Tag Archives: Peter Jackson

Extended edition TH – AUJ: 5 things I’ve learnt

Like any other devoted Ringer, when the extended editions of Fellowship, The Two Towers and The Return of the King were released I immediately watched them and then spent hours going through the bonus content.

Director and producer Peter Jackson named this bonus content the ‘appendices’. He was following in JRR Tolkien’s footsteps; Tolkien placed a huge amount of background material at the back of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ that he called the appendices.

Now that I’ve finally got my hands on copies of the extended editions of the three The Hobbit films courtesy of my friend Ben, I’m attempting this feat again. It really is a feat, as all together there is around 27 hours of bonus material.

Here are five of the things that I have learnt from watching the appendices in An Unexpected Journey.

Sir Ian McKellen contemplated quitting acting due to the difficulties of green screen filming

As Gandalf (McKellen) is 25% larger than the dwarves and Bilbo, a lot of McKellen’s scenes were shot on green screen while the dwarves and Bilbo were shot simultaneously on the main set.

Hidden earpieces and faces on illuminating tennis balls meant that McKellen knew when to say his lines and who to speak to. It sounds easy enough but, as McKellen points out, part of being a successful actor is reacting to those around you. Very hard to do when your counterpart is an inanimate object.

The podium that Bofur dances upon in Rivendell is the same podium that the One Ring is placed onto during the Council of Elrond

I am, quite frankly, ashamed that I missed this.

When Bofur (James Nesbitt) seeks to liven up the atmosphere during the company’s dinner with the elves he jumps onto the same podium that would later hold the One Ring.

For me, this is a defining moment.

During the events of An Unexpected Journey, 60 years before the events of Fellowship, the majority of Middle-earth was in full bloom. While darkness was slowly creeping back into the world, it most certainly hadn’t reached Rivendell.

Elrond and the elves of Rivendell were thriving. They opened their doors to the company and we saw a Rivendell that was full of life. At that point, that podium was merely a podium, with nothing special about it.

Fast forward 60 years and that podium became something quite different. It held the most dangerous artefact within Middle-earth, and the reason that Sauron was able to return.

I doubt Elrond was ever able to look at that podium in the same way, the memory of dancing dwarves long forgotten.

Radagast has worn a hat-shaped hole into one of the branches in his house

One day, hundreds of years ago, an acorn fell out of Radagast’s pocket and began to grow. Radagast, the sensitive, nature-loving wizard that he is, didn’t have the heart to remove the seedling so it continued to grow until it came up through the house.

Over the hundreds of years since, Radagast has worn a hat-shaped hole in one of the lower branches from walking back and forth.

It is these kind of subtle, delightful touches that make the Rings and The Hobbit films so captivating.

Set decorator Ra Vincent commented during the appendices that 90% of the work his team does within the films isn’t noticed. The 10% that is, is what makes it worthwhile.

Sadly, the hat-shaped hole is one of those things that I missed. The Academy didn’t, though, as Vincent and colleagues Dan Hennah and Simon Bright were nominated for Best Achievement in Production Design for An Unexpected Journey.

The One Ring was previously missing from the Isildur mural in Rivendell

Perhaps it can be explained that the passing of time has worn it off, but in The Fellowship of the Ring, the mural that depicts the moments before Isildur cut the One Ring off Sauron’s hand is actually missing the One Ring.

When we see the mural again in An Unexpected Journey, as Bilbo is taking a look around Rivendell after the company has arrived, you see that the One Ring is there, in all its bright golden glory contrasted again Sauron’s black metal gauntlet.

This correction is courtesy of Tolkien artist and conceptual designer Alan Lee. Howe actually painted the mural for Fellowship of the Ring, and, as such, simply painted the One Ring on when An Unexpected Journey began filming.

Ori was potentially the dwarf that fell down the well in Moria in FOTR

While you are able to physically distinguish between the 13 dwarves, there is not time in the three films to get to know them all individually.

With some of the dwarves, notably Thorin, Kili and Balin, you do get a strong flavour for their personalities, but with the rest there are only a few glimpses.

The appendices are able to fill in the gaps and provide this background information.

Oin, for example, is the alchemist and healer of the company; producer Fran Walsh joked that with all his lotions and points Oin coined the term ‘ointment’.

The appendices also reveal that because Ori keeps a journal, he may well have been the dwarf in Moria whose diary Gandalf reads from and who Pippin accidentally causes to fall down the well.

This is a sad thought but it encourages you to think about what happened to Thorin’s company following the events of the three films and imagine what their lives were like.

[Review] The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The-Hobbit-An-Unexpected-Journey791 days since my post on 16th October 2010 revealing the excellent news that plans for The Hobbit had been greenlit, that principal photography would begin in February 2011 and that Peter Jackson would direct, write and produce,  I finally returned to Middle-earth.

As Ringers the world over can agree with, to say I was looking forward to seeing the first in Jackson’s trilogy was a huge understatement. I followed each casting announcement and eagerly awaited each production video that Jackson and the team produced, the first being released in November 2011 and the latest being uploaded on Sunday 16th December.

When it was revealed that Martin Freeman would be playing Bilbo in October 2010 I admit that I was slightly skeptical, writing in a post that to me he wasn’t leading actor material, especially for a film that fans, and the industry, had been waiting a long time for. Whether he won me round I’ll reveal later…

Difficult beginnings
As film fans know, bringing Tolkien’s novel to the big screen wasn’t an easy process initially. In December 2007, New Line and MGM announced that Jackson would be executive producer of The Hobbit and its sequel. In February 2008, the two parts were announced as scheduled for release in Decembers 2011 and 2012 and, despite the legal disputes going on between the Tolkien Estate and HarperCollins Publishers against New Line, development proceeded.

In April 2008, Guillermo del Toro was hired to direct and pre-production began around August 2008, with Del Toro, Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens writing the scripts. However, this collaboration wasn’t to last. Due to ongoing delays and the fact that the films hadn’t been greenlit, Del Toro left the project in June 2010.

Many names were then suggested to direct, but in July 2010 it was announced that Jackson was in negotiations to take on the role. Finally, in October 2010, the news came that The Hobbit had been greenlit, that principal photography would begin in February 2011 and that Jackson would direct.

Principal filming began in March 2011 and came to an end in July 2012 after 266 days of filming. Once again, filming took place in New Zealand, though in September 2010 that seemed unlikely to happen following a Do Not Work order issued by the International Federation of Actors. This was resolved during talks with the New Zealand government, including involvement from Prime Minister John Key, and production went ahead as planned.

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Returning to Middle-earth
On Saturday 15th December, I saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey for the first time. Accompanied by two fellow Ringers (my boyfriend and my friend Ben), I nursed a slight hangover – it was the work Christmas party the night before – and settled in to my seat. I wanted epic music, fantastic scenery and engaging characters and as the opening ballad began I said to myself: “Please don’t let me down, PJ.”

As the camera panned around and took in the beautiful countryside of the Shire, I immediately had a grin on my face: I was back in Middle-earth.

I was back in Bag End, to be precise. An Unexpected Journey begins on the morning of Bilbo Baggins’ 111th birthday, an occasion that was celebrated with much fun and frivolities in The Fellowship of the Ring. Bilbo decides to write down his story of the adventure he took 60 years earlier with the famed dwarf Thorin Oakenshield. With Bilbo explaining the history of the dwarves, the tone is then set: this will be a story about reclaiming your home and your heritage.

It was lovely seeing Ian Holm back as Bilbo for that opening scene though Martin Freeman did a cracking job. And I must admit that I loved seeing Elijah Wood return as Frodo for those brief moments. Naysayers may complain, but I think it suited the tone of the film and was testament to how much Wood enjoyed his role in The Lord of the Rings and how eager he was to return to the Shire.

The arrival of the dwarves was fantastic and, for this film at least, I think the casting was spot on. I would say that the camera favoured certain dwarves over the others, however, so hopefully we’ll be able to spend more time with each dwarf in The Desolation of Smaug and There and Back Again.

As readers of the book will know, there is very little background given to the dwarves apart from Thorin. Bombur is mentioned several times – namely because he gets in trouble a lot! – and so are Fili and Kili. Balin is the company’s lookout, but that’s about it. You don’t know their likes and dislikes or any other personal details. I trust that Jackson and his fellow writers Walsh and Boyens will do a terrific job of adding that in, though, if they choose to.

The Hobbit

Gandalf and Gollum are worthy of a mention too. Both Ian McKellen and Andy Serkis returned to their roles seamlessly, and while it was great being reunited with a certain wizard and certain elves, my eyes grew wide with amazement to be back in Rivendell. The Lord of the Rings was blessed with some amazing scenery – both natural and digital – and An Unexpected Journey definitely followed this trend.

Moving on to the plot, for me it didn’t seem particularly stretched out. Yes, Jackson, Walsh and Boyens have enhanced certain scenes and added in some of their own original ones, but I felt that they were in keeping with the novel and Tolkien’s writing. I didn’t find it to be overtly long either. Admittedly, I am bias and would happily sit in front of a screen and watch The Lord of the Rings endlessly but I didn’t find my attention wandering at any point. I did find some scenes disjointed, though, with some scenes having more prominence than others, but this could just be down to personal preference.

After seeing An Unexpected Journey, I am now eagerly awaiting The Desolation of Smaug and There and Back Again. There are some fantastic characters left to meet – particularly Beorn and Bard – and I look forward to seeing how Jackson and co presents them.

★★★★

• Hobbiton image taken from ghostofgoldwater’s photostream @ Flickr

Comic-Con 2012

Once a year, a magical event takes place at the San Diego Convention Center where thousands of comic book, film and TV fans from all over the world come together. I’ve never been myself but from what I’ve see and read, it has to be one of the best – if not the ultimate – conventions to go to.

As always, there are a myriad reasons why I wish I’d gone this year, but here are just a few of them:

  • The True Blood panel
  • The Game of Thrones panel
  • The Marvel panel
  • and, of course, The Hobbit panel

Handstands, goodbyes and stripper jokes

From the reports that I’ve read, the True Blood panel sounds like it was the most fun, with everything from Ryan Kwanten (Jason Stackhouse) doing a walking handstand across the stage to laughs regarding Joe Manganiello’s (Alcide) role in Magic Mike.

In addition to Kwanten and Manganiello, other cast in attendance included Anna Paquin (Sookie Stackhouse), Stephen Moyer (Bill Compton) and Alexander Skarsgard (Eric Northman). The panel began with a preview of what is to come in the latter half of season 5. The LA Times reported: “Alcide will step up to become pack master and Russell Edgington will create all kinds of trouble (not much of a surprise there). The footage also appeared to suggest that Sookie might be turning in some of her fairy powers (given that Bill sure seems to be glamoring her). And was that a glimpse of a ghostly Godric we saw?”

The show’s creator, Alan Ball, also received a warm and emotional send-off as he stepped down as show runner. He will continue on as executive producer in a more advisory role and leave the day-to-day production of the series to other members of the crew.

New faces, new places

Richard Madden (Robb Stark), Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen) and Alfie Allen (Theon Greyjoy) were among the cast who attended the Games of Thrones panel, which was moderated by the novels’ author – and the show’s executive producer – George R R Martin.

The panel kicked off with an introduction to a bevy of new cast members via an introductory reel tacked onto the end of the official season 2 clip reel. These include Mackenzie Crook as Orell, Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Jojen Reed and Diana Rigg as Lady Olenna Tyrell.

Not that much was hinted at about the next season but, seeing as I haven’t seen season 2 yet and have only just finished the second book, I’m quite glad nothing in particular was revealed. The cast did talk about what it was like filming in all the different locations. Apparently there was the Wolf Unit in Belfast, the Dragon Unit in Morocco and the Freeze Your Ass Unit in Iceland!

A Marvel-lous panel

The powerhouse studio simultaneously straightened a few things out while also throwing up a whole lot more questions. Iron Man 3, which is well into filming, was the main focus of the panel. However, these tidbits of information were also thrown out:

  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the title for the The sequel to Captain America: The First Avenger. Chris Evans will reprise his role though and it is slated for an April 2014 release.
  • The sequel to Thor has just started filming in London. It will be called Thor 2: The Dark World. Alan Taylor (Games of Thrones) will take over from Kenneth Branagh as director. It is slated for a November 2014 release.
  • Henry Pym aka Ant-Man will have his own film, the first of the ‘Phase 2’ films from Marvel. It will be directed by Edgar Wright though no cast members or release date have been announced yet.
  • The Guardians of the Galaxy will also hit the big screen, though no cast members have been announced. The Guardians are an inter-stellar superheroes made up of Star-Lord, Draxx the Destroyer, Groot, Gamorra and Rocket Raccoon. It is slated for an August 2014 release.

News from Down Under…

The best source of information about The Hobbit at Comic-Con is undoubtedly TheOneRing.net – take a look at the website to see both a transcript from the panel in Hall H plus a Q and A video.

Among the cast and crew assembled were Peter Jackson (director), Philippa Boyens (co-producer and co-writer) and Martin Freeman (Bilbo Baggins). “Some 6,500 fans waited in Hall H all day to see The Hobbit panel and a twelve-and-a-half-minute showreel from the film, with many more unable to get in,” TheOneRing.net explains.

During the Q and A Jackson talked about the filming process and what it was like for some of the actors – Andy Serkis, Ian McKellen and Elijah Wood – to be back on set.

When asked whether The Silmarillion will make it onto the big screen, Jackson’s answer was a resounding ‘no’: “No, the Silmarillion is totally owned by the Tolkien estate. It’s not owned by Warners or MGM like The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings are.”

Jackson also revealed that Howard Shore is due to start recording the score with the London Philharmonic in five or six weeks.

Final Hobbiton report from Quint

Quint, that lucky chap from Ain’t It Cool News who we are all very jealous of, has posted his final report from the Hobbiton set of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: There and Back Again. As usual, a spoiler warning does apply.

The report is full of great insider information and I particularly liked this snippet: “In true movie magic form we ended our second to last day with a big shot of Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins hauling ass out of Hobbiton, chasing down the dwarves, and began our final day with Mr Baggins returning to The Shire as his grand adventure comes to a close.”

The Party Tree, brought back to life by way of an emergency fertilization regiment.

Sorry if that news of Bilbo returning to The Shire is a surprise but, like Quint said, that shouldn’t be a shocker if you watched The Lord of the Rings films or, of course, read the books.

In his report Quint also included a photograph of the next location. My guess is that it will be used as Mirkwood – what do you think?

The next location - could it be the home of the elves?

Recent rumblings from Middle-earth…

If ever I’m in need of cheering up, several things usually work: music, a guilty pleasure like Labyrinth or some comedy clips on YouTube – anything by Michael McIntyre gets me in fits of giggles.

For several reasons, the last couple of weeks have been quite difficult. I found a welcome distraction in the form of a series of The Lord of the Rings outtakes on YouTube. Being the LOTR fangirl that I am – thanks, Max! – I thought I knew most of the stories from the set. After watching the clips, however, I learnt all about the ‘Gollum juice’ that Andy Serkis drank to maintain that unique voice plus the way that the stuntmen and Viggo used to greet eachother…

My trip to Middle-earth didn’t stop there, though. On 4th November, Peter Jackson posted the fourth production video from the set of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: There and Back Again.

I’m not really a fan of 3D but the way Peter described it, I really can’t wait to see the films in 3D. I hope the experience will be as great as Peter promises!

That wasn’t not the only news from New Zealand. Quint over at Ain’t It Cool News posted his second report from the set of the films on 5th November. From now on, Quint is to be known as Fredegar Chubb, a name that he received from this site, The Hobbit Name Generator.

Check out Ain’t It Cool News to find out why Quint needed a hobbit. By the way, my hobbit name is Daisy Danderfluff, while my elvish name is Idril Tinehtelë. I’ve got to say, my hobbit name is rather cute!