The Tuesday before Christmas, New Line Cinema, MGM, and Warner Brothers introduced the first Hobbit movie with a two-and-a-half minute teaser trailer. Many were surprised by how much detail Peter Jackson was able to incorporate nearly a year before the movie’s planned release, but there was also some disappointment that we were not yet able to see Smaug (except for Tolkien’s own depiction of the dragon on the map). My feeling is that we might not see Jackson and crew’s Smaug at all in the first film, The Unexpected Journey. At best, if I know anything about Jackson at all, we will see a clouded image much as we saw Gollum in The Fellowship of the Ring.
The trailer (embedded below) wisely uses images familiar to fans of the Lord of the Rings movies, beginning with a shot in front of Bag End. Bilbo is talking with Frodo about his adventures. “…I have told you the truth, but I may not have told you all of it.” This should strike a chord with fans of the book, as Bilbo’s half truths told to the Dwarves will come into play. The “truth” would not even be evident to Professor Tolkien himself until he was well into his attempt at writing the “Hobbit sequel” which became The Lord of the Rings. But that’s another story…
We are now reintroduced to Gandalf, and to the new, younger Bilbo, played by Martin Freeman. Old Bilbo (Ian Holm) and Gandalf (Ian McKellen) we knew, and Freeman looks enough like a young Holm to be convincing. (Flashbacks of younger Bilbo in the Lord of the Rings has him with curlier hair, though—which makes me wonder if they will someday use Freeman for those scenes in later releases of the films, à la Anakin Skywalker in the Return of the Jedi.)
Next we are introduced to thirteen new characters. Gandalf’s introduction of the Dwarves all at one time is, I take it, a device used to introduce them to us quickly, not an indication that they will all show up on Bilbo’s doorstep at the same time. (If you listen carefully to the audio, you can detect some editing.) Even the scene later in the trailer with several Dwarves falling through the front door of Bag End does not mean Jackson has lost the whimsey of the party arriving in small groups. Notice that scene is at night with Bilbo in a robe. This scene is in broad daylight, with Bilbo in his familiar Hobbit attire.
We are now treated to a few lines from the Dwarves’ song, Far over the misty mountains cold, taken directly from the opening chapter of the book. I must admit that I was taken aback at first that the movie makers chose the style of an a capella Gregorian chant. I have always thought of the Dwarves’ music as being more lively—even this song about the Desolation of Smaug. The Trailer also leaves out the famous line “We must away ere break of day” which gives the poem a more positive spirit despite its subject matter. It always seemed to me more of a “fight song” than a dirge. Much of Tolkien’s description as he introduces the poem is, however, captured.
The dark filled all the room, and the fire died down, and the shadows were lost, and still they played on. And suddenly first one and then another began to sing as they played, deep-throated singing of the dwarves in the deep places of their ancient homes; and this is a fragment of their song, if it can be like their song without their music.
As the music continues, we are shown some scenes from the movie, most notably scenes which are not in the book itself. It has long been known that Jackson plans to include the backstory behind why Gandalf leaves the Dwarves and Bilbo along the journey, detailing the events at Dol Guldur and the White Council. At least one critic has found the scene with Gandalf and Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) a little disturbing (See Why the Hobbit Trailer Creeps Me Out on Wired.com.) I will wait to comment on this until I see how the movie plays out.
The discussion between Gandalf and Bilbo now sums up the story rather nicely: There is no guarantee you will return, but “if you do, you’ll never be the same.”
The trailer ends with a shot of the Ring and a short scene with Gollum that is reminiscent of his slinking stealthiness in The Lord of the Rings. “What’s a Baggins?” In a year, we will see Peter Jackson’s answer to that very question.
So, what do you think of the trailer? Leave your comments below.