'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' (Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures)
Judging by the applause, it seems fairly safe to say that when Peter Jackson unveiled 12 ½ minutes of "The Hobbit," many of the patient fans in Comic-Con's Hall H got what they were waiting for.
Before giving them the goods though, Jackson wanted to get one more shot, using his camera to film the entire Hall H while, on the count of three, we chanted, "Hi From Comic-Con!" After which, Jackson said, "No need for take two, that was bloody good."
And without further ado, Jackson asked for the lights to be dimmed so some footage could be screened.
The presentation started with a featurette examining the last five days of principal shooting, an epic that lasted 266 days all told. The featurette starts with Jackson introduces the labor of love, with stunning pillars beside him, and a green screen behind him. This captures the feeling of the shoot, as all the sets were glorious — particularly the giant pile of gold in the dragon's lair — and all seemed to be shadowed by green screens.
There was a lot of footage of the dwarves, in fact, each of them was given a moment to introduce themselves, all while in various forms of heavy makeup and prosthetics. There was a particularly funny sequence where one of the dwarves, hiding in a barrel, is covered in actual dead fish.
One of the cool aspects of filming shown was the way they built the set for Bilbo Baggins' house, using gigantic tables and chairs, in an effort to make the dwarves and hobbits look smaller.
The featurette also showed Andy Serkis's efforts, not just in usual role of Gollum, but also in his new duty as the director of the second unit. He seemed to be well-loved by his crew. But love was pervasive in the featurette, and from the panel itself. At the end of 266 days, there was a lot of hugging, but none that lasted longer than Sir Ian McKellen (Gandalf) and Jackson.
The lights came up and Jackson introduced the illustrious panel: Philippa Boyons, co writer/ producer, Serkis, Richard Armitage (Thorin Oakenshield), Martin Freeman (Bilbo Baggins), McKellen (who received a standing ovation and the biggest applause of the whole day), and Elijah Wood (Frodo), who upon entrance bear hugged Serkis.
Jackson didn't want to waste any time getting to the footage, but he felt compelled to say that the music was held in place by temporary tracks, as Howard Shore hasn't started recording with the London Philharmonic yet. Jackson also made sure to preface the fact that most of the effects shots weren't finished. And also, as a nice added bonus, not all of the footage would be from part 1, "An Unexpected Journey," but also some glimpses of part 2!
The footage itself starts in the Shire, at Baggins' home, where the dwarves have assembled around a large table. There is talk of ominous signs, of dragons. Gandalf is there, and it is agreed that the time has come to take back the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the treacherous dragon Smaug. But how? Gandalf unveils a mysterious key, which he says Thorin's father entrusted to Gandalf. Now Gandalf gives the key to Thorin.
The crew agrees they need a burglar to sneak into the lair. Someone stealth and courageous. All agree that's not Bilbo, especially Bilbo. But Gandalf insists in a very grand and menacing way. The dwarves agree. They hand Bilbo a contract that includes payment plans and funeral arrangements. Bilbo faints.
We cut to Gandalf riding a horse at a rapid pace, sword unsheathed. We see Saroman. We see Galadriel (Cate Blanchet). We see a frozen river. Gandalf appears at the edge of mysterious place, danger looms. A fellow rider asks Gandalf what if it's a trap. Gandalf knows it is but enters anyway. A flurry of a mad bearded man, stalking Gandalf through a maze.
Next we see Bilbo and Gollum in a cave, somewhere near the dragon's lair. Bilbo has his sword drawn. Gollum's dual personalities scare Bilbo, yet he senses he can negotiate with Smaegal. They agree to a battle of riddles, where Gollum will Bilbo the way out of the cave.
Now we're in the Rivendell. Galadriel asks Gandalf why he has chosen the Halfling for the job. Gandalf says he doesn't know, except that Bilbo gives him courage when he is afraid.
Back in the cave, we see a flash of the one ring to rule them all. A Hobbit hand picks it up.
We cut to a scene in a field where Gandalf and Bilbo walk together. Gandalf notices a change in Bilbo. Bilbo wants to confess about what he found in the cave. But when pressed, Bilbo only answers that he found his courage. "Good," says Gandalf, "You'll need it!"
Smash cut to lots of fighting. Orcs! Trolls! Creatures great and small and Orlando Bloom. Fade to black. And the shrieks and cries of appreciative fans, who now knew they didn't wait in vein.
After the roar from the crowd, the moderator went straight to fans for their questions. It's important to note that every fan was visibly moved, nearly overwhelmed with emotion. Here are some of the highlights:
Director Peter Jackson (Photo: Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images)A fan asked Jackson about his cameo in the film. Jackson said, "I haven't shot my cameo yet." But Jackson explained he's going back to shoot his cameo in New Zealand tomorrow. He also mentioned that we probably wouldn't recognize him.
A female fan asked what kind of role Galadriel plays, and if any female characters were added? Boyons remarked that Galadriel is the most powerful being in middle earth at this time. She also said that Tariel is a new female elf created for specifically for the film, played by Evangeline Lilly. She said they treated the character with care, and made sure she belongs in the world.
Another fan asked if it was hard to act in prosthetics, and hard to wear hobbit feet. Freeman remarked, "It's a little like a fledgling duck, finding your flippers" for first few days of wearing hobbit feet. Freeman said he had it easy though, compared to Armitage, and deferred the question to him. Armitage remarked that it was "quite an evolutionm for the look of Thorin and the other dwarves. He noted he had "to work your face harder" because of the prosthetics, and that after day one he didn't think he could do it again, but by end he couldn't do without it.
Another questioner asked Freeman if he was nervous stepping into an already established team. Freeman said, "I didn't feel a huge amount of pressure, I certainly didn't feel intimidated." They just wanted him to be in the film. His job was to play. "I had to find my way into it," he said, mentioning that he and Jackson would negotiate about Bilbo, and that "Pete usually won."
The moderator asked Wood if he had watched footage the yet, to which he replied he hadn't, but made sure he was watching as it was shown to Hall H. "It has amazingly emotional story telling," Wood said, "I was made to feel emotional watching that footage."
A lot of fans were effusive over McKellen, but no one asked him a question, even though he visited fans who camped out last night.
The moderator asked Serkis about the experience. Serkis noted that he was only supposed to be coming back for two weeks to play Gollum. But Jackson asked him to direct the 2nd unit of 160 people, and there was no way he was going to say no. So Serkis spent a year and a half on the project. Serkis called it a "huge film education" enabled by the greatest film mentor ever. He thanked Jackson, genuinely.
Serkis went on to say that Jackson filmed the Gollum/Bilbo scenes for two weeks, and treated them like a theater piece, so they could play.
The moderator asked Serkis for a demonstration of Gollum's voice. After an expletive, Gollum said, "You said you weren't going to whore yourself."
The crowd went wild. Giving the cast and crew another standing ovation.
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