The lighter (and earlier) chapter in the Middle Earth canon sees a Middle Earth unfettered by gigantic all-seeing eyes and roaming armies felling everything they find in their path. Fundamentally, much like the sequel Lord of the Rings, its a story about an individual, aided (or in this case forced) on a great and long journey. Both stories begin with one central character, a Hobbit. And in both one can be found in Hobbiton of the Shire.
Bilbo Baggins will of course be making a return. Obviously much younger this time around – Bilbo will be following the journey spoken of in the later Lord of the Rings films, There and Back Again – which is finished off by his nephew, Frodo having completed his own quest. Bilbo however, has a slightly merrier time of it – never being weighed down by the ring (though the films will likely make more of it) and leading a band of Dwarves on a quest. In the position of thief, and hurried along by his friend Gandalf – Bilbo is the first in living memory to travel out of the shire and have an adventure. Proper boy’s own stuff. Hooray!!
Bilbo will be played by Martin Freeman. Previously played by Ian Holm, Freeman was at pains to explain that he ‘could think of much better choices’ to play Bilbo Baggins and that while his Bilbo will share many traits with Holm he cannot hope to imitate him. Freeman it seems to occupies the state of being the go-to guy for fulfilling famous English literary characters; playing Arthur Dent in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Watson to Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock in the recent TV series and now Bilbo Baggins.
Gandalf will make a return though in this case is only present in the book at the beginning – journeying with the Dwarves and Bilbo only a short way. Given Peter Jackson’s adherence to the book in the past, we should expect a similar set of events. While some liberties were taken in the storyline of the original LOTR films its unlikely that Jackson would have Gandalf continue on with them beyond Mirkwood or else alter the content of the rest of the book. The rest hinges on a bunch of short little fellers getting themselves into a whole bunch of scrapes so a gangly grey wizard’d be slightly out of place. On top of which, Gandalf’d tell them not to do at least half the things they try. Where’s the fun in that?
Ian McKellen will be reclaiming the character of Gandalf the Grey, signed and confirmed with the previous Director Guillermo Del Toro. “Yes, it’s true,” he said. “I spoke to Guillermo in the very room that Peter Jackson offered me the part and he confirmed that I would be reprising the role. Obviously, it’s not a part that you turn down, I loved playing Gandalf.” At the time he had little inclination as to how it would all be palyed out but somewhere in New Zealand there is a full script with Ian McKellen’s name on it, if not in the hand of the man himself. We at Beyond the Bunker couldn’t be any happier that McKellen has reprised the role – I mean, who else can play Gandalf?
Galadriel and the actress who played her, Cate Blanchett will be reprising the role as well as Christopher Lee as Saruman. Saruman’s presence in the Hobbit is either extremely minor or non-existent and the beardy nemesis of Gandalf will likely be a friendly cameo role in Gandalf’s time away from the Hobbit.
But a central story amongst all the other tall tales in the journey of the Hobbit is that of the character that launches the events of Lord of the Rings. The original ring bearer is due to come into conflict with a certain Mr Bilbo in the darkened pools under middle Earth. Smeagol and Bilbo meet in a neat moment in a darkened cave in the book and the conflict is slight and brief – if a little unnerving. More is likely to be made of this character given the hindsight of both JRR Tolkien’s follow up and the scale of the effect caused by this small event – so it’ll be interesting to see how they get on with that….
Reprising the role (more efficiently than ever before) will be Andy Serkis – who needs no introduction following the success of the previous films. Everyone’s favourite CGI character, Serkis will be appearing in Jackson and Spielberg’s Tintin motion capture movie which will have been an excellent training ground for Serkis and the new real-time motion capture technology. When asked if he was prepared to face the physical rigours of playing everyone’s prehistoric chav – Serkis said ‘he’s an amazing character to play.. I’m relishing the thought actually.’
It was made clear early on that anyone who could come back would come back – however, while Saruman is perhaps an expected choice as a cameo one other character from the original films might be making an appearance – played by the original actor. Keep your eyes on Beyond the Bunker to find out what the rumours are – regarding old characters and new.