New Hobbit Banner Reveals Clues to Movie Adaptation

Geek Culture

One segment of a massive, 10-scene promotional banner from The Hobbit, released this week by Warner Bros. Pictures. Spoiler alert! Image courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

[Note: If you haven’t read The Hobbit, this post contains some spoilers.]

How exactly did Peter Jackson and company adapt J.R.R. Tolkien’s beloved book The Hobbit? Now we have more answers.

This scrollable banner advertisement (below, and detail above) featuring 10 scenes from The Hobbit has been bouncing around the Internet ever since being released by Warner Bros. Pictures on Monday, just in time for this week’s San Diego Comic-Con International. The banner’s very size (above we see just a portion of it) guarantees that Tolkien and Jackson fans will be examining it for clues like some Middle-earth Bayeux Tapestry. Viewing the original image on the website, you can move a magnifier across it to enlarge details. Luckily, a kind soul over at the Tolkien movie fansite posted a pre-enlarged version of this banner, if you want to see it giant-sized.

The whole banner. But it’s much, much bigger than this. Image courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

First, let’s assume the image reflects the actual movie we’ll see in December, and isn’t just publicity hokum dreamed up by some blockheaded marketing peon named Bracegirdle from Hardbottle. For this banner, probably hundreds of images have been finessed — chopped, pasted and tweaked — and combined in Photoshop. Perhaps some liberties have been taken with the actual movie to make the banner work as a dramatic whole. For example, look to the far right where the dwarves are riding in the barrels. What is that? From reading the book, we know the dwarves aren’t in the barrels with the tops off. The tops are closed during their entire trip downstream, and the dwarves are freed from the barrels by Bilbo only when they arrive at Lake-town. Yet here, we see the lids off and the dwarves riding their barrels like boats. Was this changed to look better in a publicity image? Or has Mr. Jackson changed this detail in the actual movie? Hmmm.

Still, the banner image does clear up some other issues.

Detail from the banner. See the three trolls -- Bert, Tom, and Bill -- above the head of Thorin. (Image: Warner Bros. Pictures)Detail from the banner. See the three trolls -- Bert, Tom, and Bill -- above the head of Thorin. (Image: Warner Bros. Pictures)

Detail from the banner. See the three trolls — Bert, Tom, and Bill – above the head of Thorin. Image courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

First, we get some idea of the appearance of the trolls Bert, Tom, and Bill that the party encounters early in the book. Look for them above the cauldron and the head of Thorin Oakenshield (played by Richard Armitage).

We can see how The Hobbit‘s wolf “wargs” stack up, compared to The Lord of the Rings. To me, they’re more like wolves than the monstrous beasts we see in The Two Towers.

We also get a nice image of how the movie envisions the bear-man shape-shifter Beorn. If you look closely you can see a mane or long hair around Beorn’s neck and shoulders, suggesting his human origins. And you get an effective sense of his scale, as seen next to Gandalf. That bear is big.

We also get a glimpse of Gollum looking at Bilbo from his cave, the trees on fire and the arrival of the eagles, and some indication of spiderwebs in Mirkwood.

Thus far, no sign of the goblins, however. I wonder if they’ll look significantly different from the orcs in LOTR.

The banner also reveals some nice decorative touches and attention to detail. Let’s take a closer look.

The rune scrawled by Gandalf on Bilbo's door.The rune scrawled by Gandalf on Bilbo's door.

The rune scrawled by Gandalf on Bilbo’s door. Image courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

At the far left, we see the rune that Gandalf (Ian McKellen) leaves on Bilbo’s door at the beginning of the book. (FYI, that rune means “Burglar wants a good job, plenty of excitement and reasonable reward.”)

Just to the left of the barrel-riding scene, check out the bridge that the dwarves walk over (this ought to be, plot-wise, just before they are captured by the Mirkwood wood-elves and held prisoner in a secret Elvish lair). Lovely. Another fan over at TheOneRing noted that bridge’s design was likely based on a drawing by Tolkien as well as a design conceptual artist Alan Lee did for Tolkien’s book The Children of Hurin.

Do also notice the intricate sculptural features within the arches that frame Elrond, Gandalf and Galadriel. Especially lovely.

Elrond looks at Thror’s map. Look at those sculptures. But what is that blade? Image courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

More curious is the fact that Gandalf, Elrond (Hugo Weaving) and Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) are all here in Rivendell. After all, Galadriel does not appear in The Hobbit. This suggests a confirmation of the rumor that the meeting of the White Council — which in The Silmarillion we are told includes the wizards Saruman, Gandalf, and Radagast the Brown, plus Galadriel, Elrond and Círdan the Shipwright of the Grey Havens — would appear in The Hobbit movie.

To bring you up to speed: Gandalf suspects that the Necromancer of Dol Guldur is not a Nazgûl but in fact Sauron himself; hence the meeting to discuss what to do about him. Because this meeting appears concurrent with the time-frame of The Hobbit, there’s a good chance in the movie of a Saruman (Christopher Lee) sighting in Rivendell. This meeting also provides a better explanation for why Gandalf can’t join Bilbo and the dwarves on their journey through Mirkwood — he’s got an important meeting to attend.

In the image, it’s likely that the map Elrond is looking at is Thror’s map — the map that’s going to lead the party of 13 dwarves and one hobbit to the Lonely Mountain and Smaug.

That's not Sting. It's no elvish sword. It's a Morgul blade! That's not Sting. It's no elvish sword. It's a Morgul blade!

That’s not Sting. It’s no elvish sword. It’s a Morgul blade! Image courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

But the most enigmatic detail? Elrond seems to have Sting, Bilbo’s sword, on that round table. No, wait. Take another look. Hardcore Tolkien fans might be able to tell that’s no Elvish sword. It’s a nasty, evil, Morgul blade (a fact that another very clever fan over at pointed out). Perhaps the sword is evidence that the Necromancer/Sauron is about. Which is why the White Council must meet.

At the far right of the banner, we see the dwarves popping out of the barrels, suggesting that part one of the movie — An Unexpected Journey — ends as they escape from the Elven King’s halls. Which means we have to wait to film two to see all that Smaug-talking and Smaug-smiting.

One final deet: In the upper right corner of the banner, you can see what looks like The Lonely Mountain popping up through the clouds. A nice nod to where most of the second movie will take place.

If you see other clues, please post below. Or if you differ with my estimation of what you see here, let me know. I’m curious to see what else you dig up from this treasure hunt.

(Incidentally, there’s a reason why this image was released first by the folks at Entertainment Weekly. EW clearly gets first dibs on all Hobbit official image leaks and other goodies because, guess what, EW is owned by Time, Inc. — part of the Time Warner empire, which also runs New Line Cinema, the studio that’s co-releasing the film with MGM. So no surprise there.)

For all you headed to Comic-Con to see the various Hobbit panels and presentations, all I can say is, “Jealous!” Wish I was there. Say hello to my pals over at booth, and please send word and report back with your findings in the comments below.

And let me know know what you think of the Hobbit footage (if you can score a seat). As Gandalf once said, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” For those of you headed to Comic-Con, you’ll likely be spending a lot of your time waiting in line. But hopefully it will be time well-spent.

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