After years of anticipation and production problems that would make even Terry Gilliam wince, Peter Jackson has finally produced proof that his pair of movies based on The Hobbit will finally see the light of day. Granted, the full monty won’t hit theaters for another 11 months, but the two-and-a-half minutes of scenery money-shots and Ian McKellen hitting the pipe harder than Doug Benson is enough to stoke the fandom fire anew. The trailer is also rather educational, so I thought I’d share six bits of wisdom I’ve gleaned from the first official peek at The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
New Zealand- Still gorgeous
Jackson once again brought Tolkien’s text to the countryside of New Zealand, Earth’s official shooting locale for all films and TV shows attempting to capture a sense of fantastical wonder. And yes, despite the myriad explosions of unrest that mar our world, the land of the kiwi remains breathtaking.
Martin Freeman- Still charming in a thoroughly geeky, British way
To say that the casting of Martin Freeman as the titular protagonist Bilbo Baggins is something of an overstatement. He’s pretty much the only person alive today who should play that role and judging by the brief glimpses of his curly mullet in the trailer, Freeman is going to consistently be one of the best parts of the two upcoming movies. He looks like he’s having a lot of fun.
Peter Jackson is willing to spend more than the budget of half of 2011’s best films casting, costuming and shooting actors who are rendered completely unrecognizable beneath layers and layers of dwarf makeup, all for the sake of a rapid-fire name gag that was likely the bane of Sir Ian McKellen’s existence
The Hobbit doesn’t sport a cast as high-profile and impressive as the LOTR trilogy did. Instead, it fills the screen with men in thick dwarf makeup whose names may or may not even matter in the film or in pop culture. The exception is Richard Armitage as dwarf leader Thorin Oakenshield. He is, predictably, more human-looking than his subordinates.
Remember how Return of the King had approximately a bajillion false endings and lengthy interludes featuring somber, quasi-medieval ballads? Look forward to/prepare to endure a lot more of that
I’ll hand it to Peter Jackson– He has somehow managed to make high-end Renaissance faire music a recognizable part of his brand. Something that should send audiences packing features not only as a selling point in the trailer, but as the freakin’ centerpiece. And damned if it doesn’t send shivers down one’s spine all the same.
An estimated 32% of The Hobbit will consist of various reaction shots (surprised, scared, indignant, awed) from Martin Freeman
I know The Hobbit has several months of post-production work ahead of it, so the first official trailer can only really feature some of the more low-key elements of the effects-heavy epic likely to turn up in theaters, but the trailer still suggests that an inordinate amount of screen time will be given over to funny close-ups of Freeman and Gandalf tokin’ in some Tolkien.
Gollum- Still fun, but never again capable of being creepy or tragic thanks to two things: That unintentionally hilarious “talking to himself” sequence in Return of the King and years of dialog remix videos on YouTube.
Andy Serkis is back as Gollum, the tater-ignorant CGI obsessive who stole our hearts in the original trilogy. It’s a testament to the impact of the films that Gollum’s appearance in The Hobbit still feels like fan service despite being an integral part of Tolkien’s book.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is set to hit theaters on December 14th, 2012. The original Lord of the Rings trilogy can be seen in marathon format on cable during several holidays and slow weekends between now and then.