Sunday, July 15, 2012

Comic-Con Updates For THE HOBBIT!! A Third Movie In The Works?

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Guys, here's a rundown of some of the information I have read on THE HOBBIT thus far from Comic-Con 2012. First of all let me tip my cap to the sources for this info, Collider and Deadline as it is no small feat to be able to get to these events, position yourself and take notes / record. 

What's THE most new and exciting thing about Peter Jackson's revisit to Middle-earth? How about a 3rd movie! The potential is there and is being considered by the studio. They have the rights to use the appendices from The Lord Of The Rings which opens the door to numerous possibilities. One of the things of concern for shooting THE HOBBIT was the disappearance of Gandalf for few chapters of the book which is now being addressed by using those appendices. It turns out this portion of the movie will be darker and help lead into THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING. Apparently Jackson is prepared to add on weeks of shooting to complete a third movie if the studio approves the request. Fingers crossed.

Here's the information the Deadline accumulated: 

Guillermo Del Toro told me he didn’t feel badly about stepping away from directing The Hobbit because the film ended up in the right hands, your hands. Everybody felt that way but you it seemed. Why did it take you so long to embrace a return to Middle Earth as director?
JACKSON: It did seem that way, but you’re talking about a series of events that were largely out of everybody’s control at the time. I have a certain belief in fate. Not in a religious way but over my life I find that if you try to assert yourself and influence things too much, it’s not necessarily the best idea. You kind of take your foot off the clutch at some stage and freewheel and let things happen. Guillermo was developing The Hobbit, I was producing it and I had other things that I was developing of my own at that time. And for the 18 months he was on it, we never had a green light. MGM was in all sorts of trouble, and teetering on the verge of bankruptcy. There is a certain disillusionment that happens when you work so long on a project that has no guarantee of happening. Also, Guillermo always has a lot of things he is developing and it was out of our hands. He’d made up his mind, and we fully understood. When he left, the film still didn’t have a green light, it was still another three or four months before the MGM situation resolved itself. At that point, as the producer on the film, there had been a significant amount of development money spent on the project during those 18 months, with script development, locations and everything else. And I just felt I couldn’t now try to find another director to take over. To protect the studios’ investment, I thought as producer that I had to do the smart thing here and step up. I guess I was superstitious. The reason I never really went there at the beginning was, I was thinking about that superstition of lightning never striking twice, and I thought I’d always be competing against myself. That I’d go to work each day thinking, I’ve got to shoot this scene better than the one I did 10 or 12 years ago. As it was, that never happened and I never had those thoughts. But I feel the same way as Guillermo. I feel that fate dictated that Pacific Rim getting made, and that otherwise would not have gotten made. From everything I’m hearing, that is a kick ass film and I got to make The Hobbit and I thoroughly enjoyed my time on it. Sometimes you’ve just got to let go of the steering wheel and let fate take you where it’s going to take you.

The Hobbit is different than the epic quest of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Tonally, how does it compare?
JACKSON: The tone is partially set by the novel, which is very much a children’s novel. That all goes back to JRR Tolkien writing The Hobbit first, for children, and only after did he develop his mythology much more over the 16 or 17 years later when The Lord of the Rings came out, which is way more epic and mythic and serious. What people have to realize is we’ve adapted The Hobbit, plus taken this additional 125 pages of notes, that’s what you’d call them. Because Tolkien himself was planning the rewrite The Hobbit after The Lord of the Rings, to make it speak to the story of The Lord of the Rings much more. In the novel, Gandalf disappears for various patches of time. In 1936, when Tolkien was writing that book, he didn’t have a clue what Gandalf was doing. But later on, when he did The Lord of the Rings and he’d hit on this whole epic story, he was going to go back and revise The Hobbit and he wrote all these notes about how Gandalf disappears and was really investigating the possible return of Sauron, the villain from The Lord of the Rings. Sauron doesn’t appear at all in The Hobbit. Tolkien was retrospectively fitting The Hobbit to embrace that mythology. He never wrote that book, but there are 125 pages of notes published at the back of Return of the King in one of the later editions. It was called The Appendices, and they are essentially his expanded Hobbit notes. So we had the rights to those as well and were allowed to use them. So we haven’t just adapted The Hobbit; we’ve adapted that book plus great chunks of his appendices and woven it all together. The movie explains where Gandalf goes; the book never does. We’ve explained it using Tolkien’s own notes. That helped inform the tone of the movie, because it allowed us to pull in material he wrote in The Lord of the Rings era and incorporate it with The Hobbit. So we kept the charm and the whimsy of the fairy tale quality through the characters. Through the dwarves and Bilbo, who is more of a humorous character. He doesn’t try to be funny but we find him funny and find his predicament more amusing than that of Frodo in The Lord of the Rings. That was more serious. So the whimsy is there, but tonally I wanted to make it as similar to The Lord of the Rings, because I wanted it to be possible for the people, the crazy people in the world who want to watch these films back to back one day…

JACKSON: [Laughs]. I wanted it to feel for people like you that the films have one organic flow, that there is not film completely different than the next.

In the spirit of what you just said, The Hobbit was shot in 3D. What about converting The Lord of the Rings into that format, which would unify all five films in the series?
JACKSON: It has been discussed over the years. It’s a money thing and it’s a market thing. Look, everything in Hollywood is driven by the market and by money. If Warner Bros felt they could rerelease these films and cover the cost of conversion then I’m sure they will do it. Everyone got excited after Titanic was converted and released, and then the numbers were not great for Episode One of Star Wars. Really, as an industry, people are still wondering what the economics are for post-converting older movies into 3D. I don’t think the question has really been answered and maybe it won’t be until later when entertainment systems at home become more sophisticated and everyone has 3D. But now, I’m afraid it’s still a question mark.

People here were surprised that the clips you showed at Comic-Con were not 3D, and were not the 48 frames per second format that you hope to advance with The Hobbit. Have you licked whatever those bugs were when you first showed the footage?
JACKSON: The 48 looks completely fantastic. What my experience has been with 48, and I’ve seen a lot of frames of this over the last year and one-half is, you get used to it. You sit there and think, wow, this doesn’t look like any film I’ve seen before. And then, within 10 minutes, you just forget about it and at the end you think, wow, that was actually really nice. It’s smooth and easy on the eyes, especially in 3D. It’s immersive. It’s like Showscan, the old Doug Trumbull 60 frames per second process. You really feel immersed in it. And yet I don’t think it does 48 any justice just to screen 10 minutes of clips, without a narrative and without allowing people time to get into the story.
After CinemaCon, where we screened a six or seven-minute reel, I went on the internet to see what people thought of the first footage of The Hobbit. And nobody was commenting on the footage, good or bad. Everyone had opinions about the 48 frames. You had the film purists saying, this doesn’t look like cinema, it doesn’t look like film. Well, no, it doesn’t, it’s completely different. Those negative comments were getting picked up and spun around the world by all the bloggers. I didn’t want to risk that at Comic-Con. I wanted people to look at the actors, at the performance, the story, and I didn’t want Comic-Con stories to be all about 48 frames. Especially when it’s only a 12 minute clip reel and it’s in Hall H in a convention center, and not even in a cinema. The 3D looks like crap in that hall, so I wasn’t going to be screening 3D. I just wanted the focus to be the movie.

But you will release the film in 3D, 48 frames per second, right?
JACKSON: In December, there will be plenty of screens showing in 48 frames. We’re not going to overdo the 48 frames, but it’s very important that it’s used as a test for the industry. We’ll have some premium screens showing 48, but there will be lots showing 24 frames. People who are curious can see it. I just think frame rate is a really important issue for the future of the industry. I think 48 is really spectacular and if it can get kids off their iPads and home entertainment systems and back into the movie theaters, I think it is something everyone has to look at very seriously. And to do it justice, you’ve got to look at it in a feature length film. Not a clip in Hall H.

I recall James Cameron telling me that The Lord of the Rings showed him things that helped as he was figuring out Avatar. Is it a responsibility for you top guys to continue to move the technological ball forward?
DEL TORO: I think it is. High frame rates have been something the industry has always been curious about. But in the days of 35 mm, cameras could shoot high frame rates but every cinema in the world had these mechanical projectors that couldn’t project any higher than 24 frames. It was never feasible to push the frame rates because you literally had no way of projecting them in anything other than a theme park. Now, with the advent of all the digital projectors, they’re all capable of high frame rates. Why, as an industry where we have dwindling audiences especially among the kids, should we be content to sit back and say that we got it right in 1927? And say that that’s what cinema should look like, same as in 1927, and don’t change a thing. No! The kids aren’t going to give a toss about the frame rates. If something feels immersive to them, if it feels more exciting, spectacular, sharper, clearer, that’s what they’re going to like. I don’t think any 17 year old is going to say, I prefer the strobing, the re-panning and the motion blur of 24 frames. Those 17 year olds are just going to sit there, look at the higher frame rate and say, this is cool. This is cool! As an industry, we’ve got to try and get people back in the cinemas. Whether that’s the way to do it, I don’t know. But I’m trying. It’s an experiment, but I personally think it looks fantastic. I think this time next year, there will be a lot of movies shooting in 48, including some big tent poles. If I had a dollar to place a wager, I’d place my dollar there.

And here's information Collider has accumulated: 

Question: Peter, so you really want to shoot more footage and possibly even make a third film?
PETER JACKSON: Well, it’s very, very premature. We have got incredible source material with the appendices. There’s the novel, but then we also have the rights to use the 125 pages of additional notes where Tolkien expanded the world of The Hobbit. We’ve used some of that so far, and just in the last few weeks, as we’ve been wrapping up the shooting and thinking about the shape of the story, Philippa [Boyens], Fran [Walsh] and I have been talking to the studio about other things that we haven’t been able to shoot and seeing if we could possibly persuade them to do a few more weeks of shooting. We’d probably need more than a few weeks, actually, next year. The discussions are pretty early, so there isn’t anything to report, but there are other parts of the story that we’d like to tell, that we haven’t had the chance to tell yet. We’re just trying to have those conversations with the studio, at the moment.

Because The Hobbit is more of a children’s novel, how will it fit in with The Lord of the Rings films, in tone?

JACKSON: That’s a very good question, and I think the answer lies somewhere in between because we basically used more source material than just The Hobbit. For instance, in The Hobbit, when Gandalf mysteriously disappears for chapters, it’s never really explained, in any detail, where he’s gone. Much later, Tolkien fleshed those moments out. In these appendices, he did talk about what happened, and it was a lot darker and more serious than what’s written in The Hobbit. Also, to be quite honest, I want to make a series of movies that run together, so if any crazy lunatic wants to watch them all in a row, there will be a consistency of tone. I don’t want to make a purely children’s story, followed by The Lord of the Rings. We are providing a balance. A lot of the comedy and the charm and the fairytale quality of The Hobbit comes from the characters. You are dealing with Bilbo Baggins, who is a little more reluctant, possibly, to go on an adventure than Frodo was. You’re dealing with dwarves who have a personality and a comradery, all of their own. There’s a lot of humor and a lot touch to be gained from those characters, but there’s still some serious themes involved. Hopefully, The Hobbit films will comfortably straddle both worlds.

Why did you decide not to show any footage in 48 fps at Comic-Con?

JACKSON: Well, 48fps has the potential of being quite an important moment for the film industry. We have to provide a theatrical experience to bring audiences back to the cinemas. We’re in an age where there is dwindling attendance, particularly amongst younger people. I think we have to look to the technology that we have to try to figure out ways to make the cinematic experience much more spectacular and more immersive. But, Hall H is not the place to do it. We screened 10 minutes of footage. I’ve seen a lot of 48 frames, over the past year and a half, and it’s fantastic! It’s an incredible thing. But, I didn’t want to repeat the CinemaCon experience where literally people saw the reel and all they wrote about was 48 fps. That doesn’t do us any good, and it doesn’t do 48 fps any good. To accurately judge that, you really need to sit down and watch the entire film, and that opportunity is going to be there in December. I wanted the focus to just be on the footage, the characters and the performances, and not the technical stuff.

Martin, as one of the actors who is new to this world, what was it like to be a part of this and play a character that is so small?

MARTIN FREEMAN: For me, it became really noticeable when we went to Lake Town.

JACKSON: Spoiler alert!

FREEMAN: In the book, in Lake Town, there are human beings. That’s when we became more aware that, “Christ, we’re really small!,” because we spend so much of the time just hanging out with each other. We’re very aware that Gandalf is bigger. We’re used to looking two feet above Ian’s eyes. But, among all of us, we’re just the heights we are, so it doesn’t really occur to you very often. My scale double hasn’t been used that much, really.

JACKSON: Not as much as on Rings, no.

FREEMAN: So, it’s felt fairly painless, and it hasn’t felt to contrived. Personally, I’ve been surprised by how quickly I’ve gotten used to these ways of filming that I haven’t used before. The first time that we ever shot a scene with Gandalf, where Ian had to be in a completely different room, I thought, “This is ridiculous! This will never work! Who are these people? Why are they doing this to us?” And then, an hour later, you go, “That looks brilliant!” You rehearse it and rehearse it, and it becomes normal. Your whole frame of reference for how you normally work on a film shifts. What, one minute, is completely unworkable and ridiculous, the next week just works. It becomes very easy, actually.

Martin, how does this literary adaptation of Tolkien compare to the experience of making The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy?

FREEMAN: It’s even more green screen this time than with Adams. They’re very different. Apart from the fact that they have a fantastical element to them and I’m playing in adaptations, they’re literally completely different worlds. The experience of this is genuinely unlike anything I’ve ever done, and unlike anything I’m likely to do again, just for breadth of scale and time, and being in a different part of the hemisphere than I’m used to. It’s a whole different experience. It’s like a huge chunk of your life. That, alone, makes it different from anything else. The budget makes it different. You’re constantly walking onto sets and soundstages where what you’re acting on would take up the entire budget of any other film I’ve done. So, just the scale of it is quite phenomenal. For me, they’re incomparable.

In taking a character from a book, did either author make it easier to inhabit the character?

FREEMAN: That’s a good question. Not that I’ve noticed, particularly, no. With Arthur Dent, he serves, I suppose, a similar function to Bilbo, in that he’s the nearest thing to an audience member, in the film. He’s the audience’s way in. And to a certain extent, you could argue that they’re archetypes, in the hands of a much lesser actor. Cue laughter. They’re ciphers, in a way, I suppose you could say. And, they’re reluctant heroes who end up being heroes by accident because they’re archetypal stay-at-home people. Also, a lot of the time, it’s not just about whether the author makes it easier because that goes for an adaptive process, and then you’re working with directors as well. It’s the entire experience that determines whether you’re going to have an easy time of it or not. It’s not just Tolkien versus Douglas Adams, both of whom are brilliant writers. It’s who’s directing the film, who’s adapted it, and everything.

Peter, what have been the biggest advances in technology, since The Lord of the Rings?

JACKSON: The technology that advanced the most, in the last 10 or 12 years, is really the fact that we did a lot of miniature shooting on The Lord of the Rings. All the big architectural structures of Middle Earth were really miniatures, some of them quite large. But, you’re limited to what you can do with a miniature because you literally have to have a big camera that has to sweep past it, so you can’t get too close to it and the detail doesn’t hold up too well, if you do. This time around, there are no miniatures. It’s all done with CGI. Everything that we need to build, from a miniature point of view, we build as a CG miniature. I can now swoop in, over rooftops and through doorways. I can do things that I never could have dreamt of doing with the miniatures. For me, that’s actually one of the most profound differences. Gollum has more muscles in his face than he did, 12 years ago. Hopefully, Andy [Serkis] has made those muscles work in a brilliant way. We deliberately made Gollum look very similar to how he did because we wanted consistency through the films. WETA Digital, who do the work, have subsequently been working on Avatar and built a very sophisticated motion-capture facial system, and Gollum inherited some of the technological advances of that.

SERKIS: When we shot The Lord of the Rings, we shot on 35mm. I would act with Elijah [Wood] and Sean Astin, and then the performances were filmed. And then, I would have to go back to the motion-capture stage and choreograph Gollum back into the empty plates. The facial performance was derived from the filmed 35mm performance, which was then animated directly to match that performance. What is amazing now with performance-capture is that you can get the entire performance, all in one hit. We were able to shoot a scene in its entirety, on a live set, with Martin’s performance being captured on a digital camera while Gollum’s performance used a performance-capture camera, and capture them both, at exactly the same moment in time. What that does is that there’s no disconnect. The fidelity to the moment, the choices and the beats that you create, between the director and the actors, is absolutely nailed in one. That makes a significant difference to the believability and the emotion. Therefore, the chances to augment and change the iteration on the fly makes a huge difference .

Peter, why was this right for 3D and 48 fps?

JACKSON: Everyone is used to seeing 3D now. We have filmed in 3D. We’re not doing a post-conversion. I think what we did is a much more immediate and realistic look at 3D, and it’s been surprisingly easy, too. The cameras and the rigs that were available to us, even though they were prototypes when we first began, performed really, really well and very, very easily. They were easy to use fast. It hasn’t slowed us down, at all. The 48 fps takes away the art effects that we’re used to seeing in cinema, and that’s what people are gonna have to get used to. But, I find that you get used to it pretty quickly, when you sit and watch it. We’re used to seeing strobing. We’re used to seeing a panning shot, which is like a series of still frames that shutters its way along. You don’t get that with 48 frames. And yet, it doesn’t impede our ability to color time the film and put a really creative grade on the movie. Everything is the same as it normally is. And, the fact that you don’t have so much motion blur makes it feel quite sharp, as well. You get something that, to me, is much more akin to shooting on 65mm. You get a very fine detail with the 48 frames. It’s weird because, back in 1998, when we first started working on The Lord of the Rings, for awhile, I seriously tried to convince the studio to shoot in 65mm ‘cause I really thought that The Lord of the Rings should have been shot in that format. But, at the time, the cameras were huge, cumbersome and difficult. The negative that we would shoot would have to be sent away to America to be processed, so we couldn’t even see any of the rushes from New Zealand. We’d have to ship them to America, and then back again. So, the whole thing really wasn’t actually possible. For me, I finally get to shoot my 65mm quality film.

IAN McKELLAN: It’s astonishing to think that most of the people at the presentation have never seen The Lord of the Rings in the cinema. We’ve all got eight, nine and ten-year-olds who watch The Lord of the Rings, non-stop, but they watch it at home. What is going to happen to their heads, when they take their parents in to see a 3D movie, maybe for the first time, that’s in 48 fps? It’s going to be much bigger and more astonishing for them.

JACKSON: Hopefully, they’ll tell their parents to take them to more movies and get them away from their iPads.

McKELLAN: For people who are like, “Oh, we don’t need 3D, we’re used to 2D,” bollocks! 3D is life. We’re in 3D now. The brilliance about Peter’s 3D is that it doesn’t come out at you. You go into it. You enter Middle Earth. You look around the corner. You’re even deeper in, and can you find your way out? That’s the effect of 3D. Those little kids are going to be so thrilled!

JACKSON: 48 fps is way better for 3D. One of the things with 3D is that it does accentuate the strobing because you’re getting it in two eyes from two cameras that were filming. Once you go to 48, it’s much smoother. There’s no eye strain and no headaches. The thing that we have to get now are the laser projectors, which are on the horizon, probably next year. The light levels of 3D will be radically increased, two or three times the light levels that exist now. At that point, cinema exhibition will be at a place where it will be great. It will be fantastic!

Andy, how did you come to also be directing Second Unit on the film? Is directing something you had been looking to move into?

SERKIS: I’ve been wanting to direct film for quite some time. During The Lord of the Rings, I was directing short films. And then, using performance-capture, I went into directing video games. So, Peter has always been aware that that’s an area I’ve wanted to move towards. It was a very last-minute thing. I only thought I was going to be going down to New Zealand for two weeks, to reprise the role of Gollum. Literally, a month beforehand, I got the most amazing call and the most amazing opportunity, which was Peter asking me to come down and be the Second Unit director. It’s probably true to say that it’s unlike any other Second Unit directing, in the sense that the scale and scope and the variety of requirements for the Second Unit director is pretty huge. You’re shooting everything from fighting sequences to map inserts to drama with all the principal cast. There’s just a huge variety, on a day-to-day level. You’re working with an enormous crew and using 3D, for the first time, and shooting on 48fps, for the first time. It was just a massive learning curve, really. The idea at the center of it was that, because of the size of the cast and because the scenes would be sharing casts, Peter wanted someone he could rely on to take care of performance, as much as the technical side. And we worked very closely. Peter briefed me, every day, and was able to watch what I was doing. We would lay out a plan and a way of shooting, and then Peter would give me notes that were always better. It was very good to be able to provide a sounding board for Peter. I went into it, not with any grand designs of, “I’m going to be shooting my version!” I went in absolutely expecting to be Peter’s eyes and ears. Hopefully, I satisfied that.

Sir Ian, what was it like to return to Gandalf, after all these years?

McKELLAN: Peter and I were just so thrilled that Gandalf the White wasn’t in The Hobbit.


McKELLAN: We prefer Gandalf the Grey.

JACKSON: Gandalf the White was a bit boring.

McKELLAN: He was a man on a mission, so he had to get on with it. But, Gandalf the Grey has time to enjoy himself.

JACKSON: Gandalf the Grey was always our favorite.

McKELLAN: He can have a smoke and a drink and a chat, and do a few little tricks. It was a great relief! But, people shouldn’t expect to see a different sort of Gandalf. As for being 60 years young, because the story takes place 60 years before, when you’re 7,000 years old, 60 years doesn’t make much difference. When we went back to do this movie, it’s not just the cast. It’s all the people behind the camera, too. They were the same. Every head of every department was as we left them on The Lord of the Rings. We were back with old friends. In fact, the new side of it was the actors, like all the dwarves and this particular Bilbo. But, everyone fit in very well.

If you're curious about what was in the clip from THE HOBBIT - here's Collider's breakdown (SPOILERS!):

- The opening clip was the longest of the bunch, as we saw Gandalf, Bilbo and the dwarves all together at Bag End arguing over how to go about reclaiming what is theirs from the dragon Smaug. There was a great deal of humor sprinkled throughout, with Freeman getting the biggest laughs for his reluctance to join the dwarves on their journey.
- The footage then went to a short montage that featured Rivendell, Christopher Lee as Saruman, and Fry as Master of Laketown.
- We then saw a great scene that showed Gandalf getting into the action with his sword/staff combo, followed later by a lower energy—but no less exciting—scene between Gandalf and Galadriel (played by Cate Blanchette). It’s a sweet and touching scene between the two, with Galadriel acting as a reassuring presence for Gandalf.
- Next was a wonderful scene between Bilbo and Gollum. Though it’s only been 9 years since The Return of the King, the amazing advances in visual effects are evident with this newly rendered Gollum. He looks gorgeous and even more lifelike than before. It also appears that they’ve done some subtle work to make him look younger than he does in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which is a nice touch. Bilbo and Gollum participated in the “Game of Riddles,” and laughs were abundant.
- We then saw a scene between Gandalf and Bilbo with the former telling Bilbo that he’s changed and isn’t the same person that left The Shire. Bilbo handles The Ring in his pocket while trying to decide if he should tell Gandalf about it, before simply saying that he “found courage.”
- The last sequence was a montage of great-looking action scenes (likely from the second film) that showed the trolls, a quick look at Evangeline Lilly’s character, and a fantastic shot of Orlando Bloom as Legolas drawing an arrow and aiming at the group of dwarves. Cue crowd going wild.

The visuals are going to be amazing with Jackson using the Red Epics at 48 fps in tandem with the 3ality Technica rigs. Think PROMETHEUS and THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, but in a higher frame rate!

We've had a long and rich history with THE HOBBIT here at MarketSaw haven't we? Remember when our sources came up large so that we could know first that Peter Jackson was coming back to the project (despite differences and legal matters with New Line) and that the movies will be in 3D? Those were the days! Third movie or not we are finally going to see the hobbit back in theaters this Christmas. You have GOT to be feeling it!!

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