The big day is just a week away! We get to see the first of a new trilogy of Peter Jackson films based on the 1939 book by J.R.R. Tolkein, “The Hobbit” (yes, the book is really that old!) The film is called The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and this featurette, released just yesterday, shows us in long form bits of the film, what it was like for the actors and other creative people on the set and what production was like. And it’s spiced with music and a much broader, more expansive view of Middle Earth than we have seen before.
The job of creating memorable characters and an almost palpable world in which they live has been deftly and expertly handled by Peter Jackson, and seeing all these characters come to life, even in what is essentially an infomercial for the movie is an engaging experience all on its own – and we see some interesting additions. When Bilbo describes to the hobbit children what his encounter with the three trolls in the wood east of Bywater, you actually get to see the encounter. And we get to meet Radegast, (played by former Doctor Who actor Sylvester McCoy), who in the book is present only as a reference made in conversation by Gandalf as an explanation of where he’d been.
This movie went through several stages of pre-production hell, including separate legal disputes between New Line Cinema, Peter Jackson and Tolkien’s estates which complicated production. When MGM finally moved the project forward in 2008 more complications ensued the when MGM entered bankruptcy and froze production, causing director Guillermo del Toro to step down after three years of pre-production. Later, it was almost cast out of New Zealand when several unions and guilds blacklisted the project and shooting was delayed again while Peter Jackson recovered from surgery from a perforated ulcer.
How difficult it was for Peter Jackson to get this done was an amazing thing to watch – and we know that they shot for a little over 280 days, getting the footage for all three films in one go, just as they did with the first LOTR trilogy.
All said, it’s a fascinating slice and wets one’s appetite for the main event, which is to release in North America on December 14.