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Dec212011

'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' trailer - What's there and what's missing

I’ve missed Middle Earth. It’s been 10 years since The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring hit theaters, and we’re still a year away from the first Hobbit movie’s release, but at least we now know things are looking up. A few hours ago, Peter Jackson released the first trailer for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which is the first of two films based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s first novel about Middle Earth, The Hobbit. The journey stars Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins with Ian McKellen returning as Gandalf the Wizard and takes place about 50-60 years before Lord of the Rings

Though the stakes never seemed quite as high in The Hobbit—as it is, after all, a children’s book, and was written before J.R.R. Tolkien had fleshed out his grand plans for Middle Earth—Jackson doesn’t seem to be changing the tone of his vision of Middle Earth. The dwarves look a bit more varied than I’d imagine, but other than that, it’s hard to see many major changes yet. 

What we see: Of the footage shown in the first trailer, it does appear that Middle Earth is a bit more saturated with color and Jackson is using more 3D-friendly camera angles (both issues explained here), but other than that, everything looks fairly accurate and awesome. The initial meeting with the nine dwarves is shown here, as is The Shire, Gollum, Rivendell, the trolls, Sting (Bilbo’s sword that was given to Frodo), some orcs/goblins, and many shots of Gandalf roaming around ruins. Basically, we’re not seeing much yet, and that’s fine. 

However, with that said, CinemaBlend reports that the shown meeting between Galadrial and Gandalf hints at a side quest Peter Jackson and his writing team have added to The Hobbit from some of Tolkien’s appendices and other stories. In addition, the site astutely points out that the inclusion of a song in the trailer is a good sign, as there are a number of them in The Hobbit and that it looks like Gollum’s cave will have a bit of light in it even though it is completely dark in the book (we didn’t imagine the scene would be in pitch black). 

What’s missing: We still don’t know what Smaug the dragon (a main villain) looks like, nor have we seen Beorn, the Eagles, Mirkwood, humans, or any other scenes that happen later on in the book. We get a glimpse of some trolls, but it’s a quick shot, nothing more.

It looks like Jackson might be able to make a convincing prequel to his massively successful trilogy, something other directors like George Lucas have failed to do. Even though it’s been 10 years, Ian Holm, Ian McKellen, Elijah Wood, Cate Blanchett, Andy Serkis, and a number of other actors (like Bret McKenzie) are reprising their roles, making it easier to get sucked back into Middle Earth. More than that though, Jackson seems to be retaining the unique style of the originals, which used a rich combination of almost all available types of special effects, from green screens to miniatures to paintings. Unlike most modern fantasy films, The Lord of the Rings does not solely rely upon computer generated effects. The combination of techniques is at the heart of why it looks and feels so unique.  

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will hit theaters Dec. 14, 2012.

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