Tue
Sep 4 2012 10:00am

What We Learned About The Hobbit Movies at DragonCon

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

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.

18 comments
King of Flames
1. King of Flames
It's past time we saw dwarves doing something impressive, they were much too sidelined in LOTR as comic relief.
Rich Bennett
2. Neuralnet
I am really looking forward to these films... but I am still skeptical about their decision to split into three films. I love middle earth as well as anyone but I would hate to see the movies get dragged down with too much history/backstory. The first one comes out on my birthday... so I know what I am doing that day... woo hoo!
King of Flames
3. Veejay J
I'm really looking forward to these movies. I think it's a good thing Peter Jackson took over The Hobbit, since I doubt we would've gotten 3 movies if Del Toro had stayed on. Jackson knows more of the Tolkien Legendarium than Del Toro does. Galadriel single-handedly destroying Dol Guldur had better be on screen and as spectacular as when Galadriel was tempted with the ruling ring.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
4. Lisamarie
No word on Tauriel? I really hope her role is being minimized. I don't care if they want to flesh out some of the various cultures (Laketown, the Wood-elves, etc) and add some female characters, etc, but I definitely remember early rumors that she was going to be a major character. That has been what I have been most apprehensive about - trying to shoehorn in this 'warrior-elf maiden' character into a story that doesn't really need it. But with three movies maybe they'll just be doing something like showing her fighting spiders in Mirkwood, etc, to expand upon the Elf kingdom a bit.

I really hope we get to see Beorn :) I liked that part in the book. There's really no excuse for leaving things out at this point. I'm also torn about the three movies, haha. On one hand, yay, more Tolkien and more things to look forward to! And I really am kind of excited to see all the Necromancer stuff that is only alluded to or told in flashback. I'm a big Middle Earth history nerd. :) On the other hand, it means they have more time for adding irrelevant stuff like Tauriel (don't get me wrong, I am totally in agreement that there needs to be more of a female representation in scifi/fantasy, and that was one of Tolkien's blind spots - but I don't agree with messing with classic works to make them modern, unless you are purposefully doing a 'retelling', which I don't think is the aim here).

Also, totally agreed with number 1 on hopefully getting to see the Dwarves get some dignity.

The first movie comes out quite close to my birthday as well. I'm so excited!
King of Flames
5. Veejay J
I have a question about the John Howe artwork in this article. Did a dragon really attack the Grey Havens? Did I miss something? What's the dragon's name?
King of Flames
6. Veejay J
4. Lisamarie , I agree with you on Tauriel (which sounds derived from the names of angels in the old testament). It's my sense that she will be the love interest for Thranduil, even though she's not the mother of Legolas, and if she's not, then it would beg the question what happened to Legolas Mother? I wouldn't want Peter Jackson to drastically alter the story in this way.
King of Flames
7. Carlaz
Better wargs are greatly to be desired. The ones the TT film were pretty naff. While not wanting to contribute unnecessarily to the demonization of real wolves, Tolkien's descriptions (such as they were) of wargs do make them come across basically as big "demonic" wolves. The TT wargs, in contrast, looked like mangy animatronic hyenas. :P
Erik
8. gadget
So December is 'a few weeks away'? Okay. Not much to new here, though I think the first movie will go beyond the escape from the Misty Mountains.

Veejay J @3
Galadriel does not cast down the towers and lay bare the Pits of Dol Guldor until after Sauron is destroyed at the end of tLotR. Not saying that the filmakers couldn't go with that as part of the expanded White Council story line of driving the Necromancer out of Southern Mirkwood, but in the books it was re-occupied a few years later.
King of Flames
9. Syllabus
I'm waiting/hoping/praying for some sort of First Age interlude/prelude/thingie. The overthrow of Gondolin, for instance, since the swords come from Gondolin, would play nicely into it.
King of Flames
10. GoGators1983
I don't see how they can end the first film anywhere other than after the spiders in Mirkwood (or at least in Mirkwood somewhere). If they are going to do the Mirkwood part any justice at all (and the Hobbits were in there for a LONG time), they can't have both it and Beorn be in the first 20-30 minutes of film #2 - unless they are going to Bombadil them. Beorn, Mirkwood and Spiders, Elves capture, Barrels out of Bond, Laketown, the Dragon, and the Dragon battle don't really all fit into one movie...at least not without Beorn and Mirkwood feeling like wastes of time that don't contribute to the dragon-centric plot in movie number two. But maybe Peter Jackson will surprise me!
King of Flames
11. GoGators1983
Since changes seem to always be inevitable in movies, I think it would be interesting to discuss what would be most likely to be left out of the Hobbit movies and what would most likely be rearragned temporally. I would guess that if the great goblin is the end of movie number one, then they are going to move the encounter with Beorn to an earlier point in the movie. I also think it most likely that they leave out the talking birds (Thrush, Ravens, etc.).
King of Flames
12. Bolg
If they leave Roac and his wife and family and the thrush out of the film, I for one will be VERY, VERY ANGRY!!! AAARRRGGGGHHH!!!! I shall take the Volunteer Conscripts of Gundabad and the Misty Mountains and storm the Lonely Mountain, see if I don't!
Chris Lough
13. TorChris
@Lisamarie. The panelists only mentioned Tauriel once, and only to note that Evangeline Lilly looks gorgeous and otherwordly as the character. They didn't have any pictures of her, though.

@Veejay. The illustration from is a LOTR video game depicting other events. John Howe explains it on his website here:
http://www.john-howe.com/portfolio/gallery/details.php?image_id=3609

@GoGators1983. It was also the opinion of the panelists that the talking birds would be left out and that Radagast will be given that information to impart to other characters.
King of Flames
14. Thorongil
Syllabus, I doubt there will be any First Age clips in the movie as those parts are from the Silmarillion and other Tolkien works and those rights are held closely by Christopher Tolkien who will not allow them to be used. PJ can only use material that is specific to LOTR and Hobbit, including the appendices. We will have to hold out hope that one day the rights to the rest of Tolkien's works will become available and can also be put on screen.
King of Flames
15. Orayelle
Wait, so what is going to happen in the third film? I think I missed something important :/
King of Flames
16. rhandric
Spoilers!!

I'm skeptical about ending at Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire...at that point they've had 2 adventures happen (meeting/leaving, trolls, Rivendell, mountains->goblins/Gollum), unless they either greatly embelish parts (such as the visit to Rivendell), or expand the history. It depends on how you group things, but there's roughly 11 discrete sections - but if you put everything between OotFP,ItF and the death of Smaug into one movie, the second movie is going to either have a lot of action (5 sections), with the first having 4 and the last having 2, or you're going to trim a lot of the stories, which is inherently wrong since they're important both for character development of Bilbo as well as the relationship between Bilbo and the Dwarves.

For reference, the sections I'm defining are:
Meeting/leaving
Trolls
Rivendell
Mountains -> goblins, Gollum
Escape -> Wargs, rescued by Eagles, taken out of Misty Mountains
Beorn
Mirkwood -> Spiders, elves, escape
Lake-town -> Travel to the Lonely Mountain
In the Mountain, death of Smaug by Bard, Arkenstone
War of the Five Armies -> Death of Thorin
Return to the Shire, relatively uneventful, time passed in Rivendell on trip back

It's possible to change the breakdown, but that breakdown is more or less accurate in terms of major happenings (though whether the brief stop in Rivendell would be major to the story of The Hobbit is up for interpretation, it seems the movies will likely increase its importance). You could also split the War into 2-3 sections if you wish, for pre-war AS (after Smaug), war, and post-war, but it's still a single historical note.

So, with the breakpoints expected (OotFP, and death of Smaug, for movies 1 and 2 respectively), it seems the second movie will likely a) be more true to the books with the first and 3rd giving more history, or b) will have adventures removed to hurry the plot to the demise of Smaug, and lose the entire story of The Hobbit as a casualty of movies.
King of Flames
17. pilgrimsoul
Color me shallow, but I what I am slavering over is the prospect of Dwarven Eye Candy. RA as Thorin oooh and the rest of the company looks fun to watch, too. Martin Freeman as Bilbo will be as cute as anything. Even Smaug will be--ok maybe not cute.
Bill Stusser
18. billiam
First off, do not read this comment if you are SPOILER sensitive.

I was really looking foreward to these films up until the decision to split it into a trilogy. Since then, everything I have seen, heard, or read has me thinking that Peter Jackson has gone insane.

I was hoping that we would get some bad ass dwarves in these movies but it looks like what we will be getting is a whole lot more of Gimli from the LotR films. I mean, Bifur has an orc's ax blade stuck in his head and can't talk because of it? Really?

Also, it is just speculation but I've read more than once that it looks like Tauriel will be the love interest for Bard of Laketown.

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