Peter Jackson Unveils 20 Minutes of New Footage at 'Hobbit' Fan Event
Tolkienites from L.A. to Sydney were treated to a live Q&A with the director and stars of his upcoming "Desolation of Smaug."
When asked if there would be an eventual DVD/Blu-ray box set of all six films of the series, Jackson replied, "I'm sure at some point there will be a box set," and said of the films' bloopers, "They are very funny, and we have lot of them. … There are also a lot of pranks."
Finally, it was time for the exclusive footage from the movie. Jackson announced that rather than the five minutes of footage the studio wanted him to assemble, he ended up creating an extended series of clips totaling about 20 minutes. Some of the shots were temporary, he said. Each sequence -- there were three primary sequences assembled for the screening -- was of a scary or otherwise dangerous situation, and they retained that sense of fear and risk but still had many laugh-out-loud moments.
[Spoiler alert, folks, since while I won't ruin anything for you I will describe some situations from the story that you might not want to know about. So if you prefer to go in 100 percent unspoiled, you best not peek at what I'm about to say next.]
We start with Bilbo climbing a large, rickety tree, out of breath and struggling. Then he reaches the top, his head breaks through the canopy of the forest, and he sees the gorgeous view all around him as bright blue butterflies take wing from the trees. In the distance he sees the mountain, and grows excited as he announces to his party that he knows the way they need to go. Nobody answers, however, and we soon find out why -- the trees are full of giant spiders, and Bilbo's party has been captured and cocooned, as soon happens to Bilbo himself. But he has his Elvish long knife, and he has the Ring, and he uses them to help himself and his companions. It's a horror movie sequence that becomes even creepier when Bilbo experiences a voice while wearing the Ring -- but I'll just leave it at that for now. This is, however, the sequence where Bilbo gives his knife its name: "Sting."
We then see the Elven King Thranduil (played by Pace) and Tauriel interrogating an orc prisoner, with Tauriel's aggressiveness leading her to nearly attack the orc before Thranduil stops her. But after the orc reveals "Death is upon you, the flames of war are upon you," and alludes to the nature of the true threat the Elves face, Thranduil's treatment of the captive changes abruptly. He ends up ordering security increased and declares, "No one enters this kingdom, and no one leaves it."
From there, we go to a "prison escape" in which Bilbo rescues Thorin (Armitage) and his band from locked cells, leading them into a vast wine cellar where the dwarves complain and distrust Bilbo's instructions on how to escape, but Thorin tells them to do as Bilbo says -- which involves a hilarious series of events where the hobbit's ingenious plan comes up a tad short when it's time for him to make good on his own escape.
Next up is a brief sequence with Bilbo and Thorin in a boat on icy waters, unsure whether to trust their boat captain. They bicker about coughing up payment, but when the mountain comes into view and the captain presses them to pay up so he can take them through the toll gate, they agree -- and then get subjected to an unexpected but funny comeuppance involving fish and barrels. Again, a great example of balancing tension and humor.
The final sequence is the one the fans were no doubt hoping most of all to see. Bilbo is sent down into the mountain by Balin (Ken Stott) to retrieve the Arkenstone -- a white gem. As he descends the many steps, Bilbo sees the vast riches collected below, and it's indeed an impressive view for the audience as well. But he's been warned, "If there is a dragon down there, try not to wake it up." The sight of so much treasure, however, makes Bilbo less cautious than he should be, and he stirs Smaug. The dragon first reveals an eye beneath the massive mountain of gold and gems. Then, far away on the other side of the vast expanse, more of the mountain stirs and we see some of the dragon's tail. So does Bilbo, who does a quick calculation in his head and assesses the dragon's enormous proportions. Watching him stumble and try to run away, pausing and cringing each time he makes too much noise, was delightful. Freeman is truly perfect in this role, and this sequence demonstrates why -- he has the physical sensibilities to make it all work. Anyway, Bilbo's efforts to remain quiet are for naught, as Smaug awakens, and …
Ah, but that would be telling.
The event was undoubtedly a rousing success for the studio and the film, sure to increase fan anticipation and likely to inspire more positive advance buzz in light of the pacing and humor working so well in these sequences. Jackson is famous for his devotion to fans, and he certainly earned that reputation today.