The lights dimmed once again in Hall H, but this time things were at a fever pitch. The opening bars of Howard Shore’s classic Shire theme from The Lord of the Rings wafted through the room, and a cheer rose from the crowd. On the two side screens, the epically long banner for the film appeared, perfectly filling the projection space in each direction.
On the central screen, a video began to play. It’s a production diary for the film, following the last day of principal photography, day 266. We are treated to glimpses of Lake Town and Smaug’s lair from the second film, as well as being introduced to Stephen Fry, who will be playing the major of Lake Town. We say hi to the whole cast, and see a surprisingly large amount of Orlando Bloom’s Legolas, a somewhat worrisome trend that is continued in the later footage. I’m hoping Jackson is showing us all the Legolas parts in the Comic-Con footage as fan service, and that the character isn’t actually in the films as much as it appears.
We see the end of shooting for second unit, and Andy Serkis wrapping up his motley crew. We see Peter Jackson filming the final shot, and with a slightly teary, “Unless anybody else has something they’d like to shoot” announcing the wrap on The Hobbit. He gives a great little speech that I’m sure will be included on the copious extras of the inevitable Extended Cut Blu-ray.
The lights come up and Peter Jackson himself strolls on stage. He takes position behind the podium instead of at the table, and Philippa Boyens comes out to join him, if only briefly (she wanted a good vantage point to watch the footage from).
We are later told that the footage we just witnessed was over 12 and a half minutes long, and I believe it. We start with a scene in Bag End that has all the dwarves gathered around the big dining table with Gandalf and discussing their plans. One of the dwarves brings up the fact that the mountain has been sealed shut, leaving only one entrance in and out (the entrance guarded by the dragon Smaug). Gandalf reveals a key, given to him by Thorin’s father, and offers it to him, telling him that there is an extremely small hidden door they might make use of. In order to get inside, they’ll of course need a master thief, and Bilbo himself even chimes in about the quality of said burglar. Gandalf suggests Bilbo, who, upon reading the gigantic contract that includes provisions for his likely death, faints comically on the carpet.
We see shots of the company heading off on their adventure, the Troll encampment, and great vistas that stretch off into the horizon. We see Gandalf, alone, in the ruins of some ancient citadel. Radagast the Brown, one of Gandalf’s companion wizards, warns him not to go any further as it might be a trap. Gandalf tells Radagast to go and send word to Saruman, as it “is most definitely a trap” before striding confidently forward. We jump ahead in time and see Gandalf inside the bowels of the ruined castle, horror film style, as he is stalked by creatures in the shadows. Long skinny corridors and the inability to see both in front and behind at the same time raise the tension, until he is attacked from one side and we cut to black.
Then surprisingly, we are shown almost the entirety of the Bilbo/Gollum riddle scene. It’s just as wonderful as you’re hoping it would be, and Martin Freeman really gets the chance to shine here. He was born to play Bilbo, and he and Serkis engage in a great rambling dialogue, interspersed with glimpses at Gollum’s multiple personalities, something we learned all about in The Lord of the Rings. Bilbo even calls him Smeagol, something Tolkein never allowed him to do, as Gandalf only learned his original name in the time spent tracking him between The Hobbit and Fellowship of the Ring. It’s nice to see bits of Lord of the Rings making their way backward into a story in a way they never could on the page. Tolkien is said to have written The Hobbit as a children’s book while holding onto the entirety of the world for its follow up, and Jackson has managed to integrate the stories more completely, judging by the footage shown.
We see glimpses of Lake Town, and the company making their way through the tortured mountain pass where giants hurl rocks at them. The final scene we glimpse in majority is the conversation between Gandalf and Galadriel in Rivendell. She questions his choice of a Halfling to help save the dwarves, and Gandalf remarks that Saruman agrees with her, believing physical strength to be the only real measure of a person. He, however, believes in smaller things, and the power they have to shape the world. Galadriel wipes some dangling hairs away from his brow and tells him that if he ever has need of her, she will be there. He turns away, and she vanishes. One assumes she projected herself into Rivendell from her woodland home, but why she chose to appear only to Gandalf is still a mystery.
Other flashes from the montage include the introduction of Legolas to the dwarves (unsurprisingly with an arrow pointed in a certain someone’s face) as well as the swiftest of glimpses of the new elf created for the film, Evangeline Lilly, who has red hair in the movie. Honestly, beyond the flash of red I wouldn’t have even known it was her. We didn’t see any of the Goblins themselves, nor the big battle scene from the second film, but I was surprised how many shots from Part II were in the footage already to be honest. No sign of Smaug or Benedict Cumberbatch’s voice, but again, we’re over a year out from Part II so I guess I probably expected too much.
Jackson confirmed that the production diary shown at the beginning would not be appearing online, as it was produced for Comic-Con alone. He’s actually going to be doing a whole diary about the reaction for those who couldn’t make it to the Con and lead the crowd in a rousing chorus of “Hello from Comic-Con!” that he recorded on his iPhone.
Many of the cast came out on stage, including Elijah Wood who had gotten swept up by the group after his Wilfred panel had concluded and was ushered along for the ride. Andy Serkis did a great profanity laced spiel in his Gollum voice for the crowd, and it was revealed that Ian McKellan had stopped by the line around 2am to chat with those camping out and waiting to see the footage.
Technically, it is of note that Jackson decided to screen the footage in 24fps and 2D, as opposed to the much discussed 48fps and 3D it was natively photographed in. The footage still does look decidedly digital, with an overall crispness that I’m afraid will clash mightily when viewed back to back with The Lord of the Rings. It remains to be seen if the 48fps alleviates this problem or simply makes it worse.
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