desolation-of-smaugThis afternoon many of us spent an hour with Peter Jackson (well, virtually, anyway!) as he chatted about making The Hobbit movies, and gave us some tantalising glimpses of what may be to come in the second film, The Desolation of Smaug.  We’ve already posted some detailed commentary on what was shown; here below are some of the things which made TORn staffers geek out, as they watched their computer screens – and some speculation on what these things might mean!

Greendragon:  Of course I would be excited about something to do with a dragon!  It seemed to me that we saw Smaug’s ‘laser eyes’ in part of the footage – a scene was shown where Martin Freeman was playing around with putting the ring on, in Smaug’s lair.  The lighting was red, shining on a specific area and then moving across the pile of gold – suggesting the ‘piercing ray of red from under the drooping lid of Smaug’s left eye.’  It was nice to see this glimpse of the power of Smaug’s eyes – the danger of the dragon-spell!

Demosthenes: The actual extended scene we were shown from The Desolation of Smaug was of Gandalf and Radagast visiting the Nazgûl tombs. Okay, this has me excited because there’s a heap of spoiler analysis and guesswork that we can all play with. Who built the tombs? If they were built by the Dúnedain of Arnor (the selfsame Dúnedain who never make an appearance in the film of the Lord of the Rings, I might say!), then why does Radagast call the sigils on the walls foul? [In the clip, we see engraving on the walls above a door of a tomb, the bars of which have been wrenched or blasted open.]  Is that an implication that they were built by the Dúnedain of Rhudaur who fell into evil with the realm of Angmar? And what do the Tengwar letters — for they are a type of Tengwar — say? Do they bind? Do they nurture? Is it a transliteration to English? Or is it in Adûnaic, Quenya or Sindarin?

Why are they in the high fells (of Rhudaur)? What could have possibly prompted both Gandalf and Radagast to travel back over the Misty Mountains to investigate?  Lots of questions — lots of opportunity to guess stuff!  Moreover, I’m buzzed that Gandalf says there are NINE tombs. It’s what I guessed when I first saw this sequence last year, and I also felt that the bars indicated that whoever was in there broke out, and that there were letters over those doorways.

Rasputin the Evil Balrog: The boat scene got me excited [where we saw the dwarves, Bilbo and Bard on a boat, together with a collection of barrels], combined with what Peter had to say about the character of Bard being enigmatic – we don’t know if he’s good or bad. It reminded me of the way they chose to create Faramir’s character in The Two Towers, giving him much more depth and motivation than I feel he has in the books.  A lot of book purists disagree with me because they like the fact that Faramir is presented as the archetype of the ever-noble hero, but I thought the way they played him was much more modern and interesting.  I think we’re going to see something similar with Bard. In the book, he’s set in opposition to the debauched, corrupt master of Lake-town, but it seems like Peter is implying that we’ll get a few more twists and turns to our Bard story!

Legolas Deej:  In the various glimpses of scenes between Thranduil and his son Legolas, it was interesting to see that there might be a conflict between father and son regarding the way the dwarves are treated.   Although he’s not in the book, I had expected Legolas to go along with his father – it would explain why he and Gimli aren’t on friendly terms when the Fellowship is first formed.  Could this difference of opinion lead Legolas (and Tauriel?) to help the dwarves and Bilbo escape Mirkwood?

Grammaboodawg: To see Legolas with his father, Thranduil, is incredible! After years of imagining Legolas in Mirkwood and in a relationship with his father, this shot has had a profound impact on me. Like seeing the White Council… it’s exciting to have the imagined moments of this story finally becoming real.  Also, in one of the moments where we saw Bilbo in Smaug’s lair, there was an interesting glow at Bilbo’s right hand. Could it be the Arkenstone??

Kelvarhin: The thing I was most excited about was seeing the concept drawings of Mirkwood, by WETA artist Gus Hunter.  I’ve always envisaged it as being all twisted trees, dark and very menacing, and those images nailed it perfectly.  Can’t wait to see the finished images on the big screen.

Demosthenes: The beautiful concept artwork by John Howe which we were shown, for the entrance to Thranduil’s realm in Mirkwood,  is almost identical to Alan Lee’s painting of Menegroth – which can be seen here .  This is particularly cool because, for Tolkien, Menegroth was probably a template of sorts for the Halls of the Elven King as first described in The Hobbit.  I’m pretty sure that if you go back as far as the Book of Lost Tales there is some description of the halls of Tinwelint the elf/gnome king that has a similarity to The Hobbit — that bridge over the river particularly.

Kili: Glimpsing Tauriel was a pleasant surprise. She comes across as a panther whose mask of calm will shred at the slightest provocation. In comparison to fellow Elven warriors Legolas and Elrond, it was refreshing to see what a hot-blooded captain of the guard might be like. There is a lot of tension in the fandom surrounding her character, but if this glimpse is anything to go by, then she can stand proudly alongside Éowyn, Arwen, and Galadriel. Tolkien’s dearth of female characters is troublesome, and I applaud Jackson and his team for taking the risk of inventing a bold new character who not only feels authentic to her culture and circumstances, but whose ferocity will have a special resonance with her fellow woman warriors in the audience.

Quickbeam: I was completely surprised at how Peter Jackson himself appears so relaxed, playful, and at-ease. Notwithstanding all the visual surprises and exciting bits of sets/ characters/ and effects work we are treated to glimpsing, I am honestly more blown away at his casual confidence.  You must understand that P.J. is under tremendous amounts of pressure and a work-load that defies description. Yet there he is, making light jokes about Colbert’s coffee cups or showing us his favorite vintage movie one-sheets as if we, the live camera, were just old friends visiting on a relaxed weekend and he has all the leisure time in the world.  It’s a remarkable illusion, because he is the one man on Middle-earth who DOES NOT have leisure time or anything going “easy” for him — while juggling huge budgets, scheduling all the re-shoots, editing a movie with higher standards upon it than anything, yammering phone calls from the studio’s lawyers, incessant fans chirping and tweeting about the appropriateness of Azog, Tauriel, Nazgûl tombs, etc. etc. etc.  Imagine how delightful it is for us to see this creative powerhouse of a director just as cool as a cucumber. His light-hearted spirit shines through even though he carries a special burden… and that makes me VERY confident that he’s the Master of his own Destiny like no other filmmaker, and has a good handle on everything that needs doing.

And a final thought: I was surprised to NOT see our shape-shifting ursine friend, Beorn.  We see just one axe chopping a piece of wood outside Beorn’s Hall, and another shot of the Company of Dwarves running into his doorway (excellent sense of scale there between the Dwarves and Beorn’s furnishings)… but certainly no Mikael Persbrandt to be seen.   That’s curious, given the recent news stories confirming his role will be expanded in The Desolation of Smaug.  So we are treated to lots of Luke Evans as Bard, which is grand, but nothing of Beorn. We shall wait and see.

Garfeimao: Lake-town interests me, with the dichotomy of what appears to be close to a shanty town on the exterior, but has much richer interiors. Or maybe it’s just like that for the Master of the Lake-town and his home. Since Lake-town is on the water, the wooden buildings all have a decayed and somewhat tilting appearance to them. But the Master’s bedroom is very lush looking, with dark wood paneled floors, walls and ceilings, a four poster bed, a giant oil painting (of himself, no less) and lovely windows on both sides. And from one of the group shots of the citizens of the town, they are in dark clothing and do not appear to be richly dressed. Last year at San Diego Comic Con, the sneak peek included a scene with the Master running into a home, one I assume is his own, and throwing back a carpet and opening a trap door beneath to reveal a horde of treasure comprised of what appears to be brass, gold and silver pots, candlesticks, dishes and the like. It is clear he is wealthy, and somewhat miserly and actually has a rather smarmy, slimy appearance to him. The fact that his servant is rather Gríma like in appearance just adds to the rather distasteful vibe he gives off. I also found it interesting they decided to give Bard a bit of a duality to him as well, so that Bilbo and the dwarves are left wondering if they can trust anyone in Lake-town.

Oh, and can I get a shout out for the wicked cool War Moose-antlered Throne that Thranduil is lounging in when the Company of Dwarves, as prisoners, are brought into his Halls? The epitome of the rather haughty Elf described in the book, to be sure.

But what I most appreciated from this hour long glimpse into The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug was the insight into Peter Jackson’s command of his mis-en-scène. This means his complete control of everything in front of the camera, from costumes and colors, hair and make up, set design and lighting to the angle of the cameras and the distance of the shot and the movement of the actors and props in frame. The example of the boat and the range of shots perfectly exemplifies how a storyteller can frame the action and use a variety of shots to tell the exact story they want because they truly have selected every frame you are seeing. Some of the quick sequences of shots shown at the very end only hint at the story to come, but it has intrigued me the way any good trailer grabs and audience.

Elessar: I was excited to see more of Mirkwood, Legolas, Thranduil, and Tauriel. Today’s event gave us plenty of that to look at, and while it wasn’t finished you can start to put that mental image together. I’ve had a mental image of what I thought Mirkwood looked like and what we saw felt like it was pulled directly from my brain! I loved seeing Legolas in action, and I love the look he has in this movie – mostly because it’s going to show the giant leap Legolas makes from The Hobbit to The Lord of the Rings. Seeing Thranduil in all his glory was fantastic, and I loved the scene of him getting in Thorin’s face, adding more to why Elves and Dwarves don’t like each other. Tauriel also looked awesome and I think I’m going to really like this character. A scene with her, Legolas, Thranduil, and an Orc looks like it will be really good. I did enjoy the Gandalf/Radagast sequence and am eager to see how the continued addition of this plot line runs. Mostly, I just loved spending an hour watching things to come. Is it December yet??

So much excitement – and we haven’t even seen a proper trailer yet!!

If you missed the Peter Jackson hosted first look at The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, or just want to watch it over again, a modified version will be archived on the Trilogy’s official website: To access the footage, use your UltraViolet code on your copy The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Blu-ray Combo Pack, Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack or 2-Disc Special Edition DVD.