Tag Archive: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug


Hobbit Smaug Unleashing the Dragon cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

To learn what advancements are happening in technical moviemaking, you can always turn to Weta Workshop and Weta Digital.  For the latest in cutting edge film work, you need only turn to the latest book on The Hobbit film series from Weta, its step by step chronicle of the development of the greatest dragon in all of fantasy, Smaug: Unleashing the Dragon.  As a supplement of sorts to their grand Chronicles series detailing the creative story of The Hobbit, Smaug: Unleashing the Dragon is the first look at a single element of the franchise, peeling back the development of one character in all its tiny details and from all vantage points.

A smaller dimension book at 8×10 inches compared to the double size and thickness of the Chronicles series, this format is well suited for similar spin-off works–perhaps a single book on each race in Middle-earth one day?  But like its counterparts, Smaug: Unleashing the Dragon is dense in both text and photos.  Every designer, art director, sculptor, modeller, texture artist, and animator that provided new ideas and elements to arrive at the final creature offer commentary about their thought process and their collaboration with others.

Smaug Unleashing the Dragon excerpt

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The Hobbit The Desolation of Smaug Chronicles Cloaks & Daggers

Review by C.J. Bunce

How often have you wished you had access to detailed photographs of the costumes and props of your favorite sci-fi or fantasy franchise?  Maybe for making your own costume, or maybe just to see up close what it might be like to be the actor wearing that cloak or holding that sword?  Covering both The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Weta Workshop has managed to top its previous accounts of the making of The Hobbit series with its fourth deluxe hardcover work, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Chronicles: Cloaks & Daggers.

Daniel Falconer, Weta Workshop senior concept designer and creator of this latest behind the scenes account of Peter Jackson’s version of Middle-earth, first brought us The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Chronicles: Art & Design, then The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Chronicles: Creatures & Characters, and earlier this year, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Chronicles: Art & Design.  But this fourth book in the series is even better–packed full of photos and commentary by the art designers, costume designers, prop makers, costumers, actors and other crew members that created each new set, room,  world, civilian clothing, soldier armor, and each prop, be it elaborate or necessarily mundane.

The Hobbit The Desolation of Smaug Chronicles Cloaks & Daggers page e The Hobbit The Desolation of Smaug Chronicles Cloaks & Daggers page f

Costume designer Ann Maskrey recounts acquiring and modifying hundreds of fabrics for use when writer J.R.R. Tolkien may have given only little indication as to what an individual character or entire race of creatures should be wearing.

Bilbo and the Hobbits of the Shire, the Wizards Gandalf and Radagast, Thorin and his band of dwarves, Elves, Orcs and Humans, and key locations from the story–Mirkwood, Lake-Town and Dale–each gets several pages to highlight the detail required to visually build a world to make the fantastical believable.

The Hobbit The Desolation of Smaug Chronicles Cloaks & Daggers page c The Hobbit The Desolation of Smaug Chronicles Cloaks & Daggers page d

Hand-written letters, books, maps, and signage of various fonts, food, tables, rugs and chairs, purses, swords, hats, buttons and clasps, cloaks and boots, staves, belts and buckles, vambraces, lanterns, instruments of all kinds, knits and macramé, pipes and axes, armor and maille, helmets, wigs, and beards, metalwork, glassware, silks, and saddles, rings and The One Ring–every element is covered by subject, and yet even this exhaustive volume only scratches the surface of what was required for the films, according to the book’s contributors.  And endless close-ups of fabric swatches and the actual costumes, giving readers an almost hands-on experience with the design, construction, and fabric selection process.

The Hobbit The Desolation of Smaug Chronicles Cloaks & Daggers page a The Hobbit The Desolation of Smaug Chronicles Cloaks & Daggers page b

Because of the nature of The Hobbit tale and its many named Dwarves, the Dwarves get the most elaborate costumes of any race of the five Middle Earth movies created thus far.  The designs on each piece of armor, each metal fitting, scale maille, and leather work is simply stunning.  And if you’re a fan as much as we are of Sylvester McCoy’s wizard Radagast, you’ll be amazed to learn how his seemingly ripped, worn, and ratty apparel actually includes multiple layers of the finest fabrics, embroidery, and exquisite trim.

Originally released just weeks ago in a limited signed edition, the same exact edition minus the autographs can be purchase through Weta in New Zealand directly here and through Amazon.com here.  The last entry in the Peter Jackson six-film Middle-earth saga, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, will be released in theaters December 17, 2014.

Jeff Bridges at Nerd HQ 2014

In its fourth year operating across from San Diego Comic-Con, Nerd HQ will be streaming live panels on the Web with archived panels available for viewing after the panels each day as they have done for past years.  Click here to see all of last year’s panels.

Nerd HQ offers an alternative to catch a few panels away from the SDCC venue, and is ideal for those who didn’t get tickets in time for the big show but will be in town this weekend, although tickets sold out quickly for Nerd HQ this year.  Seeing several Nerd HQ panels will cost you lots more than a ticket to SDCC, so the online version is the next best thing, and for those not in San Diego this weekend, an easy way to share in the vibe going on right now in Southern California.

Not at Comic Con logo

These are full panels, held in a small venue, which will give those who have not attended a big Con an idea of what they’re missing.

Here are some of the panels held so far this week at Nerd HQ:

A Conversation with Firefly’s Adam Baldwin

A Conversation with Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Seth Green

A Conversation with The Hobbit’s Evangeline Lilly

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The Hobbit Smaug gold

Fans of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit series and fantasy cosplayers take note:  Weta in New Zealand is offering some cool new costume and prop pieces from last December’s The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.  Whether you plan to make an appearance as Legolas or Bilbo, you can only get screen-accurate replica representations from the same people at the Weta Workshop that fabricated the props for the films, and many can be found in moviegoer’s price range.

If Legolas is your guy, you can purchase leather vambraces like the ones Orlando Bloom is wearing in The Hobbit series.

Legolas vambrace

If you don’t want to try making yourself a pair, you can get a set of the vambraces from Weta for under $200.

If you’re a fan of Evangeline Lilly’s elf warrior Tauriel, then you might want a pair of Tauriel’s daggers to grace your office wall.

Tauriel daggers from The Hobbit

These prop daggers are available for $149.

The biggest catch of all may be a set of the prop coins that represented the piles of gold guarded by the dragon Smaug himself.

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Hobbit Chronicles Smaug Art and Design cover

The latest installment in Weta Workshop’s hardcover series focusing on the art and design of The Hobbit movies provides the most-in-depth look yet at the developmental stages of bringing J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantastical world to the big screen.  Through hundreds of pencil sketches, detailed accounts of the thoughts behind decisions, painted concept art and costume development, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Chronicles–Art & Design provides a comprehensive account of the mastery in bringing ideas to life.

The structure of the book follows our heroes’ journey through the film, in chapters like “Queer Lodgings” (Beorn the Skin-Changer’s house), “Flies & Spiders,” “The Woodland Realm” (the elves), “A Ruined form of Life” (the Orcs), and “Inside Information” (all about Smaug).  Each chapter provides a focused look at the unique worldbuilding for each disparate part of the film, from set design to backstory to costumes.  Many chapters offer better looks at details that were only glimpsed briefly in the film, like the city of Dale in its heyday, seen onscreen only in flashback.  It’s an opportunity for those parts of the filmmaking–given just as much thought and work as anything in the movie–to be seen and admired in their full glory.

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A chapter on the Elves of Mirkwood showcases the costumes for King Thranduil, Legolas, and Tauriel, as well as the woodland realm where the dwarves are imprisoned during the film.  There’s a special focus on the wine cellars where the dwarves make their dramatic barrel escape.  Much time is given to the development of Tauriel, a new character created for the movie. Comments from Evangeline Lily (Tauriel) provide insight into her character: “Tauriel had to embody the grace of Galadriel and Arwen, while representing the fighting stealth and power of Legolas and Elrond.”

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Radagast the Brown

If you had any doubts about this year’s Planet Comicon being the biggest and best comic book and pop culture convention in the history of the region, you might not have been paying attention.  With William Shatner, nearly the entire cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Lee Majors, Firefly’s Jewel Staite, John Ratzenberger from Cheers and The Empire Strikes Back, Zoie Palmer from Lost Girl, and Walking Dead’s Chad Coleman, plus an onslaught of comic book creators including Neal Adams and James Robinson, you’ve got a busy weekend ahead of you.  But if you need more coaxing to make the drive or flight into Kansas City March 14-16, 2014, here it is.  Sylvester McCoy, the lovable Radagast the Brown from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and Doctor Who’s Seventh Doctor has joined the slate of headliners for this year’s show.

Sylvester McCoy

McCoy is currently in theaters in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug as the wizard of the woodland creatures–one of the best realized characters of Peter Jackson’s monumental fantasy trilogy.  He was last seen in the 50th anniversary special The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot, along with David Tennant, Peter Davison, Paul McGann, and Colin Baker.  If you missed this one, watch it online here.  McCoy if a very funny guy.

Seventh Doctor

Before that you might have seen the Scottish actor in Doctor Who: The Movie, where he made his last appearance as The Doctor, before getting killed in San Francisco and regenerating into Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor, or the mini-series Doctor Who: Death Comes to Time, or one of his many audiobooks for Big Finish Productions.

Sylvester McCoy Planet Comicon

So what are you waiting for?  Get your tickets now and get your Doctor Who and Middle-Earth fix at Planet Comicon 2014.  Get all the details at the con’s website here.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

Orphan Black Tatiana Maslany as everyone

Well it’s been one long year, with plenty to do and see, plenty of good and not-so-good to read and watch, and we’re certain we read more and reviewed more content this year than ever before.  And that in no less way was true for TV watching.  At the same time we waded through all that Hollywood had to offer and honed in on the genre films we thought were worth examining.  We went back and looked at it all and pulled together our 25 picks for our annual Best of the Best list.  Today we reveal the best content focusing on the moving image, and tomorrow we’ll run through our picks for the best in print and other media.  We hope you agree with many of these great creations of the entertainment industries, and wish everyone a great 2014!

Year’s Best Fantasy Fix — The Wizard of Oz in Theaters.  It’s a film that has been viewed on TV so many times you might take it for granted.  It’s historically been on many movie reviewers’ Top 20 movies of all time.  But when you watch The Wizard of Oz on the big screen in the middle of a year of modern blockbusters you realize how it can stand up against anything Hollywood has to offer today, even after 70 years.  Remastering the print for a new generation to see it in theaters was a highlight for movie watchers this year.

Almost Human partners

Year’s Best Sci-Fi Fix — Almost Human, Fox.  Like Continuum last year, the new series Almost Human created a future world that is believable and full of extraordinary technologies based in today’s science and touching on social issues of any day.  And even putting aside its buddy cop and police procedural brilliance, every episode plunged us into future police grappling with incredible technologies–DNA bombs criminals use to contaminate a crime scene, identity masking technology to avoid facial recognition video monitors–it was the best dose of sci-fi in 2013.

Best TV Series — Orphan Black, BBC America.  What rose above everything on TV or film this year was BBC America’s new series, the almost indescribable Orphan Black From its initial trailers that piqued our interest, to the surprise series consisting of one actress playing multiple roles that dazzled from out of nowhere, magical special effects, and a unique story of clones and X-Files-inspired intrigue propelled Orphan Black to be our clear winner for Best TV Series of 2013.

Sleepy Hollow

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hobbit-the-desolation-of-smaug Bilbo

Review by C.J. Bunce

Like Star Wars or the first of any good trilogy, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was almost a standalone story, to be watched over and over again.  And like The Empire Strikes Back, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug jumps rights into the adventure and doesn’t relent until the final cliffhanger at film’s end.  The Desolation of Smaug’s triumph may be a sweeping and epic inclusion of more fantastical settings and strange, new worlds than any film before it, some beautiful in their colorful grandeur, others in their dark creepiness.  And more story and subplots are fit in to keep viewers on the edge of their seats for the whole two hours and forty minute tour.

Dwarves The Hobbit The Desolation of Smaug

It’s hard to say if this installment of The Hobbit is better than the first.  It’s a wondrous tale in the same way as the Harry Potter series included the stand-out episode Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  Sure, it needs to be seen in the context of what comes before it, but wow, what a great ride in and of itself, almost literally.  We’d seen previews of the great dwarf barrel escape scene, but director Peter Jackson didn’t just squeeze in river ride as an afterthought.  It’s full of good humor and action, something like what we imagine George Lucas intended in his pod race scene, but this effort is successful, focusing on the strengths and weaknesses of dwarves and elves alike, as they dodge the grotesque and foul Orcs under the leadership of two particularly nasty fellows, Azog (Manu Bennett) and Bolg (Lawrence Makoare).  Most of the action is over-the-top, but if you’re in for a penny you’re in for a pound, and the arrows flying and dragon fire ablazing are what any fantasy fan could hope for.

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Smaug Dwarves

Not since the first trailer for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring has Peter Jackson released a more enticing movie trailer for his Middle Earth films.  This full-length “sneak peek” for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug at three minutes includes so many characters, so many locations, so many great sets and costumes, that the waiting until December 13 for its release is going to be… well, the hardest part.

Smaug epic quest

So much action and destinations on this epic journey of Gandalf the Grey, Bilbo Baggins, and Thorin Oakenshield and his band of Dwarves, makes us wonder whether this could possibly be the sequel of sequels in Peter Jackson’s arsenal.  We of course loved both The Lord of the Rings installments of The Two Towers and The Return of the King.  But like The Empire Strikes Back was for George Lucas’s original Star Wars trilogy, will this be the grand opus for Peter Jackson?

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Armitage as Thorin

At last we get to see a few moments of Martin Freeman’s Bilbo Baggins facing off against the dragon named Smaug (that’s pronounced “smOWg” not “smog,” per Bilbo) in the full-length trailer for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, part two of the three-part epic movies series that began last winter with the brilliant The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  Even better, we get to hear Benedict Cumberbatch’s chilling, dragon-toothed lines as he seeks out Bilbo in his lair.

Surprisingly, we see a lot of Orlando Bloom’s Legolas opposite newcomer Lost’s Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel in this trailer–likely indicating the elves will play a large role in Peter Jackson’s expanded vision of J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel.  Another newcomer, Luke Evans, who plays Laketown human Bard the Bowman, also looks to be a key character.

Mountain Dwarf

Richard Armitage is back as dwarf leader Thorin Oakenshield, along with Ian McKellen as Gandalf.  Wonderfalls’ Lee Pace returns as Elvenking Thranduil and Ken Stott as elder dwarf Balin.  The nasty Orc Azog is back, too, played again by Manu Bennett, who we met as Slade Wilson in CW’s Arrow TV series this year.

Check out this great trailer for The Hobbit:  The Desolation of Smaug:

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