More than a decade ago, before Peter Jackson unveiled his "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, millions of diehard J.R.R. Tolkien fans waited with tempered anticipation, just waiting to pounce on Jackson for any mistreatment of their beloved text. Three films, seventeen Oscars, and over three billion dollars in box office receipts later, those same fans can hardly stand to wait another moment for the LOTR prequel, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey". And starting today, they won't have to. We all know "The Hobbit" will be another great adventure, but here are Five Facts about the film you might not know.
1. Tolkien first imagined "The Hobbit, or There and Back Again" while telling bedtime stories to his kids. In fact, when the story was originally published in 1937, it was done so as a children's book. Obviously, some of the 100 million odd copies sold in over 50 languages around the world have been purchased and devoured by grownups (or at least by people who have successfully aged), but it wasn't actually written for them. The story takes place 60 years prior to the Rings trilogy, and revolves around a genial Hobbit, Bilbo (Martin Freeman), a mischievous wizard, Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen), and a rambunctious company of 13 Dwarves looking to reclaim their homeland from the dragon Smaug. Like the book, the tone of the film is noticeably lighter than that of "The Lord of the Rings," and the stakes are significantly lower. Of course, knowing what we know about the "one ring to rule them all," the darkness lingers. You can get a good feel for the tone in the trailer above.
Three Films from One Book
2. The first edition of "The Hobbit" covers the span of a singular 310 page book. Yet "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" is but the first film of another trilogy, and a nearly three hour film at that. So how the heck did Jackson develop the story enough to fill up such a plethora of screen time? By relying heavily on the 125 pages of appendices Tolkien developed over the years that greatly expand and complicate the world of Middle Earth, which he included at the end of "The Return of the King." The screenwriting team also brought back some popular characters from LOTR who don't actually show up in the text of "The Hobbit" -- including Galadriel (Cate Blanchet), and in the next film, the sure-shot Elvin archer Legolas (Orlando Bloom) -- while creating entirely new characters at the same time, like Tauriel, a female elf played by Evangeline Lilly.
Spock Sings Bilbo's Praises
3. As far as mass appeal, Tolkien's books didn't really take off until the late 60's, when the often-tripping counterculture embraced them with fantastical zeal. Such popularity multiplied exponentially by the inclusion of Tolkien-inspired lyrics by many of the top rockers of the day, including Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and Black Sabbath. Amazingly enough, even Mr. Spock, aka Leonard Nimoy, felt the need to sing about the happenings in Middle Earth, as he does above in "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins" from his 1968 LP Two Sides of Leonard Nimoy. (Thank you, oh great and powerful Internet, for providing us this miraculous gem!)
[Related: 'The Hobbit' sets December box office record]
4. Per usual, Jackson breaks new technological ground with this film. "The Hobbit" is the very first feature ever to be shot in High Frame Resolution (HFR) 48 Frames Per Second (FPS). For the last 80 plus years, films have been shot and shown in 24 FPS, so now Jackson is basically filling the frame with twice as many images. Confused? Let's go straight to the source for clarification: "Your brain reads the details as being sharper because you're not seeing that very subtle smudging between the frames. It looks like you're looking through a window into a real world rather than through the glass of an artificial world." Jackson told Entertainment Weekly. Though there are a number of screening options available, Jackson intended the film to be viewed in HFR 3D. Though the effect may be a bit jarring initially, who are we to argue with Jackson about how best to watch his film?
5. Two of the biggest roles in the new trilogy -- the titular Bilbo Baggins and the dragon Smaug -- were handed out to two actors who have great familiarity with one another: Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch. On the hit BBC television show "Sherlock," Cumberbatch plays an updated version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's brilliant detective Sherlock Holmes; Freeman plays his sidekick Dr. John Watson. In "The Hobbit," Cumberbatch also plays the role of the mysterious Necromancer, while serving double duty as the performance capture actor helping to bring Smaug to terrifying life.
For a more in-depth look at "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," check out our Insider Access video below where, among other highlights, Jackson, McKellen, Freeman and Andy Serkis (as Gollum!) tell me the differences between orcs, goblins, and trolls. Oh my!
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