With just weeks left now ’til The Desolation of Smaug‘s worldwide theatrical debut, director Peter Jackson and many of his cast held court at a global Hobbit Fan Event yesterday, where the director also gave a lucky few a first look at 20 minutes of as-yet-unseen footage.
While stars Andy Serkis, Richard Armitage, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lily and Luke Evans beamed in via video hook-up from various cities across the world, Jackson — sans shoes, of course — oversaw proceedings from The Hobbit‘s New Zealand headquarters in Wellington.
Following a clip of the recording of the movie’s post-credits song, “I See Fire,” the footage launched proper with a taste of Bilbo Baggins’ encounter with the giant spiders in Mirkwood Forest — an arachnid threat that felt even more sinister than Lord of the Rings‘s Shelob, at least in numbers. We see Bilbo brandish “Sting” in the action and — without going into any spoilers about a book published in 1937 — you get to see the blade doing its worst.
Next up was a clip of Lee Pace, as Elven king Thranduil, and Orlando Bloom, returning as Legolas, in conversation. Pace looks suitably elvish and commanding as the fearsome leader, while Bloom appears to have picked up where he left off. There were also glimpses of Evangeline Lily’s Tauriel, a new elf character created for the movie, in bow-and-arrow action, and a council held by Gandalf that acts as another portent of the events in The Lord of the Rings.
The final clip was what everyone has been waiting for: Bilbo Baggins’ confrontation with the titular dragon. We see Bilbo in the opulent dungeon of The Lonely Mountain, and certainly get a good, booming taste of Smaug’s dulcet tones — as voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, he’s an uncanny echo of Tim Curry in Legend — but just as the dragon begins to emerge from the giant pile of gold… you guessed it, a sharp cut to black. Appetite whetted, then. Again.
What was interesting was that the footage, though we saw it in 2D, didn’t appear to have the obvious jarring effect of the 48-frames-per-second that threw a lot of people off for the first Hobbit movie. In fact, the clips looked fantastic visually. Whether that’s a symptom of our eyes simply having adjusted to the future, or that Jackson and his WETA team have taken on board some of the previous concerns and made things smoother, we’ll get a better idea when the movie unfurls in its theatrical 3D format.
The Desolation of Smaug opens December 13 in the US and the UK, and December 26 in Australia.