Weta Digital’s Joe Letteri and Dan Lemmon Talk Building to LOTR with THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF FIVE ARMIES; Confirm They’re Working on BATMAN V SUPERMAN

     June 29, 2014

weta-Joe-Letteri-Dan-Lemmon-The Hobbit-The Battle of Five Armies

The visual effects company Weta Digital became a household name following their groundbreaking work on the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and they’ve worked on a number of other impressive films in the interim, ranging from District 9 to Avatar to The Avengers.  With Rise of the Planet of the Apes, however, the company built upon the technology used to bring Gollum to life in Lord of the Rings to create phenomenal motion-capture apes.  That technology has advanced even further for the sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and Steve recently got a chance to speak with senior visual effects supervisor Joe Letteri and visual effects supervisor Dan Lemmon about their work on the film.

During the course of the interview, Steve also asked Letteri and Lemmon about Weta’s progress on The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies.  They talked about ensuring that the titular battle has massive stakes and builds a bridge to the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Additionally, Letteri confirmed that Weta is also working on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.  More after the jump.

the-hobbit-the-battle-of-five-armies-peter-jacksonWeta has been heavily involved in director Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy, and Letteri gave a status update on the third and final installment:

The Hobbit’s going great.  We’ve got a lot of stuff already turned over to Peter, we’re in the middle of it, we’re cranking through it.”

The third film was originally titled There and Back Again before being changed to The Battle of Five Armies, and Letteri discussed how the new title is a better fit for the concluding chapter:

“Yeah because it is the climax, and you really just need to know that there is another battle for Middle-earth.  The whole extension of The Hobbit’s story has really been to get us to the point where we understand when we leave it what’s going to happen when you pick up the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and this really does kind of set that tone.”

the-hobbit-the-battle-of-five-armiesWith a massive battle being right in the title of the film, Steve asked Letteri if the sequence is being crafted as hopefully the highlight of all six Lord of the Rings films, and the VFX supervisor discussed how grave the stakes have to be:

“We hope so, that’s the whole idea.  You’ve got all these worlds of Middle-earth—when I say worlds I mean the elves and the orcs and everyone sort of coming together in this final battle.  It’s got to give you that sense that if this isn’t won, there is no Lord of the Rings; everything’s over at this point.  So this has to happen, and that allows the sort of peaceful interlude you have before the next trilogy starts.”

Finally, since Weta worked on Man of Steel (they’re the company responsible for the visual effects during the opening Krypton sequence), Steve asked the duo if they’re also working on the follow-up.  The two confirmed as much, but were understandably tight-lipped:

“We are working on the Man of Steel sequel, yes… We can’t say much more than that, but we’re excited.”

With a number of DC Comics characters poised to appear in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Weta no doubt has some spectacular sequences in the pipeline.

Watch this portion of Steve’s video interview with Letteri and Lemmon below, and look for the full interview on Collider soon.

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  • Person

    I respect the hell out of the work WETA and particularly Letteri do, but the VFX for these Hobbit movies have been sub-par. Smaug and Gollum looked great, but just about everything else looks a little too fake and obviously CGI. I think the blame for that goes to the 48fps, which basically means everything has to be rendered twice in the same amount of time, so there’s naturally going to be some kind of drop-off. Still, really looking forward to Hobbit 3; may be the last time we see Middle Earth on the big screen in a while, if ever again.

    • GrimReaper07

      I was gonna write the exact same thing. Not really looking forward to Hobbit 3 anymore but I still respect WETA a lot. Dawn of the Planet of the Ape’s VFX look ridiculous.

      • Zek

        Fuck you! Dawn looks amazing!

      • anders

        get off your high horse you damn dirty ape. If you understood context clues you’d realize that he was giving a compliment.

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      • GrimReaper07

        By ridiculous I meant it looks ridiculously amazing. I was complaining about their work on The Hobbit but everything else they do is excellent.

    • sanch

      See it in Blu ray .. its 24 fps. The 48 fps is great for animation . and the best thing is this is key frame animation . one does not need to animate every frame.. At the same time there is more subtlety because of 48 fps

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  • bigfrog

    I have no clue why Pajamas is calling his third installment of Tolkien fan fiction the Battle of Five Armies. He might as well go all out and call it the Battle of Seven or Eight, oh screw it, Thirteen and a Half Armies. And please, Peter Jackson, please since you’re such a marvelously wonderful director, more scenes of Bard’s children. Can’t we have just a fifteen minute shot of them playing jacks or something? That would be wonderful. Thank you.

    • yrulaughing418

      We also need more scenes where Tauriel demonstrates her magical healing handjob powers

    • The Flobbit

      Please shut the hell up. Your arguments are so tired and moronic.

    • Lovecraftlives

      Then don’t see it asshole. Those films are great, and I can’t wait to see the third one.

      • The Flobbit

        A thousand upvotes. If people can’t see how great these movies are, I just feels sorry for them. Go back to your Thor and Transformers!

    • The Flobbit

      If you have no clue, thats because you’re an idiot. It’s called the Battle of the Five Armies BECAUSE THERE IS A BATTLE WITH FIVE ARMIES IN IT.

      But you’re right. I’m sure Jackson’s fan fiction doesn’t compare with your 24-part NSFW Gandalf/Galadriel romance fiction.

      • bigfrog

        I think your mistaking me with someone else… The bit of fan fiction I wrote was about a steamy minute between Merry and Eowyn. If you want I could write a new naughty bit featuring you and Smeagle…a homoerotic bdsm novelette….I could title it “My Precious”.

      • The Flobbit

        My apologies. I confused your work with the epic fanfic 50 Shades of Gandalf the Grey…

    • Aquartertoseven

      Yes, let’s see how many more times Bard’s children will say ‘Da’, to ram the fact that they’re supposed to be Welsh down our throats.

      • The Flobbit

        What would you rather have them say? Father? Papa? What a trivial, inconsequential thing to get worked up about.

      • Aquartertoseven

        I’d rather that they not say anything or be in the film at all, as they bring nothing to the story. But literally saying ‘Welsh dad’ about 20 times was unacceptable. 20 times in short succession isn’t trivial, it’s a repeated bombardment of bad writing.

      • The Flobbit

        Really, hmm? I couldn’t care less how or how many times they addressed their father. I liked Bard’s kids – they added a human element to the film.

      • Aquartertoseven

        Let me guess, you’re a big fan of the films.

      • The Flobbit

        I am indeed, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

      • Aquartertoseven

        For the first one, fair enough, but the 2nd one was just poor, all action over substance. Some scenes from the book actually were even shorter in the film, like Mirkwood, Beorn’s house etc.

      • The Flobbit

        Agree to disagree entirely. I know of no other way to put it. I enjoyed those films.

      • Aquartertoseven

        You’re fully entitled to be wrong.

      • The Flobbit

        And in this case, so are you.

      • Aquartertoseven

        How so? The story was weak, the characters were weak, what little of both was actually implemented was ripped off of LOTR.

        You don’t have to like it because you like LOTR, it’s okay for you to be honest with yourself about how badly made it was.

      • The Flobbit

        I’m done with this argument. You’ll not convince me of anything.

  • Pk

    The cgi work for man of steel was pretty disappointing. Hope they step up their game and bring some thing new to this one

    • P862015

      i thought it was quite amazing especially krypton and the fact that zod’s suit was all cgi and they made it look like a practical suit was amazing to me and the flying scenes were incredible

      • Aquartertoseven

        The CGI in the flying scenes were the worst of all, so fake and unimmersive.

      • sanch

        Okay time to clear things up.. Only the opening sequence of Krypton was done by WETA digital. All the rest were done by ILM. So those flying scenes that you call fake and non immersive are the one done by ILM and not WETA. WETA did the cooler shots .. and it is for the same reason why WETA is given the responsibility of the whole film this time despite having Avatar Trilogy on their hands

      • Aquartertoseven

        Okay… Thanks for the distinction I guess.

  • ens

    hahaha They said they’re working on the Man of Steel “sequel”. That’s funny since the film is nothing more than an excuse to get to Justice league as soon as possible cause DC has no patience

  • The Flobbit

    I really hope WETA delivers better CGI for this ultimate installement. They deliver briliant work with the Apes films and with Smaug, but for some reasons a lot of their Hobbit stuff isn’t up to snuff. Anyways, I hugely enjoyed the Hobbit films, and I don’t care what you say. They’re epic, and beautiful, and packed with great action and great acting.

    I am looking forward to The Battle of the Five Armies.

    • WAldenIV

      Isn’t this the last film?

      • The Flobbit

        Hence the word penultimate.

      • WAldenIV

        “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” – Inigo Montoya

        Penultimate means the next-to-last entry in a series. The previous movie was the penultimate Hobbit film.

      • The Flobbit

        Ok, you are right. I’ll change it.

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  • M kay

    The orcs in the Hobbit films look terrible. Having people in costumes 10 years ago on LOTR was immensely better. The two best scenes in the Hobbit films so far are the conversations between Bilbo and Gollum, Bilbo and Smaug.

    • bigfrog

      You mean the two scenes that are actually from the book?

      • M kay

        It’s crazy how that works, who knew JRR had a clue what he was doing.

    • The Flobbit

      You are forgetting that there ARE orcs in costume in this installment. Watch the production videos PJ puts out. Weta is designing thousands of practical prosthetics and costumes to be worn by stuntmen and orc actors.

      But then again, nothing – NOTHING – has come close to the Uruk-Hai.

      • sanch

        The Gundabad Orcs of part 3 will be much better than the URUK HAI

      • M kay

        I guess I am concentrating on the lead orcs, but still frustrating. I’m just disappointed in Peter’s attempt to make a Lord of the Rings Prequels. I cannot wait for the day after the 3rd film comes out on DVD and some kid edits out all the prequel stuff.

        I’ll give WETA big credit for the look of the Dwarves, I really like them.

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  • sanch

    All my hope died down with what Letteri said.. A INTERLUDE TO LORD OF THE RINGS.. SO 3 FILMS ALL COMES DOWN TO NO CLOSURE? Heartbroken – letteri and peter

    • The Flobbit

      Talk to Tolkien. The Hobbit takes place before LOTR, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

      • sanch

        I know what happens before what.. I have read them all. Having said that there is no reason to forcefully connect the two.. the hobbit book has no mention of lord of the rings.. why should the movie ?

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