8 things we learned at the Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Comic-Con panel

Super Saturday marked what could be director Peter Jackson‘s final Tolkien-related Comic-Con presentation. Perhaps fittingly then, the panel proved to be both a look back at both trilogies, a thank you to fans, and a look ahead at the final film of the Hobbit series, The Battle of the Five Armies.

The prolific New Zealander took that stage in Hall H along with moderator (and obsessive Tolkienite) Stephen Colbert, screenwriter and producer Philipa Boyens and popular cast members Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Graham McTavish, Andy Serkis, and Elijah Wood. Notably missing this time around? Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage and Ian McKellen. Both Freeman and Armitage are starring in London theatre productions at the moment, “Richard III” and “The Crucible” respectively, while McKellen is filming his next project.

Tune in below as we run down the top eight takeaways from the highly anticipated Warner Bros. panel:

  1. If you think you’re a bigger Tolkien-head than Colbert, you’re wrong. The first-time Comic-Con attendee took the stage in his costume from his Desolation of Smaug cameo as a resident of Laketown to screams and cheers from the assembled masses and chants of “Stephen! Stephen!” Silencing skeptics who may have thought him there for comedic value alone, Colbert began by recounting his life-long adoration of the books, his initial doubts about cinematic versions and finally, his admiration for the trilogies and gratitude “that finally folks wouldn’t roll their eyes when I spoke of Middle-earth.” He also spoke of his win of a trivia-off with fellow super fan Boyens (which he’s recounted on “The Colbert Report” several times) but any doubts whether it was a fluke victory were trampled when he recited an obscure poem at the start of the panel — completely from memory — causing the audience to erupt with impressed and genuine applause. Stephen Colbert, he’s just like us.
  2. Jackson knows his audience: The panel kicked off in style with what was ostensibly a cinematic love letter dedicated to the devoted fans of both series. Featuring key scenes from The Lord of the Rings films as well of the first two Hobbit releases, and a never before seen blooper reel — which one again provesIan McKellen to be the King of all things. Each and every slip-up featuring the British thesp had the audience in stiches and that Gandalf strip tease? Well, it has to be seen to be believed.
  3. The new teaser footage weaves a spell that only these films can achieve: With obvious homages to the original trilogy, the very first look at The Battle of the Five Armies (which you can now see here) debuted during Saturday’s panel – much to the delight of the crowd in Hall H. Set to the lament “The Sacrifice of Faramir (The Edge of Night)” Pippin (Billy Boyd) sang in the Lord of the Rings finale, Return of the King, the emotional and action-packed footage brought even Jackson to tears. The director admitted the film is much darker in tone than both An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug and the teaser left no doubt that this finale is set to be a fitting end to tall of these landmark films.
  4. Motion capture has its ups and downs: Cumberbatch admitted it’s odd to think he didn’t work with most of his co-stars during actual production but went on to laud his castmates for excelling at what he believes to be the harder task — acting opposite tennis balls and dots rather than other actors. The Brit stated that he had it easy (in comparison) filming his motion-capture characters of Smaug and the Necromancer, as he was just “throwing [himself] around a carpeted floor like a lunatic.” As for the King of mo-cap, Andy Serkis? He told the audience that the part of Gollum completely changed his life and has gone a long way to preventing him from falling victim to the trap of typecasting. And it’s not all about the mo-cap, as both Serkis and Cumberbatch unleashed their character’s voices (Smaug, in the case of the latter) at the request of audience members during the Q&A portion of the panel.
  5. Galadriel gets in on the action in Five Armies: Blanchett revealed that audiences will get to see a different side to her Elven character — a vet of both trilogies. Aside from a rather intense moment with Frodo in The Fellowship of the Ring, Galadriel has served mainly as advisor and prophet. Not so with this next film, where the actress added, “I lose my s**t.” We can’t wait.
  6. Elijah Wood has never read Lord of the Rings: No…seriously. His admission caused horrified gasps from the assembled fans. But rest assured, the actor insists he read and loved The Hobbit as a child. In contrast, the delightfully nerdy Evangeline Lilly admits that she read all of the Rings as a teenager. All but the last 20 pages, that is. The actress was so upset the story was coming to a close that she refused to finish the book. As of Saturday, she still hasn’t read them. Maybe that will change after December?
  7. A Lord of the Rings/Hobbit museum is on the way: Jackson said that they barely used any of the props, models, miniatures or costumes from the original trilogy as he considers them a bit sacred. Apparently they are all preserved and being kept in vaults at a “secret location” that only a few have been to in hopes that one day they can be displayed at museum devoted to the films and their production. The only re-used items from the first films any of the cast could remember were the wigs used by Orlando Bloom and Cate Blanchett.
  8. There could be a director’s super cut of Lord of the Rings one day: Though there are few scenes from the first trilogy that have yet to be released or included, there is the possibility that those remaining could one day make it into a cut. The example given was a crowd-pleasing moment between a young Aragorn and Arwen that Jackson enjoys but that he hasn’t yet found a place for. The main issue at this stage is that all seven million feet of 35mm footage is locked away in a Warner Bros. vault somewhere in Arizona and it would be an extremely onerous process to find the specific missing pieces. That being said, Jackson added, “If there’s enough interest from people, maybe they will let us dig through them.”

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies hits theatres on December 17.

(Originally posted on Cineplex.com)

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