For those who haven't yet seen the trailer, it can be found over at the official Hobbit website, with 5 different endings, by clicking HERE.
THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY
Release Date: 14 December 2012
Director: Peter Jackson
Starring: Ian Mckellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Ken Stott, James Nesbitt, Cate Blanchett, Andy Serkis, Ian Holm, Elijah Wood, Christopher Lee, Sylvester McCoy
By Kyle Pedley
There are very few things on the planet I’m more of an ardent fan of than the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and Peter Jackson’s sublime movie adaptations (I was such a huge fan back when the movies were released I was invited to the Return of the King premiere in London by the films UK distributor!), so my excitement and anticipation for the upcoming Hobbit trilogy is immense to say the very least.
Having salivated over and re-played the latest trailer release to an almost worryingly degree, I decided to follow suit by kickstarting a new feature here on (A)musings with an in-depth breakdown and analysis of the trailer and throw in my own personal reactions, opinions and plot ruminations.
Warning - this is likely to be fairly long-winded.
Second Warning - naturally, MAJOR SPOILERS follow (not only for this but the second and third films).
Third Warning - You have been warned!
Now let’s grab our contracts and head off on that adventure...
MIDDLE EARTH LANDSCAPE - A sweeping New Zealand vista instantly grounds us in the familiar beauty of Middle Earth and is a shot immediately reminiscent of the Rings trilogy.
The combination of the next few shots of locations, quicker cutting, pounding orchestration and Gandalf’s narration lends a sense of gravitas, urgency and weight to the opening of the trailer and is a nice (unexpected) departure from the lighter, more sedate tone of the teaser/reveal trailer which opened with the familiar Hobbiton/Shire theme and a more leisurely voice over from old Bilbo (Ian Holm). The Hobbit is getting serious (for now).
DOL GULDUR - Surely a shot of Mirkwood and the distant silhouette of Dol Guldur... the thought-abandoned fortress in the woods.
I am particularly thrilled with the inclusion of the Dol Guldur material as it provides direct ties to The Lord of the Rings and justifies why Gandalf keeps disappearing and leaving Bilbo and the dwarves to their own devices. I genuinely can’t think of a way they could have not included this material without sacrificing some major narrative logic which Tolkien himself felt the need to fill in (through the Rings appendices and chapters in Unfinished Tales). It will be interesting to see exactly how much of the Dol Guldur/Necromancer/Sauron storyline will be present in the first instalment, judging from the trailer I think all we will get is Gandalf’s exploration and the finding of Thrain (seen in the first trailer) as it is a significant part of the backstory to the dwarves main quest. The actual driving out of the necromancer from the fortress by the white council looks, understandably, like it will be later in the trilogy.
Having said that, it could be a potentially exciting opening to the film if Gandalf’s exploration of Dol Guldur and his clash with Thrain were to open the movie - a tense, dramatic sequence with Gandalf (a familiar face) by himself in an almost James Bond/Indiana Jones style opening. Of course, it depends what shape they want to take with the older Bilbo and Frodo material, which is much more likely to kickstart the film, with Gandalf’s Dol Guldur adventures as a flashback a la his escape from Orthanc in Fellowship.
Aesthetically I’m loving the idea of the writhing, reaching branches of the Mirkwood trees seemingly drawn or sucked towards the fortress. It’s a beautifully composed shot with some terrific narrative purely through the visuals and lighting.
The idea of Dol Guldur being in ruins and seemingly mostly below ground is also a neat touch - it helps explain why it has been relatively left alone and is chosen as Sauron’s hideout to begin with. I always envisaged it being more tucked away and hidden in the dank depths of Mirkwood though, it’s interesting, and quite haunting, to have it’s structural peaks jutting out on the horizon, though again this is probably more realistic given it was once a practical fortress.
DWARF ‘FELLOWSHIP’ SHOT - A group shot which again in terms of composition and content reminded me a great deal not only of the various tracking shots of the group of heroes in Fellowship of the Ring, but also the hunt of Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli at the beginning of The Two Towers.
It’s both encouraging and exciting as a fan to see some visual motifs carrying through the two trilogies already.
Note - Gandalf is not present in this shot so this must be one of the periods when he is off liaising with the White Council as his adventures in Mirkwood and Dol Guldur discovering Thrain etc. would have taken place before the company set out.
GANDALF IN BAG END - Again grounding us with the familiar, and a neat parallel to the Fellowship of the Ring theatrical trailer where we likewise had Gandalf narrating the general overview of the purpose and catalyst behind the story.
THROR’S MAP - A visual familiar to the more perceptive of Lord of the Rings fans, helping to again set up the Quest for Erebor and the first (and only) allusion to Smaug in the trailer (unless you select one of the extended endings on the official website).
This shot and the previous, combined with the abundance of Bag End in both the teaser trailer and this fuller one, again sees the likelihood of a sequence of scenes similar to Bilbo, Gandalf and Frodo’s Bag End exchanges in Fellowship. It’s all perfectly in keeping with the books themselves - much of the quest is outlined to Bilbo by Gandalf and company in Bag End itself.
The notable lack or mention of Smaug in the trailer, aside from this knowing wink, is no doubt informed by the split in the trilogy - he will certainly be mentioned in the film but to have him mentioned in the trailer would no doubt falsely represent the narrative of this first film which is likely to not feature Smaug at all (except for perhaps a brief cameo at the end prior to film two as per Benedict Cumberbatch’s hints).
“THE DWARVES ARE DETERMINED TO RECLAIM THEIR HOMELAND” - Again a nice change of pace and impetus from the teaser trailer by having the initial focus be on Thorin, the company of dwarves and the Quest for Erebor. With recent comments by Philippa Boyens that the Hobbit trilogy is just as much as the story of Thorin as it is Bilbo, it’s nice to see this focus and a sense of need and danger surrounding the quest feeling more compounded in this trailer - in the original trailer we merely had Gandalf asking Bilbo to join him on an ‘adventure’, whereas here we get the sense that the stakes at play are high and meaningful and the notion of reclaiming their homeland is not a million miles away from the Lord of the Rings hobbits wishing to protect and return to the Shire.
Still struggling to not get distracted by Balin’s nose...
Dwalin looks suitably awesome as always.
HOBBITON, THE SHIRE - More beautifully familiar surroundings and a stunning pan of Hobbiton. Unknown whether this is from the Frodo or Young Bilbo era, but given that the town looks a little sparser and quieter than its Rings appearance, I’d say the former.
The positioning of the camera in this shot is also quite telling - from its high vantage point overlooking the party field and the Gamgee’s it seems to be coming from a position very near to Bag End itself - notice the winding path to the right hand side of frame. If it weren’t for the fact that the hobbits in the shot are walking forward correctly I’d have guessed this could possibly be a reversed shot that pans towards Bag End (similar to the reverse Eowyn Edoras shot in Return of the King). As it is I think the opposite could perhaps be true - the beginning of this shot, wherever it falls, may be on Bag End in the foreground before panning across and out to more of Hobbiton.
GANDALF PEAKING IN AT BAG END (“I like visitors as much as the next Hobbit”) - This is a great, quirky moment that I’m hoping is our introduction to Gandalf in the film if his Dol Guldur adventures are not the opening sequence (and they most likely won’t be). It’s some atypical Peter Jackson fun and it seems to make more sense that it would happen prior to him walking up to Bilbo and asking him to go on this adventure as per the previous trailer.
Of course I could be wrong and the first arrival of Gandalf could be that aforementioned scene, and if so I like the idea of Gandalf being something of a bother and harassment to Bilbo following his initial turning down of the adventure offer. It would be another spiritual precursor to Bilbo avoiding the Sackville-Bagginses in Fellowship.
It also reminded me of the hilarious arrival of Gandalf in the 1977 Rankin/Bass animated version of The Hobbit (go to 1:08 HERE) though thankfully more subtly and less melodramatically done. I do wonder if PJ saw and was inspired by this though, he did a similar homage to the Ralph Bakshi animated Lord of the Rings with his shot of Everard Proudfoot (“PROUDFEET”) in Fellowship.
FILI AND KILI ‘AT YOUR SERVICE’ - Something for the ladies to appreciate now with the arrival of Fili and Kili.
So here we have the two youngest members of the company turning up on Bilbo’s doorstep. I’m loving the design of Fili as a young, aspiring dwarf but I’m still not completely sold on Aiden Turner’s look as Kili - it may sound like an atypical complaint but he still doesn’t quite register as dwarven. It’s difficult to not look at the character and just see the want for some sex appeal in the vein of Aragorn etc. amongst the company, and whilst Aiden Turner is certainly a very handsome chap who will no doubt win himself an extra legion of fans here, he still jars visually in comparison to the rest of the dwarf folk (and before anybody mentions the minor plot point of him cutting his beard off, I am aware of this). Hopefully once we get a few more perspective and scale shots and the film is in swing his look will become more accepted and less distracting.
Struggling to imagine Rob Kazinsky as Fili now - Dean O’Gorman looks great in the role and I can see him also becoming something of a heart-throb and ladies favourite.
Now back on to more meaningful discussion...
BILBO IN BAG END - It’s been said a thousand times over but I did just want to throw in my complete approval of Martin Freeman playing the role of young Bilbo. I expected him to be an excellent choice both prior to and after his announcement in the role, but was quite bowled over when the teaser trailer was released at how perfectly he assumed the role and how similar in manner and voice he was to Ian Holm’s older Bilbo. One of Peter Jackson and his teams great strengths is their casting ability, and it’s encouraging that this new trilogy is going to be in the hands of mainly three extremely proficient and capable actors perfectly cast in their roles (Freeman, Mckellen and Armitage).
Likewise the brilliant and beautiful recreation of Bag End from what was kept of the Lord of the Rings sets. Following on from the success of the Harry Potter studio tour over here in the UK and the news that the Hobbiton set is going to be kept up as a tourist attraction after the additional shooting for There and Back Again is complete, I wouldn’t be surprised if Warner Bros. pull the same move as they did with their Potter franchise and pull some sort of studio/set tour out of the bag. My plane tickets are already pending.
“I’M SURROUNDED BY DWARVES” - Now it’s difficult to tell here if Bilbo is leaving Fili and Kili at the doorstep but it would fit with the arrival of the dwarves according to the book, with Dwalin arriving first, followed shortly by Balin. This shot of Bilbo walking away from the door and the two brothers already being in Bag End seems to imply they will be the first to arrive as per the book and potentially the beginning of the dwarf arrival sequence to be fairly true to what’s on the page.
As for the rest of the company, going back to the original teaser trailer the packed shot of the dwarves falling into Bag End as soon as Bilbo opens the door features not only the five who arrive together at once in the book - Dori, Nori, Ori, Oin and Gloin, but Bifur, Bofur and Bombur also. So currently it seems Dwalin and Balin will be the first arrivals, then Fili and Kili together followed by the rest of the company all falling in at once, minus Thorin who will no doubt make his own individual appearance.
DWALIN AND BALIN’S HEADBUTT - A neat moment which fits in with the proud, machismo nature of dwarven culture but also instantly reminds one of the behind-the-scenes footage from Lord of the Rings where it became something of a ritual between some of the cast (particularly Viggo Mortensen, Bernard Hill and Orlando Bloom) to perform a headbutt with the stunt teams as a mark of honour and respect. There are some great stories of how Mortensen went around the entire stunt team at the end of his principal photography for Rings and gave every single one of them a hit such as this. It became such a talking point and fan favourite by the time Return of the King was released (with the cast even doing it at premieres and the like) that it’s difficult to not imagine Jackson and team being reminded of and inspired by this when coming up with moments of camaraderie and the like to show the bond between the dwarves, particularly these brothers.
“OH THEY’RE QUITE A MERRY GATHERING” - There’s certainly been a strong showing of Bag End in both trailers, and by all accounts it seems very little is going to be cut from the source material in regards to the dwarves arrival and their minor mayhem that disgruntles poor Bilbo.
It’s nice to see Jackson tailoring to the lighter moments such as these, keeping with the tone of the book; in a previous interview he stated one of the major issues keeping him from wanting to direct these films was that he was unsure how he’d be able to handle such a light tone and such a large throng of dwarven characters, two things which he went on to say were what have actually made these productions so enjoyable and unique. I am always going to be curious to imagine how moments such as these would have transpired in Guillermo Del Toro’s interpretation as so much of the comedy and even technical and camera work seem quintessentially PJ.
On a side note, that’s Nori and Bofur in the foreground arguing over a string of sausages for those who weren’t sure, and what appears to be Oin watching on behind Bilbo.
MORE DINNER TABLE MADNESS - I loved the fluidity and motion of the shot in the teaser trailer of the dwarves throwing plates and the likes across the table, and this appears to be more of that.
Again, Kili’s look is a little incongruent with the others, even as the youngest of the company, but Bombur looks absolutely perfect. Ori I can see being in a similar vein to Pippin in the Rings trilogy as a sweet and endearing character, perhaps a little too naive for his own good. At least he is in a good, strong crowd, again a la Pippin in the Fellowship.
“SO, THIS IS THE HOBBIT” - I’ll get into more specifics regarding Bilbo’s involvement in the Quest for Erebor (i.e. the adventure the characters set out on in these films) with Gandalf’s quote, but for now I just thought it a neat touch to have this titular line placed in the theatrical trailer as a neat way of swinging the focus back from the dwarves at the foot of the trailer and now onto Bilbo and why he is going to form such a central part of the story. It is needed a little in so far as with the reclaiming of their homeland and the dwarves themselves being so heavily featured there ran the risk of Bilbo appearing to be little more than an unwilling bystander.
In regards to Richard Armitage’s performance, he seems to have nailed the regal pride of Thorin perfectly, and you can genuinely sense he is not entirely convinced by the individual stood before him, almost bemused by Bilbo. The doubt of Thorin and the dwarves is mentioned and touched upon in the book but in the same light tone as much of the proceedings - it seems Jackson, Walsh and the team are going to naturally take this a little further and, given the arc Bilbo and Thorin go on together, this is entirely understandable and will make for much more dramatic, involving and satisfying cinema.
Some trailer cheating going on between these shots, however, as notice in the first shot of Bilbo turning he is wearing his dressing gown, whereas in the shot with Thorin he is not. This is quite telling as he appears to be in his dressing gown for all of the dwarf arrivals, indicating Thorin may arrive sometime later.
“YOU ASKED ME TO FIND THE FOURTEENTH MEMBER OF THIS COMPANY, AND I HAVE CHOSEN MR BAGGINS” - This is the start of a nice character beat and nuance with Gandalf, and demonstrative of what Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens do so well as writers with characters such as these. I’ll go into greater detail when we get further on in the trailer, but for now, Gandalf’s conviction and certainty is a nice setup for a scene coming up later with Galadriel...
FORCED PERSPECTIVE OR CGI? - One thing that the Rings trilogy pulled off pretty much seamlessly was the scale and perspective issues between the hobbits, Gimli and other characters through a mix of scale doubles, forced perspective and CGI insertion.
Judging from this trailer, it seems as though for wide shots at least, there is a greater predominance of CGI insertion being used, for instance Gandalf in this scene and the previous ‘they’re quite a merry gathering’ shot. Whilst some people will instantly jump on the anti-CG bandwagon, realistically I imagine PJ and the team had the same discussion, diligence and deconstruction of each scene and assessed whether or not it was practical and possible to use forced perspective (which is essentially placing the actors at different distances from the camera to make them appear smaller or larger and then matching up eyelines). Generally speaking, the scenes in Bag End in Fellowship of the Ring that featured Gandalf only ever had him and one other character (Frodo or Bilbo) meaning that the shot, set and camera movements were all synced and constructed so that forced perspective could be maintained. With so many characters and levels within the shot (we go from Balin and Dwalin in the immediate foreground through to Gandalf and Bofur, then Thorin, then Bilbo) I cannot imagine any realistic way shots such as these could have even been attempted with forced perspective.
“HOBBITS CAN PASS UNSEEN BY MOST IF THEY CHOOSE...” - Although not a direct quote from the book itself, it is highly reminiscent of Tolkien’s descriptions of Hobbits at the beginning of the very first chapter:
“There is little or no magic about them, except the ordinary everyday sort which helps them to disappear quietly and quickly”
Now again this is where the mining of the appendices and Unfinished Tales was absolutely necessary - to explain with greater purpose Bilbo’s involvement in the quest and why Gandalf was so ardent in choosing him. To have this included in the trailer is important as it again both sets up something of an enigma for those who aren’t familiar with the books (why do they need someone who can sneak about so easily) and it also gives him a more iron cast reason to be involved, whereas the original book and teaser trailer both somewhat trivialised his role as merely going off on an adventure of sorts. The books do introduce his role as being that of a burglar, but again it doesn’t quite justify or satisfy as a dramatic catalyst and fitting him into the greater scheme of things with a purpose, nor does it fully explain why Gandalf was involved in the quest (given the importance of his behaviour and time in Lord of the Rings) and why he felt the need to bring a hobbit along with him. I’m not saying all of this will be fully explained in the first film at least, but it’s nice to see between Thorin’s ‘This is the Hobbit’ introduction and some explanation of why Gandalf has selected Bilbo even in the trailer all contributing to a clearer, more thought-out and meaningful explanation of events. Given the gravity of the task set to Frodo in Fellowship of the Ring, Bilbo’s adventure definitely needed a touch of gravitas and relevance from a cinematic perspective.
In regards to the film itself, this shot seems to be Bilbo alone in Bag End - and judging from the light cast on the wooden cabinet far left of frame, this is certainly not from the same time as the accompanying shots (nor does it propose to be). I’m presuming this is when Bilbo is being harrassed by Gandalf and trying to not be spotted or heard indoors (though notice he is not wearing the waistcoat from those shots). This could also be the morning after the dinner with the Dwarves and he is creeping around to check they have all left/where they all are.
“... WHICH GIVES US A DISTINCT ADVANTAGE” - Again, further setting up the Bilbo-as-burglar notion and having a direct reason for him to not only join in but indeed be needed on the adventure, whilst also alluding to Smaug. Having Gandalf decide upon Bilbo and provide these reasons will also seemingly tie into his current investigations with Radagast, Dol Guldur, the White Council etc. most likely leading up to the explanation provided in ‘The Quest for Erebor’ chapter of Unfinished Tales that with the darkness spreading back into the world, Gandalf realised Smaug needed to be disposed of, lest Sauron forge a powerful allegiance with him, and also re-establish the dwarven kingdom in Eriabor as another defence in the north for the growing spread of evil and possibility of war. In this context it gives the whole storyline a direct tie-in and relevance to the events that were to come in Lord of the Rings.
Those who are disagreeing with the additional material being drafted in should appreciate that The Hobbit was written as a much lighter affair prior to The Lord of the Rings, with Tolkien re-addressing much of the plot of the book after Rings was published to deliberately tie it in with the greater mythology he was creating and developing. From the perspective of these films as prequels to The Lord of the Rings not only would much of the story seem somewhat trivial and out of character for Gandalf in particular, it would also be thoroughly unsatisfying as an audience member to not sense there was a driving purpose and reasoning behind the telling of this story which leads to the trilogy we know and love - merely finding the ring alone is not a strong enough through-line, and happens to be purely incidental to the main plot, which was originally conceived (and reads) as a light-hearted, relatively isolated adventure.
Returning to the specifics of the trailer itself, note that Dori has now replaced Kili and the table is much emptier. Kili is also behind Thorin in his moment with Bilbo, leading me to believe that the dinner party could take place without Thorin, who will then arrive and be seated at the head of the table. That being said, that theory jars somewhat with Gandalf’s introduction of the hobbits in the teaser trailer, so it is possible Thorin is there all along.
“WE WILL SEIZE THIS CHANCE TO TAKE BACK EREBOR” - Again appreciating this emphasis on a more personal and standing motivation behind the dwarves quest. The trailer really has done a nice job of rounding out the adventure for all involved, including a dash of intrigue and mystery for those not familiar with the story.
The conviction and almost ferocity of Armitage’s delivery really lends Thorin an air of danger, which will be key for the events to come in what will likely be the third film now. I just hope he is given some more pensive and personal moments, and again given the calibre of character work the team did with the Rings ensemble, I imagine this to be highly likely, especially now we are looking at a trilogy. I can already sense echoes of Boromir in Thorin, with his distrusting edge, pride and passion for his homeland, the inevitable parallels to the ring with his desire for the Arkenstone and outrage at Bilbo and his redemption in death. Like Boromir, I imagine some of his more tender moments may be exploring his genuine desire to reclaim his kingdom and avenge the wrongs put upon him and his people.
Again - no Fili and Kili in shot - according to the reverse with Bombur it seems they can only be just out of frame to the far right.
“I’M GOING ON AN ADVENTURE!” - A shot no doubt from the same sequence as in the teaser trailer with Bilbo jumping over the fence/stile. Contract in hand, this is almost certainly from the morning where Bilbo runs out to meet Thorin and company at the Green Dragon Inn (with his "11am sharp" deadline).
Potentially a younger Everard Proudfoot in the first shot, and could that be a little cameo from the Sackville-Baggins’ watching on in the second? They certainly look like they could be younger versions of Lobelia and Otho from the extended edition of Fellowship of the Ring.
The Shire is look beautifully resplendent as always. Living in England it is still amazing to this day how perfectly they have captured and recreated a vision of Tolkien’s re-imagining of an idyllic English countryside.
RETURN TO RIVENDELL - Speaking of beautifully resplendent, the autumnal majesty of Rivendell has never looked better. I was surprised to hear that due to technical complications with the 3D cameras being used for the shooting of these films, there was no use of miniatures (or ‘big-atures’ as they were dubbed on the Rings shoot due to their immense size) - and in the original trilogy Rivendell was one such miniature.
As such it seems all shots such as these are entirely CGI, which would explain the utterly seamless compositing and grading between the buildings and their surroundings. The miniature work on Rings was exemplary and added a very tangible element to the special effects, but this is equally beautiful and impressive work, and extremely consistent.
I remain curious as to whether or not Rivendell will be mentioned by name, given its prominence in Rings, or if it will be referred to as ‘The Last Homely House’ as per the book. I’m expecting a mix of the two dependent on which character is making the reference.
Point outs - the outlook/structure in the top right with the trio of waterfalls - seems to be the same one in which we see Galadriel and Gandalf conversing in both this and the teaser trailer. In fact, is that Galadriel stood there in this shot? And is that Elrond out on the terrace? Judging from the costumes it appears either (or both) of these could be accurate. As with the background hobbits in Bilbo’s running shots, they could of course be purely incidental Elven folk.
“MITHRANDIR, WHY THE HALFLING?” - Instantly nice to see there’s again no shying away from the various names for Gandalf as per Lord of the Rings.
I was originally a little disappointed to hear Rings costume designer Ngila Dickson was not returning for these films but the consistency and design work in the costumes has been astounding and easily on par with what came before and is perfectly evident in shots such as this.
It’s also thrilling to have Cate Blanchett back for the trilogy given her involvement in the White Council in the books and near-omniscient presence in Lord of the Rings; it would have been very jarring to not have her feature at all. Her majesty and grace seems even more perfectly home here in Rivendell than in Lorien, though I do hope the static, beautiful blocking of the characters in shots such as these do not make the scenes themselves feel too placed and rigid.
These scenes with Gandalf and Galadriel again seem to indicate they may be in the minority in An Unexpected Journey due to all shots in both trailers seemingly being taken from this one single scene (with one brief exception towards the end of the trailer). There’s also a notable absence of Christopher Lee in the trailer, which indicates the White Council scenes and materials may have been pushed back to film 2, although a screenshot of the White Council appearing in one of the books to be published for this instalment, and Christopher Lee appearing on the cast list on the official Hobbit app means it will hopefully make it in there (Update - Christopher Lee's name is in the credits block on the newly-released poster for the film so he will be making some form of appearance).
I also firmly suspect the extra filming that will be done for the second and third films next year may include an expansion of the driving of the Necromancer from Dol Guldur and further White Council material.
TROLLS IN THE TROLLSHAWS - This scene was always going to feature in the film, not least because of the appearance of the troll statues in Fellowship of the Ring and the direct reference to Bilbo’s adventures we had there.
Design-wise Weta were obviously tied to the look of the trolls as per their stoney appearance in Fellowship, meaning the element I am most curious about is how the scene will transpire to have the trolls end up in those specific poses. It will also be interesting to see if these, and indeed any of the creatures that appear in the trailers, will be capable of speech, as none of the trolls in The Lord of the Rings were seemingly capable of anything other than grunting and roaring. It’s going to be interesting to see how Jackson and co. pull that particular element of the book off, seeing as how trolls, eagles, all of the assorted animals in Beorn’s home and presumably Radagasts animal accomplices were all capable of talking in the original tale.
Returning specifically to the trolls, I can see it working, and Jackson being tempted to execute it, either way, and it is a shrewd move to keep their presence in the trailer relatively slight and keep the whole issue ambiguous.
It does however, have minor echoes of the recent adaptation of Coriolanus, whose trailer failed to inform audiences that it was a Shakespearean play adapted to film and keeping it’s original written form, meaning they left the cinema in droves, feeling duped and angered. Now this is obviously nowhere near the same extreme or severity, but if the finished film does end up featuring this plethora of talking creatures, the tone of the trailer may not be entirely accurate and may sit ill with some people expecting the same level of grit and realism as The Lord of the Rings (though in truth The Hobbit was never intended to be as such).
“PERHAPS IT IS BECAUSE I AM AFRAID... AND HE GIVES ME COURAGE” - And here we have the nice counterpart to Gandalf’s little speech regarding Bilbo in Bag End.
Whereas in Bag End Gandalf spoke with conviction and certainty, here we see a truth behind the bravura, a more human and uncertain side to the character, and as mentioned it is another example of how brilliantly the writers are able to round out a fairly straight-forward and somewhat one-dimensional character in the book and give him flaws, foibles and insecurities. It reminded me a great deal of his more empathetic moments as Gandalf the White - his potential regret and guilt at sending Frodo off on his quest (as evinced in his discussions with Aragorn in both the extended edition of The Two Towers and in Meduseld at the beginning of Return of the King and the taunting at the hands of both Saruman and the Mouth of Sauron in the extended edition of King).
Mckellen lends these moments just the right balance of vulnerability and doubt without losing that gravelly authority, and it’s nice to see these films are going to give him scenes such as these, which he always handles with aplomb. I’m also hugely looking forward to the on-screen relationship between Galadriel and Gandalf as we saw her palpable sorrow upon discovering his fall in Fellowship, and indeed in Tolkien’s writings it is revealed she had greater faith in Gandalf over even Saruman, believing Gandalf should be appointed as leader of the White Council, though he refused to do so on the grounds that Saruman was head of his order. It would be excellent drama to have these dynamics played out on screen or brought up amongst the trio, especially with all three and the White Council now confirmed as playing a role in these films.
MORE OF GANDALF IN DOL GULDUR - I may be incorrect here but I would be very shocked if this wasn’t anything over than his exploration of Dol Guldur, prior to finding (and fighting, according to the teaser trailer) Thrain.
MORE OF GANDALF IN DOL GULDUR - I may be incorrect here but I would be very shocked if this wasn’t anything over than his exploration of Dol Guldur, prior to finding (and fighting, according to the teaser trailer) Thrain.
This is all looking suitably claustrophobic and tense, and reminds me a great deal of Moria, particularly Gandalf’s near-fall, similar to the staircase moment with Boromir in Moria (before being pulled back to safety by Legolas).
BILBO VS NEW-LOOK GOBLIN - Bilbo, brandishing Sting, fending off one of the new design Goblins, no doubt during the Misty Mountains escapade.
I am quite the fan of the Goblin design work that has been released both in the trailer and also in print - they look far more unsettling and grotesque than their Moria counterparts, and I can certainly sense the Guillermo Del Toro influence in their design work.
Two minor issues stem from this brief shot - firstly, the Goblin appears to be entirely CGI, something that appears true of practically every creature in the trailer. I certainly hope there is still use of Weta’s excellent proficiency with prosthetics, as characters such as Lurtz, Grishnakh and Gorbag (from Fellowship, Towers and King respectively) were done entirely with some excellent prosthetics work and had a genuine presence in the scene which can occasionally be lost with CG work.
Secondly, whilst he is mostly just blocking and defending himself so too little to judge from just this clip, I sincerely hope they don’t make Bilbo too proficient a sword fighter. The same accusations were leveled at the hobbits in the original trilogy however, and that turned out fine, not to mention I believe Jackson to be too in-tune as a filmmaker and steward of this material to risk debasing the character so.
TOWARD THE MISTY MOUNTAINS - Given the narrative of this first film and the geography of Middle Earth, this is presumably part of the ascent and approach to the Misty Mountains after leaving Rivendell.
One minor design note - I’m liking how the rigid dwarf architecture design that also makes its way into their embroidery and clothing is even stitched into Bofur’s rucksack/blanket. Fili is also just heading into the bottom of frame with his handy shovel.
RIVENDELL BY MOONLIGHT - This is possibly my favourite shot from the new trailer and some absolutely stunning design work and artistry showcasing a new area of Rivendell we haven’t yet seen. Again the wonderful compositing and digital grading work making a seamless, stunning environ that really encapsulates that sense of high fantasy. Even with the mantra of Peter Jackson and Co. to make everything as real and tangible as possible, and ground it in a practicality, it is still incredibly pleasing as a huge fan of the genre to get fantastical moments such as this.
This location is seemingly tucked around either in the centre or to the left of the wide shot of Rivendell that we saw earlier in the trailer - if you look right of frame you can see what looks to be Galadriels outlook.
In terms of plot this is no doubt where Elrond helps the company out by discovering the moon letters on Thror’s map.
ELVES, WIZARDS, HOBBITS AND DWARVES - A brilliant shot that for the first time seems to have fully sold the persective and size of the dwarves. It’s shots such as these running throughout the film which will really help sell the dwarves in particular - this is the first time I have seen a still of Thorin and in stature and build he appears perfectly dwarven.
It’s also nice to see Balin being the only other dwarf involved in this discussion - after Thorin he is probably the most central dwarf of the company, and certainly the one to whom Bilbo becomes closest. Having him involved in key moments such as this will help anchor his importance, and ultimately make Gimli and Gandalf’s sorrow at his death in Fellowship of the Ring all the more impacting and meaningful.
Elrond’s line - “So this is your purpose, to enter the mountain?” - is again doing a nice job of building and clarifying the plot setup for the audience and looping back to Gandalf’s introduction of the Lonely Mountain at the very beginning of the trailer.
“WHAT OF IT?” - Again, more front and attitude from Thorin, and I’m pleased his pride is front and centre even to the likes of Elrond. I foresee him becoming quite a favourite with viewers, and Armitage to receive plenty of plaudits and praise for his performance.
MISTY MOUNTAIN GOBLIN MARCH - The goblins of the Misty Mountains conga line their way along their ramshackle holdings (reminiscent of both Moria and the foundries of Isengard). The design and animations of these creatures seems far less unified and regimented than the more militaristic goblins, orcs and Uruk-Hai from Rings - see how some of them shunt and shuffle along erratically and there seems greater variety in posture and size. In many ways this shift was likely needed, as a repeat of what had come before would likely be stale and repetitive.
Whilst a wide shot such as this would likely have been done in CG were it part of the original trilogy, this seems to support the notion that the majority, if not entirety, of these creatures will be CG constructions.
I’m still hoping for one or two vile goblin prosthetics...
“THERE ARE SOME WHO WOULD NOT DEEM IT WISE” - It’s pleasing to see Elrond taking a similarly advisory capacity as he did in the Rings trilogy, something that will likely be compounded by his presence in the White Council scenes.
In the book of The Hobbit he pretty much welcomes them, gives them information regarding their weapons and maps and gives no perspective on their quest and ultimate goal. This interpretation of the character would sit ill with the more worldly and outspoken individual we met in the previous films, so it is good to see Jackson and company having him give counsel on the matter.
For a long while I was not won over by Hugo Weaving’s casting as Elrond, it was one of the very few casting decisions I did not initially agree with, but that was over a decade ago, and now, hearing his almost whispered yet authoritative and venerable tones in the trailer, having been so used to them in the theatrical trailers for The Two Towers and Return of the King, it was a very welcome return of both the character and actor.
RADAGAST’S BUN-SLED - One of the most divisive elements of the trailer and earlier footage released has been the handling of Radagast.
Again, in regards to his inclusion, I am extremely excited as his dwelling in Mirkwood and interactions with Gandalf as mentioned in both The Hobbit and Fellowship of the Ring makes him a natural fit in this expanded take on the tale and associated happenings.
From a purely creative perspective, I’m still not entirely certain how I feel about his rabbit-pulled sled - as others have commented it drifts a little too far into Narnia territory for my liking, and is miles away from the more Earthy reality of the Rings trilogy, and indeed of both Gandalf and Saruman, his fellow wizards.
I do agree with the quirker take on the character - it fits with Saruman’s disdain and contempt for Radagast and with his reputation as an outsider more concerned with flora and fauna than the wider happenings of Middle Earth. There almost seem to be shades of Tom Bombadil in his persona and design - could this be a deliberate nudge to the character after his absence in Fellowship of the Ring? There almost seems to be something of a wizard tramp-meter forming from Saruman through to Gandalf through to reigning champion Radagast.
As to where these shots place in the film, it’s difficult to gauge - Radagast could very well be on his way home to Rhosgrobel (he doesn’t appear to be too deep into Mirkwood) or alternatively this could be part of an escape/chase sequence following on from the upcoming shots of spiders breaking into his home.
“A DARK POWER HAS FOUND A WAY BACK INTO THE WORLD” - Again the prominence of Radagast and Mirkwood in the trailer indicates that even the first film is going to have a heavy focus on the growing evil in Mirkwood and the importance of Gandalf’s mission to uncover what is behind it.
Sylvester McCoy seems like the perfect choice for this eccentric, off-centre wizard and I am greatly anticipating the scenes between Radagast and Gandalf, and to see the extent to which Radagast becomes involved in the grander plot-line developing.
It also raises questions as to what Radagast’s arc will be in the trilogy as a whole - introducing him in the first film and even it’s trailer indicates he may be something of a major character throughout - which will ultimately lead to questions about his complete absence and lack of mention in The Lord of the Rings. Given that Haldir was killed off to lend extra tragedy and impact to Helm’s Deep in The Two Towers, I can see the (hopefully) likable Radagast falling prey to either the Battle of Five Armies or, more likely, Saruman.
It’s a little unclear as to what is ailing his hedgehog friend, and again no indication of whether or not the wounded creature (and his friends watching on the table) will be capable of speech, though it could potentially be a spider bite/wound given the events soon to follow, and regardless will be tied in to this spread of darkness and evil in Mirkwood.
RHOSGOBEL HAS A PEST CONTROL PROBLEM - Radagast’s home comes under attack from what appears to either a swarm of arachnids or one very large spider indeed (note the silhouette’s on the glass door). Again this is no doubt part of the spread of darkness and evil expanding out from Mirkwood, seeing as how his home is on the Western edge of the forest.
It will be interesting to see how lengthy and involved this sequence will be and how heavily these creatures will feature seeing as the famous ‘Flies and Spiders’ chapter is to now fall in film 2.
Instantly the advances in the CG work for the character are evident, without altering any of his now iconic appearance. Elements of him appear slightly fuller, which is understandable given the earlier date of these events, and I’m sure the inevitable making-of material in the extended edition DVD/Blu-Ray will go into greater detail on the conscious differences between the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings models of Gollum. There were certainly plenty between the three Gollum models used for Fellowship, Towers and King.
“WHY DON’T WE HAVE A GAME OF RIDDLES” - ‘Riddles in the Dark’ is many fans favourite chapter from the book, and undoubtedly one of the most anticipated highlights of this first installment, even more so now the decision to split the films into a trilogy has some of the sequences such as ‘Barrels out of Bond’ now moved into the second film.
It’s fortunate that Gollum, one of the most iconic and memorable characters from the original films, features relatively early in the story as he is going to no doubt be an enormous marketing pull, and has wisely featured majorly in both trailers.
From the short exchanges we’ve seen in this trailer and the extended ending on the official site, there seems to be a nice balance of comedy and danger, and it’s a balance that Jackson judged pretty perfectly in the Rings films (Return of the King particularly). Hardcore fans will no doubt disagree, and many Tolkien enthusiasts believe the portrayal of Gollum was far too comedic and jovial, but there’s no denying he was enormously popular with audiences and one of the great success stories of the trilogy. Given the high stakes of the scene, and the not-so-minor fact it is all revolving around none other than the One Ring itself, I’m optimistic that the tension and aggression inherent in the scene will gradually build and bubble over and make for a great sequence. I’m expecting it will likely be intercut with Gandalf and/or dwarf material to draw out the tension and keep Gollum featured for as long as possible.
GOLLUM/SMEAGOL - Again more stellar CG work done on a fittingly younger-looking Gollum, but also neat touches such as the slightly wider and more bulbous eyes - appropriate given his dank, dark living conditions.
The quality of the animation and the uncanny Andy Serkis mannerisms and expression coming through show that despite the clear advances achieved technically in the past 10 years, it is the character and performance which are being prioritised above all, and once again are shining through.
It will be interesting to see how much more of Gollum’s story after ‘Riddles in the Dark’ this trilogy opts to play out - given that in the appendices, Unfinished Tales etc. Gollum leaves the Misty Mountains, ends up, in of all places, Mirkwood (a prisoner of Legolas, no less), and eventually where we first hear of him in Fellowship - captured and tortured by Sauron, I can’t imagine them wasting the opportunity to feature more of such a prolific (and marketable) character given his ties to the characters and geography, although doing so would mean playing around with the timeline somewhat significantly.
“YOU SHALL NOT... QUOTE THE WRONG FILM” - A very interesting and cleverly done take on the Trollshaws conclusion with more than a passing resemblance to Gandalf’s destruction of the Bridge of Khazad-Dum in Fellowship and a suitably dramatic and showy scene that has featured in both trailers as such. It also has echoes to both of his ‘blinding light’ moments in The Two Towers - when he first re-appears in Fangorn and then with Eomer and company at the climax of Helm’s Deep. It is a nice continuing motif with the character that light is one of his greatest resources (see also his repelling of the winged Nazgul as they attack Faramir’s company fleeing from Osgiliath in Return of the King).
From this pair of shots it seems that Gandalf’s role in petrifying the Trollshaws trolls is much more direct and active than in the book (where he simply goads them into arguing amongst themselves until the sun rises). Whilst he will likely take similar action in the film, it seems he ends up physically shattering the rock mound (again akin to his bridge strike in Fellowship) to let the sunlight through and take care of said trolls. I can imagine this being a tense last measure as one of the dwarves or Bilbo is about to be squashed/eaten/boiled/cooked/something equally horrible and the wizard does not have the time to wait for the sun to rise any further (or possibly due to the presence of cloudy skies).
GOBLIN-TOWN ON THE MOVE - Another impressive wide shot again showing the impressive CG work being done with the environments in these films. In Lord of the Rings this likely would have been a combination of CG with miniature work but as with Rivendell everything here looks consistent and extremely well graded - it’s not hard to imagine still shots such as this being pieces of fantasy artwork given the terrific colouring, shading and design work involved.
In regards to the goblins themselves, again their shambling, hobbled and somewhat erratic movements gives the impression of a much more feral force than we saw in the Rings trilogy. Having said that, it will be interesting to see a Goblin/Orc civilisation at work that isn’t under the control or duress of a greater power - most of the orc cultures we were privy to in the original trilogy were under the command of Saruman or Sauron, and where they weren’t (for instance Moria) we only got surface hints at their living quarters and communities.
As I mentioned with the previous shot of this locale, there are clear visual similarities with the undercaverns of Isengard, be they intentional or not. Note, however, the unique rock formations of what is presumably the cavern itself in the background amongst the lit torches - jagged outcrops of stone jutting out unwelcomingly. It is again seemingly another example of the landscape and geography of Tolkien’s worlds being given an impressive and artistic blend of fantasy and reality, and the designers and artisans at Weta really are able to take on that idea of the world itself being as unique and characterful as its inhabitants without ever being excessive or overt.
NEW-LOOK WARGS ON THE ATTACK - Here we get the first glimpse of the new design for the Warg’s, and they are quite far removed from the Hyena-esque approach Jackson took in The Two Towers and The Return of the King, unsurprising seeing as it was generally met with disapproval by Tolkien enthusiasts who longed for their more wolf-like appearance as per the books. It is here again that the more macabre and horror-fuelled inspirations of Del Toro’s design team seem to be apparent - Del Toro himself made a point in interviews during his tenure as director that the Wargs were something he personally wanted to be brought closer to what Tolkien described in the novels and the creatures fans had imagined for decades.
In fact much of the creature design full stop, save for those informed by the Rings trilogy (Wargs excepted) seem to be have that slightly grittier, almost gothic fantasy approach that Del Toro pulls off with such great relish and aplomb.
In regards to the visuals, these were always going to be CGI creations, though I hope the night-time element does not draw attention to their artificiality. This may be a purely personal opinion, but it seems that night scenes often do few favours for CG creatures and characters. I’m not sure whether it is due to the limited colour palette or the dimmer lighting meaning those minor details with skin, fur, movement etc. that help to sell a model are lost, but it is something I have frequently found to be true, and with an abundance of CG during this sequence, I hope the team at Weta Digital give it their A-game, particularly given the new importance and onus of this sequence as the films finale (more on which in a moment).
LEAPING INTO THE FINALE - Not entirely convinced by the CG work here, though of course there is still time to soup this up and it may look much better on the full screen.
Narratively, these Warg shots are pretty clearly from the attack on Bilbo and the Dwarves after they have escaped from the goblin caverns, and culminates in the company being trapped in the treetops above wargs, goblins and fire. There does seem a real kinetic energy and pace to these shots in particular, and it’s highly likely that now the sequence will serve as the films finale due to the cutting of the films into a trilogy, the ante will be upped somewhat to make a more thrilling and satisfying climax to this first installment.
Given the late point at which the trilogy decision was made, I am hoping that Jackson, Walsh and company are able to round the first film off into an emotionally and dramatically satisfying conclusion, particularly with such an early point in the book that does not necessarily read as an ending becoming one. At the ending of Fellowship of the Ring there was a heady mix of impacting, emotional material - the death of Boromir, Frodo’s decision to go on to Mordor alone, Sam’s near-drowning upon his refusal to let Frodo go by himself, Merry and Pippin’s capture and Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli vowing to free the captured hobbits. Not to mention it was the natural juncture for the story and perfect ending to that first story with the breaking of the Fellowship. At this stage in the story of The Hobbit, it is difficult to gauge how rounded and complete the first film will feel given the point of breaking. Given that this is the last encounter the characters will have with Goblins/Orcs for some time, and in particularly this horde who appear to be featured prominently, finally escaping them and being rid of them (including of course vanquishing the Great Goblin) and out of the Misty Mountains (which the middle and end of the film is likely to be set almost entirely in) will likely aid in providing a minor sense of narrative closure, but will it be emotionally resonant for the characters?
One element I can imagine being brought into play is this film being essentially shaped around the Misty Mountains and its challenges, at which point it is worth noting Tolkien himself did give some minor sense of closure at this point in the novel given the line at this stage in the book “So ended the adventures of the Misty Mountain”. It seems fairly sure at this stage that Jackson will have taken his cue from this now, and then film 2 will revolve entirely around Smaug, and then the final film shaped around the build-up of and fall-out from The Battle of Five Armies. In this respect I actually feel these films could potentially be shaped more effectively than the original two-point structure that was to be adopted.
The film will likely then culminate in the brief respite with the Eagles - a momentary pause and recap with the characters as we had at the end of both Fellowship and Towers after Amon Hen and Helm’s Deep before looking ahead to what was still to come. In fact the idea of something akin to Bilbo, Gandalf and the company flying off on the backs of the Eagles, or even just looking out, and seeing off into the horizon Mirkwood and maybe even the Lonely Mountain. It would be a fitting sense of the journey set to carry on and be highly reminiscent of the closing shots of both Fellowship of the Ring and Two Towers looking out ahead at Emyn Muil and Mordor as a landscape shot indicative of what is still to come.
It’s what I’m hoping for anyway, arcing the Misty Mountains as the big prolonged set piece a la Moria and Amon Hen/Helm’s Deep and then a nice moments pause at overcoming that particular obstacle before regrouping and briefly catching a glimpse of what lies ahead on this adventure...
DWARVEN TAG-TEAMING - Another shot from the escape from Goblin-Town with what appears to be possibly Bofur disarming the goblin in the foreground, followed by a hit from Oin’s stave/quarterstaff which deals with the creature itself. These two appear to be holding the rear of the company given the scurrying, leaping pack of goblins hot on their tails.
Again, this chase sequence seems to be quite the prolonged and engaging affair from what we can gleam from the trailer, and as with the warg footage seems to have a real fluidity and pace to it, particularly with the dwarves working together quite harmoniously as with this shot and another to come shortly. My only concern is that it doesn’t become too choreographed or balletic and risk losing some of its authenticity and peril, or overlong to the point the audience begins to tire of it (though again I have far too much trust in Jackson’s sensitivities as director, writer and editor to make me believe this will be the case).
PERILS OF THE MOUNTAIN - A beautifully evocative shot and sequence that again is demonstrating some of the exemplary compositing being done. It is no doubt from the company’s ascent through the misty mountains, and is brilliantly realising and elaborating upon a highly memorable portion of the book; this is almost exactly how I remember imagining the stormy stone valleys, though the encounters with the stone giants seem to be far more perilous and direct.
Without wanting to keep enforcing these parallels as they may not be intentional, it is hard not to be reminded of the Pass of Caradhras sequence from Fellowship of the Ring here - our central characters enduring a difficult trek over a high mountain pass against inclement weather (and one could even argue direct oppression with the stone giants/Saruman obstacles). There seems to be more of a sense of vertigo and unsure footing with this passage, however, and a sense of urgency compounded by the presence of the stone trolls and, if you look closely in the background of the first wide shot, what appear to be possibly goblin archers. If that is the case there appears to be a clear attempt to turn this sequence into more of a dangerous set-piece, and maybe even playing around with the order of events in comparison to how they happen in the book. Jackson demonstrated plenty of times throughout Rings how he is able to take a fairly sedate or passive event in the books and turn it into a memorable and cinematic moment in film. Doing so may irk the more stubborn of Tolkien purists, but it is one of the key reasons his adaptations are such engaging, entertaining and ultimately successful movies.
THE STONE GIANTS (LITERALLY?) - The sense of scale and scope to shots such as this is genuinely stunning and is likely to be even more impressive on the full screen - particularly in IMAX.
This is one of the famous Stone Giants from the mountain pass sequence in the books - creatures that are described to argue amongst themselves and hurls rocks both at the mountainside and one another, with Bilbo even initially believing the sound of them doing so to be thunder (it will be interesting to see if this neat moment many fans remember from the books will be included).
Narratively, in the book the company notice the creatures partaking in their game of rock-hurling but there is no conscious attempt to attack the party, nor do the giants even become aware of their presence. The same may very well be true in the film - there’s nothing in the trailer that indicates the giant is deliberately hurling rocks at them, Bilbo and Co. may merely have become caught in the crossfire much more directly than in the books, again to elevate the drama and danger of the scene.
In terms of the design of the giants, they reminded me almost instantly of the titular beasts in the superlative videogame Shadow of the Colossus (fans of the fantasy genre and any gamers worth their salt should definitely check it out) and I never envisaged the stone giants to appear to literally be made of stone, but in many ways the decision to do so is in keeping with both Tolkien and Jackson’s approach to Middle Earth, and there’s no doubting they are quite the visual splendour. It is also reminiscent of the Ents and Huorn’s, guardians and shephards of the forests who are not trees themselves but have come to take on that appearance - the same seems particularly true of these mountain dwelling giants, and is a neat parallel to the importance of geography, nature and the natural world in the design of Middle Earth and it’s inhabitants.
Plus they just look damn cool.
Finally, the stone giants look set to be one of the big visual moments for An Unexpected Journey - as with the Rings trilogy, this first installment has no major battle or similar set piece - and so Jackson is likely to be understandably mining moments such as this for all of their worth and impact. It reminds me of the Balrog sequence in Fellowship featuring in the trailer and being one of the big visual setpieces (so much so it was revisited for the opening of The Two Towers) given that similarly the first instalment had no Helm’s Deep/Shelob/Pelennor Fields. With the conflict with Smaug giving film 2 plenty of heightened action and set pieces, and the same with The Battle of Five Armies for the third film, big showy sequences such as this seem destined to be the bookmarks and ‘wow’ moments for a film otherwise a little more sparse when it comes to spectacle.
MORE TROLLSHAWS MAYHEM - More footage from the Trollshaws sequence, including the fruitless rescue attempt by Thorin and company. Judging from the blade in the trolls hand and the boiling cauldron, it seems they will be keeping in the notion that the trolls are intending the cook Bilbo (and later the dwarves), which is keeping with Bilbo’s recollection of events as told in the extended edition of Fellowship of the Ring at his birthday party. The trolls arguing is a key element to this sequence and it’s outcome, and given the whole cooking element is apparently remaining intact, I can’t see how there’s any way these creatures won’t talk. Just look at that characterful grin on the troll to the right, he clearly has something to say!
It’ll be interesting to see if Jackson will keep the capture of the dwarves the same seeing as they end up being put into sacks in the novel - too comedic a capture for mighty, proud Thorin? Doubtful, Jackson seems to relish inversion moments such as that and from what we can glean from both trailers he seems set keen to play up the comedy value and light hearted tone of the dwarven throng.
THE JOKE SEEMS LOST ON BIFUR - A nice moment of dwarven camraderie as the company appear to be resting at Rivendell judging from the architecture in the top right of frame and the fact they are cooking at open flame.
The official Hobbit Movies app describes Bifur as ‘inarticulate’ due to the orc axe embedded in his forehead, which may be precisely what Bofur and Kili are finding so humorous here (though more likely his peculiar choice of food to cook).
The interaction and spark between the various dwarven characters and actors seems genuine and looks set to rekindle that sense of brotherhood and fellowship from the Rings trilogy that had us so heavily invested in the characters and accepting of their want to help one another.
Note the runic banner hanging in the background beside Kili. Answers on a postcard (or the comments section below)!
MORE RIVENDELL WANDERING - More resplendent work being done for Rivendell - note the completely convincing CGI reflections in the water. Beautiful stuff.
This is no doubt from the same sequence of Bilbo wandering around in awe and curiosity as we saw glimpses of in the teaser trailer - most notably him exploring Elrond’s ‘museum’ and happening upon the shards of Narsil.
“CHIP THE GLASSES AND CRACK THE PLATES” - Back to Bag End for a fun moment, which appears to be the piling of the plates and the like after the characters have eaten. Note the string instrument in Dwalin’s hands - this seems to indicate, along with the ‘far over the misty mountains cold’ song from the teaser trailer, that Jackson intends to keep much of dwarven songs in the film, and has stated as such in several interviews. At this stage in the book it is revealed all of the dwarves have brought along instruments, and they promptly play them. I would not be surprised if, as it appears, this is toned down somewhat (none of the others are holding instruments) but the musical interlude, the famous ‘Chip the glasses and crack the plates’, remains intact. The joke (or song) certainly seems aimed at Bilbo.
Whilst Gandalf does not appear to be singing judging from this clip, it would be wonderful indeed if they had him involved.
There was a near-perfect balance in the Rings trilogy of including Tolkien’s love for music and tunes throughout the story without becoming excessive - be they direct (Gandalf and Bilbo each separately singing portions of ‘The road goes ever on and on’ or the handful of hobbit songs) or incorporated into the soundtrack and score. As such, I have faith there will be a similarly measured and applied use of music throughout this trilogy, and it is something I more than welcome.
Whilst on the subject of Bag End, there does seem to be nice progression and shaping of the sequence from the more hectic, comedic arrival of the dwarves, through to the banter and jovial nature of this and accompanying scenes at the table, through to the more serious and sombre introduction of the quest and their intention to reclaim Erebor, including of course the aforementioned ‘far over the misty mountains cold’ sequence from the previous trailer. Again reminiscent of how the Hobbiton and Bag End scenes in Fellowship went from extremely warm and light-hearted through to gradually introducing elements of the plot and an accompanying sense of foreboding and seriousness (though I doubt An Unexpected Journey will ever quite hit the darkness and menace of Gandalf and Frodo’s Sauron/Gollum/One Ring discussion in Fellowship).
Looking keenly at the clip, I couldn’t help but notice that Gandalf’s eyeline seems a little off, though there is of course time and opportunity for issues such as this to be addressed and perfected prior to release.
THORIN RISES - A great hero shot of Thorin slowly rising at the culmination of his “Loyalty, honour, a willing heart... I can ask no more than that” line. Armitage’s delivery is perfect and again there is a clear emphasis on the central role this character will play in the trilogy given his prominence in the trailer. Coupled with Gandalf’s upcoming “Home is behind you, the world is ahead”, the trailer is also full of beautifully atypical Tolkien/Jackson/Walsh/Boyens’ dialogue that again brought to mind similar Rings quotes and philosophies such as Gandalf’s “All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you” and Galadriel’s “Even the smallest person can change the course of the future” - both used in trailers for Return of the King and Fellowship of the Ring respectively. Relevant, extremely quotable dialogue that is immediately indicative of character is what these adaptations do so beautifully and brilliantly and this Hobbit trilogy doesn’t seem to be bucking that trend anytime soon.
The shot itself appears to be from the climax of the film when Thorin and the company are stranded atop the trees with wargs, goblins and fire below them - note the glow on the trees branches and Thorin himself. It could of course at a push be from the Trollshaws sequence, but everything (including the Gandalf shot coming shortly) seem to indicate it is from the treetop escapade. If so, Thorin’s high eyeline would imply he is either looking back up the mountainside, at his fellow companions perhaps in higher trees, or to the arrival of the Eagles.
THE WIZARD AND THE WHITE LADY - Another Gandalf/Galadriel moment that is a little more difficult to place. Given the hue of the scene it does not appear to be from their exchange discussing Bilbo - meaning it could be perhaps a moment between the two prior to Gandalf leaving Rivendell with the company, or something sourced from the White Council scenes.
Wherever it is placed, two things seem certain - both characters seem somewhat troubled, and it almost definitely takes place in Rivendell judging from the background detail (and the fact that it is likely the only place we will see Galadriel). More difficult to judge from the stills is the fact Gandalf seems to be looking at someone or something in particular, and not an idle distant stare as per the similar shot with Galadriel earlier in the trailer. This is completely ruminating, but it is possible he has made some sort of agreement/decision/response to another character (potentially Saruman) that Galadriel is disappointed/disapproving of, hence the focus pull to her behind. Watch the scene again and you may see what makes me think this could be the case.
ARRIVAL (?) AT RIVENDELL - I really have little more to say about how beautiful and enchanting Rivendell is looking - note the long draw of the background and the naturalistic blur and fog/mist in the distance. Just stunning.
Taking the shots of Rivendell from both this and the teaser trailer that feature this same golden hue of what appears to be dusk, the order of events seemingly begins with the company arrival at Rivendell and stopped by the Elven guard on horseback (as per the teaser trailer) before they are allowed admittance and first enter Rivendell, which is seemingly what we see here given Bilbo’s backpack, walking stick and the presence of the dwarves in the background. Then concurrently Bilbo goes on his wander and exploration of the Elven realm which we have seen various shots of whilst Gandalf has his audience with Galadriel upon which she questions his choice in Bilbo and they likely discuss the question and possible White Council matters. Of course, there is also the scene with Elrond as featured in the extended trailers on thehobbit.com, meaning that Gandalf and Galadriel’s meeting could be afterward, leading to an arrival, bilbo explores, meeting with Elrond, Gandalf and Galadriel discussion structure.
THE GOBLIN-TOWN ESCAPE - More from the escape from Goblin-Town, and again as genuinely exciting and fluent as it all is, I just hope it does not become overwrought or outstays its welcome - there’s only so many near-misses and narrow-escapes you can put in before an audiences fatigue sets in with sequences like this. Losing track of how many times I’ve said it in this feature alone though that I have faith in Jackson’s sensibilities when it comes to pacing, editing and action sequences such as this.
The first shot of Gloin and Oin pulling one of their company up through the floor (with assistance from Dwalin as Thorin oversees) is again a neat showing of the dwarves working together in tandem and just some fun, inventive action work. Note Gandalf in the far background and Bombur seemingly watching or distracted by something over the edge of the post.
The birds eye POV shot in particular is reminding me greatly of the escape from Moria and the similar shot of the Fellowship running across the Bridge of Khazad-Dum. Whilst some may complain about over-familiarity, I believe it will be touches such as this which will help marry these films with The Lord of the Rings and make the eventual 6-film viewing experience a consistent and unified viewing experience. Whilst I have deliberately endeavored to avoid any Star Wars references or parallels throughout this feature, I have to say it is encouraging indeed to see how in-keeping with the Rings aesthetic and feel these films are and we will not get the awkward clash of design and the like that forces the two Star Wars trilogies together awkwardly and unconvincingly. And, interestingly, it is worth nothing that the time elapsed between the two sagas trilogies is not as great as you may first presume (Star Wars’ 16 years to The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings’ 9).
A CAVE AMBUSH? - A neat point-of-view shot from what I presume to be the goblins ambush and capture of Bilbo and company whilst they sleep in the Misty Mountain caverns. Bilbo’s hair appears wet so this would be in fitting with it taking place just after the Stone Giant sequence as per the book.
Note the bird flying just above Bifur’s hands - it seems to be on a stick and perhaps some form of dwarven toy/device? It is telling that the character does not seem to be reacting to Bilbo or whatever he is startled by, perhaps meaning that the character is also asleep - is that device his equivalent of counting sheep? Neat ideas like this have been seen in the Rings trilogy, for instance Gandalf sleeping with his eyes open in Return of the King, and is quintessential Jackson fare. It just helps enrich, distinguish and diversify the characters, something particularly important with such a sizeable group of characters that cannot be separated by race or gender etc.
OUT OF THE FRYING PAN AND INTO THE FIRE - A surprisingly spoiler-laden shot, this time of Gandalf up in the treetops accompanying the earlier shot of Thorin. The choice of not only including this shot with the Eagle swooping around in the background but deliberately including its audible cry is as mentioned quite telling of how this particular predicament for the characters is overcome. It was no doubt included as it is quite the fantastical element and a tie to the Rings trilogy with Gandalf and his relationship with the Eagles, but nonetheless the more perceptive of viewers unfamiliar with the story may have the tension and outcome of this sequence quite spoiled for them through this, surprising given it is now going to be the climax of the film.
It will be interesting to see if Jackson incorporates a prelude and plug to the arrival of the Eagles as he did with the moth in Fellowship and King. Though Gandalf does not summon the Eagles in the books, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Jackson re-incorporated the moth or something similar as a neat nudge to the fans. Perhaps this could even be the origin of that particular character trait - though given Gandalf seems to have to catch the moth in Fellowship, that may be over-reaching (plus given the circumstances I can’t imagine Gandalf stopping to converse with a moth).
As with all the creatures in this film, and particularly so given they will feature prominently at the very end of the film, will the Eagles talk? Nothing in the trailer really indicates either way (and it can be argued there was never really the opportunity for them to talk in their Rings appearances).
As with all the creatures in this film, and particularly so given they will feature prominently at the very end of the film, will the Eagles talk? Nothing in the trailer really indicates either way (and it can be argued there was never really the opportunity for them to talk in their Rings appearances).
MORE ‘RIDDLES IN THE DARK’ - Another great shot of Gollum from the ‘Riddles in the Dark’ sequence we all know and love (and many fans are enormously anticipating). This once more demonstrates how highly marketable Gollum is with him featuring so prominently for what is likely to be just his single appearance - no shots of Gollum anywhere aside from his cave seems to imply that at least in An Unexpected Journey his book appearances will be all we see of him, with perhaps the exception of briefly seeing him make his way out of the Misty Mountains in pursuit of the ring.
One quick deviation back to Fellowship of the Ring, it is interesting seeing elements of this sequence finished to see how it compares to the shot of Bilbo discovering the ring in Fellowship’s prologue. I am also curious to see whether that same shot will be replicated in the movie (obviously with Freeman in Holm’s place) or if the prologue will be re-addressed in future editions of Fellowship (and the same with Gollum’s silhouette which featured the old, more bug-eyed Gollum model) or merely kept as a creative summation of what happened between Bilbo and Gollum.
ENDING ON A FALLING STONE GIANT - A suitably epic and impressive couple shot returning to the Stone Giant sequence and re-inforcing the idea that it will be one of the key visual setpieces and spectacles of the film.
I missed the giant itself on first viewing but it is clearly there, collapsing down the side of the mountain which seems to support the notion that the company may merely be caught in a dangerous game of rock-throwing and not taking on the giant itself - surely none of the dwarves or Bilbo could be responsible for this? Of course there could be interventions by the weather (struck by lightning?) though given these creatures live in this environment it seems unlikely. Also, the giant in the previous shot was some distance away and facing the company whereas the one falling here is facing the other way and right beside Bilbo and the dwarves who can be seen hubbled together to the right of frame (though notably not the entire company). All of this seemingly points to there being two stone giants hurling rocks at one another (including the boulder that smashes above Bilbo and company previously) and this poor fellow taking a bit of a tumble.
Sweeping, epic and stunning. Let’s hope the film as a whole follows suit.
THE ONE RING INTO TITLE CARD - I absolutely love this perfect blend into the title screen - far better than the sudden and somewhat cheesy equivalent in the previous teaser trailer. In fact the blend of the two shots is so perfect that I wouldn’t be surprised if the ring shot may not actually be one from the film, merely representative of a similar shot and used to remind the audience of the presence of the ring as a direct link to The Lord of the Rings.
On the subject of title screens, I’m still not a fan of the 3D messages throughout the trailer (such as ‘directed by Peter Jackson’ etc.) - they look cheaper and more gimmicky than the simple standard white-on-black messages from the Rings trailers. I appreciate the use of the Tolkien maps in these shots, but I think these could quite easily have worked as flat background to standard title screens.
I will take this opportunity to express how glad I am that the font work has remained consistent with Rings and complete approval for the three subtitles - some may find The Desolation of Smaug to be a little colourful but it is actually in reference to the geographical area featured in film 2 and conveniently and quite rightly places Smaug in the title. When domain names were being registered I was fearful that the third film may indeed be titled ‘The Battle of Five Armies’ over the absolutely perfect There and Back Again which they thankfully opted for as a beautiful and fitting conclusion to not only this trilogy but Jackson’s tenure with these stories.
THE FALL OF THE GREAT GOBLIN - Another surprisingly spoiler-laden shot to end the trailer on, given that it almost certainly depicts the fate of the Great Goblin/Goblin King (note his crown). It will be interesting to see if they follow suit with the books and have Gandalf run him through, and Gandalf’s presence in the shot may be a nod that he will still be involved, especially with practically the entire dwarf company trapped under debris and Gandalf not.
I’m greatly anticipating the realisation of the Great Goblin, not least because of him being voiced by Barrie Humphries, who, aside from his famous Dame Edna and Les Patterson creations, is quite the accomplished voice over artist (with one of the most famous ‘hello’s’ of recent cinema... answers in the comment box!). Again in some ways it is a little disappointing that it is not Humphries in prosthetics, though Weta have shown plenty of times in the past with both Rings and Avatar they are masters of capturing the essence of an actor in a digital character, and I’d be amazed if they didn’t have Humphries doing reference takes on-set.
Given that it appears to be daytime in this shot, there will clearly be some pause between the Hobbits capture, the death of the Great Goblin and then the eventual emptying of Goblin-Town and the great pursuit, the latter of which takes place seemingly at night.
Finally, the choice of opting for this more comedic end to the trailer is clearly a continual balancing of the epic and dramatic with the more light-hearted, and to allay any purist fears that the jovial tone of the novel is going to be lost. None of the Rings trailers ended with any post-title sequences such as this, so it definitely seems a conscious effort to remind that this is not going to be quite so sombre and gritty an affair as Frodo’s adventures, further supported by the fact all five of the possible endings over on thehobbit.com are lighter, comedic scenes or moments.
And with that we have the end of the full theatrical trailer for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. It’s a very different beast to the teaser trailer we had last year, and together they paint quite a detailed and thorough presentation of what we can expect from this first film. There’ll no doubt be plenty of surprises when the film eventually comes out on December 14th, but I am still a little surprised by how much is revealed and shown in particularly this latest trailer. Overall, scrutinising it in detail and attempting to fit all the pieces together as I have in this article has actually made me more confident that it will be both a worthy stand-alone feature, the ‘adventures of the Misty Mountains’ so to speak, and a confident, impressive start to a brilliant new trilogy in the hands of Peter Jackson, Weta and the great source material of J.R.R Tolkien.
I will likely follow this feature with a similar scrutiny of the four alternate endings to the trailer, so be sure to stay tuned here at (A)musings and if you've liked what you've read then please do us a favour and like us over on Facebook so you can get all of our features and updates as soon as they go live! Until then, the road goes ever on and on...
And there we have it! What did you think of the new theatrical trailer for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey? Has it made you more or less excited about the release of the film? What are your opinions on the films being split into a trilogy? Do you agree with any of the suggestions or opinions this article presented?
Leave all of your comments and discussion relating to both the trailer and this feature in the comments section below and get involved!
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