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The Hobbit: The Story So Far

by on September 22, 2011
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Now that Harry Potter has come to an end, and “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy finished showing in cinemas six years ago, the movie audience is beginning to crave another mythical epic to fill the void.

Yes, we all bought the LOTR’s DVD box set DVD on release, and the Blu Ray edition. However, after re-visiting the trilogy countless times (including with extended scenes and then the directors commentary) and perhaps even indulging in a LOTR’s fancy dress party whilst Frodo and his pals overcame all odds to throw the ring in the fires of Mordor, we were still wanting more. Web chatter of Peter Jackson’s next big project begun a few years ago when “The Return of the King” had just about come and gone from the big screen and we only had the tale of a young wizard, his friends and some evil Dark Lord to look forward to.

As more and more details began to emerge on Jackson’s “The Hobbit” the project was simultaneously plagued by set backs. One step forward, two steps back. It seemed as though it would never get off the ground. Originally, when finally Jackson was confirmed as Executive Producer and MGM and New Line jointly took up the project, Guillemero del Toro was asked to direct. A script for the film was due in 2010, collaboratively penned by Jackson, LOTR writer’s Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens and del Toro.

But then the first of many set backs came about when MGM admitted it was struggling against massive debt and almost pulled out. Frustrated with a lack of light at the end of the tunnel del Toro left the project with deep regret and it was left director-less. This prompted rumours of Potter’s David Yates stepping in, and even Neil Blomkamp of “District 9” (2009) was said to have thrown his hat into the ring. Jackson eventually (and much more appropriately) took on the role despite his initial doubts over the more lightheartedness about Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” in comparison to LOTR.

With Jackson at the helm and MGM’s financial problems worked out “The Hobbit” was back on. A dispute with the Australian Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance was the next bringer of bad news when they stipulated that Jackson must provide the right conditions to work in for any New Zealand actors. This caused a possible move to film in Eastern Europe, which was promptly moved back to NZ after talks with their Prime Minister. After a fire in Jacksons’ work shop and a trip to hospital for the director following a perforated stomach ulcer (what could happen next?!) “The Hobbit” no longer had a start date.

Things started to look up when, after months of speculation and rumour, Brit comedian and actor Martin Freeman was cast as central character Bilbo Baggins. A highly appropriate choice considering his very successful portrayal as the reluctant Arthur Dent in “A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” (2005) where Freeman plays the wrong place wrong time character, unwittingly caught up in an adventure where he proceeds to work his way out of one sticky situation after another in order to get home.

Interestingly Benedict Cumberbatch who stars alongside Freeman in Brit TV’s “Sherlock”, joins him in “The Hobbit” as the voice of the red-gold dragon Smaug. Jackson wanted Freeman so badly for the part, he agreed for Freeman to film his scenes for “The Hobbit” around “Sherlock”. This may slow the process down somewhat.

Thankfully, a lot of the cast members from the LOTR trilogy have been re-cast in the same roles for “The Hobbit”. Ian McKellan returns as Gandalf, Andy Serkis plays Gollum, Cate Blanchett as Galadriel and even Elijah Wood enters the scene as young Frodo. Despite these last two not appearing in Tolkien’s novel with the original LOTR’s writers having written the script this shouldn’t pose any problems. Even Christopher Lee and Orlando Bloom are to reprise their roles as Saruman and Legolas respectively. These re-castings are somewhat expected, even the actors themselves could not refuse taking up their roles again. Who else could play them?

Aside from the casing of Freeman as Baggins, what is most exciting is discovering who is being cast in the less familiar roles. The entire Company of Dwarves boasts a well chosen set of actors that includes: James Nesbitt (“Bloody Sunday” (2002)), Jed Brophy (“District 9” (2009)), Mark Hadlow (“King Kong” (2005)) and Peter Hambleton plays Gloin, father to Gimli (John Rhys Davis) from LOTR trilogy. The 13 dwarves are going to be the real treat of the two Hobbit films. Not just generic dwarves, each has its own unique character and costume. Kudos to you if you can name them all.

On the technical side of things, Jackson is shooting in state of the art 3D at 48 frames per second. Move over “Avatar” (2009). This could be a downside to “The Hobbit” however in the hands of Jackson and his fierce team Weta perhaps not. Having turned an impossible novel trilogy into one of the biggest and best mythical epic film trilogies on the big screen “The Hobbit” 1 and 2 in 3D may not be so bad.

A very small part of the movie will be filmed on location, 9 weeks to be more exact, a stunning contrast to the huge undertaking of filming a very large proportion of LOTR’s trilogy sans studio. How much we will notice is up to the quality of Jackson’s trust in digital technology.