SDCC’13: Lego Time! Batman Lego, Star Wars Lego, Hobbit Lego…

Lego have been making quite the splash at SDCC so far, as you may have seen from some of the various photos people have been taken. There’s a scale version of Hobbiton on-site, along with lifesize models of characters like Batman, Catwoman, and Joker. But Lego have also announced some new sets this weekend – featuring Batman, The Flash, The Hobbit, and Star Wars.

[Read more…]

First look at Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel reveals non-Elvish red hair

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So EW has released the first view of the new female elf character from The Hobbit, Tauriel, played by Evangeline Lilly. This had to be done because there are no women anywhere at all in The Hobbit except for some kids who run away crying, and it’s 2013.

The addition of a female elf warrior doesn’t bother me too much, for beyond the obvious reasons of liking a feisty female with her own agency. Would Tolkien have been on board with this? The record isn’t so clear; while his elf societies as dreamed up don’t leave room for warrior maidens, he was definitely familiar with the archetype, even beyond Eowyn. In the Silmarillion there’s Lady Haleth who leads one of the three houses of the Edain (man), and Galadriel is generally referred to as a badass in the battle with the Necromancer. A lot of the women mentioned in the history the human race are called valiant and brave. Tolkien was oblivious to the role of women in his books, but not in life in general, and the few women in his books are mostly very sympathetic and noble characters.

What does bother me is the red hair. The Sindarin “Moriquendi”—of whom the tribe of the Elves of Mirkwood belonged— were said to be dark haired. In fact…they were called Dark Elves. I dunno where Legolas got his blond hair from…what was strictly a Noldor/Quenya or High Elf thing.

So red haired elves…I dunno…these are not Khazad, for the love of Varda.

On the other hand…it beats bird shit, so I guess we ‘ll have to settle for that.

First Still from THE HOBBIT: The Desolation of Smaug and more 2013 movie previews

Warner Bros dumped a bunch of stills from 2013 movies the other day, including this first look at The Hobbit II: The Desolation of Smaug that shows Martin Freeman as Bilbo lounging about on Smaug’s gold hoard. That can’t end well.

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THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG (Peter Jackson)

Because the other photos include Ryan Gosling, Henry Cavill and a very troubling looking Sylvester Stallone, here are the rest of the photos: [Read more…]

THE HOBBIT is just like rice pudding: good to the last drop

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Over the years, I’ve developed a stable of sick foods for those days—whether self-incurred or sent by nature—when you just can’t get out of bed. One of my favorites, frequently referenced here, is Kozy Shack Rice Pudding, a magical substance, each bite of which contains the exactly perfect ratio of creamy vanilla custard and chewy rice grains. Every bite. I’ve never gotten sick of Kozy Shack Rice Pudding. I’ve eaten an entire tub of it in one sitting, never tiring of its flavor and texture, savoring each and every spoonful. It’s good to the last drop.

The new HOBBIT I movie (An Unexpected Journey) is like Kozy Shack Rice Pudding. It’s just more of the stuff I love and I can eat the whole tub on one sitting. To anyone left who wonders if they should see it I would ask “Did you like LORD OF THE RINGS? Didn’t you say at some point that you would watch a whole movie of Ian McKellen’s Gandalf and Christopher Lee’s Saruman reading aloud rice pudding recipes? Yes, you did and this is that movie.”

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THE HOBBIT is another helping of Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth. It is not an exact replica of Tolkien’s Middle Earth, but it is close enough in spirit and texture to be an enjoyable extension of the books. And if you are a hardcore Tolkien scholar, like me, you like ALL OF IT, every creamy, ricey bite of it, from the Cracks of Doom to Dol Guldur, from Aragorn to Feanor. And that’s what Jackson is giving us…little bits from the appendixes kitted up to full on battle scenes and character arcs. And I love it!

Now, did I think the opening with Elijah Wood as Frodo and Ian Holm as the older Bilbo was a little too custardy without enough rice? Yes I did. Was I surprised to find that all White Council meetings took place while the participants were stoned out of their minds and could only talk in long, drawn out syllables? A bit. Was I previously unaware that Bilbo would be mostly a bystander in the film’s action as the story shifted over to Thorin Oakenshield and his quest for his homeland? That is surely so.

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But was I also excited to find the canonical great orc Azog elevated to sub-villain, and stone giants having majestic boulder battles in the mountains, and the scrofulous growths of disgusting goblin kings shaking with laughter and wargs and elves and Mount Gundabad?

You betcha!

To all the haters who say this movie has no story and is way too slow: I think you got the wrong idea. Peter Jackson’s three-part HOBBIT is not a movie. It is a nine-hour miniseries that is being presented in theaters at frame rates only a crankhead can enjoy. The first hour is all set up, the second hour is some journeying, the third hour has some fights, the fourth hour will definitely have more fights, and maybe spiders, and perhaps a hearty lunch and so on.

Also, if you don’t mind spoilers, I defy you to read this and not want to see Peter Jackson make this movie! If you don’t want spoilers, here’s a peek:
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The third movie is apparently going to be nothing but action as a giant battle of men, elves, dwarves, orcs, and eagles unfolds, while Gandalf, Galadriel and Elrond go postal on the Necromancer at Dol Guldur. With swoopy camera angles and bigatures! And hot elves! And hot dwarves! And Martin Freeman! Come on now, who does not want to see that?

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I was not a fan of Jackson’s KING KONG, which was total monkey fanfic and betrayed White Council-like meandering story sense. But here, Jackson’s viewpoint meshes perfectly with the source material. There are a lot of Jackson/Walsh/Boyens/del Toro made up things in the HOBBIT but they all improve the film’s cinematic flow. They’ve elevated Thorin, who in the book is mostly a greedy, petty pain in the ass. In Jackson’s HOBBIT he’s a noble, dispossessed prince trying to get his homeland back—but he’s also flawed. He’s an Aragorn who doesn’t make it. Richard Armitage is fine with the role, and as with the original trilogy, slash and fanfic will never be the same after meeting Thorin, Fili, Kili, Bofur and so on.

Now, I did not see this in the crack-head frame rate, and it seems that everyone who did—including all critics—was repelled and alarmed. I don’t generally like 3D but HOBBIT looked fine in that presentation, with Jackson’s trademark plunging tracking shots, and WETA’s attention to detail holding up well on the screen. (Apparently in 48fps it’s really hard to make things look good in cinematic terms.)

And to those who say THE HOBBIT is a cute kids book and does not need to be three three-hour movies, I say, “No, it doesn’t so go watch the Rankin Bass version.” This movie is all about pigging out on rice pudding, and wallowing in every last detail of Middle Earth. And I’m fine with that.

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I wasn’t totally fine with Radagast. I liked his bunny sled, which wasn’t canon but somehow, kinda fit in with the spirit of other agrarian Tolkien works like Farmer Giles of Ham and Leaf by Niggle. I wasn’t entirely in love with his bird shit. Radagast in the books was an oddball but not a hoarder. (And yes every Tolkien scholar in the audience laughed when Gandalf said that there were five wizards but “Hm, I can’t remember the name of the other two.”)

Other Tolkienistas seem to have reacted favorably to An Unexpected Journey. Here’s Mariah Huehner’s take.

By changing a few things, Jackson gave Bilbo a bit more agency up front (choosing to go on the quest instead of Gandalf basically shoving him out the door, figuring out he should maybe try stalling the trolls until daylight, coming to Thorin’s defense). This makes his arc as a character more believable because he does have some of these positive traits already. They just need to be brought out by the circumstances. He starts out fussy, with glimmers of risk-taking and cleverness. Which come up again later in various circumstances (trolls, Gollum, spiders, barrel ride, Smaug, info via thrush to Dale, they all build toward each other). That’s how you work a character arc.


And Dresden Kodak creator Aaron Diaz, who has the best post for the Tolkien scholars I’ve read yet:

The tone is perfect, and they do a really good job of making this “Not Lord of the Rings,” complete with the implication that Bilbo likely embellished parts of the story. It’s lighthearted without being goofy or dumb, and captures that sense of innocence of a time much less dark and dreary.  I suspect this might throw off some who are less familiar with Tolkien’s work, who expect every one of his stories to feel like LoTR, but we know better, don’t we?  There are many different stories in Middle-Earth with many different purposes.


And just to round thing out, noted surrealist Alejandro Jodorowskywas not a fan of Tolkien’s male-focused world:

The Hobbit is a single male elf accompanied by male dwarves. How can we make movies where women do not exist?


Bring on Tauriel!

In another tweet, Jodorowsky united the streams:


which translates (Google tells me) as:

At the end of “The Hobbit”, who sleeps in the mountain of gold coins, is none other than Donald Duck’s uncle disguised as a dragon.


If Benedict Cumberbatch is going to play Uncle Scrooge, so be it!

So anyway, I really enjoyed THE HOBBIT, I plan to see it at least once more, and when it comes out on Blu-ray I’ll watch it over and over again, especially when Fili and Kili are onscreen, and oh yeah, Andy Serkis’s Gollum was amazing.

Now bring on the Kozy Shack!

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Studio Coffee Run: The Hobbit, Arrow, S.H.I.E.L.D., Enders Game, etc.

Variant Entertainment Weekly cover celebrating next week’s release of The Hobbit

There’s hobbitses just around the corner, people. Peter Jackson’s Hobbit opus opens next Friday to so far mildly positive reviews [Read more…]

The Hobbit is barreling at us with sexy dwarves and fashionable Radagast

Hero Complex has a bunch of interviews about THE HOBBIT up, which is a reminder that OHMIGOD THE HOBBIT OPENS IN 12 DAYS!!! OH MY GOD! IT IS HAPPENING! DON’T LET ME ALMOST DIE AGAIN!

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One interview, with famed costume designer Ann Maskrey reveals that her favorite “look” she designed is for Radagast, the obscure wizard that Tolkienistas have been begging for for decades and are finally getting!

AM: It was lovely doing things for Cate Blanchett, but she could make a plastic bag look good. There are favorite other ones that are coming up on the screen next year. [In the first film,] I’m very fond of Radagast. I’m very, very fond of that one. It’s just everything about it. The actor [Sylvester McCoy] I knew before, had worked on a movie with him before. He’s a very likable man, and the character’s lovely. The costume used every part of the workshop to the fullest. We had embroidery done, we had fabrics made, we had fabrics dyed, the break-down team worked on it, the milliner did a great hat, the boys that made all the footwear did really nice shoes for him. To me, that was one of the most successful ones. And he’s a new character.


Maskrey reveals she had to update the WETA sewing department on modern techniques for HD stitching:

“I’d be checking over what they were doing for the hobbit accessories or hobbit bodices, and how they were finishing them off, and I’d find that they were doing something that I didn’t particularly like, and I’d say, “Why are you doing it that way? I’d like it this way.” And they’d say, “That’s how we did it before.” And I’d say, “Well, ‘before’ is 10 years ago. And that’s not what we’re going to do now. We’re in 3-D, we want something better. … That was then, and this is now, and you’ve got to lift your game accordingly.”


§ Another piece interviews Dean Gorman who portrays Fili, one of the sexy young Dwarf brothers, namely Fili and Kili:

Together, the brothers are the youngest dwarves in the company, and as many “Hobbit” enthusiasts have noted, the sexiest.

“I think that’s pretty relative,” O’Gorman said, laughing. “I mean, we’re a company of dwarves. The bar’s not set very high. … I think the idea was as you get older, your beard gets longer, and your nose gets bigger, but when you’re younger, you’ve got a smaller nose and less facial hair.”

While other dwarf actors wore enveloping whiskers and bulging prosthetic foreheads and noses, O’Gorman and Turner had fewer prosthetic pieces to deal with—nose extensions, fake hands and hairpieces with ears.


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That’s Gorman, left, along with Richard Armitage who plays Thorin in THE HOBBIT, Part 1…uh, has anyone read the end of this book?

I’ll say no more.

Studio Coffee Run: Mo’ Hobbits, Mo’ problems, Elysium, Kickass 2, Spiderman 2, etc.

Matt Damon in Elysium (Image via FirstShowing.net)

Here is a new pic of a very armed and very bald Matt Damon in a teaser image from Neil Blomkamp’s Elysium. The film is set for release in August, 2013 (via Firstshowing.net)

Mo’ Hobbits, mo’ problems. Peter Jackson and Warner Brothers are being plagued by a perfect sh*tstorm of bad press mere weeks before the release of the first installment of The Hobbit trilogy. [Read more…]

Studio Coffee Run: Arrow, The Walking Dead, Kickass 2, The Hobbit, etc.

 

Alo Govnah! David Morrisey makes his eagerly awaited debut as the infamous Governor in this week’s episode of The Walking Dead, Walk With Me (Image via io9.com)

While the 2nd episode of Season 3 of The Walking Dead dropped in the ratings from the first episode, it still topped the ratings for all non-sports related programming ratings ages 18 – 49. [Read more…]

New Hobbit poster unveils a drove of dwarves

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Can’t name ‘em all yet?

Oh you will, laddies, yes you will.

RAD-A-GAST! RAD-A-GAST!

We asked for Radagast the Brown.

And we got him.

In a bunny sled. [Read more…]

Hobbit-y Goodness

Excuse me, but I need to nerd/geek/dork/whatever out here for a minute because: They are making not one, not two, but three movies for The Hobbit. They finally released the sub-titles this past week causing a flurry of speculation as to how exactly the story is going to enfold. It’s like Durin’s Day for Tolkien nerds, with secrets like Lee Pace as Thranduil being released, looking pretty and elf-y. The first trailer that debuted months ago still gives me goosebumps during the dwarf song.  There are the amazingly perfect gestures of Martin Freeman as Bilbo to consider. I’ve got some time to analyze Galadriel’s knowing smile and Gandalf’s concern before the first hits theaters and I’m pretty ecstatic to be able to write that.

Why is it all such an epic big deal? Well, for me, it’s because I thought LOTR was the end of it and I considered myself lucky and grateful to have gotten such wonderful adaptations of works I love so much in my lifetime. I was content with having not only theatrical releases but extended, everything and the Moria-sink, versions. I saw the Huorns eat the orcs after The Battle of Helms Deep. I saw the Gray Havens. Cate Blanchett was Galadriel and she was perfect. I have like 12 hours of awesome Middle Earthing to watch whenever I want. How could I ask for more?

Yet, we’re getting a lot more. Not one, not two, but three installments of dwarf-y, hobbit-y, dragon-y, goodness. Some people have wondered if there’s enough story to do a satisfying trilogy. I would argue an emphatic, YES. Even though The Hobbit is a more straightforward, “simple” heroes quest, with far less world detail and historical density, it’s not really a “lite” read. Especially when you consider it within the greater story of LOTR, which it foreshadows, and further consider some of the events that take place off-page, that are helpfully included in appendices in LOTR. The fact that they’re actively putting it within that context, in my opinion, roots the story in the world more solidly, grounding it within a framework of larger and more profound consequences.

Depending on when you read The Hobbit and how you interpreted it, I can understand the belief that it’s a “kids” story and doesn’t need a darker adaptation. As grownups it’s easy to view the less sophisticated writing style, especially when compared to the sweeping and layered complexity that is LOTR, and see something “for children.” If you’re looking at it through the nostalgic lens of childhood, or the assumption that it is child-ish, we can sometimes overlook the fantasy/horror elements that The Hobbit does in fact contain.

Spoilers!

First of all, a group of trolls nearly eats all the dwarves in the first third. The goblins (or basically smaller orcs) in the mountains capture and chain up the dwarves, hurt them, threaten them and definitely want to kill them. Gollum, it is implied, has eaten goblins before, and he absolutely tries to brain Bilbo when he figures out he found his ring and tricked him with a non-riddle. After they get out, those same creatures set fire to the trees our heroes hide up, nearly becoming kebabs for goblins if not for the eagles. Then there’s Mirkwood with the giant spiders who poison the dwarves so they can, let’s face it, drain their blood. Then the elves lock them all up in dungeons. And that’s all BEFORE the giant dragon who decimates Esgaroth, The Battle of Five Armies, and the sad yet noble death of a redeemed main character. I’m just not sure you can call that sort of story “lite” toned, exactly.

Granted, there’s plenty of humor. I remember laughing every single time I read the exchange between Bilbo and Gandalf about who/what Beorn is, because Bilbo’s response is just so completely ludicrous, involving the word “coneys” and his bizarre belief that skin-changers are somehow like furriers. And Bilbo running around invisible with a cold during the barrel ride to Laketown and freaking people out with his “spirit” sneezes and bread stealing? Comedy gold. He has quite a bit in common with Pippin in the pratfall department, really. So, like any good drama, there’s levity to break it all up.

However, that just brings us back to the darker themes and story points, like Thorin Oakenshield’s entire history and his character arc which gets pretty obsessive and dangerous because of the Arkenstone. They only narrowly avoid dwarves vs. elves because the goblins come sweeping down from the mountains and that’s an enemy everyone can agree on because they’re pretty gross. There’s also some interesting specieism going on with Thranduil,king of Mirkwood, which hints at the larger problems in Middle Earth with the “good” guys being way too divided. And! If you’re an attentive reader, at least, you start to gather that Gandalf may have been kind of manipulating events here, especially in the hindsight you gain from information in LOTR that tells you how important it was to deal with Smaug. Plus I, for one, have always wanted to know what happened with the Necromancer while Gandalf was away, so I’m not sorry to have it added in. Basically, there’s plenty of story to go around.

Beyond all that, there’s also the issue that adapting the The Hobbit today, after LOTR has been made, means you can’t dial the story back to a time when this connection didn’t exist so concretely in pop culture consciousness. That’s just how it is. If you want to view The Hobbit as entirely separate, okay. You can do that. Don’t go see the films, read the book as a one-off, and it won’t be a problem for you. The films can’t actually undermine anything about your personal story interpretation. But there is no way Jackson could be expected to ignore the over-arching context after LOTR and it would be kind of absurd to try. Personally, I’m all for bringing these things together and getting our collective epic on.

At this point my obsessive love of all things Middle Earth should be pretty obvious. I could talk/write/post about it forever. I’ve loved this world since I was little and it’s informed my overall adoration of stories and storytelling a great deal. I appreciate detailed world building because of Tolkien, and one of the things Jackson has done best is realize that world with respect and consideration in a visual medium. That alone would make me a fan, but he also actively went beyond the superficial and made sure it all “feels” authentic and real.

The fact that we’ll have The Hobbit in another three films to add to this world, another journey to follow, another group of characters to root for and care about? I just can’t ask for more, because I’m already getting so much.

Jackson toying with a third Hobbit movie — just make The Akallabeth already, okay?


Deadline chats up Peter Jackson, who’s mulling what to do with all his extra Hobbit footage and also dreaming of all the Middle Earth material in the appendices — over a hundred pages of chronologies, genealogies, and linguistic notes. Deadline thinks an extra movie is a bad idea if it just stretches out Gandalf snooping around Dol Guldur and the daily doings of Dale, but we say…there’s certainly a lot of material there. Let Peter Jackson make his Tolkien fan fic films! While using existing Hobbit footage wouldn’t be appropriate, you could make a whole movie out of the tale of Aragorn and Arwen. Or how about a movie about Balin and crew going to Moria and getting blasted by the Balrog. Think of it as the unseen backstory to Prometheus.

Heck, how about a Game of Thrones style HBO miniseries based on the Silmarillion. It’s got violence, maiming, miscegenation and incest—perfect material. I jest, I jest…film rights to The Silmarillion haven’t been parceled out and the Tolkien family has generally turned a cold shoulder to the popular movie trilogy.

In the meantime, for the huddled wretches who couldn’t get into Hall H, there’s the above Hobbit process featurette with footage from Comic-Con. Aside from reminding us that December can’t come soon enough, our takeaway: Richard Armitage (Thorin) is quite tall for a dwarf.

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Rare 12-minute Hobbit cartoon by Gene Deitch resurfaces


Don’t have time to watch the whole two-movie HOBBIT from Peter Jackson, or even the Rankin Bass version? Well then maybe this 1968 “limited animation” version which clocks in at under 12 minutes is more your speed.

It’s actually a recently unearthed version of the Hobbit written by the legendary Gene Deitch (Tom and Jerry) and based on drawings by Czech illustrator Adolf Born.

When we tell you you have never seen the Hobbit like this, we mean, You have never seen the Hobbit like this.

As in: this is Thorin Oakenshield:

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Scenarist Deitch also took some liberties with the storyline, replacing the 12 dwarven companions with….a princess. Who…well, let’s just say there is a ROMANCE along the way.

Of course there’s a wacky back story to this strange cartoon. Producer Bill Snyder was trying to hold onto the rights to the Hobbit (which he’d acquired from the Tolkiens in a totally crap deal for the Tolkien family) in the face of its sudden popularity surge in the late 60s. Deitch tells the rest of the story:

Why invest money, plus a year-and-a-half of work, when you can make money without all that sweat? Not only had the Tolkien estate lawyers given Snyder the rights for peanuts, but in their ignorance of film terminology, they had left a million-dollar-loop-hole in the contract: It merely stated that in order to hold his option for THE LORD OF THE RINGS, Snyder had to “produce a full-color motion picture version” of THE HOBBIT by June 30th 1966. Please note: It did not say it had to be an animated movie, and it not say how long the film had to be!


Thus this strange, rushed animatic.

Which calls the dragon “Smag.” Rhymes with swag.
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Tolkienistas will recall the stunningly inappropriate covers for the original Ballantine paperback trilogy by Barbara Remington, a talented artist who was given only a vague outline of what the books were about (Ballantine was in a race itself to compete with an unauthorized version by Ace Books.) The covers were so odd that they led to Tolkien complaining in his letters of inauthentic “pumpkins in a tree.” (An even less germane lion has been removed from the above.)

Well, let’s just say that the Deitch/Born version of the Hobbit is the perfect version of the story to go with the Remington covers.