (Bilbo Baggins), and Sir Ian McKellen (Gandalf) who took the stage to a rousing standing ovation (last night he also visited fans who had camped out for the panel). Elijah Wood then came out as a “surprise” guest, but he was already at the Con for Wilfred so I assumed he’d be on this panel as well.
- Composer Howard Shore starts recording with the London Philharmonic in 5-6 weeks.
- Jackson hasn’t shot his cameo yet, but he’s due to shoot it when he returns to New Zealand
- Boyens revealed that Galadriel was the most powerful being in Middle Earth during the time of The Hobbit so they wanted to include her in the film.
- They created a character called Tauriel played by Evangeline Lilly so they could bring more feminine energy into the film. Boyens said they believe it’s completely in the spirit of Tolkein’s books, and Lilly was adamant that they stay true to Tolkein’s vision.
- Freeman said he couldn’t complain much about the Hobbit feet because he was surrounded by people covered in prosthetics for dwarf makeup.
- When asked if he’d make a movie out of The Silmarillion, Jackson quipped, “I think the chances of me living past 100 are slim,” before giving a more serious answer. He said that the rights to the book are in control of the Tolkein estate (who is not great fans of Jackson’s films), so he doesn’t see it coming to the screen anytime soon.
- Freeman said that honestly he didn’t feel a huge amount of pressure when joining the project. He felt relaxed with Jackson, Walsh and Boyens.
- When asked how this film will compare to the eventual Extended Edition of The Hobbit, Jackson said that they never film scenes specifically for an Extended Edition cut; it happens as a result of editing.
- Serkis was only supposed to come back for two weeks to play Gollum, then a month before he was to go to New Zealand, Fran Walsh emailed him to ask if he’d like to come down for a year and a half to direct second-unit.
- They filmed the scene between Gollum and Bilbo first. Shooting on the scene lasted two weeks so it could feel like a theater piece with Serkis and Freeman playing off of each other. Judging by the footage, this extra time paid off in spades.
- Hardwick asked Serkis if he could do the Gollum voice, to which Serkis responded in his Gollum voice, “For fucks sake!” followed by, “You said you weren’t gonna whore yourself out!”
The panel ended and as the talent walked off the stage, Hall H got out of their seats to give The Hobbit panel a standing ovation. The Lord of the Rings series means a lot to Comic-Con goers, and Jackson, McKellan, Wood, etc. are all gracious and very aware of how much these characters—and the actors themselves—mean to the fans.
I’m an unabashed fan of Jackson’s trilogy, and this footage from both Hobbit films did not disappoint. The advances in technology make Gollum even more impressive, but it’s Serkis’ motion-capture performance that really makes the character shine. Freeman plays Bilbo spot-on with reluctance and humbleness, and it’s simply great to see McKellan back as Gandalf. I think fans will be incredibly happy to return to Middle Earth, and I’m eager to see what new material Jackson, Boyens and Walsh have used to flesh out the story into two films.
Finally, if you missed it, earlier today Peter Jackson told us that he will be shooting more footage for The Hobbit and he might turn it into three movies!
Catch up on all of our continuing Comic-Con coverage here.