Director Peter Jackson on Monday unveiled 20 minutes of previously unseen footage from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug during a worldwide fan event for the upcoming sequel. Broadcasting simultaneously from New York, Los Angeles, London and Wellington, New Zealand, members of the cast joined the filmmaker to celebrate the latest installment in his epic series of J.R.R. Tolkien adaptations before fielding questions from fans online and in attendance.
Evangeline Lilly, who plays the Elf Tauriel, showed as much excitement as the fans, racing to the front of a packed auditorium at Los Angeles’ Grove Theatre before moderator Anthony Breznican introduced her. Meanwhile, Orlando Bloom and Richard Armitage appeared in New York; Luke Evans, Lee Pace and Andy Serkis turned up in London; and Jackson and actor Jed Brophy joined fans in Wellington. The actors explored their work in the film as audience members from the four live locations, as well as fans following the event on social media, posed questions. Afterward, Jackson unveiled his final video blog for the production, which highlighted the work of the actors and showcased the complexity and enormity of the shoot.
After screening a clip premiering Ed Sheeran’s theme song for The Desolation of Smaug, “I See Fire,” Jackson explained that he assembled some 20 minutes of footage from the film for attendees. The first sequence takes place in a forest overgrown with foliage, and to a slightly lesser extent, spider webs. Bilbo (Martin Freeman) punctures a canopy of leaves to see the Lonely Mountain not so far off in the distance, but in his descent from the treetop he encounters a giant spider that quickly wraps him up in a gooey web. Awakening to discover he isn’t the only member of their party to be captured, Bilbo dispatches the hungry spider looming over him and then lures its companions away by donning the One Ring and creating a diversion.
In the next sequence, Thranduil (Pace), Legolas (Bloom) and Tauriel interrogate an Orc, whose cryptic threats annoy the two younger Elves while Thranduil regards them calmly. Offering the Orc its life in exchange for information about its mission, Thranduil receives some details about Bilbo’s party – and what it may set into motion – that unexpectedly disturbs him, particularly when the creature says “death is upon you.”
In another sequence, the Dwarves languish in cells supervised by the Elves until Bilbo puts his stealth to great use and retrieves the keys to free them. Leading them down to a wine cellar, he instructs them to get into a stack of barrels, which he drops through a trap door to a winding river below. Realizing that he inadvertently trapped himself in the process of rescuing them, he scrambles to make an exit through the same door, eventually dropping into the water where the Dwarves have turned their barrels into a floatation device.
Recruiting Bard the Bowman (Evans) to shepherd them and their barrels across an icy sea through treacherous waters, they soon encounter trouble, and hastily pay Bard in the hopes that he won’t betray them. After a small jump in time (cutting from one scene to a later one), the Dwarves eventually make their way inside the Lonely Mountain, where Bilbo agrees to go in search of the Arkenstone, a white jewel that is lost somewhere in the midst of an enormous fortune in gold and other riches.
Carefully navigating his way across the unstable terrain, he eventually comes across a cup lodged among the gold coins, and picks it up for inspection. This starts a small avalanche of gold that eventually exposes one of the eyes of the slumbering dragon Smaug, whose breath shuffles coins on one side of the hall while his body rumbles beneath them at the other end. But before he can figure out a way to escape without waking the dragon, Bilbo finds himself face to face with the monstrous beast.
Following the presentation, Breznican alternated between his own questions and those from fans as he quizzed Lilly about her work in the movie, what sorts of inspirations she took for one of the film’s new characters, and what her feelings were about working among a cast of mostly men. With but weeks to go until the film’s Dec. 13 release, Hobbit fans will be able to see for themselves how well she fared, but Jackson and Warner Bros. scored a big hit with the event, which combined savvy marketing, worldwide collaboration and top-notch fan service to create a unique, memorable experience that should only intensify anticipation for the film.