On Saturday, Warner Brothers concluded their highly-anticipated Comic-Con presentation with a look at The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first of two (or possibly three?) Lord of the Rings prequels directed by Peter Jackson.
The Oscar-winning director was joined on stage by cast members Sir Ian McKellan, Martin Freeman, Andy Serkis and Ricard Armitage, along with special guest Elijah Wood. In addition to the panel itself, the crowd was treated to twelve minutes of footage from both An Unexpected Journey and its sequel, The Hobbit: There and Back Again.
A few moments after the panel kicked off, 2D footage from the two films was shown to the delight of those in attendance, and it seemed clear that Jackson was as comfortable with Middle-Earth while making The Hobbit as he ever was making The Lord of the Rings.
The first scene showed Gandalf (McKellan) sitting at a long table with a group of thirteen dwarves, pressuring them to bring an inexperienced hobbit named Bilbo Baggins (Freeman) along with them on a mysterious journey. Although the others don't know why they would bring Baggins along, Gandalf insists that they do, much to the surprise of Baggins himself who is nearby. After a discussion, Baggins is told of the dangers of the journey and is given a long contract to review that features many of the threats that he could face along the way. He faints after seeing it.
A shorter scene showed Gandalf taking advice and receiving support from a young(er) Galadriel (Blanchett). Gandalf seems to be sensitive to some of the risks he's taking with Baggins, but Galadriel provides him with much needed encouragement.
Another scene brought forth Gollum (Serkis), who's as menacing and mischievous as ever. With his multiple personalities on full display, he questions himself in the clip in front of Baggins. When Baggins tries to respond, Gollum says, "I wasn't talking to you." A few moments later, when Baggins brings up the possibility of playing a game, Gollum says, "I love games."
After the full panel began, Jackson said that The Hobbit "is a movie made by fans for fans." He then introduced the cast of the movie, including McKellan and Freeman. Special guest Elijah Wood then joined the cast onstage to strong applause from the audience.
Freeman was soon asked a couple of questions about playing the title character. In talking about wearing the costume, he noted that for the first few days, "[the costume] feels like a fledgling duck" but he became accustomed to it after a while. When asked if he felt intimidated joining a cast and crew that had been working together for so long, he said that he didn't feel a lot of pressure and never felt intimidated. He recognized that the filmmakers wanted him specifically to serve in the role and that's why he wanted to do it.
The actor later said that it "feels like a special place where these films are made," noting that he "had to find his way into it."
Elijah Wood was then asked about seeing The Hobbit footage at Comic-Con and his impressions of it. "I was blown away," he said.
An audience member then asked Jackson about the process of selecting scenes for his films and for the director's cut DVDs. He noted that he doesn't shoot footage for only the special-edition DVDs. He just shoots a lot of footage, adding that they "write the script as [they're] shooting." He noted that the process is very organic and that it's only at the end of the process that he decides what footage he'll use for the theatrical release and which footage he will save for the DVDs. He later added, "We’re not very good at making short movies, unfortunately.”
Andy Serkis briefly talked about coming back as the beloved character Gollum. "I was only supposed to come back for two weeks," he said before saying that he was eventually asked to come film for a-year-and-a-half. He then called making the new films "a remarkable and extraordinary experience” and later treated the audience to a taste of his Gollum voice.
To conclude the panel, Freeman talked once again about Bilbo Baggins and stated that his character has to "be the eyes and the ears of the audience," and that's partially why Baggins needs to be so relatable to the viewers.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first of the prequels, hits theaters December 14th, 2012.
Keep an eye on the Screen Rant Comic-Con 2012 page for all the convention news.
Follow John on Twitter @johnhanlon.
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