‘The Hobbit’ at Comic-Con: Peter Jackson’s San Diego plan
COMIC-CON: BURNING QUESTIONS
As we close in on the 2012 edition of Comic-Con International, we look at some of the burning questions that will be answered in San Diego.
Does “The Hobbit” need a magic moment in Hall H?
Peter Jackson rarely hears grumbles from Middle-earth fans — just the opposite. “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy not enjoyed success in epic proportions, but it was also the rare triple-threat as far as box-office numbers, industry awards and critical acclaim. But in April, at a preview in Las Vegas, reactions were divided about Jackson’s new Tolkien footage; it was screened at 48 frames per second (the norm is 24 frames) and in the view of some the added clarity actually sapped the majesty out of Middle-earth. The first part of the two-film adaptation hits theaters in December, but how is Jackson approaching this weekend? We reached him for a quick interview a few days ago.
HC: It would be silly to consider a July afternoon in San Diego as a make-or-break moment for a December release — especially one with the heritage, resources and global interest that “The Hobbit” has on its side. But it’d also be a mistake to underestimate the importance of reaching core fans. How would you frame the Hall H appearance as far as the stakes?
PJ: I think it’s more about protecting the downside, rather than helping the film in any significant way. There is a huge audience waiting to see “The Hobbit,” and any positive press from Comic-Con will truthfully have little impact on that. However, as we saw at CinemaCon earlier this year, with our 48 frames per second presentation, negative bloggers are the ones the mainstream press runs with and quotes from. I decided to screen the “Hobbit” reel at Comic-Con in 2-D and 24 frames per second, so the focus stays firmly with the content and not the technical stuff. If people want 3-D and 48fps, that choice will be there for them in December.
HC: Even as well as you know Tolkien, I’m sure the process of making these two new films has presented you with new insights and connections with the material. What surprises have you found in Middle-earth or in the work of the bookshelf wizard?
PJ: As slight as people think the “Hobbit” novel is, compared to the “Lord of the Rings” books, we have been surprised at how rich the world is, and how many interesting themes and characters there are to explore. We are also using extensive parts of the appendices which were published at the end of “Return of the King.” This is not just “The Hobbit” — it’s “The Hobbit” set in a much greater context of events taking place throughout Middle-earth during this period. The material is so rich. In fact only this last week or two, we’ve been talking to the studio about allowing us to shoot some additional material next year, to fully complete the story.
HC: In some ways, Martin Freeman might have more weight on his shoulders than any single actor in the first trilogy. How would you say he’s handling it?
PJ: We adjusted our shooting schedule around Martin’s Sherlock TV series, to enable him to do the movie. We literally couldn’t think of any other actor in the world more perfect to play Bilbo Baggins. Get that casting wrong and the movie falls flat on its face. Martin knocks it out of the park.
HC: If you had one sentence — a take-away message — for the Middle-earth fans who don’t get a seat in Hall H, what would it be?
PJ: We’ve all loved returning to Middle-earth and now look forward to fans stepping back into this world with us.
— Geoff Boucher
[For the record, 8:27 p.m. July 11: Martin Freeman was misidentified in one of the photo captions that appeared in an earlier version of this post.
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