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Old 11-02-2011, 07:37 AM  
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The Hobbit

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An Unexpected Journey: Quint on the set of The Hobbit! Part 1 - Concerning Hobbiton

Published at: Oct 31, 2011 6:13:46 AM CDT

SPOILER ALERT !!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here currently writing from the overgrown wilds of New Zealandís North Island. Iíve been rather secretive about my trip to the southern hemisphere and for that I apologize, but it had to be done.

Hereís the deal. Iím kicking off a new, temporary, regular column that Iím calling An Unexpected Journey because thatís exactly what it is. A little over a month ago an email arrived asking of my interest in embedding myself on the set of The Hobbit for the entirety of their location shoot, spending over 2 months in New Zealand rolled in with the crew and writing up their adventures, hassles, triumphs and tribulations as they traveled all over the country shooting bits and pieces from the upcoming two-parter prequel to Lord of the Rings. As Winston Zeddemore taught us all, the answer to this kind of question is always YES!

Calling The Hobbit a prequel doesnít exactly feel right, though. This isnít a film cooked up to cash in on an absurdly successful franchise. As most Tolkien readers and human beings over the age of 7 know, The Hobbit burst forth from the pen of JRR Tolkien first. There are many Middle Earth stories, but The Hobbit is the natural choice. Itís high adventure and lets us revisit some of our favorite locations and characters within its own, unique story.

Case in point, the very first location visited on this trip: Matamata, Waikato, New Zealand Ė North Island, also known as Hobbiton.









Gorgeous, isnít it? As amazing as it looks in those pictures or in the movies thereís something incredibly surreal and humbling to stand ON TOP of Bag End and overlook The Shire. I love (good) CGI, I have a lot of respect for the digital artists that toil away for hours and days and weeks and months in a dark room so we can go to Ancient Greece or Pandora or spend some time with Jurassic Park dinosaurs or Gollum or Caesar or those fookiní prawns, but if there was ever a shred of doubt that real wins it was obliterated as the sheep bayed, horses neighed, wind blew and smoke started pouring out of hobbit hole chimneys dotting the lush green landscape in the valley below me.





And when I say green I mean GREEN. The grass in this North Island New Zealand farmland is like Wizard of Oz Technicolor. Itís so bright it almost hurts the eyes.

But we all know New Zealand is beautiful. Thatís a given at this point. By the end of December youíll be given your fill of unbelievable scenery images as I travel from location to location (especially when I hit the South Island). Letís get into what was actually happening in Hobbiton.

Wake up time was 5:15am, which barely gave me enough time to get showered and presentable before making the 40+ minute drive from my Hamilton hotel to the location deep in the rolling green hills of Matamata.

Once past security I found myself driving along a small dirt and gravel road following signs to crew parking. Sure enough, the countryside was beautiful and Tolkeinesque, but it wasnít until I made a turn and saw the incredibly iconic stone bridge leading to The Green Dragon that it really struck me where I was.

That feeling intensified standing at base camp, perched on top of Bag End, looking over Hobbiton with dozens of Hobbit holes laid out over acres of green hills and the massive party tree anchored in the middle of everything.

The crew was setting up a crane out on the narrow walkway in front of Bag End for their first shot actually in Hobbiton in over 10 years. Because of the narrow and steep path down, the crew had to bring crane parts down and assemble much of it there. It took a little while, but before too long the familiar circular green front door of Bag End cracked open and out stepped an even more familiar face.

Munching on jellied toast, Frodo Baggins sauntered out and hopped down the steps leading to the mailbox, grabbed some mail and headed back inside.





Whatís Frodo doing in The Hobbit? I donít want to spoil too much, but I can say that Frodo is part of the connecting tissue between The Hobbit and Fellowship of the Ring.

In fact, the next shot was an over the shoulder on Elijah Wood hammering a sign up on Bag Endís front gate: ďNo Admittance Except On Party Business.Ē You guys should have an idea where that puts this moment in the timeline.

Martin Freeman stood in for Ian Holm, who shot all of his scenes and close-ups in London. They would sometimes play footage theyíve already shot to remind themselves of what they had done previously and to help them match up shots. Peter and crew did that for these reverse shots on Elijah and I got to see Ian as Bilbo once again. It was quite extraordinary, actually. Seeing Ian in close up, wearing the wig, the vest and the pointy ears just put a smile on my face.

While I didnít talk to Elijah about it, I bet it meant the world to him to have Martin there actually giving a performance for him to act off of. Freeman even adopted a little bit of Ian Holmís speech patterns for these scenes and was so good at impersonating Ian Holm that more than once I wondered if the voice I was hearing over the coms was Ianís on playback or Martinís in real life. Usually in these situations theyíll have the script girl or one of the dialect coaches read the lines and while that works a charm, thereís something extra special about a performer giving a performance. Like I said, I didnít talk to Elijah about it, but I bet he appreciated Martin doing that for him.

Their conversation is about Gandalf and if Bilbo thinks Gandalf will show up. Bilbo says ďHe wouldnít miss a chance to let off his whiz-poppers. Heíll put on quite a show, youíll see,Ē and Frodo grins, saying heís going to go surprise him and bounds off down the path like a kid at Christmas. When I say he bounds down the path thatís not an exaggeration for illustrative purposes. He was damn near skipping, a glimpse of that pre-ring Frodo we meet in Fellowship.

After Frodo leaves the frame is very wide featuring The Shire in all its glory; The Green Dragon and mill smack dab in the middle.





Itís my understanding this shot will transition to ď60 Years EarlierĒ with Young Bilbo sitting in front of Bag End contently smoking a pipe and casually blowing smoke rings as Gandalf comes along and presents him with his adventure.

At lunch I caught up with Elijah who was wide-eyed and smiling, obviously enjoying being back in Hobbiton with the furry feet on. He ran off and I said, ďWhere do you think youíre going?Ē His reply: ďBack to Bag End, my friend!Ē

I had to run over to wardrobe to get fitted for my cameo the next day, but soon made my way back to set. We had the same scene going and this time they had the camera tight on Frodo. While it was a tighter shot than before, it still captured the landscape behind him. I mean, thatís the whole reason we were out there in the first place, so I wasnít going to see a whole lot of close-ups and insert shots being filmed. In this case, it was a full on front shot of Frodo, the massive Party Tree behind him.

Seeing the footage of Ian as Old Bilbo was crazy, but nothing compared to seeing Elijah as Frodo in the furry-footed flesh. Iíve gotten to know Elijah pretty well over the last 13 years and it was the very definition of surreal talking to Frodo. Not Elijah. Frodo. I was literally not talking to a friend, but a fictional character, not to mention the magnifier of actually seeing him in Hobbiton.





I have to talk about the livestock. This will be the first time Iíve traveled internationally where I will have to check off the Yes box when asked if Iíve been near livestock on the arrival card. All forms of livestock were on set. There was even a runaway cow who decided she didnít like the film business on the first take and bolted right the hell out of Hobbiton.

It was quite funny, actually. I feel bad for the production having to pause, but from my high-up point of view (remember I was standing on top of the hill overlooking Hobbiton this whole day) it was very entertaining watching this cow haul ass along the path between the hobbit holes with a poor A.D. running about 20 feet behind her, desperately trying to catch up.

There were all manner of animals on the set ranging from goats to roosters, pigs, oxen, horses and all of them had handlers there to make sure they were fed, watered and safely munching on the lush green grass of Matamata. They would quickly duck out of frame whenever shots would go up.

Shortly after getting the shot on Frodo the unmistakable sound of chopper blades hit our ears. It was circling us. Obviously someone had hired it to fly above and take photos of the set.

An hour or two later a small, single-engine prop plane did the same thing, flying low and circling. Photos hit the net shortly after, I noticed. The crew was quite annoyed, not because Hobbiton was being exposed to the world, but because the choppers and planes were constantly getting in the shot and the sound of the engines was either ruining takes or making the production halt until they got out of earshotÖ which could be a long while if they are circling.

So, it was an unwanted intrusion, especially frustrating when you consider they were already waiting for the light to be right, to get behind a cloud or peak out from behind a cloud depending on the previous shot.

It got to the point that producer Zane Weiner asked me to take a photo of the plane so we can try to get its tail number. I had the 18mm-55mm lens on my camera (which means itís a shorter lens and doesnít zoom in too far), so I ran back to my bag, grabbed my 200mm lens and popped it on, but I was too late. The plane had already gone. Zane wanted me to let you guys know I failed at that particular task. And on my first day of location reporting, too.

That was one day of location shooting on The Hobbit. One day down, two months to go! Before I conclude this article, Iíd like to set up a little space where Iíll be featuring a member of the crew. God willing Iíll be able to do this with each of my pieces, introducing you to the fine folks who I spend my days with. These guys are the unsung heroes of filmmaking, so I feel they should be represented.

Kicking things off will be Kiran Shah.





If youíve watched the appendices on the Extended Editions of the Lord of the Rings films you should recognize Kiranís name. Heís a much loved character around the set. Heís an actor, stunt man and scale double. On Rings he doubled Elijah Wood, but before Lord of the Rings he had a massive career.

For instance, heís in Raiders of the Lost ArkÖ heís the guy who brings the poisoned dates into Indy and Sallah. He doubled Short Round in Temple of Doom, he was a character in Ridley Scottís Legend (Blunder) and even knew Stanley Kubrick.

The story he told me was that he got to know Kubrick a little bit, but even being on friendly terms with the maestro didnít save him when he popped in for a visit on the set of Eyes Wide Shut. Stanley spotted him and said, ďKiran, out!Ē We all know the stories about how Kubrick didnít like a lot of crew around and that was Kiranís little tale about it.

He also mentioned that LOTR and Hobbit illustrator/designer Alan Lee did the character designs for Legend and even drew the character that Shah ended up playing to look just like him. Shah attributes getting the role to Lee because he remembered auditioning for it and seeing Ridley Scott do a double take when Shah entered the room, looking back at the character design and up at him again.

In The Hobbit, Shah is up to his usual shenanigans, making the crew (and visiting movie geek reporters) crack up in-between takes and doubling hobbits. In the above picture heís waiting to double Martin Freemanís Bilbo, which is why his eyes are reverse raccooned in his picture. Thereís an eerie silicone mask of Bilboís face that heíll put on when Bilbo is needed to be seen in a close to correct proportion.

Shah will also be a Goblin in the film and is just an overall joy to be around and as such he is this columnís inaugural featured crew member.

The next report will cover my cameo appearance during a Hobbit market in front of The Green Dragon. There is a particular actor in this scene named Leroy that Iím especially excited to tell you about. He has huge talents and thatís even an understatement. I expect that report to land in a few days, but taking my own pictures means a bit of a clearance process.

I know the watermarks are annoying. I hate them, you hate them, so I made them as unintrusive as possible. If I see a bunch of sites take these images without credit and a linkback future pictures will have bigger watermarks. So, donít be a dick. I donít care if you use the image, just give a link back here, will yaí? Donít ruin it for everybody.





More soon! This is going to be a crazy couple of months! Oh, and Happy Birthday to Peter Jackson! Thanks for letting me join the circus for a spell, sir!

-Eric Vespe
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Old 12-17-2012, 09:08 AM   #271
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Originally Posted by wilas101 View Post
I think that was actually bird shit from the two birds living in the nest under his hat.
Yes this is right.

Movie was good, but was struggling to stay awake a lot of the time so it was hard to fully enjoy~
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Old 12-17-2012, 09:09 AM   #272
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I think that was actually bird shit from the two birds living in the nest under his hat.

Yep.
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Old 12-17-2012, 09:14 AM   #273
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Saw it. Loved it. Really loved it.

Saw it in 2D. Was surprised to find some fast motion scenes still looked a little blurred. They had both a Man of Steel trailer and a Star Trek trailer. But it wasn't the 9 minute Trek trailer that was evidently shown in IMAX.
Saw it in 3d (IMAX). It was well worth the extra bucks. It really looked great.

Quote:
Negatives:
Goblin King scenes. Rushed, poorly explained. Silly scenes. They either needed to expand that greatly, or completely cut it out.
3 Trolls. Was disappointed with how they handled that. Would've liked to see something closer to the book.
More Smaug...
I didn't have a problem with much of any of it. On the more Smaug, you saying you WANTED more Smaug? I was actually discussing this with my buddy before the movie and we damn well knew we'd only get a glimpse of parts of him. No way they reveal that this movie. That's for later. Standard movie making procedure 101.
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Old 12-17-2012, 09:25 AM   #274
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Originally Posted by teedubya View Post
Took my kids tonight... this was their first exposure to JRRRRRRRR Tolkien's work. My son was blown away... my daughter was a bit creeped out... Some of those trolls, orcs and goblins... along with "Whatever the ****" Gollum is... kinda gross, but overall definitely a beautiful movie. My kids want to watch LOTR now.


They should also READ the Hobbit, if they're in that 9-12 or so age range (or even older).

Lord of the Rings is, ummm, "kinda worth watching" in a "the sun is kinda hot" and "Natalie Portman is kinda attractive" sort of way.

The Hobbit is the story of how a Hobbit got pulled into an adventure to help some Dwarves recover their lost homeland, and as a side note finds a magical ring along the way. The book is written for kids (pre-teen to early teen). The Lord of the Rings is much more somber, and more seriously written. It reveals what the ring that Bilbo found really is and a broader story around it. Since you don't actually seem to know (a fact that I really can't wrap my brain around), I won't say more.

Be advised that the Lord of the Rings movies are somewhat more graphic/disturbing than anything in the Hobbit. If your daughter could barely handle the Hobbit, I'm not sure she should be seeing Uruk-hai and Nazgul just yet.
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Old 12-17-2012, 09:48 AM   #275
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Saw it tonight in Imax 3D 48FPS. A very good movie, found myself hooked until the end.

Great Stuff:
The game of riddles between Bilbo and Gollum.
The Cinematography was gorgeous.
The returning cast from LOTR and the call backs to it... err call forwards.

Bad Stuff:
48 FPS, holy shit it made all the sequences where they weren't just standing around talking, IE motion of anykind, seems like they hit the first fast forward button on the remote. All the action scenes looked faster than normal and that sucks because it was harder to pay attention to all the essentially good scenes. I don't know why he decided to do it, I honestly have no idea, but I'll be seeing the others in normal fps. The annoying combination of 3D glasses and the FPS was just annoying and made the movie less enjoyable.
The dwarves never dying. The running scenes alone through the goblin area were littered with so many times a dwarf or two should've died they didn't.
The first 45 minutes of the movie. You could've cut the whole part where the dwarves were bouncing dishes off their asses and the movie would've been better imo.
Did you read the ****ing book? Did you bitch about the dwarves not dying then as well?
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Old 12-17-2012, 10:03 AM   #276
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Did you read the ****ing book? Did you bitch about the dwarves not dying then as well?
For me, not dying wasn't a problem, but how they didn't die was a little troublesome. It's like someone decided that if an exciting action sequence is good, an over-the-top, jarringly-anti-realistic action sequence must be better. I realize this is a fantasy movie with magic and mythical creatures and that it requires a fundamental suspension of disbelief from the get go, but it just seemed a little unnecessary to me. Not a major problem at all, but just something I think could have been better.
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Old 12-17-2012, 10:29 AM   #277
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For me, not dying wasn't a problem, but how they didn't die was a little troublesome. It's like someone decided that if an exciting action sequence is good, an over-the-top, jarringly-anti-realistic action sequence must be better. I realize this is a fantasy movie with magic and mythical creatures and that it requires a fundamental suspension of disbelief from the get go, but it just seemed a little unnecessary to me. Not a major problem at all, but just something I think could have been better.
Just my opinion but i think you are touching upon one of my major beefs with action films today. Too much CGI and over the top action scenes. It looks fake and enables filmakers to have characters defy laws of gravity. Requires too much suspension of disbelief. Jackson is becoming notorious for it. King Kong was filled with scenes like this, but at least people died and got injured.

Not trying to slam Jackson, still enjoy his films for the most part.
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Old 12-17-2012, 10:42 AM   #278
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Originally Posted by Deberg_1990 View Post
Just my opinion but i think you are touching upon one of my major beefs with action films today. Too much CGI and over the top action scenes. It looks fake and enables filmakers to have characters defy laws of gravity. Requires too much suspension of disbelief. Jackson is becoming notorious for it. King Kong was filled with scenes like this, but at least people died and got injured.

Not trying to slam Jackson, still enjoy his films for the most part.
You can also blame Lucas for that. The action in the Only Three Real Films was specific and plotted and empty of distraction (e.g. attack on the Death Star in "New Hope", attack of the AT-ATs on Hoth in "Empire", speederbike forest chase in "Return"). Then he made the Three Abominations--which he said he had waited "for technology to catch up to his 'vision' of the films". And apparently his "vision" includes massive CGI battles of both the hand-to-hand and spacecraft variety where you can't focus on one frickin' thing happening.
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Old 12-17-2012, 10:43 AM   #279
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Did you read the ****ing book? Did you bitch about the dwarves not dying then as well?
No I didn't read the books. Any of them, but I have a hard time seeing how that has anything to do with a criticism of the film. If that was exactly how the books had it going then yes, I think that a handful of dwarves that can beat any obstacle without dying is a little far fetched. It's a minor complaint, nothing more and nothing less. The only thing I really "bitched" about was the frame rate. That was the only thing I didn't like about the movie. But I didn't honestly see how a bridge falling down a large cave with 13 people on it wouldn't shatter but instead stay together while everything around it falls to pieces. I can say that I was entertained but thinking about it afterwards it does raise a question or two.
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Old 12-17-2012, 11:44 AM   #280
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Saw it last night in 3D, and this was the second film I've seen in 2 weeks where the 3D didn't bug the crap outta me. It's very good for giving shots depth and exploring more of the scope of what's on screen (that New Zealand countryside sure looks gorgeous).

As a movie, it's trying too hard. There's a ton of superfluous stuff which was sold as 'we're expanding the story based on other source material'. Shut up. The Hobbit works because it's a straightforward classic adventure tale. Every other scene seemed to contain a reference to something that will happen in Lord of the Rings. Which is great, except we've already seen Lord of the Rings. We're not going to the Hobbit to have the table set for movies we watched ten years ago and really enjoyed. The mere appearance of Frodo should be all the hinting we need about the events to come. Instead, we get a reminder every five minutes for the next three hours.

Next, Radagast. Holy Christ. There's a reason he's mentioned for all of a paragraph in the Hobbit/LOTR books. Because he's boring and adds nothing to the plot. And he's whipping around on a sled pulled by rabbits in a scene that adds nothing, wasn't in the book, and is utterly tensionless. **** off.

There's also a general overall lack of tone; the film tries to be too serious in parts, and then other times goes for nonsense (goblin king, looking at you...). BTW what was the point of that scene? And for that matter, the pale orc? Because the dude says "Send word we have Thorin' and the next scene, Gandalf shows up out of nowhere. Was the plan for them to just sit there for two days until the Orc showed up? Because the Dwarves didn't appear to be the greatest at figuring out a plan of escape. In fact, there doesn't seem to be a single moment of peril which isn't resolved by the actions of Gandalf or Bilbo.

My only conclusion about the pale orc is that he is there to give Thorin something to do. To give his character some conflict. But when your third (Or second, depending) lead needs to have a manufactured conflict to keep him interesting, that's a sign.

We have two more movies coming over the next two years. That's ridiculous. I understand splitting up the movie so you can tell a more complete story and so you can make another billion dollars. Three is over-indulgent. Someone needed to tell Peter Jackson 'no' to a few things. Conflict breeds great film-making.

Remember how both the theatrical and extended addition featured no trace of Tom Bombadil because he's a stupid useless asshole character who could save everyone but just doesn't feel like leaving his bitch for a week? The Hobbit has done the opposite. Let's put in EVERYTHING WE CAN, regardless of whether or not it helps the story or makes the movie better. Because Tolkien was a genius, and certainly didn't write anything that wasn't beyond reproach or didn't need to be filmed.

On the positive side... Very pretty film. Bilbo is very well-acted, and Riddles in the Dark, the one scene they had to ace, is pretty much perfect.

Could've been a lot better, it's trying way too hard.

Oh, and nice to see that Peter Jackson saw Clerks 2 and raised Kevin Smith walking mountains. Which also weren't in the Hobbit.
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Old 12-17-2012, 03:15 PM   #281
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Can I see it in IMAX without the high frame rate?
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Old 12-17-2012, 03:30 PM   #282
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Can I see it in IMAX without the high frame rate?

Yes (at least in Massachusetts. Your local mileage may vary. )
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Old 12-17-2012, 03:31 PM   #283
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Yes (at least in Massachusetts. Your local mileage may vary. )
Okay I just wanted to be sure. I saw an IMAX with AMC one that didn't specifically say it had the high frame rate but I wasn't sure if it would have to say that or not.
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Old 12-17-2012, 03:37 PM   #284
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For me, not dying wasn't a problem, but how they didn't die was a little troublesome. It's like someone decided that if an exciting action sequence is good, an over-the-top, jarringly-anti-realistic action sequence must be better. I realize this is a fantasy movie with magic and mythical creatures and that it requires a fundamental suspension of disbelief from the get go, but it just seemed a little unnecessary to me. Not a major problem at all, but just something I think could have been better.

I could've done without the "great slide", myself, to be honest.
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Old 12-17-2012, 03:39 PM   #285
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Okay I just wanted to be sure. I saw an IMAX with AMC one that didn't specifically say it had the high frame rate but I wasn't sure if it would have to say that or not.

FWIW, here at least HFR was only available in 3D, but not in IMAX.
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