It is likely that no filmmaker today shares more with his fans than Peter Jackson. And there may be no fan base more loyal and appreciative than fans of The Lord of the Rings trilogy and its coming two-part production of The Hobbit. Instead of waiting for the DVD release Jackson has been releasing early looks at the filmmaking process at thehobbitblog.com. Now halfway through production of the two films–The Hobbit–An Unexpected Journey, due at year-end, and The Hobbit–There and Back Again, due out in 2013–Jackson & Co. have crisscrossed New Zealand with two film crews, re-creating locations from the LOTR trilogy and filming in newly selected places, too.
Jackson has released six production videos, but the last two, including production video #6, released last week, immerse the viewer into the unreal, impossibly beautiful landscapes of mountains and snow-cover, rain, and the brightest greens found anywhere on the real Earth. But beware, before watching the two on-location documentaries, you may decide to sell everything for plane tickets and a permanent move to New Zealand.
Beyond the first four documentaries, the two on-location productions are 12 minutes in length each, and despite Jackson stating that he can’t show us much, we get to see Martin Freeman in costume as Bilbo Baggins discussing film locations, Ian McKellen (Gandalf) chatting up New Zealand, as well as a whole swarm of new actors of Middle Earth playing dwarves. The vistas and villages almost make this documentary stand by itself as a mini-vacation.
The highlight of production video #5–the first on-location documentary–is Elijah Wood returning as Frodo Baggins at age 30 to Hobbiton–11 years after he first played Frodo at age 19. The village of Matamata has been rebuilt since the LOTR films as a permanent encampment by the production for tourists to visit for years to come.
The new production video #6 shows ad hoc interviews with the new dwarf crew, as well as the second unit director, Andy Serkis, who played Gollum in the LOTR films. The production zigzags from town to town, with plenty of aerial shots showing the real locations and where they will end up in Middle Earth.
The 24 minutes of footage, along with soundtrack, has the feel of a travelogue of a national park like Yellowstone. The humor of the crew and Raiders of the Lost Ark “travel by map” shots across the north and south islands of New Zealand also play better than the average DVD extra footage–something like Bruce Brown’s Australian film Endless Summer a free-wheeling surfing documentary classic from 1966. Just like Endless Summer showed surfers traveling the world, the incredible opposites of grand landscapes of New Zealand reveal a world’s worth of differing ecology, geography, and seasons, that make New Zealand truly seem like a different world. And the new actors give us a peek at how funny the new characters will be.
Here is the first on location documentary (production video #5):
And here is the new on location film (production video #6):
The earlier released production videos are available at thehobbitblog.com.
These video releases are fun and sure to whet the appetites of Tolkien fans until the December release, with more videos expected before then.