J.R.R. Tolkien fans across the globe are brushing up on their elvish and dwarven as they prepare for a return to Middle Earth. Nearly 11 years after the release of the final “Lord of the Rings” film, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” opens worldwide on Dec. 14.
“The Hobbit,” based on the brighter, lighter-hearted prequel from Tolkien was published in 1937, several years before “The Fellowship of the Ring.” Gandalf (Ian McKellan), a mysterious wizard, pays a visit to the unassuming Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), with a band of roughneck dwarves. Bilbo soon finds himself caught up in a most dangersome expedition led by the dwarven hero Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage). The band quests for the Lonely Mountain to recover an ancient dwarven treasure stolen by the evil dragon Smaug. On their journey, the companions traverse ancient elven cities, skirmish with goblins and trolls, and Bilbo finds a mysterious ring that will shape the future of Middle Earth.
Middle Earth is rife with magic, as fans of the series will already know. In creating the rich fantasy universe for the movie, Peter Jackson, the New Zealand native who directed the first three films, again brought his cinematic wizardry to the table by directing “An Unexpected Journey.”
While The Hobbit is a single novel, it will be released in three separate installments, all directed by Jackson. “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” is set for release next year, and “The Hobbit: There and Back Again” is slated for 2014.
The spectacular visuals that won all three of the Rings films innumerable awards are back, this time with an extra spoonful of sugar to match the original book’s lighthearted tone. The dwarves’ noses are just a little bit rounder this time and even Gollum is looking more fresh-faced than usual. Most notably, the entire film was shot at 48-frames-per-second, double the industry standard of 24-frames-per-second. Viewers who saw advance screenings of “The Hobbit” compared the experience to seeing high-definition television for the first time. The Hobbit will also be released in 3D.
Cate Blanchett, Elijah Wood, and Hugo Weaving all returned to New Zealand to reprise their roles from “Rings” in the first installment of the Hobbit trilogy. They were among the celebrities to walk the 1,600-foot-long red carpet, as fans crowded the entrance to the Embassy Theatre in New Zealand’s capital.
According to the New York Daily News, 100,000 people were in attendance at the premiere (more than half the population of Wellington), sporting homemade elf ears, and furry Hobbit feet.
However, not everyone at the theatre was present to support the picture. Over the past few weeks, Warner Bros. faced allegations from the Humane Society that as many as 27 animals used in the film, including two horses, died preventable deaths due to unsafe living conditions, according to animal wranglers who contacted the Associated Press several weeks ago.
Animal rights activists chanted and held signs with slogans such as “Middle Earth is no place for animals.” Many of the safety hazards present at the farm that housed these animals have since been repaired or improved by Warner Bros.
Despite the controversy, “An Unexpected Journey” is scheduled for U.S. release Dec. 14.
Lucas Thayer and Luke Eldredge Staff Writers
Contact Lucas Thayer at firstname.lastname@example.org, and contact Luke Eldredge at email@example.com.