There’s no mistaking the fact that director Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy adaptation is a true classic and will be a touchtone for many generations to come. He’s recently returned to complete the J.R.R. Tolkein saga with a three-film adaptation of The Hobbit, and while the response from some fans hasn’t been as enthusiastic, the passion for the series remains. At the Comic-Con panel for the final Hobbit installment, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Jackson took the stage earlier today along with screenwriter Philipa Boyens and cast members Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Andy Serkis, Elijah Wood, and Graham McTavish.
Since this is (probably) the last time that Jackson will be presenting a Tolkein adaptation at Comic-Con, this panel was a mix between a look back at the entire LOTR saga and a tease of the new film, complete with the premiere of the first trailer and an excellent appearance by Stephen Colbert as the moderator. Read my full The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Comic-Con panel recap after the jump.
The panel began with a trailer-style celebration of Peter Jackson’s entire Middle-earth saga, with footage from both Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films mixed in. Stephen Colbert took the stage in his costume from his Desolation of Smaug to wild applause from the audience and the obligatory “Stephen! Stephen!” chant. He began the panel by reading a speech he prepared that recounted his immense Tolkien fandom and initial skepticism at hearing that his favorite novels were being adapted into a feature film. When he heard that Jackson would be directing, he thought “there’s no room for hysterical, murderous teenage girls in Middle-earth.” However, he eventually found hope “that finally folks wouldn’t roll their eyes when I spoke of Middle-earth.”
Colbert was the perfect person to moderate this panel, as he brought a personal (and highly knowledgeable) touch to the proceedings. At one point, when speaking about his Tolkein trivia contest with screenwriter Boyens, Colbert began reciting an obscure poem that made the crowd erupt in applause.
The first bit of footage that we saw was a collection of outtakes from the entire Tolkein saga that had never been seen before, and it was incredible. Ian McKellen was far and away the standout, churning out gold with wonderful frequency. From trading quips with Jackson when he was having trouble with lines to doing a genuine strip tease in full Gandalf costume, I really hope this shows up on a Blu-ray somewhere down the line. Another highlight was another scene from the original trilogy in which Viggo Mortensen enters a tent to find Hugo Weaving wearing his Agent Smith glasses from The Matrix and addressing him in character.
We were also privy to the first teaser trailer for the film. As a massive fan of the original trilogy who’s found the first two Hobbit entries to be disappointing, I’ll say the teaser for Battle of the Five Armies was actually pretty fantastic. The trailer definitely draws heavily on the fact that Armies will bridge directly to Fellowship of the Ring, and it’s even set to a rendition of “The Steward of Gondor (Mist and Shadow)” performed by Billy Boyd, which sounded like it might be a new recording. When the lights came up, even Jackson was a bit teary.
Visually the tone of the trailer is definitely darker than the previous films, and while I’m still not happy with the entirely CG-characters (aside from the gorgeously designed Smaug), I’ll say that the stakes certainly have been raised and I’m hoping the Hobbit series can end on a high note.
- Jackson said he’s not done with the movie yet, adding he’s editing but “there’s a lot more than just editing”, as they’re still doing motion-capture and animation for the big action sequences.
- This was the first time that some of the actors had met. Cumberbatch said he and Blanchett had a scene together but never met during production.
- Colbert asked Jackson if he’d thought about the fact that he’s been thinking about this series for 20 years, “a full generation”, and the look on Jackson’s face was a mixture of exhaustion and slight embarrassment.
- When Colbert pointed out that Jackson now owes three more films, since he turned one book (The Hobbit) into a trilogy, Jackson replied, “I’m sure if Warners could find a way to do that, they would certainly do it.”
- Colbert straight up asked Wood, “Why don’t you age?”
- Regarding the tone of the films, Jackson reiterated that it’s a progression towards the more dramatic tone of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, adding that there’s a lot of death and tragedy in Battle of the Five Armies.
- Boyens revealed that Jackson had some funny ideas of how to include Tom Bombadil in the trilogy.
- The first wish list of casting that Boyens and Jackson prepared had Cate Blanchett as the top choice to play Galadriel.
- Cumberbatch plays both Sauron and Smaug in the film, saying the difference between the two characters is that one is actually killable.
- Cumberbatch said that it’s much harder for the other actors to act opposite tennis balls than it is for him to play the motion-capture characters, saying he was just “throwing myself around a carpeted floor like a lunatic.”
- Blanchett said she played Bard in a high school production of The Hobbit, but revealed that we’ll get to see Galadriel “losing it” in Five Armies. Blanchett added, “I lose my shit.”
- Colbert asked Boyens if she has recovered from him crushing her in their Tolkein trivia contest. Once the contest was over, Colbert’s wife came up to Boyens and said, “I think this is the greatest night of his life.”
- Evans revealed that he and Aidan Turner jumped out of a helicopter at one point on a break from production and spent some time on a glacier. He said he could reveal this now because he’s out of contract.
- Bloom said that he, Wood, and Dominic Monaghan were talking the other day about applying for residency in New Zealand.
- Wood said that he read The Hobbit as a child and called it a “big, big book” for him, but he’s yet to revisit the Lord of the Rings novels.
- Lilly said she loved reading Lord of the Rings so much that when she got to the point where 20 pages were left in Return of the King, she shut her book because she didn’t want it to end. She said she still hasn’t read them.
- Serkis said that when he met Peter and Fran in London in the 90s, they didn’t really know exactly how Gollum would be portrayed visually but they wanted an actor on set to interact with everyone else. “It changed my life,” he added.
- On Serkis’ birthday he was on the set of pick-up shooting for Return of the King, and when Jackson asked him to lead King Kong he realized he’d never be going back to the life he had before. “It’s anti-typecasting in a way—I can play anything!”
- Colbert pointed out that every battle scene nowadays has an echo of Jackson’s work in the initial trilogy, and Jackson replied that he was grateful for the fact that he likely influenced numerous future filmmakers.
- Blachett said it was a great joy to work extensively with McKellen in The Hobbit, since she barely got to share scenes with the actor in Lord of the Rings.
- Jackson said they didn’t really use any of the original costumes in The Hobbit because they treasure them now and hope to display them in a museum. However, Blanchett and Bloom’s wigs were the same.
- Jackson has a warehouse full of old miniatures in a “secret location”, which Colbert described enthusiastically. Jackson added they’ll probably use some of them for the museum as well.
Audience Q&A Highlights
- Might we see an even longer cut of the Lord of the Rings trilogy down the road? Jackson said there are still a few scenes that were shot that haven’t been seen, but not many. He cited a scene between younger versions of Arwen and Aragon, when they met. Jackson said they “might” try and put them back in, but the problem is all of the scenes are somewhere on seven million feet of film in a WB storage unit. He added, “If there’s enough interest from people, maybe they will [let us dig into them].”
- On the frustration of working with CG characters, Serkis said, “Although there’s technology involved in making characters like Gollum, really it’s exactly the same. All you need is the eyes of another actor to connect to.” Pace added that if everyone’s imagination on set is alive, “it really gets cool.”
- Blanchett said out of any director she’s ever worked with, Peter and Fran were the most descriptive when it came to explaining what would fill the green screen that surrounded the sets.
- On the prequel-esque nature of The Battle of Five Armies, Boyens reiterated that they pulled from Toklein’s appendices to make the transition more effective.
- Jackson also announced a Hobbit fan-felowship contest in which 75 people plus a partner will be flown to New Zealand to screen a cut of Five Armies and tour some of Jackson’s production facilities. Information is available on the official Facebook page.
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