What We Learned About The Hobbit Movies at DragonCon

If you wanted the scoop on the upcoming Hobbit movies during DragonCon 2012 then you needed to get very good at waiting in line. With The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey now only a few weeks away, Tolkien and Lord of the Rings fans were out in force and eager to drink in every new detail and item of speculation about the trilogy.

Below is a list of what we learned, both new and old, gleaned from those panels. (Mostly old, but we’ve included the info in order to offer a more complete summary of developments.) The information was presented by TheOneRing.net, the predominant destination for news on the books and on the film series. (Some of the editors and contributors have toured the Hobbit sets and even made cameos in the Lord of the Rings movies.) Some of what follows is speculation, but considering how closely they’re tied to the movie series and how studied those sources of speculation are, it seems wise to follow the weight of their words.

 

First the basics:

  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the first film and comes out on December 14, 2012.
  • The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is the official name for the second film, which comes out on December 13, 2013.
  • The Hobbit: There and Back Again is now the third film and will be out on July 18, 2014.

 

Now the fun bits:

  • Although Sylvester McCoy as Radagast the Brown is rumored to have been included in the London filming of the White Council scene with Saruman, Gandalf, Galadriel, and Elrond (pictured above), he was not in White Council scenes screened at this year’s San Diego Comic Con.
  • In what is sure to be an instant internet meme: You will see Radagast riding through the Mirkwood on a sleigh drawn by huge jackrabbits.
  • Principal photography wrapped on July of this year, shortly before Peter Jackson confirmed The Hobbit would be three films. Some additional filming took place this August.
  • Stephen Fry’s Master of Laketown is a nasty piece of work, as is his “conniving” sidekick Alfred.
  • Aflred is played by actor Ryan Gage, who was originally cast as Frodo’s dad Drogo Baggins, suggesting that we will see Frodo’s dad in the films.
  • Speaking of Frodo, Elijah Wood and the older Bilbo, Ian Holm, are listed in the cast for all three films, lending further credence to the rumor that they will be bookending/narrating the films.
  • Figwit returns! Bret Mackenzie will appear in The Hobbit as Lindir, an elf in Rivendell who is present during a poetry reading by Bilbo at Elrond’s house.
  • Thrain and Thror appear in the first film and we will most likely see them in earlier (and happier) times as part of sequences that illustrate the dwarven race of Middle-earth in its glory days. The panel was split on whether we’ll see the history of Moria, such as the battle at the Gates of Moria.
  • It was also speculated that Radagast’s role will be to tie the storylines of Bilbo and the dwarves to the story of The Necromancer.
  • We will get better wargs in the Hobbit movies as the production team was not happy with them in the original LOTR trilogy.
  • We’ll see Legolas and his father Thranduil spar.
  • The goblins in the Misty Mountains are “super gross.” Considering the orcs we’ve already seen, that’s saying something!
  • Guillermo Del Toro’s influence on the visual style and script of the movies will not be apparent in the films. The scripts for the movies are constantly being reworked, akin to the production on the first LOTR trilogy, and no shooting has been done on the initial Hobbiton set addition that Del Toro had built. (That set apparently is very much in Del Toro’s style of queasy otherworldliness.)
  • An early leak of a Hobbit-era Hallmark ornament revealed Gandalf with a different staff in The Hobbit films, appearing as a brown wooden version of his Gandalf the White staff. The picture seemed innocuous enough to the OneRing.net staff until Warner Bros. asked them to quickly take it down. Perhaps the toy doth reveal too much?

 

Smaug:

  • What Smaug looks like is being kept a complete secret. During a five-week stint that Larry Curtis, the DragonCon Tolkien track coordinator, spent working on The Hobbit there was absolutely no trace of the dragon anywhere on or off set. The offices of illustrators John Howe and Alan Lee were similarly vacant of Smaug sketches.
  • Curtis also pointed out that Gollum wasn’t created until after initial filming work was underway with Andy Serkis, so it’s very possible Smaug simply hasn’t been designed yet.
  • The panel suggested that if fans want an idea as to what Smaug will probably look like, they should pick up a copy of John Howe’s Forging Dragons.
  • Benedict Cumberbatch is in the cast list for all three films as The Necromancer but is only credited as the voice of Smaug in the cast list for the second film, The Desolation of Smaug, suggesting that we’ll only get the dragon in one film.

John Howe's Forging Dragons a clue to what Smaug will look like

The Black Wyrm at Mithlond copyright 2006 John Howe. Click to enlarge

More info on John Howe’s illustration can be found here.

 

The Story of the Three Films:

  • The movies focus on the journies of three characters: Bilbo Baggins, Thorin Oakenshield, and Gandalf. The panel was very insistent that Thorin will not be portrayed as a supporting character; that he is absolutely a main character in these films. Bilbo and Thorin’s journies have emotional arcs to them, while Gandalf’s is more plot-heavy.
  • POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD: This was entirely speculation on the part of the panel, but they believe An Unexpected Journey will now feature a lot of dwarf history and will follow Bilbo and the dwarves into the mountains, with the Great Goblin serving as a Big Bad for the first film. Bilbo will meet Gollum, then be pursued out of the caves and into the woods where they’ll finally meet with Gandalf. As they’re all cornered by orcs, goblins, and flame, the eagles will arrive to rescue them and the movie will end, with the next film obviously focusing on Smaug. SPOILERS END.

 

And that was that! The OneRing folks also revealed some exclusive set pics, but requested that they continue to be kept hush-hush. There were also hints that we should expect a new trailer for An Unexpected Journey soon, perhaps at or around the time of New York Comic Con.


Chris Lough is the production manager of Tor.com and is totally Team Gandalf.

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