German magazine CINEMA has devoted several pages of its December issue to the filming and post production of the second film in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit Trilogy – The Desolation of Smaug. They offered a wealth of interesting tidbits – not the least of which was a glimpse at what could potentially be the opening prologue of film two.
Before reading further – be warned, there are definitely SPOILERS ahead. (Thanks to Eol for pointing us in the direction of thorinoakenshield.net’s translation of the article.)
Final warning…if you don’t wish to read any SPOILERS, turn back.
First up, the magazine talks about some of the behind the scenes work involved in bringing the fight with the Mirkwood Spiders to life. Evangeline Lilly and Aidan Turner are both taking on the fierce beasts – but there’s one little hitch. They’re both on different sets – being filmed separately due to the size difference of their characters. Oh, and that bit about there being one little hitch? Make that two. The giant spiders… well, they’ll certainly be fierce when all is said and done.
Waiting they stand there: Two eerie creatures in skin-tight green bodysuits. Their faces are hidden behind sock masks, only the eyes are visible through slits. Suddenly a command is heard and the spandex duo mutates into two beasts. Fast and without remorse they attack a dwarf and a pointy-eared beauty who fight back with sticks that have orange spots on their ends. After a few minutes of battle a relaxed “Cut” can be heard. Peter Jackson emerges from behind a screen with a cup of tea in his hand. He smiles and praises the attackers as well as his actors Aidan Turner and Evangeline Lilly for their timing – because of the scale differences between dwarves and elves they were recorded in the same hall but on two different sets in front of green screens and are later put together on the computer into the same scene.
The horror insects [sic!] however are not visible on this frosty day in September 2011 in the Stone Street Studios in Wellington. Their part is played by the stuntmen in green outfits, later on they will digitally become arachnids.
Moving onto the topic of the visual effects, CINEMA discusses Jackson’s balanced use of real locations and CGI visuals – and mentions a little something that hints at the film’s runtime in comparison to its predecessor.
So there are about 1900 digital effects used for “Desolation of Smaug”, part 1 had 2136 due to longer runtime.
Also discussed is the ever-increasing sense of doom and gloom that begins to creep into the story. In this sense, the second chapter of The Hobbit is compared to Jackson’s earlier middle film. But this being The Hobbit, Jackson is still inclined to include some bits of levity – and one such instance, depicting a chance meeting between a certain Mirkwood Elf and the father of his future comrade, was too good to pass up.
This scene is also planned for this 85th day of shooting and in it Legolas and six of his warriors come to the aid of the dwarves against the spiders, only to take them captive right after. When going through their belongings Legolas grabs a drawing of Gloin’s wife and Gimli. “Who is this dwarf that has a longer beard than you?” – “How dare you? That’s my wife!” This is not the way that new friendships are forged. Brotherhoods however are. These kind of funny moments seem to be an exception in the middle part of Jackson’s “Hobbit” trilogy. It is often compared to the gloomy “The Two Towers”, Jackson’s favourite film of the “Rings” trilogy… It doesn’t happen often that a director competes with himself. But Peter Jackson is not afraid of comparisons with his “LotR” spectacles, after all his new trilogy has another, lighter tone according to the book.
Of course, even with those moments of humor, darkness pervades this second chapter. No where is that more personified than in the incredibly anticipated reveal of the dragon Smaug. Though some of us may think that we’ve seen a decent amount of the dragon in the trailers, his full design has remained secret – held back until we can all sit down in our theater seats next month and behold the Old Worm towering above us.
The only detail revealed in interviews is that the artists of effects company WETA have sought influence from real world reptiles. However they emphasize that not all anatomical peculiarities of reptiles can be depicted in large scale. Richard Armitage alias Thorin reveals that he imagined his nemesis developed on computer screens as a giant, black beast.
The magazine also drops the hint that we can likely expect Smaug’s attack on Laketown, and his fateful confrontation with Bard the Bowman, to take place in the final film “There and Back Again”, due out next year. Another spoilerish detail is presented in the form of a picture taken on-set, showing director Peter Jackson standing above Ian McKellen and Richard Armitage – seated together at a table inside what looks a great deal like The Prancing Pony in the village of Bree. Add this to the fact that the first track of Howard Shore’s The Desolation of Smaug album is called “The Quest for Erebor”, and we have further evidence that this may, in fact, be our prologue for the film (the album title is taken from “The Quest of Erebor”, a tale found in Professor Tolkien’s Unfinished Tales, recounting the meeting between Thorin and Gandalf before the Unexpected Party).
Click here to read more of the piece from CINEMA Magazine (courtesy of ThorinOakenshield.net‘s translation) – focusing, among other things, on the design of various sets, the creation of the Elven warrior Tauriel (and a certain amount of flirting that comes her way), and how the expansion of story provided opportunities for fleshing out many of the story’s secondary characters.