The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Trailer
A curious Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, journeys to the Lonely Mountain with a vigorous group of Dwarves to reclaim a treasure stolen from them by the dragon Smaug.PT2M26S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-267za 620 349 September 20, 2012
IT WILL be a fascinating question as moviegoers flock to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. How will Peter Jackson's version of Tolkien's famous novel differ from Guillermo del Toro's?
The Lord of the Rings filmmaker took on his new Middle-earth trilogy only after the Mexican director of Hellboy and Pan's Labyrinth dropped out of two planned movies in mid-2010, citing frustration with delays caused by MGM's financial troubles.
While that was great news for those Lord of the Rings fans who always thought Jackson should direct The Hobbit - legal dramas and other movies had limited him to producing and co-writing the script - it disappointed others who admired del Toro's vivid imagination when it came to fantasy worlds.
The Hobbit trilogy's visual effects director, Eric Saindon, has a firm view about what del Toro would have meant for the movies.
''I did a lot of meetings with him early on,'' he says at Weta Digital in Wellington, New Zealand. ''I was very disappointed when he left. But after going back and looking at a lot of his direction, I'm sort of glad it went back to Peter.''
Saindon, an American who has worked at Weta since 1999, thought that on his past movies, del Toro would have been fun to work with.
''But I don't think he was right for Rings,'' he says. ''I always go back to the Star Wars franchise, where the first three were this great thing then there were three more that were something completely different.
''I think The Hobbit would have done that, too, and I don't think that would have been the right thing for this set of movies.''
Saindon says Jackson has kept The Hobbit in a familiar Middle-earth for Lord of the Rings fans, with similar designs.
''I think all six movies should live to be watched in a row. They'll all play together very well and they'll all fit together. I think del Toro would have done something really interesting but it would have been a different set of movies.''
An Unexpected Journey involved more than 800 artists pushing the boundaries of visual effects at Weta to create Gollum, trolls, goblins and other creatures in mythic landscapes.
It was a complex job that involved more than 2000 digital effects shots compared to just 400 for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. While he may not be the ultimate authority, Barry Humphries, who plays the Goblin King, calls An Unexpected Journey the most advanced movie ever made.
Saindon says they had to work out new ways to create effects in 3D, especially with the digital versions of characters.
''You see the characters so well - the digital doubles ,'' he says. ''There are 13 digital doubles we had to do for just dwarves alone, then the hobbit and Gandalf.''
The 3D meant lavishing extra attention on the character's layers of clothing and the hair on their head, arms, neck and even ears. ''When you do a digital double, it's always easy to tell when it's a fake person if the cloth or the hair doesn't look right, or simple things like that,'' Saindon says. ''We did crazy amounts of stuff to just bring it to the next level.''
Describing Weta as ''probably the biggest digital effects company in the world'', Saindon says its research and development team had particular challenges on An Unexpected Journey.
''For this movie, we had to write a plant growing program so we could make a new forest that allowed us to put wind in trees and hit it with a troll to smash it into bits,'' he says.
And while he is delighted with the results, Saindon admits there is ''some shocking stuff'' in the visual effects of Jackson's earlier trilogy that he would like to fix.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opens on Boxing Day.