1. Warner Bros Logo
deej: Interesting how the studio logos appear wooden; I don’t think that was done for the first 2 Hobbit films.
Garfeimao: Love the new titles, with the Wood and Stone feel to them.
greendragon: don’t love the wonky flying titles. But, no biggie.
Kelvarhin: I’m wondering if they’re going with the wooden look in the actual movie or if it’s just for the trailers, I’m hoping it’s just the trailers.
Sarumann: The flying logos are nice, but I feel they’re a little overdone and gimmicky. I much preferred the one shot of all three together.
Mithril: Is it wood or is it stone? The Warner Bros. logo and the MGM logos look like striated golden stone, but the New Line logo looks like wood. The end Hobbit logo looks like chiseled stone. It’s confusing and, it takes me out of my anticipation for the trailer and leaves me wondering about the logo.
Elessar: Logos are different for sure. Kind of cool.
Quickbeam: How much money did they spend creating these 3D logos? They tilt, moving through computer space, yet possess an aged crumbly stone texture to feel Middle-earthy.
Aragorn the Elfstone: It’s amusing to think that 2 years ago, I would have cringed at starting off the teaser with a 3D effect such as this. But I’ve been so completely won over by PJ’s 48 FPS 3D cinematography that these titles just make me giggle with anticipation at slipping on the 3D glasses once more.
Ainu Laire: To clarify to all readers, well, reading this, I did not read my fellow staff members’ comments before writing mine. You may find some repetition. That said, one cannot help but be impressed at how /awesome/ logos in movies look today compared to a couple decades ago.
2. MGM Logo
3. New Line still hanging in there…
grammaboodawg: The presence of these opening credits is really setting the tone for the film compared to the previous two films. It’s dark, intense, and slightly off kilter.
Ainu Laire: It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s… the reason the Hobbit took so long to get out of legal dead ends! Look at all those studios!
4. Bilbo contemplates the ramifications of The Battle of the Five Armies
deej: Bilbo looks lost; what (or who) is beyond him in that room?
Garfeimao: Bilbo sitting alone, deep in thought. But the eye is drawn to the room behind him, with the shaft of light on a Dwarven statue. As in Moria, a shaft of light illuminates Balin’s tomb, is that what is going on here? Is this a tomb, and if so, is it an old one, or currently in use? The rest of the room is too dimly lit for my human eyes, except to say there are cobwebs, and lumps under blankets/sheets/cloaks/shrouds.
greendragon: A stunned Bilbo sits somewhere in Erebor, near the bodies of those who fell in battle. This is an extraordinary, heartbreaking image.
Kelvarhin: Bilbo looks completely shattered, like he can’t believe what’s happened, truly heartbreaking.
Sarumann: I love this shot! It’s clearly after the battle is over, and strikes me as a bit of a callback to ROTK, and the shot of Gandalf sitting alone after Pippin finishes singing his song to Denethor. It’s truly heartbreaking. The question on everybody’s mind is, of course, who are the three bodies in the background?
Mithril: From the moment I saw this opening shot, I thought of Balin’s Tomb. It is framed the same way and has the shaft of light shining down on the casket. It is clearly a visual reference.
As far as the spiderwebs indicating it can’t be a newly setup room, The Lonely Mountain has been empty except for Smaug for years, and spiderwebs that large are no easy task to clear away. In the midst of a battle, or right afterwards, everything would be makeshift, and they probably wouldn’t take the time to clean up.
What looks like three shrouds are visible. I kept thinking, they were too small to be bodies, but then I remembered they could be Dwarves. :'(
grammaboodawg: After much examination, this is the one scene that will break hearts. Far down the hall into the chamber are what appear to be at least 2 covered remains; occupied boots resting to the right of the shrouds. Bilbo’s small, lost, grief-stricken posture on the bench relays the devastation. It’s an incredibly sad and disturbing image.
Elessar: Bilbo looking sad and alone. Why is he looking that way? Is this later in the film or is it him thinking about betraying Thorin.
Quickbeam: Familiar colors and composition to the Chamber of Mazarbul, but I can’t see (as easily as other TORn staffers can see) the shrouded bodies in the background as recognizable *bodies*.
Ainu Laire: Dead people *leaves it to other staffers to say something more eloquent*
5. Close-up on Bilbo
Garfeimao: this is when Bilbo is talking about how he’ll remember everything, the good, the bad, those who lived and those who did not. You can almost see the tears about to spill out.
Sarumann: I’m just going to talk about Bilbo’s speech in this frame, even though it carries over many others. I love how this sets the stage for the Red Book of Westmarch, with Bilbo talking about how he will remember all that has happened. This is an important moment for Bilbo, as it will pretty much define him for the rest of his life.
Mithril: The sequence makes it look like Bilbo is talking to Tauriel, but it’s dark where he is, and she is outside. I think he’s still sitting in the same place as the previous shot. Do they cut to Tauriel to imply he is remembering her?
grammaboodawg: To see this loyal, wonderful hobbit so broken and filled with grief is heartbreaking. His eyes look swollen from weeping.
Elessar: The start of Bilbo’s speech. I love it! Such a quick and powerful moment from the movie.
Quickbeam: Here we witness Bilbo’s nascent storytelling instincts coming out.
Aragorn the Elfstone: Who is Bilbo speaking to here? The dark hair makes me think Thorin. Is this before their falling out? The phenomenal relationship set up by the writers and executed by Martin Freeman and Richard Armitage is one of the best things about these films, and it will be heartbreaking to see it deteriorate throughout the final act.
6. Close-up on Tauriel
Garfeimao: What gets me is there is a huge battle going on behind Tauriel, so what has held her attention in the opposite direction?
greendragon: The cares of war show in her face; and on which side has she chosen to fight? (Where is this? Possibly in the ruins of Dale?)
Kelvarhin: We can see a battle going on behind Tauriel, but she seems shocked by something in the other direction.
grammaboodawg: It looks like Tauriel has, once again, been in the middle of war. There are amoured bodies on the ground, and it looks like the townsfolk are still worked up.
Elessar: Tauriel there is a battle going on. This better be important.
Quickbeam: I’m pleased to see this kind of fear in an Elf’s eyes. Tauriel has more to do in this story than be Kili’s distracting crush.
Aragorn the Elfstone: I have no idea what Tauriel is looking at here, but it’s as good a time as any to raise my hand and announce myself a big fan. Playing a non-Tolkien character can be a thankless job, and Ms. Lilly has given a great performance.
Ainu Laire: I like Tauriel. I’ll like her even more if they nix that ridiculous Dwarf-Elf hinted relationship. I don’t know what it’s supposed to be, really. But for a character who Tolkien never wrote, she’s not that bad on her own at all.
7. Gandalf rides into Dale
Garfeimao: Weapons rack set up in Dale, you gotta wonder if this is something they found within one of the burnt out buildings. Gandalf is seen riding into frame.
greendragon: Is this another shot in the ruins of Dale? Looks like Gandalf has by now returned from Dol Guldur and joined the Battle of Five Armies. Great sword rack – is that elves providing swords for men?
Mithril: Gandalf riding into Dale(?) Riding implies that he has just gotten there, just like when he would ride up to save the day on Shadowfax. Has he just gotten there from Dol Guldur?
Elessar: Here comes Gandalf. I’m assuming this is him telling folks Azog is on his way.
Quickbeam: I wanted to be *that* extra in the background of TBOTFA, racking up some weapons custom made by WETA. Lucky guy.
Aragorn the Elfstone: Gandalf comes storming into the ruins of Dale, unlike his quiet return in the novel. This really is a quintessential example of the difference between Tolkien’s book and Jackson’s massive retelling of The Quest for Erebor.
Ainu Laire: Gearing for war! With the Dwarves likely at this point. Is this a spoiler free commentary? Well, my comments might have spoilers below. Be warned! 77 year old spoilers abound! Disclaimer: yes, we know it’s still a little less than two months until 77 years to the Hobbit’s publishing date but that 76 year-300-something-day-spoiler looks really clunky.
8. Inside Dale
Garfeimao: Is Gandalf riding a Clydesdale?
grammaboodawg: Gandalf has arrived as the townsfolk prepare for conflict. He’s in full-gallop as he passes through much the same way he will do riding through the many-leveled streets of Minas Tirith.
Quickbeam: I can’t remember the name of Gandalf’s lovely horse throughout these two final films. Was this horse the same one still on loan from Beorn?
9. Soldiers in Dale
greendragon: This is battle on a huge scale. The crowds of soldiers and weapons, with Gandalf riding through on a horse, are very reminiscent of Gondor.
Quickbeam: Ruins of Dale. Everyone quite busy arming themselves before the coming storm. This part of the story reflects Tolkien’s chapter title: “The Gathering of the Clouds.”
Ainu Laire: This is the new previously completely and utterly never before mentioned new frame-rate, 64 fps. Get the blur and nausea of battle like you’ve never experienced it before!
10. Night-time in Lake-town
Garfeimao: Lake-town deep in slumber
greendragon: Poor, beautiful Lake-town
Kelvarhin: Lake-town looking so beautiful and peaceful.
Sarumann: We all know the quote that Smaug will be a “killing machine”, and here we can see why. That is a lot of destruction for one shot!
Mithril: Lake-town doesn’t stand a chance against Smaug. Even though it’s on the water, it’s all made out of wood. The town will be nothing but kindling after the dragon has made several passes at it. Even the water won’t be safe with all the burning buildings collapsing into it. It’s going to be terrifying to watch people scrambling for their lives.
grammaboodawg: It’s lights out in Lake-town. I wonder if it’s the way each evening normally is, or if they’re as clueless of what is coming as they seem to be when they locked up Bard?
Quickbeam: Venice at night. How lovely. But something will shatter this peace….
Aragorn the Elfstone: I’ll admit it. After the Comic-Con poster, I expected (worried?) the teaser to focus mostly on Smaug. But this shot pretty much says it all where he’s concerned, doesn’t it? Thankfully, the teaser sets up the right expectations for the final film and shows that there’s more to the resolution of this story than the Chiefest and Greatest of Calamities.
Ainu Laire: I feel incredibly bad for all the extras in those houses. Dramatic irony will be within the whole audience (hopefully) as they see peaceful, beautiful Lake-town enjoying a fine winter’s evening…
11. Smaug attacks Lake-town
deej: This scene give credence to Smaug’s proclamation “I am fire; I am death”
Garfeimao: The Fury of a Fire Drake made manifest
Kelvarhin: And then this happens Amazing shots of Smaug raining fire on the unsuspecting town though.
grammaboodawg: Even after all the times we saw Smaug blazing away in the chambers, nothing could prepare us for his powerful reach in the open!
Quickbeam: In the words of the late Sir Ralph Richardson, starring most notably as Ulrich the Wizard in the 1981 classic DRAGONSLAYER (which immediately comes to mind with this shot), I can only say quietly in awe: “Draco…. Dracorum….”
Ainu Laire: *insert fireball WHOOMP here*
12. Lake-town burning
grammaboodawg: Wow! Even the water is on fire!
Quickbeam: How can the surface of the Long Lake be flammable? The science-minded part of me questions this.
Ainu Laire: If done successfully, I will feel really bad for everyone there when watching the film. At the moment, I cannot help but marvel at how flipping cool this looks! I hope Smaug is able to show his full glory before Bard downs him.
13. Smaug “I am Fire, I am Death!”
grammaboowdawg: It’s amazing the Smaug seems to have targeted the platforms or sea-level of the structures leaving the rooftops untouched… until the next pass. What an amazing picture!
Elessar: HGTV’s new restoration show is starting nicely. lol Very cool moment seeing Smaug finally take out Laketown. Awesome!
Quickbeam: It appears Smaug could incinerate the entirety of Lake-town in just two or three passes.
14. Legolas and Tauriel and the Lake-town survivors looking at the remains of Lake-town
deej: Legolas and Tauriel must be having a difficult time processing the death and destruction they’ve just witnessed in Lake-town.; as relatively young elves, they probably wouldn’t have had much experience dealing with loss.
Garfeimao: You don’t see the faces of Legolas or Tauriel, but the fact they are just standing there, hands down, they seem to be dumbfounded by the destruction they see.
greendragon: Lake-town refugees; with their town a smouldering ruin in the background. Heartbreaking.
Kelvarhin: Legolas and Tauriel seem shell-shocked. The image with the survivors and the smouldering remains of Lake-town behind them is heartbreaking.
Sarumann: I know that some may say that the the fact that Bilbo says “And those that did not [survive].” over this shot is proof that Tauriel will be among them. I am standing by my (minority) opinion that she will actually live through this movie!
Mithril: Surrounded by refugees, Legolas and Tauriel look on as Lake-town smolders. I’m guessing this is after Smaug has fallen. The scene where he is torching the town is at night. This is full daylight, and they are too calm for a rampant dragon to still be abroad. At least we know these two Elves make it to the final battle.
grammaboodawg: I wonder when and how Tauriel left Lake-town during Smaug’s attack? She’s on the shore with the other survivors, and Legolas has returned from his pursuit of Bolg.
Elessar: Legolas and Tauriel looking over those that survived Smaug. I think realizing you’ve gotta come together to overcome evil.
Quickbeam: And indeed he does incinerate Esgaroth — but who has survived? Some humans and a couple of Elves.
Ainu Laire: I love destroyed Lake-town on the other side! I had not noticed that the first time I saw the trailer. As one who has seen wildfires, I can assure readers who live in less dry areas of the world that that looks very realistic. The landscape and the mix of CGI more or less flawlessly combined never fails to impress me.
15. Lake-town survivors heading for sanctuary
deej: Lake-town refugees; reminiscent of the Edoras people on their way to Helm’s Deep.
Garfeimao: Another refugee scene, but this time with the destroyed home behind them. Also, another panorama shot that shows why New Zealand is Middle-earth
greendragon: Ah, the sweeping New Zealand vista… Once again, poor Lake-town. This appears to be more refugees leaving – reminding me of ‘fleeing to Helm’s Deep’.
Kelvarhin: Beautiful New Zealand. Though this scene does make me think of the “fleeing to Helm’s Deep” scene in TTT.
Sarumann: The march of the refugees. Again, as a callback to the march from Edoras to Helm’s Deep, this is an effective shot – particularly with the smoldering ruins of Lake-town in the background. And speaking of callbacks, now we hear Pippin’s song. It’s a truly heartbreaking song, and it works so perfectly with this teaser!
Mithril: Lake-town refugees making a trek to safety? I wonder why they have gone so far up the mountain. In the book, they build makeshift camps by the lake. Are they going to Dale?
Quickbeam: I kinda like the change in topography around the Long Lake environment (as compared to Tolkien’s description of the land, which was much less mountainous).
Aragorn the Elfstone: If ever there was a truly LotR-esque shot in these films, this would be it. How fitting that we hear the opening lines of Billy Boyd’s Edge of Night over it. It was impossible to not be anticipating it after the reports from Comic-Con came pouring in. But I can only imagine the emotional impact it had without knowing it was coming. Even so, it still packed a wallop.
Ainu Laire: Best commercial for New Zealand, especially since they killed its only dragon.
16. Lake-town survivors with the smouldering Lake-town in the distance
grammaboodawg: I’ve looked at this very intensely, and it looks like they could be survivors leaving the burned-out town walking along paths single-file on their way to the Lonely Mountain. Or it could be Dain and the dwarves on their way to join Thorin. But with the amount of smoke that is still pouring from the rubble, I think its survivors.
Quickbeam: As refugees leave, look carefully for Smaug’s carcass near (or even on top of) the ruins of Lake-town. The dragon’s body is simply not there. Will it be added by digital artists later? Is it hidden within the plumes of acrid smoke?
17. This December
Mithril: “This December”
Quickbeam: It’s funny and often puzzling how many noobs still ask me: “When is the next Hobbit film coming out?” They clearly don’t remember the release pattern of the LOTR Trilogy.
Ainu Laire: *looks at calendar* *sighs*
18. Fili, Kili, Bofur and Oin on stairway in Erebor
Garfeimao: I think it very likely this is the 4 Dwarves from Lake-town rejoining the Company of Thorin. The vastness of space within Erebor never ceases to amaze me.
greendragon: in Erebor – looks like Kili, Fili, Bofur, Oin. So this would be the four dwarves who remained behind in Lake-town in DoS; is this their first chance to return to Erebor?
Kelvarhin: Fili, Kili, Bofur and Oin return to Erebor. Really love the way they’ve done the interiors of Erebor.
Sarumann: This looks like the Esgaroth Four (Kili, Fili, Bofur and Oin) arriving in Erebor – probably to tell Thorin that Lake-town is under attack. Given the way things left off in the last film, I don’t think Thorin is going to be too overly concerned by this.
Mithril: Four Dwarves descending stairs in Erebor. Are they heading towards the exit? After lightening the image and closer examination, I think it is Oin, Kili, Bofur and Fili. Perhaps this shows them returning to the Lonely Mountain.
grammaboodawg: Is that Balin descending a staircase deeper into the chamber? It looks untouched by Smaug.
Quickbeam: The previous draconian resident being absent; the remaining Company chance a deeper exploration within the Lonely Mountain.
Ainu Laire: Moria, only cooler. I do love the look of Erebor’s interior and cannot wait to see more in the final film.
19. Kili helping to barricade the doors
Garfeimao: We now see Kili and another dwarf righting a fallen statue, or moving it. We also see they are in their found armor. Is this clean up, or are they moving things in order to barricade the entrance?
greendragon: Restoring fallen splendours, or preparing bits of broken statues to be used in catapults??
Kelvarhin: Kili and one of the other dwarves lifting a fallen statue, is it part of the barricading of the entrance?
Sarumann: This seems to be some rebuilding or fortification happening. My guess would be that it’s in preparation for battle, as there is a particular spoiler that would make this very unlikely to be taking place after.
Mithril: Kili and another dwarf (?) hoisting up a statue. I kind of doubt they are restoring it to its place, but more likely going to hurl it down on their enemies
grammaboodawg: Kili, Fili and others are trying to right this statue. Is it Thráin’s, or Thrór’s?
Quickbeam: We know for sure Kili survives the dragon’s attack — but isn’t he still too sickly/weak for such heavy lifting (assuming much of these images are shown in chronological order of the film’s story)?
Aragorn the Elfstone: Post Lake-town destruction downtime for the Dwarves. I have to imagine that there wouldn’t be much of this if they’d stuck with doing just two films. I wasn’t a supporter of the three film expansion, but silver linings abound.
20. Close-up of Bard
Garfeimao: Bard with at least two others, in Dale. He seems rather uncertain with what he is seeing.
greendragon: Hero shot!
Sarumann: Look at Bard being all noble-looking!
Mithril: Bard looking heroic and determined.
Elessar: I love Luke Evans as Bard.
Quickbeam: A Welsh lad playing a descendant of Dale. Actually good casting here.
Ainu Laire: He got some tips from Aragorn in the Kingly Look, to say the least. Aragorn of course went back in time to communicate this.
21. Thranduil searching amongst the dead
deej: Beautiful shot of Thranduil walking through the ruins of Dale. Perhaps he’s having regrets not helping them when asked?
Garfeimao: Thranduil entering a square in Dale alone with many bodies strewn throughout, this happens to the line of “And there are many paths to tread” from Pippin’s song, very fitting. I do love the deer statue behind him, especially since it seems the White Hart scene is back in the Extended Edition.
greendragon: Thranduil with his Patronus? Dead bodies in the ruins of Dale – the aftermath of the BoFA. Elves and Lake-town men alike have fallen.
Kelvarhin: Thranduil walking through Dale, looking at all the dead bodies, both men and Elves. Not sure if he’s just surveying the destruction or looking for Legolas.
Sarumann: We see Thranduil walking through what looks like the ruins of Dale. And there are some fresh corpses on the ground (Dwarf and Elf side by side – nice touch), so this is likely after the battle. Is Thranduil starting to soften and see the greater danger in the world?
Mithril: Thranduil in Dale walking past the fallen, both Elves and Men. Is he the only one who survived this particular battle? Is this his awakening, where he realizes that Elves, Men and Dwarves must fight as one?
grammaboodawg: Thranduil has finally arrived. Perhaps seeing this devastation will cool his attitude of autonomy.
Elessar: Thranduil looking over the losses suffered. I don’t know if this will soften his resolve any.
Quickbeam: How long since Thranduil has personally seen the horrors of war?
Ainu Laire: I love the artistry of this shot. I can only wonder what is going through Thranduil’s mind.
22. Galadriel walking through Dol Guldur
Garfeimao: Galadriel, barefoot, walking into Dol Guldur, unafraid and unfettered by shoes, no matter the rough terrain.
greendragon: That barefoot can only be Galadriel’s… That’s a blackened skull in the foreground. Sinister place – Dol Guldur?
Kelvarhin: Galadriel walking barefoot through Dol Guldur? Wouldn’t have thought she’d go into battle without shoes on…
Sarumann: Here’s a bit of Galadriel in Dol Guldur, kissing an unconscious Gandalf on the forehead. This is most likely after the assault on the fortress. We’re seeing a lot of aftermath in this teaser!
Mithril: Why would Galadriel be walking barefoot here? It’s obviously dangerous. I assumed she was at Dol Guldur. As someone else pointed out, could this be a dream sequence being had by Gandalf? Like when Frodo has the vision of her in the pass of Cirith Ungol, and she holds out her hand to him. I wonder if her kiss will be the thing that wakes him.
grammaboodawg: This moment of Galadriel in the ruin of Dol Guldur is incredible! Her beauty and power is so evident as she easily moves through the jagged ground.
Quickbeam: Another direct homage to PJ’s previous familiar shots from LOTR. Remember right before The Mirror of Galadriel scene? Same lovely, 7000 year-old feet, padding softly across the dark ground.
Ainu Laire: Lady of the Galadhrim or not, that has to be a hazard with all the weapons and sharp pointy rocks lying about. Don’t try this at home.
23. Kiss of life Elven-style
deej: Could this be after Gandalf is rescued in Dol Guldur? Heartbreaking, in any case.
Garfeimao: The tenderness shown here will show why Galadriel is so heartbroken when Gandalf falls in Moria. Gandalf looks completely broken.
greendragon: And there she is. Kissing a wounded Gandalf – presumably after the White Council have faced down the Necromancer in Dol Guldur.
grammaboodawg: How wonderful is this? Galadriel has come to help Gandalf as she promised; but we don’t know if he was even able to reach out to her in voice or thought. It could even be that Radagast alerted her of Gandalf going into Dol Guldur alone.
Elessar: Galadriel kissing Gandalf on the head. This is the scene that rumors caused people to totally freak out. Seems like nothing to me as far as that goes. I think its going to help really add to when The Fellowship tells her about Gandalf’s death.
Quickbeam: My single favorite aspect of the whole Hobbit Trilogy: more direct interpersonal moments between Mithrandir and the Lady of Lothlorien.
Aragorn the Elfstone: Is this the most emotional frame I’ve yet seen from this trilogy? It may well be.
Ainu Laire: A time for Seriousness. I dislike the shipping jokes between these two, because I think it undermines the deep friendship that is being displayed here. I look forward to seeing this dynamic more in the third film.
Quickbeam: I remember a little movie from 1985 starring Harrison Ford about a little Amish boy who witnessed a murder…
25. The Dwarves and the golden hoard
Garfeimao: Thorin in the treasure room, the other dwarves up above it. Is he still looking for the Arkenstone?
greendragon: Looks like Bilbo and the four dwarves returned from Lake-town (Fili, Kili, Bofur, Oin) gazing down on Thorin, who is transfixed by treasure. The gold sickness takes a hold…
Kelvarhin: Thorin appears to be still searching for the Arkenstone, while the other dwarves look on.
Mithril: Inside Erebor with mountains of gold in the foreground. I think its the same sequence with the four Dwarves going down the stairs but from another angle.
grammaboodawg: Thorin is standing alone at the top of the stairs (just to the left), and the dwarves can be seen lined up far above on the outcrop in the upper just off-center part of the picture.
Quickbeam: Far in the background you’ll see Balin, Dwalin, Bilbo, but not all of the nine Dwarves who were split off from the four remaining in Lake-town.
Ainu Laire: One can understand the gold fever that went through Elves, Dwarves, and Men with a shot like that. I mean, talk about a lot of gold! If they have supply-rich neighbors to trade the gold with to help rebuild, it’s no wonder folks turned their thought to Erebor.
26. The madness of King Thorin
Garfeimao: Is that desperation or madness in Thorin’s face?
greendragon: He knows he’s a doomed man; like someone in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, aware that the disease is gradually taking them. Poor Thorin.
Kelvarhin: The gold-sickness has really gotten hold of Thorin
Mithril: “…the edge of night” Thorin looking like the gold-lust has taken him
grammaboodawg: Thorin is moving deeper into his obsession with the treasure.
Quickbeam: That’s a lot of treasure to comb through before you find that Arkenstone, Mister Thorin.
27. Clothed for war
deej: The dwarves, ready for battle. And Bilbo in his Mithril shirt!
Garfeimao: The dwarves all kitted out for battle, with Bilbo in his Mithril shirt watching them pass. In the trailer, you can see that Thorin is on the opposite side of the procession.
greendragon: It does look like Bilbo is wearing the mithril shirt here. The dwarves know this is serious business: ‘It is possible we go to our deaths; the last march of the dwarves…’
Kelvarhin: The Dwarves look amazing in their armour! Love seeing Bilbo in his Mithril shirt too.
Sarumann: That Dwarven armor looks fantastic! And Aidan Turner really wears it well!
Mithril: The Company marching to battle in their armor. Bilbo wearing the Mithril shirt looks on.
grammaboodawg: What a shot! Bilbo is wearing the mithril shirt looking across and through the armour-decked dwarves at Thorin as they solemnly march by. I’m thinking they’ve just had words.
Quickbeam: Brand new hero-armor for the boys!
Aragorn the Elfstone: Dwarves ready for action! But wait…who are those particular dwarves in the front of the shot? *sobs uncontrollably*
28. The Defining Chapter
Sarumann: This is an interesting choice of words. In the larger scheme of things, this is certainly the defining chapter, as it will bring the events of ‘The Hobbit’ to a close while also setting the stage for LOTR. This says to me that they’re making a very momentous film here.
Mithril: “The Defining Chapter”
Quickbeam: I’ll believe it when I see it.
Aragorn the Elfstone: Okay, so I know these title cards are pure emotional manipulation on WB’s part to make me get all nostalgic about the entire Middle-earth film franchise, all the way back to The Fellowship of the Ring in 2001…but let’s be honest. It worked.
29. Close-up of Bard and Legolas
Garfeimao: We finally see the context of the meeting between Bard and Legolas, as the seriousness of the Lake-town refugees is brought fully to the foreground.
greendragon: Legolas and Bard join forces in Lake-town…
Sarumann: Maybe this is showing that Bard has been given command of a battalion of Elves, but I think that this is more likely Bard approaching Thranduil to parley for peace. He’s certainly the kind of Elf King who would have lots of soldier guarding him.
Mithril: Bard and Legolas talking, then Legolas looking towards what?
grammaboodawg: Is Bard asking Legolas if his loyalty is with Thranduil or with the Lake-town survivors?
Quickbeam: “Luke, you look too much like Will Turner. I can’t look at you without memories of what Gore Verbinski put me through.”
Ainu Laire: This shot was bothering me for a moment until it hit me: this looks exactly like a shot between Legolas and Aragorn on Parth Galen from the first film. Even the color tone is very similar.
30. Bard in front of the Elven army
Garfeimao: The Mirkwood Elves seem to have just turned up, surprising the Lake-town refugees (seen to the right). My guess is they weren’t there the night before.
greendragon: As the elves come to fight alongside men once more.
Mithril: It seems to me the Elven army is at attention for Bard. Although it could be Thranduil walking in with an Elven entourage from the right. Bard looks concerned.
grammaboodawg: What an amazing shot of the Mirkwood Elves. Bard must be overwhelmed just seeing this precise and impressive troop.
Quickbeam: These Elves look as elegant as the ones seen in the Last Alliance of Elves & Men shown in the prologue of FOTR.
Aragorn the Elfstone: This stunning display of the Elven soldiers (making way for Bard?) is, for me, one of the shots in this teaser that really drives home the different visual aesthetic of this trilogy from The Lord of the Rings. Even with minimal visual effects, the Digital Cinematography delivers such a distinct feel and look that separates it from the earlier films. Most noticeably – the armor on the elves becomes so tangible and close to the touch that it would almost look fake if it wasn’t so expertly crafted.
Ainu Laire: Weta Workshop fan girl moment here.
31. The Elven army parts before Bard
deej: Love this shot of the Mirkwood army parting for Bard; are they taking direction from him, or are they just taking him to Thranduil?
Garfeimao: Bard is surprised as he approaches their ranks, as if he is expected.
greendragon: Hero shot! And some gorgeous elven armour.
grammaboodawg: The elves have shown they are following Bard as leader… or at least as one to honour for killing Smaug.
Quickbeam: It’s strange having sudden respect and authority, isn’t it, Bard?
Ainu Laire: Bard doesn’t really seem to know exactly what to make of this. I hope we get to see him all kingly. I admittedly have a soft spot for kings, especially of the dark haired, Mannish type. And Bard is one character that I really do enjoy in the films so far. It is a character I would have liked Tolkien to flesh out more. As he cannot anymore, I do not mind at all Jackson giving his interpretation.
32. Of The Middle-earth Saga
Sarumann: Again, this is an interesting choice of words. I don’t think we’ve really seen the two trilogies combined together into one “saga” in any official capacity before now. And calling this the “defining chapter” of it all puts a lot of weight on this movie’s shoulders.
Mithril: “Of the Middle-Earth Saga”. So I wonder why they are considering this “The Defining Chapter of the Middle-earth Saga”. Because it’s when Sauron returns to Mordor? Or just because after this comes the Fellowship of the Ring.
Quickbeam: Interesting that “OF TOLKIEN’S SAGA” has been recrafted “OF THE MIDDLE-EARTH SAGA”
33. Close-up of Bilbo
Garfeimao: Bilbo is now in the midst of the battle, observing it, while others move around him. He looks tired and worried.
greendragon: We can definitely see the collar of the mithril shirt here.
Kelvarhin: Bilbo facing the reality of war.
Mithril: Bilbo hunkered down by a rock. It’s snowing. He looks really troubled.
grammaboodawg: The strain and fear are so apparent on Bilbo’s face. When was the last time he saw something that made him smile and lightened his heart?
Quickbeam: There’s more pain in his eyes than ever before. Good job, Martin.
Aragorn the Elfstone: As warned, Bilbo Baggins will never be the same again. Neither will our perception of the character throughout the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Ainu Laire: Waking up from unconsciousness? Maybe? *hopeful*
34. Balin, Dwalin and Fili on a war-chariot
Garfeimao: A Dwarven Battle Chariot, doesn’t look like it was designed to drive on ice. Check out the wicked sharp protrusions from the wheels. It appears Balin is driving, with Dwalin and Kili along for the ride, maybe another, not sure. A team of 4 goats or rams pulls it. You can see the ruins of Dale before them. They appear to be on a river or stream that flows from Erebor down to Dale and the lake beyond. Also, there appears to be a mounted crossbow on the front of the chariot, with a stack of bolts above it, jiggling away as the cart careens down the frozen river.
greendragon: I’m guessing this is Dain driving this chariot thing. Those look like war rams, and that red coat and leather belt look like dwarven clothing, but not a dwarf we’ve seen before. And the spikes coming out of those wheels are vicious! Looks like something Dain would drive to me. (It could be Balin – he does wear this colour (see frame 57) – but the hair doesn’t look white enought to me…) Def a dwarf, anyway – look at the broad shoulders and short legs. In this shot, that looks like Oin on the right – hard to tell… They seem to be racing towards the ruins of Dale.
Kelvarhin: I guess I’ll have to wait till the film comes out, but for now I’m not really liking this war-chariot bit. Can’t see where it fits in.
Sarumann: Well, this is different! This could be Dain charging into battle, as this doesn’t seem to be a Dwarf we’ve seen before, though he does have some of the Company with him (Kili, Fili and Dwalin). It looks like he’s intercepted by some wargs, though I’m not thrilled with the idea of an ice fight. It’s kind of overdone, in my opinion. Still, that battle wagon looks impressive!
Mithril: You can see Erebor in the background and Dale ahead. I see Dwalin in the front of the cart and Kili is shooting his bow off the left side, another dwarf is on the right. Is Balin driving? Or is it Dain?
Quickbeam: The Running River has already frozen over. This chariot thingy is another unexpected surprise from PJ.
Aragorn the Elfstone: As someone who has mixed feelings about the barrel escape in The Desolation of Smaug – this sequence makes me nervous. But…WARGS!!!
Ainu Laire: A war chariot? Well, I suppose the Wainriders were not the only ones who could have them in Middle-earth. Maybe the Dwarves even invented them! Maybe! Tolkien never did say!
35. Closer look at the war-chariot
deej: I wish I could tell who’s driving the goat chariot; my first thought was Balin, but now I’m not so sure.
greendragon: That’s Dwalin in the front of the chariot – you can see his tattoos, and his axe. Looks like Kili on the left, with his bow.
grammaboodawg: Who in the world is driving this Roman-chariot-like speeder!?
Elessar: Not sure what’s going on but I like it from this pic.
Quickbeam: Because every Middle-earth movie needs a car chase.
Ainu Laire: Why are the handful of Dwarves riding out, anyway? Maybe to ‘rescue’ the Lake-town Four? Maybe to find something resembling food? Maybe because they were bored with the gold and wanted to try a new sport?
36. The war-chariot sliding on ice
greendragon: Now that looks like Fili on the right. So I think this is Dwalin, Fili and Kili with Dain – charging in to battle…
grammaboodawg: Whatever is going on with this icy race, it’s happening on the river that runs past Erebor’s front door.
Quickbeam: I mean a *Pod-race*….. Every Middle-earth movie needs a Pod-race.
37. Warg attack
Garfeimao: Looking in the opposite direction, we see two Wargs riding up the frozen river towards the chariot, with Erebor just behind. Gives us a clear picture of where this frozen river or stream is.
greendragon: … to confront some wargs head on, apparently. We see Erebor behind – so they must be charging out from the walls or Erebor. (I don’t love this ‘cavorting on the ice’ sequence.)
Kelvarhin: Oh, maybe it was to do another Warg attack…
Quickbeam: These look smaller than Wargs. Just a bit smaller – yet Wargs they must be.
38. The Wargs head for the war-chariot
grammaboodawg: Could this be Dain running point to see what was out there?
Quickbeam: You ever play “chicken” inside a Dwarven chariot against rampaging Wargs? We soon will. I see Dwalin and Balin on this thing, don’t I? But is the driver Dain or someone else?
Ainu Laire: Wargs vs Rams (if I had to put a name to them). Similarity to goat or not, rams and their horns are nasty. I suppose whoever is more deft on the ice would win this one.
39. “Will you have peace or war?”
deej: “Will you have peace, or war?” – Bard, pleading with Thorin to see reason
Garfeimao: Bard does not look happy about offering the choice between Peace or War, he clearly wants a peaceable ending.
greendragon: Hero shot! Is Bard being played up as a hero, by any chance…?
Kelvarhin: If only Thorin would listen
Sarumann: “Will you have peace or war?” What I love most about this line is Luke Evans’ delivery. It’s not a demand so much as a desperate plea. Something says to me that he has already tried and failed to negotiate some kind of peace with Thranduil, and this is his last hope.
Mithril: Bard asks “Will you have peace or war?” But is he talking directly to Thorin? He is outside, but then the shot where Thorin responds, it seems he is inside Erebor.
Elessar: Bard pleading with Thorin to use his head. You can tell he just wants peace.
Quickbeam: The voice of reason will not be just a lost voice in the wilderness….
Ainu Laire: “Will you have peace or war?” If this was BOOK Thorin, he would…
40. From the Director of “The Lord of the Rings” Trilogy
greendragon: In case we’d forgotten… And oh hey, what’s that song from…??
Kelvarhin: No 2 son was reading over my shoulder and said “Oh gee really? I thought they’d just managed to find another Kiwi called Peter Jackson who was also a Director”.
Mithril: “From the Director of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ Trilogy” No kidding.
Elessar: One of the best sets of films ever created.
Quickbeam: They still don’t use Peter Jackson’s name, as a BRAND I mean. Consider how Spielberg’s name is a brand; and in most marketing just his name being associated is preferred instead of mentioning a previous project.
Aragorn the Elfstone: Hey! I know that guy.
Ainu Laire: *Looks towards Thorin impatiently*
41. “I will have war!”
deej: “I will have war!” – Thorin, not listening to reason.
Garfeimao: When Thorin declares he wants War, the look of shock on Kili’s face is evident. BTW, it seems clear that Thorin is wearing Thror’s Crown Helm and armor with the Raven designs.
greendragon: Looking just like Thror. The sickness has him – and Kili is distraught. Heartbreaking.
Kelvarhin: Thorin in the grips of the gold-madness, no longer sees reason. Kili looks horrified.
Sarumann: And Thorin is having none of it! “I will have WAR!” I love how his voice goes slightly demonic on the last word. Between that and Thorin wearing his grandfather’s crown, he has clearly been completely overtaken by the sickness that doomed his forebears. That is both tragic and frightening. Love it!
Mithril: Thorin seems to be responding to Bard, but to me, it seems like they’re in different locations. Kili looks horrified at Thorin’s declaration.
grammaboodawg: Kili’s distressed and confused expression as he watches Thorin shows how much he fears for his uncle.
Elessar: Thorin loosing his mind and going full on Dragon Sickness.
Quickbeam: …. Unless you’re talking to a gold-lust-crazed-over-the-brink Thorin, and then reason falls on deaf ears. Perhaps that glorious crown of Thror (is it really the same one?) is blocking your ears.
Aragorn the Elfstone: With all due respect to Professor Tolkien, I never felt for book Thorin the way I do Mr. Armitage’s interpretation. Whether he’s in the right or wrong, I will be cheering his victories and lamenting his mistakes.
Ainu Laire: Woohoo! Book Thorin and war! Good, good, I was very happy to see this. Alas, poor Thorin. I love that he took up Thror’s helm-crown. Nice symbolism there.
42. Thranduil Warrior King
deej: I think this is just a taste of Thranduil’s fighting skills; if Legolas learned his from his father, I think we’re going to see even better gravity-defying moves from dad.
Garfeimao: Thranduil is a very efficient warrior, he slices through this band of orcs quite easily.
greendragon: Thranduil shows no mercy. It looks to me like he is being attacked by orcs in these shots…
Kelvarhin: Thranduil’s not just a pretty face. Looking ferocious against these orcs.
Sarumann: Battle Thranduil! I have a strong feeling that Lee Pace will pull off graceful and badass unlike any Elf actor we’ve seen so far!
Mithril: Once again, I ask why Thranduil is fighting alone. Where are the other Elves? Maybe this is to showcase his amazing fighting skills. The orcs/goblins have some sturdy armor, yet Thranduil seems fairly exposed. No helm.
grammaboodawg: Is this the ruin of Dale? Thranduil comes prepared for war…wearing his armour
Elessar: Thranduil laying a beat down on some Orcs.
Quickbeam: Lee Pace in his first all-out action set piece. Looking forward to that!
Aragorn the Elfstone: We definitely need more of this guy. Dear The Desolation of Smaug Extended Edition: please rectify.
Ainu Laire: Insert Weta fan girling here. What awesome armor. I sometimes wonder if the Elves in Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth have ever had a debate concerning the practicality of incredibly long hair with rather grabby orcs.
43. Thranduil taking on orcs
Quickbeam: Does this scene remind you of Aragorn fighting at Weathertop?
44. Thrandruil, kicking orc butt in Dale
grammaboodawg: Thranduil is said to be one of the greatest warriors of Middle-earth.
Quickbeam: OR does this scene remind me of Aragorn fighting the first wave of Uruk-hai at Amon Hen?
45. Crazy-eyes close-up of Legolas
Garfeimao: Legolas seems about to go into Battle mode as well. He is wearing a Mithril shirt under his jerkin.
greendragon: Oh dear. Legolas looking like a White Walker again. And I believe he may be “emoting” in this shot… :/
Kelvarhin: What’s with his eyes?! Rather a weird shot of Legolas.
Mithril: Does Legolas realize here that his dad is in trouble and needs assistance? Do we get to see father and son fight together?
grammaboodawg: Legolas looks like he’s come to a decision as to which side he’s on… Thranduil’s or Lake-town. I’m sure Thranduil will not be far behind him given the reality of the situation.
Quickbeam: Do your contact lenses feel comfy today, Orly?
46. Bards kids in Dale
deej: Appears to be Bard’s son and one of his daughters in Dale
Garfeimao: two Lake-towners on the streets of Dale, about to be run over
greendragon: That’s Bain – so presumably his sisters are the two figures in front of him.
Kelvarhin: Looks like Bain and Sigrid, not sure if Tilly is there too though.
Mithril: I don’t think Bard is in control of the cart. It seems to be careening out- of-control.
Quickbeam: This appears to be Bofur (James Nesbitt) and Bard’s daughter Sigrid (Peggy Nesbitt) in the ruins of Dale.
Ainu Laire: Are those Bard’s kids? I hope they are! I really enjoyed them, too. I hope all of them survive. There’s enough death in this film already. At least, hopefully. 77-year-old spoilers.
47. Bard in a cart
deej: Bard on the sled, perhaps trying to rescue them?
Garfeimao: Bard in a runaway cart, trying not to run over his fellow Laketowners. He’s got a sword, he must be on his way to do some damage.
greendragon: Bard coming to the rescue of his kids?
Kelvarhin: Bard about to run over his kids?
Quickbeam: And here comes Bard on a wildly careening cart about to knock over his family? What’s going on the context of this scene? Possibly something after Lake-town is destroyed, and Bard (and his family) join Oin, Kili, Fili, and Bofur, as they head north to Erebor.
Ainu Laire: When did Bard become a swordsman? How many of the audience will actually care if it’s cool enough? Will it remain cool or go into the ridiculous and overdone in that cart? We shall see!
48. Close-up of Kili
Garfeimao: Kili in the midst of battle, just outside Erebor, with a raven shaped rain spigot just behind him. He does look glorious in his Dwarven armor.
Kelvarhin: Kili in his armour
Mithril: Kili reacting in battle.
grammaboodawg: Does Kili see the approaching armies? The dark skies match what we find in the book as the other armies approach.
Quickbeam: Fran and Philippa insisted there would be “hot dwarves,” so there ya go.
Ainu Laire: Kili! Behind you! (maybe)
49. Azog enjoying his power
deej: Amazing shot of Azog addressing the goblin army.
Garfeimao: Azog urging on his minions, complete with their deteriorating banners. Rah Rah Rah, Siss Boom Bah!
greendragon: Oh urgh. Isn’t he dead yet? Someone puh-lease finish him off….
Kelvarhin: Oh for Petes sake, just kill him already!
Sarumann: Azog and his army! And yet another callback – this time to ‘The Two Towers’ with the Uruks’ march on Helm’s Deep. This shot looks very similar.
Mithril: Azog commanding his troops. Someone take him down with an arrow, please.
grammaboodawg: Azog is in his element as the leader of Sauron’s army.
Elessar: Azog leading the troops. I can’t wait until he dies but he’s been pretty cool all the same.
Quickbeam: Impressive shot. How far has software come since MASSIVE was used to do “crowd shots” and “armies in real motion” back in the LOTR Trilogy?
Aragorn the Elfstone: I’ve admittedly never been a huge Azog fan (one of my few instances of Tolkien purism), but this shot is absolutely stunning.
Ainu Laire: “I swear I am my own orc and not one of those maggots from Lord of the Rings!” There was a mirror of this image in one of the original FOTR trailers, if I recall correctly, but it was never used in the film… so I suppose that makes it all right. I wonder if his son (Bolg, for those of you who do not know) is standing nearby or at their front. I wonder if Bolg’s mom is proud of him and Azog. Maybe she is fighting right beside them, counting elf heads just like the rest of them.
Garfeimao: And Bolg is still running around too. Not entirely sure if this is the ruins of Dale, or if he’s back in Dol Guldur.
greendragon: See above (no. 49)
Sarumann: Is this really Bolg about to lay the hurt on Bilbo, or is it just clever editing? If this is the moment that Bilbo puts on the Ring to avoid getting hurt, I worry that it might lessen the impact of that moment. I always liked the idea of Bilbo making a conscious decision to stay out of the fight, and I don’t know if I’ll like him doing it simply out of immediate self defense as much.
Mithril: Bolg looking as ugly as ever.
grammaboodawg: Bolg makes his appearance.
Elessar: Can’t wait for you to die as well.
Quickbeam: Bolg, apparently alive after Legolas has chased him all through Mirkwood (we left off at the last film with Legolas riding after him). So it begs the question of *how* Bolg survives Leggy’s pursuit; and will he meet his final end during the Battle?
Aragorn the Elfstone: Bad Bolg! You stay away from poor Mr. Baggins.
Ainu Laire: He would be cooler if he wasn’t CGI. *ahem* I mean, still cool, but… well, Lurtz is still #1 orc in my heart.
51. One scared little Hobbit
Garfeimao: Bilbo is royally freaked out here, something awful must be coming right towards him, or an out of control Chariot or Wooden wagon, take your pick.
greendragon: Hero shot! (But panicked and dismayed hero…)
Kelvarhin: Bilbo looks totally freaked out, is Bolg (from the previous shot) heading his way?
Mithril: Terrified Bilbo
grammaboodawg: And it looks like Bilbo is his target!
Elessar: What is Bilbo looking at? Probably just the way it is cut but is it Bolg?
Quickbeam: I don’t suppose this poor hobbit has ever seen an army of darkness before.
Ainu Laire: This looks like a good caption contest picture, to be quite frank. I mean, I bet it will be awesome in the film, but he could be seeing so many different things.
52. Dwarves on War Rams!
Garfeimao: Dain’s army of Dwarves arrives via Battle Rams, or maybe they are Mountain Goats, sure footed on this type of terrain to be sure. Check out the armor on their faces and necks, all the better so they can steam roll right over an opposing force with speed and power.
greendragon: The dwarves of the Iron Hills charge into battle!
Kelvarhin: The Iron Hill Dwarves arrive on War Rams!
Sarumann: I really like these rams! I’m assuming this is Dain’s Dwarf army, and they look very forbidding! If this charge is any indication, I can’t wait to see them in battle!
Mithril: Dain’s army to the rescue riding war goats or rams with awesome armor.
grammaboodawg: This has GOT to be Dain appearing on an armoured herd of rams.
Elessar: Dwarves charging into battle?
Quickbeam: Thorin’s cousin Dain Ironfoot has brought his forces from the Iron Hills, where the Longbeards have long dwelt.
Aragorn the Elfstone: I still remember the chill I got down my spine when the Rohirrim rode down onto the Pelennor Fields, battling legions of orcs. Get ready, spine.
Ainu Laire: War goats. Good for mountainous terrain.
53. Armoured War Rams
deej: War Rams!
greendragon: LOVE the look of those war rams.
Kelvarhin: Love the armour they’ve put on the War Rams.
grammaboodawg: What a wonderful counterpoint to the warg riders!!!
Quickbeam: There will be steeds of war quite different from what you’d expect; namely War-Boars and War-Rams!
54. Bard leading the charge
Garfeimao: Bard is leading a band of Laketown people into battle.
greendragon: Hero shot! (Aragorn, anyone…??)
Kelvarhin: Bard showing his leadership skills.
Mithril: Bard rushing into battle Aragon-style.
Quickbeam: I love it when Luke Evans is all pissed off.
Ainu Laire: “My name is not Aragorn!”
Mithril: 54.5 Sauron’s Eye!
Mithril: Right after Bard, for a brief second, the flaming Eye of Sauron fills the screen. Does this indicate Sauron comes to join the battle?!? Or that he is in communication with Azog and the forces of Evil? Or perhaps, that he has returned to Mordor and taken up residence in Barad-dûr?
Quickbeam: Remember Galadriel’s adamant psychic hiss to Frodo: “ONE WHO HAS SEEN THE EYE!”
55. Fili, Kili, Bofur and Oin arrive at Erebor
Garfeimao: Again, this would appear to be the Laketown 4 joining up with Thorin’s Company in Erebor.
greendragon: Classic PJ shot. Bombur is the penultimate dwarf in this line; hard to identify the others.
Kelvarhin: This looks like the missing 4 returning to the fold in Erebor.
Mithril: Once again Oin, Kili, Bofur and Fili running through Erebor to the battle?
grammaboodawg: The dwarves rush across a beautiful, rail-free bridge!
Quickbeam: This overhead shot within Erebor reminds me of the overhead shot of the Fellowship attempting to cross the Bridge of Khazad-dum.
Aragorn the Elfstone: I can’t help but be reminded of the Fellowship running across the Bridge of Khazad-Dum in this shot.
Ainu Laire: What on earth is it with Dwarves and precarious bridges? I mean, really! Hand rails do not take away from its coolness!
56. Elven archers
Garfeimao: The careful arrangement of the Elf army belies the chaos that ensues when the Orcs arrive, so this may well be the point when Thorin has declared he will have War with Man and Elf alike, with no one expecting what happens next.
greendragon: More classic PJ. Great shot.
Mithril: Rows upon rows of Elven archers, reminiscent of the Last Alliance of Elves and Men on the plains of Dagorlad.
grammaboodawg: Another wonderful reflection of the Last Alliance!
Quickbeam: A magnificent phalanx of Elven archers. The tautness of those bowstrings will reflect the taut nerves of the audience as they watch, we presume. Perfect way to build “tension” is to literally show “tension.”
Aragorn the Elfstone: Believe it or not, I initially mistook the Elves here for Gondorian soldiers. It’s the combination of the shape of the helmets and Billy Boyd’s singing.
Ainu Laire: I think I’ve made too many ‘this looks like Lord of the Rings’ jokes already, haven’t I? The music here was superb, I will definitely give it that.
57. “Will you follow me, one last time?”
deej: “Will you follow me…one last time?” – Thorin asking the dwarves to join him made me tear up.
Garfeimao: None of the dwarves look overly happy as Thorin asks them to follow him one last time. The gravity of the whole situation is evident here.
greendragon: Great shot of the company – just a pity Bofur’s face is hidden in this shot.
Kelvarhin: The dwarves all look dismayed as Thorin asks them to follow him one last time…
Sarumann: This shot is getting a lot of scrutiny, because some think there are only 11 Dwarves here. In fact, all are accounted for. The only one you can’t really see is Bofur. But if you look closely at Ori, you can see Bofur’s hat just behind him. He’s there. He’s just obscured. That makes 12. The 13th Dwarf, Thorin, is off screen, asking “Will you follow me?” Yes, all Dwarves are alive and present in this shot.
Mithril: The Company gathered before heading out to battle as Thorin asks”Will you follow me…” Will he get an epic pre-battle speech that will leave us teary-eyed?
grammaboodawg: A very different demeanor to the Company we’ve seen throughout the first 2 installments of this Quest.
Elessar: Gonna be sad losing some of you. This trilogy has taken some heat but its been one hell of a good ride.
Quickbeam: Too bad Bofur is the only one not seen in this nice shot.
Aragorn the Elfstone: You shall be the FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING! Sorry, wrong film.
Ainu Laire: Excellent shot of all the Dwar– oh come on, Bofur, you just needed to stay in that one spot for one second, not move behind the others! Poor Bofur.
58. Gandalf and the Elven Army
Garfeimao: Gandalf in front of the Elven archers, also looks none too happy.
greendragon: Gandalf leads elves – in the BoFA? Or do elves help them out at Dol Guldur – Rivendell elves?
Sarumann: “One last time?” This line just hit me right in the gut. This is the last Middle-earth film we are likely to see. It represents much more to me than just Thorin and his Company. It represents the finality of this entire 13-year journey. I’ll be truly sad to see it end.
Mithril: Cut to Gandalf backed by a regiment of Elven archers. He cannot be hearing Thorin directly since he is outside on the plain and Thorin was in Erebor, but maybe he is turning towards the door to Erebor looking for Thorin?
grammaboodawg: Gandalf is back and leading the poised-for-attack Elven archers. He has a new staff!
Quickbeam: Gandalf still has that pointy hat after all that mischief in Dol Guldur?
Aragorn the Elfstone: Is this Gandalf caught between the Elves and the newly arriving Dwarven army? Or something else, dark and foul?
Ainu Laire: Gandalf the Grey. The original and the best wizard.
59. Tauriel and Legolas chatting
Garfeimao: Not sure when this happens, but it appears Tauriel is giving Legolas another lesson in Middle-earth politics.
greendragon: Somehow Legolas just looks fake in these shots. Not loving it.
Mithril: Cut to Tauriel looking directly at Legolas who looks off at something else. Is it implying she wants to know if he will follow her into battle?
grammaboodawg: Is this the conversation that seals Legolas’ changing opinion of his responsibility to all of Middle-earth’s kindreds and not just Thranduil’s realm?
Quickbeam: These two are about to cause some trouble. Has Leggy finally gotten over his jealous snit?
Aragorn the Elfstone: Tauriel and Legolas in deep conversation against a classic Peter Jackson backdrop. While some tend to criticize PJ for the artificiality of shots like this, I adore them. What I’ve always loved about these Middle-earth films is how they so often look like beautiful paintings. You just don’t see anything like this in works of other directors.
60. Final close-up of Bilbo with the Dwarves in the background
Garfeimao: I feel this is shortly after Smaug has left the Lonely Mountain, and the rest of the dwarves have joined Bilbo to see what is happening to Laketown.
greendragon: Can’t see the mithril shirt here – an earlier moment? Bilbo is wishing he were back in his nice, cosy hobbit hole…
Mithril: “…one last time?” Bilbo looking really serious. Is this the last time he will see Thorin?
grammaboodawg: Is this shortly after Smaug flew away and descended on Lake-town? The dwarves have come out of the mountain and are not yet wearing armour. Bilbo is obviously distressed by what he sees, but none of the other dwarves seem aware of what he sees.
Quickbeam: Just can’t get enough of Martin Freeman. Seriously.
Aragorn the Elfstone: Bilbo, undoubtedly with the grief of Lake-town’s destruction laid upon his heart. Stay strong Mr. Baggins. There is more yet to come.
61. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Garfeimao: Is it December yet?
Kelvarhin: As a friend keeps asking me, will they be handing out boxes of tissues with our tickets?
Mithril: Credits. December 17! Almost a full week later than last year. See it in RealD 3D, HFR 3D and IMAX 3D.
grammaboodawg: I love the look of these front and end caps. Great impact and reflects the tone of this part of the story.
Quickbeam: I would have been just fine seeing “TABA” as the subtitle.
Aragorn the Elfstone: I’ll have to eat crow on this one. I really didn’t like the title change at first. But after that teaser, I can’t complain one bit about the film being called “The Battle of the Five Armies”. It’s just perfect, quite honestly.
Quickbeam: Anyone else agree that this teaser was decidedly downbeat?
greendragon: They didn’t forget GDT this time…
Kelvarhin: Nice to see GDT’s name included this time.
Sarumann: It’s nice to see Guillermo del Toro getting credit on this again.
Justin: It’s nice to see Guillermo del toro name in the credits. He was noticeably excluded from DOS teaser.
Quickbeam: …….And welcome back, GDT!
Ainu Laire: Guillermo! Good to see him acknowledged.
64. December 17
deej: Is it December 17th yet?
greendragon: To paraphrase Churchill: ‘It is not the end. But it is the beginning of the end…’ One last journey to Middle-earth together, friends – here we go…
Kelvarhin: December 26th in Australia, still not happy about that!
Sarumann: December 17th. I am both anticipating and dreading this date.
Elessar: I don’t like to wish my life away but I can’t wait to get this.
Quickbeam: What preferred format will you see this final Tolkien film from PJ? I’ll see it in IMAX 3D wherever I can. I’m not sure the HFR is a selling point, just for me, personally.
65. The Hobbit Fan Fellowship Contest
greendragon: Are TORn staff eligible to enter??
Sarumann: Oh, you know I’m signing up!
Quickbeam: That sounds like a nice contest prize. It must be the screening at the Embassy Theatre in Wellington!
Ainu Laire: *watches mass of fans refresh the site madly* Good luck everyone with that! Do not take my commentary as mean-spirited. I loved the trailer. Is it December yet?
Posted in Hobbit Movie, The Hobbit, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, TheOneRing.net Announcements, TheOneRing.net Community, Trailer
TheOneRing.net is happy to announce that this September, to celebrate the birthdays of Bilbo and Frodo, we will be releasing a digital book all about The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings films. For this project, we interviewed many of the people responsible for these blockbusters, including Mark Ordesky, executive producer of the LOTR movies. With Ordesky’s new series, The Quest, premiering this Thursday, July 31 at 8/7c on ABC in North America, we thought it would be fun to share with you a sample from the book, Ordesky’s tell-all interview where he explains how he became involved with The Lord of the Rings, why he left New Line Cinema, and how his time working on the LOTR films inspired his new television series.
Catching Up With Mark Ordesky
By J.W. Braun
Mark Ordesky will never forget the day he was told he would be a production executive for The Lord of the Rings movies. “My boss, [New Line Cinema founder] Bob Shaye, said to me, ‘Listen, Peter Jackson is your friend. He slept on your couch. You love The Lord of the Rings. So you’re going to be the canary in the mine.’”
Born in Sacramento County in 1963, Ordesky fell in love with fantasy at a young age. “I was introduced to Dungeons & Dragons in the 1970s when finishing elementary school,” he tells TheOneRing.net, “and like so many others, I took to it immediately and passionately. A friend I played with gave me a box of books: required reading. Really! In that box were The Chronicles of Narnia, The Chronicles of Amber, the Robert E. Howard Conan stories, the Eternal Champion books, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. That was about when the Rankin/Bass version of The Hobbit was on television, followed by Ralph Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings film in theaters. I remember just finishing up the books about the same time I saw those movies and how much fun it all was.I really became a fantasy fanatic. By high school, I was Dungeon Master of my own ambitious Dungeons & Dragons games with my brother Joel and a group of our best pals. That campaign lasted throughout high school, college, and slightly beyond. They were great times, and it was really wonderful to sustain and grow a gaming world for so long with the same core group of best friends. To this day, we reunite in San Francisco every summer.”
Unfortunately, Ordesky was unable to major in “dragon slaying” in college. So while attending the University of Southern California, he pursued his interest in journalism before switching gears. “In 1985, I was completing my print journalism degree, was editor of the university newspaper, had interned at the Los Angeles Herald Examiner and Los Angeles Times… but nonetheless felt being a professional journalist might not be the right direction. It was during this time that I wrote a short story for a creative writing class. It was about (big surprise) a naïve, idealistic student journalist investigating a campus murder alongside a grizzled, cynical professional journalist. Through an unexpected series of fortunate circumstances more likely to happen in Los Angeles than anywhere else, my short story got put in development at Columbia Pictures’ Tri-Star movie unit, with Matthew Broderick considered to play the student journalist character based on me. Like many development projects in Hollywood, the movie never materialized. But this turn of events created an opportunity to learn the ropes of script analysis and to become part of the film industry. And during this period, I realized that my real skill was recognizing talented people and movies and advocating for them.”
Ordesky began working for Republic Pictures, an independent film corporation that had made hundreds of B movies throughout the Golden Age of Hollywood. In the 1980s, with cable television and the videocassette rental market emerging, the company was reinventing itself.
“I did home video acquisitions,” Ordesky recalls. “I used to watch a bag full of videocassette movies every weekend, driving my then fiancée crazy. Around 1987 there was a video sent to me by the New Zealand Film Commission for consideration as a U.S. acquisition. I really, really dug the film. I was totally gobsmacked by it. It was just audacious and bold and clever, and so distinctive. It was called Bad Taste, and it was directed by a guy named Peter Jackson.”
Starting off as side project in 1983 while Jackson, then 22 years old, was working for his local newspaper, Bad Taste (or Roast of the Day as it originally was called) was supposed to be a ten to fifteen minute short starring Jackson and his friends about a door-to-door money collector and his encounter with aliens. But what started as a hobby kept becoming more ambitious, and by the time he had finished in 1987, Jackson had a ninety-two minute “feature.”
“Unfortunately,” Ordesky recalls, “I was not able to convince my bosses at Republic Pictures to let me license the distribution rights. They thought I was crazy for wanting to buy this ‘foreign’ film about flesh eating aliens from outer space attacking New Zealand. But I told myself that this was a director to keep an eye on. Then I moved from Republic Pictures to New Line Cinema in 1988 to be a story editor, which basically meant that I was a junior executive. One of the first things I did was to write Saul Zaentz, inquiring about the movie rights to The Lord of the Rings. The correspondence went unanswered, which didn’t surprise me as a newbie junior executive writing a multiple Best Picture winner!”
At about that time, New Line Cinema was preparing to make The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, and Ordesky put Jackson’s name forth as a possible director. Ultimately, Jeff Burr was chosen, but not long after, Jackson was paging through a copy of Fangoria magazine when he came across his name as one of the directors passed over for the project. Not yet 30 years old and having completed only two low-budget features (one of which hadn’t been distributed yet), Jackson was stunned to see his name in an American magazine.
“By that time,” Ordesky explains, “Peter had finished a movie called Meet the Feebles. Then he made another film, Braindead. And just like Bad Taste, I tried to license those. Again it didn’t work out. But I did talk about him enough that I was able to persuade my superiors that we should hire Peter to do a screenplay draft of A Nightmare on Elm Street, which would have been Part 6, had it been made.”
The Nightmare franchise, featuring Freddy Krueger, was New Line’s crown jewel. After Freddy’s introduction in 1984, New Line released a Nightmare film every year for the remainder of the decade, with the exception of 1987. But going into the ‘90s, New Line executives felt the franchise was losing steam and needed new ideas. Jackson came up with a story about a police officer falling into a coma and becoming trapped in Freddy’s nightmare world. When Jackson came to Los Angeles to discuss it with New Line, he was able to meet with Ordesky professionally – and personally. “Peter crashed on my couch at one point, and I introduced him to Risk. That was the only time I ever beat him. Once he learned the game, I never beat him again. He was just too good a strategist. But the thing was, there was another Nightmare script in development by someone else at that time, because we were always commissioning Nightmare on Elm Street scripts. (We figured if we didn’t use yours for Part 6, it might be Part 7 or Part 8.) So there was simultaneous development, and while Peter presented an amazing script, Bob Shaye went with the other. But it was fun to work with Peter and to have him in my ratty apartment with all my Dungeons & Dragons paraphernalia and my Frank Frazetta posters and so forth. And it did get Peter his first Hollywood paycheck.”
As the ‘90s rolled on, New Line Cinema scored a number of hits, such as The Mask, Dumb and Dumber, Austin Powers, and Ordesky’s Rumble in the Bronx; all of which stepped away from conventional Hollywood formulas and stayed with the changing popular culture while other studios lagged behind.
“At New Line, we couldn’t make traditional star-driven films. We were not a company that was going to get access to Tom Cruise. The star-driven vehicles were going to go to Paramount, or Warner Bros., or one of the more traditional studios before us. So Mike De Luca, who was president of production during the time of nearly all the hits you’re describing, realized that what you needed to do if you didn’t have giant movie stars to create opening weekends was to be right on the leading edge of pop culture. You needed to know what motivated audiences apart from just the traditional elements. He used to say, ‘We can’t afford stars. We need to create stars.’ And the way you did that was you take a new or distinctive idea, and give [it] to talented people so that it [becomes] greater than the sum of its parts. So it’s not a coincidence: all those hit New Line movies were left of center, the sort of films and franchises that fit into our model.”
Meanwhile, Peter Jackson had a breakthrough film in 1994 with Heavenly Creatures, for which he and his partner, Fran Walsh, were nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. The film caught the attention of Miramax, a studio that acquired it for distribution and signed Jackson to a deal giving them a first look at anything he was developing. The next year, when he proposed adapting J.R.R. Tolkien’s books into movies, Miramax obtained an option to make the films and set the project in motion.
“I knew they were developing it,” Ordesky says. “I was immensely jealous and crestfallen that it was happening without me, and that it was happening with Peter without me. But there was nothing to be done about it, so I just sort of thought to myself, ‘At least I’ll get to see these cool films be made.’”
Meanwhile, Ordesky kept busy. “At the time, I had made a pivot to acquiring finished films and was running Fine Line Features. I’d go to the film festivals like Sundance to go after art house films and compete against Miramax and a number of other companies to acquire them. So that put me in a realm of dealing with a lot of auteur, singular vision filmmakers; people like Peter, who were not traditional. And I dealt with a lot of international filmmakers, which ended up being my thing.”
Unknown to Ordesky, things were not going well between Jackson and Miramax. Initially, they had decided to make two Lord of the Rings films, possibly to be followed by one Hobbit movie. But Jackson’s vision was too expensive for the studio, and he was unwilling to compromise. By 1998, with anger building on both sides, Miramax and Jackson finally agreed that it wasn’t in their best interests to continue working together, and the studio gave Jackson an ultimatum: he had to find another studio to buy out the project or get out of the way so new writers and a different director could be brought in to do the films the way Miramax wanted. Jackson was given just four weeks to find a new backer. Knowing he was on the brink of losing the project, Jackson knew he needed someone at a studio who understood The Lord of the Rings, who would believe in him, and who was willing to make a film against the conventional wisdom of Hollywood.
“I was going about my business when my phone rang,” Ordesky recalls, “and Peter told me about his struggle and what was going on. He and his agent were sending out packages to all the studios to see if anyone was interested, and he had an in-room presentation he was preparing for anyone who responded. I remember him saying, ‘We have a small window, Mark, but it’s our chance! A chance for us to make a movie together!’”
It was, of course, a calculated move on Jackson’s part. Like a master Risk player, he was avoiding the more conventional strategy of having his agent submit a request to New Line’s chairmen and instead trying to make inroads underneath.
“I think he thought that I was a bit nuts and that I’d do anything to get this done,” Ordesky says. “And he was right.”
By the time a meeting was set up between Jackson and New Line, the other major studios had already declined. They considered the idea of making two films costing hundreds of millions of dollars too great of a risk – particularly with an unproven director at the helm.
“Looking back on it,” reflects Ordesky, “I personally feel that I had more information than everyone else. I didn’t see it as risky or foolish, partially because at that point I’d been at New Line long enough that I really sensed that this was an absolute fit. And I knew Peter Jackson probably better than most of Hollywood. I knew him as an artist. I knew him as a human being. I knew him from the point of view of character and stamina and ambition. And when we had the big meeting with [New Line founder and co-chairman] Bob Shaye, I was incredibly hopeful and enthusiastic that we would have a good result. But Bob, a very successful filmmaker and businessman, is very hard to read, and it was not immediately evident throughout the course of the meeting how it was going. But then Bob asked, ‘Well wait a minute, there’s three books, why are you proposing making two films? Shouldn’t you be making three films of three books?’ It was then I knew there was a real shot.”
In fact, New Line was having a big problem developing sequels to their successful films, such as Dumb and Dumber and The Mask. One solution to the problem was to plan multiple films at once, an idea that was floated for The Foundation Trilogy (based on the books by Isaac Asimov) only to have the project fall apart and the option lapse, leaving New Line with nothing but bills. It was at that point that Shaye stepped into his meeting with Jackson and began to realize the strategy might work with a different set of books.
“The meeting ended, as most of these meetings end, with ‘Thank you, we’ll consider this and come back to you,’” Ordesky recalls. “Bob wanted to speak to Michael Lynne and the other members of senior staff. And we talked about what we thought of the idea. For me it was pure belief and advocacy. All I wanted was to see the films happen. So I was making a case for Peter. I was making a case for the fantasy genre. I was making a case for The Lord of the Rings specifically, and particularly as a fit for New Line. The Lord of the Rings was a branded property, but in a genre that Hollywood had ill-served and somewhat neglected. Rings had a worldwide, multi-generational fan base, but also a super motivated core of fans for whom the stories were beloved. And then there was the sequel issue. We were all very conscious of the fact that New Line had had trouble making sequels, most notably to its Jim Carrey movies. I made the point that even in a two film version of Rings, let alone a three film version, one would have the advantage of making the sequels in advance. There would no struggle to assemble sequels in terms of deal-making or talent availability. Given New Line’s circumstances, that was a persuasive point to make. Yes, nobody had ever made three films like Rings before. People had made two movies back to back as successful sequels to a prior hit, but nobody had made three films where you were making two sequels in advance: essentially one epic 11-hour film, where you were frontloading the production schedule with material from the first film. But there were also great advantages to it. Economies of scale. If there was some remote location that was featured in more than one of the three films, you could visit that location just that once. Obviously there were great challenges and production and creative issues that had never been faced before, but on the other hand there was this amazing business opportunity to create unprecedented production efficiencies as well.”
At this point, it’s probably not necessary to say that Mr. Ordesky had drive and determination. But it was also right around this time a giant mistake taught him a lesson that sealed his commitment to The Lord of the Rings.
“Soon after the meeting with Peter, I was one of three acquisition executives bidding for The Blair Witch Project at Sundance, and I second-guessed myself and let it get away.” The film was acquired by Artisan Entertainment for $1 million. It went on to gross $248 million at the box office. “It was a devastating mistake. It nearly cost me my operational autonomy at New Line. And I realized something profound, not just about the movie industry but about life. There are very few times when you possess real personal conviction. So when you’re fortunate enough to have it, I think you have a responsibility to see it through no matter what. I let The Blair Witch get away because I ignored my initial conviction, and I remember as The Lord of the Rings was preparing to formally move ahead, and it was seen as such a big gamble, I thought to myself, ‘No matter what happens, I am not going to make the mistake I made with The Blair Witch on The Lord of the Rings. Because I have a conviction about this. It’s from my childhood, I know it’s right for me. It’s right for New Line, and the re-ascendancy of the fantasy genre is nigh.’ (Remember that Harry Potter was on a parallel track with Rings at the time.) I vowed: ‘I’m not going to let this opportunity get away, even if it costs me my entire career.’”
When the deal between Miramax and New Line was finalized, and Frodo Baggins had a new home, Ordesky was thrilled. But it turned out to be just the beginning.
“Bob said, ‘We want to try to make this happen.’ And that’s when he told me I was going to work on the films in New Zealand. He said, ‘Peter is your friend. You’ve always pushed for him. You read The Lord of the Rings when you were a kid. So you’re going to be the canary in the mine.’ At that time, I had heard the expression, but I didn’t really fully know what it meant. Growing up in Southern California, it didn’t resonate with me the way it might have. And I was surprised to be trusted with this opportunity. It was one thing to advocate the films, another to manage them. At that point in my career at New Line, I think the most expensive film I’d supervised was probably $6 million, and then they put me on this $270 million dollar film as a production executive! Then again, this really goes to the heart of New Line’s corporate culture, which was amazing. There was a real value on pride of ownership. That if you felt the sense of ownership in something, you would work harder and smarter and better – as opposed to something that was an assigned task. So at New Line, if you brought something in and advocated it, you would most likely see it through to the finish.”
The first order of business was to figure exactly what kind of project this would be. “We had agreed the films would be made in New Zealand as Peter intended. I think New Line assumed they would be three movies of roughly two hours each, give or take. Peter has famously said, ‘The right length for a film is the right length.’ There was an initial thought that maybe the release dates would be six months apart. But after discussions, and when we all got into how the films were actually going to be made, everyone came to the conclusion that releasing one year apart was the right way to go about it. As the films expanded in scope and ambition, it also became apparent that we needed someone with a lot of experience doing big budget films in overseas locations. That meant Barrie Osborne, known for his contribution to successes like Apocalypse Now, The Matrix, and Baz’s The Great Gatsby. He met with Peter in Wellington, and the deal was sealed.”
Meanwhile, Ordesky finally had the chance to meet Saul Zaentz, who still owned the film rights to The Lord of the Rings. “I first met him in 1999. As production continued, I saw him at least once a year and got to spend a fair bit of time with him, which I thought was great considering I’d sent him that letter he never answered in 1988! One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest [from 1975] is still one of my top five films of all time. I admired the way he navigated Hollywood on his own terms. He was not afraid of a fight. In 2013 when I heard he was ill, I reached out to him again, but he was too ill to speak by then. It would have been lovely to speak to him one last time, but I was fortunate to be able to spend the time with him that I did.”
Zaentz died in 2014 at the age of 92 on J.R.R. Tolkien’s 122nd birthday (January 3).
Back in the middle of 1999 (summer for Los Angeles and winter for New Zealand), The Lord of the Rings project was preparing to transition from pre-production to principal photography, and Ordesky had thousands of details to oversee.
“Bob Shaye used to jokingly refer to me as the translator, because not everyone at New Line was as steeped in Tolkien or The Lord of the Rings as I was. Whenever you have a big franchise movie, particularly one being made far away, it was important for me to make sure the studio was getting what it bargained for and that the filmmakers were getting all they needed. In the early days, casting was obviously a big priority. There were so many primary roles to cast. And most of them wouldn’t be cast with stars, so there was a wide-ranging process. There was casting explorations in New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Peter would inevitably narrow it down to anywhere from five and ten actors whom he favored for a given role, one a favorite, and it was my job to show those people to the powers that be at New Line and get Peter’s choices approved. That was incredibly energizing and was one of the big, first creative endeavors I undertook on behalf of the filmmakers.”
One piece of casting proved problematic.
“Stuart Townsend was someone that Peter really wanted for Aragorn. He had a vision for Stuart, and New Line chose to support it. Like most of the other lead actors, Stuart went down to New Zealand well before filming for horse training, sword training, language coaching; whatever he’d need to help play his character. And it was toward the end of that process, as principal photography neared, that Peter realized Stuart wasn’t the ideal match for the part. I was in London when I got the call that we were parting ways with Stuart. And Peter rang me and said, ‘We need new ideas.’ Now you have to realize, the film was scheduled to shoot in a week! This was very last minute. I remember being flipped out, wondering, ‘how are we possibly going to recast the role so quickly?’ And I wrote three names on a piece of paper: Russell Crowe, Jason Patric, and Viggo Mortensen. I had met Viggo some years before. My assistant at New Line, Jackie Tepper, would push me whenever she saw actors she thought I should know. And she flagged Viggo back in the days of Indian Runner and The Hunt for Red October.”
(Interestingly, Mortensen, before becoming known, was also in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, the one Ordesky wanted Jackson to direct.)
“And so, well before The Lord of the Rings,” Ordesky continues, “I ended up having a meeting with Viggo. He’s not really a guy for taking meetings. He’s a wonderfully non-Hollywood guy. But somehow my assistant, through her persistence, convinced Viggo’s manager that we should have Hollywood lunch. And he was incredibly polite and gracious. He told me he was Danish, and I found out the town where his family originated translated into English as ‘Ring-town’. Because I was such a fan of The Lord of the Rings, that stuck in my brain. Years later in that London hotel room, I thought back to that and thought he would be worthy of playing Aragorn. Turns out that Peter, Fran, and Philippa were already ahead of me as Viggo was on their lists too.”
Mortensen, who enjoys his camping trips, wasn’t the easiest actor to reach. But the casting director made contact with his agent, and it didn’t take long to get an answer (which is probably because the filmmakers made it clear they didn’t have very long to wait for one). Ordesky recounts: “His manager told him, ‘you need to read this script, and if you like it, you need to be on a plane in 48 hours to New Zealand.’ As it turns out, Viggo’s son Henry had been reading The Lord of the Rings, which was a wonderful bit of serendipity. And Viggo, like most great actors, liked to take on roles that frightened or challenged him in some respect, so he came on board. And throughout the shooting we became good friends.”
Any film project has its difficulties, but with three and a half years of shooting, with up to seven units going simultaneously, the complexity of The Lord of the Rings shoot was mind-boggling. And that doesn’t even factor in the availability of the actors and the crazy New Zealand weather throwing a wrench into the best-laid plans.
“It’s like trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle on a moving table when someone’s always hiding the piece you need,” Ordesky explains. “There are always these crazy variables. That’s part of the challenge, and that’s part of the satisfaction.”
Throughout the project, Ordesky flew back and forth between Los Angeles and New Zealand over thirty times, but as time went on he found himself in New Zealand most of the time.
“Relationships are always best in person. And if you’re really going contribute and be helpful, you have to be present. New Line wanted me in New Zealand so they could hold me responsible and have trusted insights into the production. And there were always heaps to do. From the sublime to the ridiculous: I can remember one time running around the set trying to get the actors to approve their Burger King toy visages,” he says with a chuckle. “My only regret is that we shot in so many amazing New Zealand locations, all these amazing, natural places, and I missed a lot of them because I was usually dealing with stuff in Wellington. But the locations I did see were spectacular. The natural beauty of New Zealand is no special effect. It was great to see how that manifested in the films.”
Meanwhile, the world around Ordesky was continuing to evolve and change. In the past, films – especially those made in remote locations – could be made with relative secrecy, with the studio carefully releasing information for publicity purposes as it saw fit. In the 1990s, that began to change, with websites (like that shady site, TheOneRing.net) sending spies to production to take photos and post reports which were instantly available to everyone. (The Lord of the Rings filmmakers had a special disadvantage: Tolkien fans knew their story nearly scene for scene!) It was a new issue for studios, and many didn’t know how to deal with it. Some engaged in squabbles with fansites. New Line’s Senior Vice President of Interactive Marketing, Gordon Paddison, took a different approach.
“Gordon was a real groundbreaker,” Ordesky recalls. “He embraced the internet as a community-building marketing tool. I remember him walking me through how we were going to engage the fansites like TheOneRing.net. And I can remember thinking how cool it was, because the films were by fans for fans. Me, Peter, Fran, Philippa, a lot of the actors as well – we were all fans – and the Internet offered an open architecture for communication. And Peter was answering the fans’ questions on the websites even before production. He’s continued to interact with the fans on every film he makes. For me, it was great to have the feeling that you were among the fans while you were making the films.”
And then there was a revolution in technology of a different sort. When New Line had acquired The Lord of the Rings from Miramax, we lived in a world of VCRs and LaserDiscs. By the time The Fellowship of the Ring was released, the DVD market was exploding.
“I didn’t really think about it as it was happening,” Ordesky admits, “because when you’re making a movie, you’re really only thinking about making the movie. But during the process of having to cull The Fellowship of the Ring down from four hours to three hours for the theatrical version, it was really sad that an hour’s worth of great material was not going to be seen. And certainly a lot of those scenes would be out of place in The Two Towers and The Return of the King. If they weren’t in The Fellowship of the Ring, they wouldn’t be able to live correctly in one of the subsequent films, and so the idea of an extended DVD was something Peter really took to, because it was a way to honor the work and give the audience a whole deeper experience in home entertainment. It made the decisions of losing material a lot less painful if you knew that those scenes – the ones that Peter felt warranted it – could live on in the extended versions. So we had that, plus the wonderfully thorough behind the scenes documentation of the movies. And the DVD sales and rentals ended up giving New Line a huge additional revenue boost that likely wasn’t anticipated at the beginning of the project.”
The DVDs also made people like Ordesky, who were just names in the credits back in the videocassette age, more visible: giving them a forum to talk about their work and giving the fans a greater appreciation for what they did. Suddenly Ordesky went from another face in the crowd to someone Tolkien fans began to recognize. “It was surprising,” he recalls. “The first time I was asked for an autograph I actually looked over my shoulder, wondering, ‘Is Sean Bean behind me? Is Viggo behind me?’ Then I turned back to these two fans and accidentally said aloud what I was thinking: ‘You don’t want my autograph.’ I thought they were confused. But they said, ‘No, we absolutely want your autograph, because you’re us! You’re a fan. You played Dungeons & Dragons, you played video games, and you helped make this happen.’ I was hugely moved by that. It’s one thing to think about doing something for the fans in abstract terms, but this made it personal and powerful.”
In the end, Ordesky enjoyed the films as much as the fans. “My favorite moments in the films are a lot of the same ones that move me most when reading the books. The hobbits facing the Nazgûl at Weathertop, the loss of Gandalf in Fellowship, the defense/victory at Helm’s Deep and Aragorn’s courage in The Two Towers, and Sam carrying Frodo up the side of Mount Doom in The Return of the King. But there are many dozens more moments that I love just as dearly. They’re such wonderful books, and they’re such wonderful films. To be able to work on The Lord of the Rings is more than would be reasonable to expect in a hundred careers. It was born of my childhood fascination with Tolkien, with Dungeons & Dragons, with all those fantasy books I was reading back in the ‘70s, and to channel that into my passion for Peter Jackson and his team in New Zealand that I got to know in the ‘80s, and see those two things synthesized into something like The Lord of the Rings movies, it’s something for which I’m very grateful. Anything more at this point is a bonus. I live in bonus time.”
With the success of The Lord of the Rings, fans began to speculate that The Hobbit would follow. But that was easier said than done. “There was an issue with the film rights to The Hobbit, which were fragmented and in multiple hands. Then there was a dispute between New Line Cinema and Peter Jackson’s company, Wingnut Films, regarding issues of monies owed, and it’s hard to proceed making movies together when you’re in that sort of situation. Those complications kept pushing The Hobbit further down the road, and there were moments when we all thought The Hobbit just might not happen at all. It just seemed so challenging and complicated.”
Meanwhile, Ordesky became involved with New Line’s next big fantasy project, The Golden Compass, a film based on the book of the same name (also called Northern Lights in some regions), the first of a trilogy of books by Philip Pullman collectively called His Dark Materials.
“New Line was looking for another literary-based fantasy franchise, and Ileen Maisel, New Line’s head of European production, had found the books and knew their author. New Line decided to proceed with the first film from the first book, and I was invited to work on it with Ileen because of my visual effects experience and my experience working on big budget movies overseas. I didn’t have the same ownership on Compass as I did on The Lord of the Rings. It was Ileen’s discovery. But I lived in the U.K. for the better part of a year, and it was wonderful to work on the film.”
While in England, there were some developments with The Hobbit film project that put Ordesky in a difficult position.
“New Line’s option for The Hobbit, which came along with the acquisition of the option for The Lord of the Rings, had a time limit, and so we needed to either move forward with the project or lose it. At the time, there was still a dispute between Peter and New Line. So I was asked by the management at New Line to communicate to Peter’s representatives that New Line was going to proceed on The Hobbit without him. I felt hugely conflicted. I didn’t want to make the call. I knew that New Line couldn’t be persuaded out of this course of action. The decision had been made. But I knew the call would be hurtful, and I felt disloyal to Peter making it. At the same time, I was a New Line employee, and my bosses were asking me to do it, so I wrestled with myself. Do I do what I’ve been asked and make the call? Or do I not make the call, because I have a friendship and history with Peter, and I feel like I’m betraying him? Ultimately I reluctantly made the call to Ken Kamins, Peter’s manager. It was unbelievably painful. When I’d finished, I immediately wished I hadn’t. To this day I wish I hadn’t, because looking back, that information could have been communicated to Peter another way. I could have said no and kept my integrity. When the news broke the next day, I took a lot of grief, as I was woven into the narrative about how the news had been shared; which was completely reasonable since I had made the call. I deserved the grief. That’s why I’m glad you asked me about this, because I’ve always wanted to share my feelings about the incident, and it’ll be great to have it on the record. It’s something I regret, even though my relationship with Peter recovered.”
In 2007 The Golden Compass was released. While it went on to succeed at the box office internationally, it did not perform well in the United States.
“Compass was a challenging movie to market in the United States. Part of the struggle was that the books, like their author, take a very distinct perspective about institutional authority and power. There was likely a smarter way for New Line to get out in front of the issue earlier in the film’s life cycle. The film grossed 300 million dollars outside the United States which is sizable, but it only grossed about $70 million in the U.S. Same film, different markets and marketing.”
While in the United Kingdom, Ordesky also helped produce another fantasy film, Inkheart, based on the book of the same name by Cornelia Funke. After that, he returned home to a studio in transition.
“By the time I got back to Los Angeles, it became apparent that Time Warner, the parent of both New Line and Warner Bros. (and so much else) was concerned about having duplicate movie studios both with their own distribution systems. They thought it was one thing for both companies to make movies, but in the matter of distribution there was a question of duplication of effort, overhead, and costs. Ultimately, the decision was made by Time Warner to change New Line into a production division of Warner Bros. As New Line was being downsized, my contract expired. At the time, there was still uncertainty surrounding The Hobbit, and I knew the folks at Warner Bros. and ‘New Line 2.0’ wanted to supervise The Hobbit films themselves. So I thought,‘If there was ever a time to start my own company, this would be it.’ It was still bittersweet because I wasn’t going to get to work on The Hobbit. And there was the secondary issue of whether The Hobbit films would happen at all with everything going on. I obviously wanted them to happen, because I wanted to see those stories told to complete the journey, literally there and back again. So I was happy to see the disputes resolve.”
After leaving New Line, Ordesky, along with former New Line executive Jane Fleming, founded a media company called Court Five to produce films and television. In 2014 they produced The Quest for ABC, a fantasy-based competitive reality show [which will premier this Thursday, July 31, 2014 on ABC in North America].
“The seeds of The Quest were really planted in 1999 when we were in preproduction for The Lord of the Rings. You had the actors traveling to New Zealand early for horse training, sword training, and archery training and so on, so they would look natural and confident and skilled. Back then we’d get videotape updates in Los Angeles, and Jane and I would watch in my L.A. office, and she’d say, ‘You know, it’s not fair. I’d like to go to archery camp, horse camp, and sword camp. That would be so cool!’ And then we thought, ‘wouldn’t everyone want to?’ So cut to years later, and we have our own company, and someone pitches us a reality TV show in the LARPing space [live action role-playing]. And when the conversation was over, Jane turned to me and said, ‘You know what that reminds me of? It reminds me of those old video tapes.’ And we thought about taking twelve real people with a passion for fantasy films/literature/gaming, people with a desire to transcend their everyday lives, and give them the opportunity to compete to save a besieged kingdom in an immersive fantasy environment. To do it we utilized an amazing, real castle location, 3D projections, animatronics, prosthetics, production design, and a cast of scripted actors gifted at improv. One of the contestants emerges from the competition the ‘One True Hero’ by overcoming challenges and eliminations conceived and designed to sync with an unfolding scripted narrative. But the contestant experience is real-time reality television. We developed it for four years with the creators and executive producers of The Amazing Race and Queer Eye. (A lot of people have described the show as ‘The Amazing Race: Middle-earth’.) We pitched it to the networks, and it made sense for ABC. They were having success with Once Upon A Time, and even though we didn’t conceive it this way, you can see from their perspective where they saw it as complimentary programming. We’re very proud of it.”
Meanwhile, Ordesky has been able to enjoy The Hobbit movies as a regular fan. “I saw the first film three times. I saw it in Los Angeles at the normal frame rate, because I wanted to match the film with my own visual recollection of how The Lord of the Rings looked. Then I saw it at the high frame rate, because that was the way Peter intended for it to be seen. And then I was in New Zealand with my wife’s family, and I went to a cinema there to see the film for the third time – which felt like it completed my journey. Like I closed the circle. And I wrote that to Peter and Fran. I said how grateful I was that I was able to experience the film as a fan with no other expectation of what was going to happen than my recollection of the book and my own excited hopes.”
When he thinks back to 1998 and the beginning of his days with The Lord of the Rings, Ordesky can’t help but remember his boss telling him he was going to be the canary in the mine. “I didn’t really know what the expression meant, so I looked it up and realized it was a coal mining expression. And many years later, on the other side of it, I thought to myself that maybe I wasn’t the canary in the coal mine. Maybe I was the canary in the gold mine.”
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