‘Hobbit’ at Comic-Con: Peter Jackson tours the Shire and beyond

July 15, 2012 | 9:50 a.m.
hobbitstill Hobbit at Comic Con: Peter Jackson tours the Shire and beyond

Martin Freeman, center, in a scene from “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.” (Warner Bros. and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures)

Peter Jackson unveiled more than 12 minutes of footage from “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” during his Comic-Con panel Saturday, giving fans a glimpse of Martin Freeman’s performance as Bilbo Baggins, a new female character not from the J.R.R. Tolkien universe and some scenes with familiar characters Gandalf, Gollum and Galadriel.

Jackson, who directed “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy before taking on Tolkien’s smaller adventure, was joined on the panel by cowriter Philippa Boyens, Martin Freeman (Bilbo Baggins), Sir Ian McKellen (Gandalf), Andy Serkis (second unit director and, of course, Gollum), Richard Armitage (Thorin Oakenshield) and surprise guest Elijah Wood, who played Frodo Baggins in the trilogy and did “a bit of work” for “The Hobbit.”

The panel was the capstone of the Hall H lineup this year. Thousands of fans — more than a few in Middle-earth garb — began lining up Friday and camped overnight. (McKellen paid them a late-night surprise visit.)

hobbitposter1 Hobbit at Comic Con: Peter Jackson tours the Shire and beyondThe roughly 6,500 fans who made it into Hall H were also treated to breathtaking footage from the film, beginning with a scene in which Gandalf recruits a doubtful Bilbo to join a company of even-more-doubtful dwarves in their quest to stop the greedy and terrible dragon Smaug.

In another scene, Bilbo bargains with Smeagol in the cave, risking his life in a game of riddles: “If Baggins loses,” he croaks, “we eats it whole.” We also see Bilbo finding the One Ring and then later concealing it from Gandalf.

The footage also included a light-soaked scene between Gandalf and Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), in which the elven queen asks the gray wizard why he picked Bilbo for this quest.

“Saruman believes that it is only great power that can hold evil in check,” Gandalf says. “That is not what I’ve found. I found it is the small things, everyday deeds of ordinary folk, that keeps the darkness at bay. Simple acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? Perhaps it is because I’m afraid, and he gives me courage.”

Jackson also screened a featurette documenting the final five days of filming, and fans erupted in cheers as they recognized locations from Tolkien’s book, including the Shire, Lake-town and Rivendell. The featurette showed Freeman scrambling through a mountain of Smaug’s stolen treasure, Orlando Bloom (Legolas) leaping in front of a green screen, Stephen Fry donning his Master of Lake-town costume and Luke Evans performing his own stunts as Bard the Bowman.

The featurette also introduced a Tauriel, an elven woman portrayed by Evangeline Lilly, after the filmmakers began to “feel the weight” of the male-dominated story, Boyens said.

“She brings a very powerful feminine energy into the film,” Boyens said. “We believe that it’s completely within the spirit of Tolkien. … I think you guys are going to fall in love with her.”

Freeman said he “never felt intimidated” by the prospect of playing Bilbo Baggins.

“You can’t really take intimidation or pressure to work with you, because you won’t do your best work or do your best playing, which is really an actor’s job,” he said.

He said he strove for a “lightness of touch,” wit and vulnerability so that the audience could relate to Bilbo and his adventure.

“I’m a big believer of knowing what play you’re in, and in this play, I have to be the eyes and ears of the audience, because I’m the nearest thing to a member of the audience in this film,” Freeman said. “We all have fear. We all have reservations. We all have places that we’re scared to go, whether they’re internal or external.”

– Noelene Clark

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