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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Movie Discussion: The Hobbit:
The Dragon Problem (long)
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Elven
Valinor


May 6 2008, 12:43am

Post #126 of 158 (3027 views)
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Conversation with Smaug ... [In reply to] Can't Post

in Tolkiens drawing 'Conversation with Smaug' - you can see that Smaug may have devoured some Dwarves, or maybe Lake Town/Dale residents - or maybe they were people who entered into smaugs liar - but there are bones and skulls scattered through out the picture - especially near to Smaugs golden bed - which maybe means he likes breakfast in bed Wink ... there are also alot of bats in the illustration - not a meal for Smaug I daresay - but there seems there was some food around if he fancied it.


Were off to Hobbiton finally!

Tolkien was a Capricorn!!
Russell Crowe for Beorn!!



Tolkien Forever
Gondor

May 6 2008, 12:54am

Post #127 of 158 (2973 views)
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Old Bones [In reply to] Can't Post

I'd reckon that those bones are old. This being a main Hall, there must've been many Dwarves in there when Smaug sacked Erebor.
Nobody would've come near the Mountain in years, because the younger folk doubted Smaug's existence. If some people did come near & disappeared, the people of Laketown would know the dragon lived....

If Smaug stole out at night & snatched people from Laketown, same thing, plus someone would spot him, which hadn't happened in many years.

So perhaps Smaug lived on firewood & bats? Wink


Elven
Valinor


May 6 2008, 1:22am

Post #128 of 158 (2895 views)
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Maybe those jars are filled with pickled Dwarves ... :D [In reply to] Can't Post

and he just uses a spear every now again to get the last one out from the bottom of the jar Laugh Wink


Were off to Hobbiton finally!

Tolkien was a Capricorn!!
Russell Crowe for Beorn!!



BuckyUnderbelly
Lorien


May 6 2008, 6:52pm

Post #129 of 158 (3020 views)
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The "eyes" have it! [In reply to] Can't Post

I posted the following on one of the other dragon threads currently running, but it seemed appropriate to add here ... apologies for the repetition!


True, the voice needs to be great ... but it's the eyes that will sell the illusion. That's why Gollum is so amazing and everyone in Polar Express and Beowulf is so eerily zombie-ish. Zemeckis didn't get the eyes right. The eyes are what we connect to as human beings when we're relating to one another, and when we're trying to relate to characters (and actors) ...

The whole "windows on the soul" thing may be trite, but it's really true. Sure we want an amazingly cool dragon design and iconic voice work ... but if we don't connect with the eyes, then he will end up being just another movie dragon. If they can really create the eyes with as much reality and subtlety as they did with Gollum, then we're going to see his intelligence and his "humanity". By which I mean ... we'll be able to relate to him as a sentient being with needs and wants and motives.

Because the eyes are where an actor's performance lives. And even if he's digital, the same needs to be true of Smaug. Because he's not a monster ... he's another actor. And we're all hoping for a great performance.



"In Hollywood the screenplay is a fire hydrant. And there's a line of dogs around the block." -- Frank Miller


MrCere
Sr. Staff


May 6 2008, 7:55pm

Post #130 of 158 (2894 views)
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I think I would refute that [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't think the eyeball changes one smidge except the pupil which reacts to light. I think eyes are not where a performance lives but it is where we human's emotionally think it lives. I don't think eyes are a window to the soul but they are the part of a person we can stare at to make them nervous because it is just behind the eyes that people perceive their "self" rests. We feel like somebody is staring at US.


So eyes are a window to the soul in the sense that if people are genuinely comfortable with each other they can stare into one another's eyes but really the eye itself isn't what is a window, its the sense of being comfortable with self.

I think the whole "eyes" thing is something people accept as fact but isn't at all.

As for Zemeckis, there were plenty of ways the digital characters were inferior to Gollum, perhaps including the way the eyes were digitally painted.
(And I kinda like The Polor Express and Beowulf, but don't tell anybody!)

I have no choice but to believe in free will.

The cake is a lie
The cake is a lie
The cake is a lie




BuckyUnderbelly
Lorien


May 6 2008, 9:27pm

Post #131 of 158 (2913 views)
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I think perhaps I wasn't clear ... [In reply to] Can't Post

Your points are well taken, but I don't think I explained very well. I'm not just talking about pupil dilation. When I say the eyes are where the performance lives ... I'm also talking about the thousands of tiny, almost imperceptible micro movements of the eyes (directionally), the forehead, the eyelids, the brow, the cheeks ... all the immediately surrounding musculature. Not just the pupil itself. The range of expression that can be accomplished just in that limited area of the face is hugely broad and can be infinitely subtle. Much more so than the rest of the face.

It's something that the Weta team did a stunning and phenomenal job with on Gollum. I would argue that his facial animation ... particularly that involving his eyes ... should be the achievement they're ultimately remembered for. Not necessarily for the groundbreaking motion capture technique they pioneered. (That, of course, won't happen, but a fella can dream!)

And sure, Zemeckis' character designs came up short in other areas, too ... (they were often rubbery, expressionless and plastic-looking) ... but it's those creepy, creepy eyes that always jump out at me. Sure they look like normal eyes. And sure they dilate properly and they point in the correct direction. But it's the lack of sophisticated movement of all the tiny facial muscles that fail to sell the illusion. We may not understand exactly why they look so wrong, but we feel it subconsciously. And there's an immediate disconnect.

Robitcs designers (and animators and game designers) call it "the uncanny valley." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncanny_valley

We can relate just fine to a puppet or CG character that's more cartoonish (like Remi from Ratatouille) ... but when that character starts looking closer and closer to an actual photo-real human ... that's when we start to pull away.

Unless they get all the subtleties right, as they did with Gollum.

Of course, I understand that Smaug doesn't and shouldn't look at all human ... but I think this is what will put Smaug over the top. If the Weta team really masters the multitude of subtleties of his eyes ... if they can really bring out that expressiveness ... then that will really separate Smaug from the rest of the filmic dragon pack. I'm absolutely certain they could (and will) create a kick-butt dragon design that looks incredibly cool blasting the countryside to flaming ruin ... but it's more important ... to me anyway ... that Smaug can also act. And that's gonna take some subtlety.

And if they can master the eyes, and marry it to a top-shelf vocal performance ... then Smaug won't just be a movie monster ... he'll be an actor. And a damn fine one.


"In Hollywood the screenplay is a fire hydrant. And there's a line of dogs around the block." -- Frank Miller


MrCere
Sr. Staff


May 6 2008, 9:42pm

Post #132 of 158 (2895 views)
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Well said {NT} [In reply to] Can't Post

 

I have no choice but to believe in free will.

The cake is a lie
The cake is a lie
The cake is a lie




Elven
Valinor


May 6 2008, 9:44pm

Post #133 of 158 (2883 views)
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Sorry, but I cant agree. [In reply to] Can't Post

WinkDid not one large large eye in a certain film hold us all engrossed - did not that eye give us the sense of evil? A whole movie has been done on it Wink Was it not a window into the darkness of the soul of its beholder .... and with its destruction - did not the Soul vanish - it was a means of expression and a symbol in itself to a far greater testiment of what lies beneath.

The eye is a tool of connectedness and responds accordingly - it is in a most essential form a communication tool - just watch the interaction between animals - its the eyes that speak - to stare or not to stare can be the prompting for attack or not to attack for example.

As humans we connect at the 'eye/s' - and 'eyes are tools which we use to communicate' - they have the capacity to express, and we as the other set of eyes have the capacity to interpret those eyes. Depending on how we interpret the eye's is up to the reciever - though there are other ways the eyes express further than just the way they look or react to light. The sockets they're in, and the lids that hold them. A closed lid will not give much more of an impression than that the consciousness is resting, or turned in wards. An exposed eye with a widely opened lid can mean suprise, danger, alert - an eye which is wet on the surface can mean crying - a eye which is bloodshot can mean tiredness or damage or a state of health - eye colour is sometimes interpreted and is used judgementally.

I think this happens because regardless of weather we a re clothed or not - the eyes are the only 'moving reactive instruments' that are not part of the skin organ. If the body doesnt move or cannot move - it is the eyes where we will try to access the living consciousness beneath - we rarely try and do this say through the belly button. It wont tell us much not matter how much fluff is in there Smile



Quote
I don't think the eyeball changes one smidge except the pupil which reacts to light. I think eyes are not where a performance lives but it is where we human's emotionally think it lives. I don't think eyes are a window to the soul but they are the part of a person we can stare at to make them nervous because it is just behind the eyes that people perceive their "self" rests. We feel like somebody is staring at US.




The eyes are portals - maybe not to the Soul as such, but I suppose that depend on the definition of terms of Soul - but as for an expression of the thought without word - they add to the tools we already have as animals to enable our capacity further to be understood.
You could do an entire performance with just eyes - no dialogue - and to some level it would be understood by other eyes watching it, because expression through these tools is universal (to some degree) ... a wink is different to a blink ... and we can determine the difference. We can judge a 'far away' look of an eye, just as we can judge if an eye is scrutinizing something at close distance.

The self uses the eye as a tool, just as it does every other part of us. But at an unconscious level, we recieve many more signals by which come to our own conclusions of what that signal means and how we interpret it.



Quote
So eyes are a window to the soul in the sense that if people are genuinely comfortable with each other they can stare into one another's eyes but really the eye itself isn't what is a window, its the sense of being comfortable with self.

I think the whole "eyes" thing is something people accept as fact but isn't at all.




The eyes are more than that - they are the organs through which we percieve the world in one way - our visusal interpretation tools. If you feel comfortable with someone else and you never looked them in the eye, what message might that send - what does eye contact portray - that the person is coy? The person is untrustful, the person is distant? How ever you interpret it - it will be an interpretation and a communication of sorts.

Staring eyes can convey brutal hatred as well as unconditional love, and Im sure we could recognise the difference, if we are open to the true interpretation and the intent of the stare.

Even creatures who are blind will face each other to communicate - its like we have a front and a back - and the eyes are set in the front, on the face from which we communicate.

Something I found interesting when watching Pans Labyrinth was the Pale Man. Firstly - he has no eyes on his face. It was difficult to know what his intentions were. When he placed the eyes in his palm - he placed those eyes within those hands to his face - where eyes usually are set on the body. He did not place them away from the body like two seperate search beams - and suddenly he comes alive. When he moved from the table and started after Ofelia, his hands were set out before him and the eyes were further searching ahead - at times the arms seperated and moved up and down. On one viewing I was trying to look through those eyes to see what the Pale Man was looking at ... and had a weird sense of expanding vision - for which I could not hold or keep focus upon, so I lost my vision through the Pale Mans eyes.

These 'eyes' were very much a performance - of any eyes - they were crutial to the scene - and yes, they gave an emotional reaction to me, the viewer.

Weather it be CGI or real eyes, Pale Mans eyes, Smaugs eyes - we will understand on some level what those eyes are expressing.


Just some thought MeCere ...
Thanks for listening to my rant Blush

Cheers Elven




Were off to Hobbiton finally!

Tolkien was a Capricorn!!
Russell Crowe for Beorn!!



Elven
Valinor


May 6 2008, 10:00pm

Post #134 of 158 (2875 views)
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OOps - I posted after bucky replied ... // [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Were off to Hobbiton finally!

Tolkien was a Capricorn!!
Russell Crowe for Beorn!!



Samray
Registered User

May 7 2008, 8:34am

Post #135 of 158 (2975 views)
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Smaug [In reply to] Can't Post

The big problem here is not in the actor who is going to be the voice of Smaug but the voice itself! A dragon does not have the larynx of a human and therfore the voice will be 'unhumanlike'. In many mythological tales the dragon, being a magical creature, uses a form of telepathy and everybody knows that not only do you NOT look into the eyes of a dragon but also you do not believe everything it says.
Tolkien gives us the words and nuance of the conversations with Bilbo but the film must convince us of the physical and magical power of the dragon, an 'ordinary' actors voice will not do this as it will sound puny coming from such a powerful creature. There is also an element of vast wisdom gathered over many centuries that must come over - a dragon is not easily tricked, but at the same time that wisdom will not have prepared Smaug for an invisible Hobbit!
Bilbo's only advantage.
Experimentation with lisps and hissing along with an 'experts' view on a dragon's larynx and the sounds that can be produced over the tongue and between the lips is important. But whatever else the voice must not be cute or twee in any form and as I said before must carry power and dignity, malice and humour, patience and anger all at the same time. A tall order I know but I am confident that Peter will not accept anything less.


Parker
The Shire

May 8 2008, 2:20pm

Post #136 of 158 (2984 views)
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My take on Guillermo's comments on Smaug and the Environment [In reply to] Can't Post

I talked about this in my recent blog entry over at DelToroFilms. My interpretation was not as literal - I foresee GDT using the environment to enhance Smaug's appearance, so that each flame, each rock, each cloud of smoke, each piece of shining gold exudes the power, fear, and maybe greed of Smaug. Kind of like how a director uses a score to enhance emotion, I believe GDT considers Smaug's design of his environment as integral as the design of Smaug himself. Looking at Eyvind Earle's designs would be a great example of this. Here is a quick example (one of the few I could find on the net).




(This post was edited by Parker on May 8 2008, 2:21pm)


Eruwestial37
Rohan

May 10 2008, 7:22am

Post #137 of 158 (2945 views)
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Eyes and Voice of Smaug [In reply to] Can't Post

Can be taken from nature. By that I mean, a dragon's closest relatives. Birds can perfectly imitate human voices by means of their syrinx. My African Grey parrot is capable of many voices and sounds, so perhaps Smaug could have that ability as well. Many people, myself included, have been fooled by the voice of a Grey.
As far as eyes go, I have only to look at my iguana to see the intelligence in those reddish eyes. They are not lizard-like at all, but very human looking, tempting me to believe there is a mind inside that green critter.

I am thoroughly enjoying this discussion. It's marvelous to have become a member here.

Eruwestial


leo
Rohan

May 10 2008, 10:11am

Post #138 of 158 (2869 views)
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Size doesn't matter ;) [In reply to] Can't Post

Or at least, it shouldn't. I think it is very easy to take the Reign of Fire-way, where the bigger the Dragon, the more evil he is. I don't quite recall how Tolkien described him size-wise, so it could be that he is huge, but he shouldn't be made huge if he isn't decribed as huge. If you know what I mean...

I kinda liked how in LOTR, the most evil character (in my eyes Gollum, who seduces, betrays and lies all the time) was the smallest, weakest creature.

(I can go on about how Tolkien went out of his way to mock sizes, with the very small Hobbits doing the greatest deeds and all, but I doubt anyone will want to read it ;) )


leo
Rohan

May 10 2008, 10:15am

Post #139 of 158 (2839 views)
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Me too, me too! [In reply to] Can't Post

He'd be too perfect. But if not him, I agree with whomever said it should still be an English voice.


leo
Rohan

May 10 2008, 10:25am

Post #140 of 158 (2930 views)
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The more I am thinking about this idea, the more I like it... [In reply to] Can't Post

I can just see him being the Golden Dragon that Tolkien described him to be when he is laying in his pile of treasure, and then turning into a horrible red fiery dragon when setting fire to Lake Town...


bowencm
Rivendell

May 10 2008, 2:20pm

Post #141 of 158 (2846 views)
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Smaug will be... [In reply to] Can't Post

Smaug will be who he will be. I think that's the essence of this particular dragon. For years, like all of you, I've geeked out about dragons and monsters (mostly because of LOTR, D&D, DragonLance, etc.) and the epic adventure of LOTR on screen has brought most of our collective imaginations together into something credible and tangible. Dragons have been recreated, regurgitated, and redeveloped again and again, so I agree with Guillermo Del Toro's thought that he has a monumental task at hand: creating the greatest dragon that has been the stamp from which all other modern incarnations have been born. I always smile when I watch The Hobbit and see Smaug in his cartoon glory; the hairy mane, drool that melts gold, and the unparalleled enormity of the wyrm. In a way, I'd love to see Smaug a hairy, reptilian, massive winged mess. Mr. Del Toro has such attention to detail (IMO) that I wouldn't be surprised if we think we could actually SMELL Smaug when he brings him to life (ew but cool).

So since Smaug encapsulates what defines "Dragon" in our time and of course what will be will be, it would be cool to see a conglomeration of the characteristics that we're all fond of. The insane cunning, the sheer ruthless animosity, the monstrous size, the breath, the fear... The allowance of Mr. Del Toro's imagination on top of all that will create something beautiful, twisted and horribly memorable straight out of a child's nightmare. The Pale Man in Pan's Labyrinth never fails to freak the hell out of me every time I see him.

We've all waited a long time for this movie (for me itís been about 31 years since I first saw the animated version on TV). I have every confidence that Smaug will be nasty, booming and (based on Mr. Del Toro's films) something that will make us lose sleep at night!

What else could we ask for in a dragon? :-)


-Chris


weyhoops
The Shire


May 10 2008, 6:19pm

Post #142 of 158 (2805 views)
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Smaug and his environment [In reply to] Can't Post

After reading Del Toro's comments and Elven's thoroughly compiled list of Hobbit Smaug references, I began to envision Smaug as a (literally) hot being. So when he is in rain/water, he smokes/sizzles/steams. When he is sleeping, he may have some "heat" wafting off of him...blurring the visuals and creating mirage-type effects. In the night he may "glow" a bit, particularly when angry. If he touches or gets very close to living plants/trees/grass, they turn to ash/get a little crispy from the heat. Perhaps this makes him a little too Balrog-ish, but reading the language Tolkien uses to describe him as well as GDT's comments, it does make a lot of sense. I am sure this could be tackled with spectacular results.


(This post was edited by weyhoops on May 10 2008, 6:26pm)


Glaurung63
Lorien

May 10 2008, 11:51pm

Post #143 of 158 (2786 views)
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Now THAT got me thinking... [In reply to] Can't Post

Interesting....I imagine Smaug's jewel encrusted belly glittering....with the one spot uncovered....but the body scales changing color based on environment.....wow....blending in to the stone walls of the caves....the snow capped summit of the mountain....the forests below....it makes sense from my wildlife job background, if you think of a dragon as a lizard...but are they??? With recent discoveries about dinosaurs being related to birds, what if dragons are related to a modern life form??? Since Tolkien was writing his own history....what modern animals could have evolved from dragons???? Scientists just found out that the platypus has genes like snakes, mammals, and birds....a male platypus has venom in his hind leg claws....

Yet I did picture Smaug like Tolkien, red and yellowish....but Smaug's wings need to be large enough to lift a dragon into the air....and yet fold compactly kind of like a bat, to fit through the mountain caves....

perhaps....Smaug's voice could induce the listener to visualize the dragon differently.....hmmm....
I am STOKED for Smaug....can't wait...you got me thinking....


kathyrote
The Shire

May 11 2008, 5:21am

Post #144 of 158 (2834 views)
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Voice of Smaug [In reply to] Can't Post

    Hum - your mention of Anthony Hopkins caused me a spark of enthusiasm and also the idea of a slightly feminine twist in the voice. Maybe its an androgenous feeling I'm after. In the way the voices of Gandalf and Saruman were digitally intertwined in the scene in Fangorn. {Perhaps the male and female voices that resonant in the auditions could be given the same treatment. I adore the nuances in Ralph Finnes voice as he describes his "becoming" in the movie "Red Dragon." I'd love to be a fly on the wall when the auditions for voice of Smaug take place.


josefettwalker
Registered User

May 13 2008, 2:49am

Post #145 of 158 (2773 views)
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Not sure about female/male voice [In reply to] Can't Post

Antony Hopkins sounds interesting, but i guess the decision has really to be made by defining first the visual characteristics of Smaug and then choosing a voice that really matches the looks and the atmosphere of the movie. The idea of the voices entwined sounds cool, but not sure about the male/female aspect maybe 2 male voices would sound deeper, but as i said we can't make any real assumptions cause we don't know how it is going to look.


angolhir
Registered User

May 13 2008, 7:20pm

Post #146 of 158 (2766 views)
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Dragonlore [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi,

I stumbled upon the article about this thread and the fact, that del Toro was taking part in the discussion.

Some time ago I posted in the net an extensive essay about the dragons, essentialy bringing together all that Tolkien ever written about them in any of his ME writings. I post the link for your interest, you may find it helpful in the topic of the dragons (maybe even bring it to notice of filmakers, if you feel like it).

http://docs.google.com/View?docid=ddwd98qd_2g7p4fq

Also, my other, published essays:
http://docs.google.com/View?docid=ddwd98qd_3csb668

Cheers

Angolhir
angolhir@gmail.com, marek.wypych@gmail.com


Dragonlady
Registered User


May 19 2008, 7:51pm

Post #147 of 158 (2640 views)
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More about Smaug [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I am a big Dragon fan. I've said it before- And I was fortunate enough to be born a Dragon in the Chinese Horocope...
...

Smaug should not be "the Dragon in the Hobbit movie" as if it was just "another" creature in a Bestiary. Smaug should be "The DRAGON" for all movies past and present. The shadow he cast and the greed he comes to embody- the "need to own" casts its long shadow and creates a thematic / dramatic continuity of sorts that articulates the story throughout-
...
Anyway, back to Smaug: One of the main mistakes with talking dragons is to shape the mouth like a snub Simian one in order to achieve a dubious lip-synch. .. A point which eluded me particularly in Eragon, since their link is a psychic one.

To me, Smaug is the perfect example of a great creature defined by its look and design, yes, but also, very importantly, by his movement and -One little hint- its environment - Think about it...
...

PD As to his voice- well, each reader has a Smaug voice in his / her head, just like you always do when "hearing" a great character in a book.

I have mine... and it will be revealed in time...


Oh I am so relieved to read this! Like many others here, Smaug is my main concern. He must be perfect. I am always vaguely dissapointed by the way Dragons are portrayed in movies. I admit it's difficult to have a talking beast that is basically not a mammal. I like to draw Dragons based on a feline shape because it gives them such a great posture, but to work in other types of anatomies is tricky, I wish I had more time to study this aspect.

Even though there is a lot that's forgettable about Dragonheart, Draco is one of my favourite onscreen Dragons, because he has got most of the attributes I expect in a Dragon and that I actually saw in Sean Connery long before he was asked to do this. The humour, the sneer, the "ego", the contempt... I loved how this came through. Too bad the rest of the movie wasn't par to it.

I am very happy to read that you will give great care to movement. I also think that this is the secret of a realistic Dragon. In fact I envy you terribly to be able to take the time to reflect on this aspect. I've been passionately in love with Dragons all my life and I would give anything to take part in this adventure. I hope you can share more of your reflections on the subject with us!


Steelsheen
The Shire


May 20 2008, 4:46am

Post #148 of 158 (2669 views)
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how about Michael Wincott for the voice of Smaug? [In reply to] Can't Post

how about Michael Wincott for the voice of Smaug? (for those who dont know him, he played the villainous Rochefort in 1993's The Three Musketeers). he's got that deep gravely voice, sounds almost inhuman at times. its the voice that comes into my head when i hear Smaug talk. the great thing about him-- other than the fact that he's Julliard trained-- is that he's not a popular actor that we associate with a face (like Sean Connery or Anthony Hopkins). when you hear Wincott, its like a beast talking-- dangerous, evil yet oddly hypnotic-- much like what a dragon should be.


MrCere
Sr. Staff


May 20 2008, 7:40pm

Post #149 of 158 (2580 views)
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Pretty good choice {NT} [In reply to] Can't Post

 

I have no choice but to believe in free will.

The cake is a lie
The cake is a lie
The cake is a lie




DarthProject
Registered User

May 21 2008, 4:00am

Post #150 of 158 (2600 views)
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Smaug talking in Bilbo's mind [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi everyone from a long time fan of the books and the LOTR movies. I think the main dragon problem is the voice. Not only casting the right actor, but deciding the way he talks. I think that a dragon like the one of Dragonheart, moving his mouth while talking, would be too much in a child/Disney style, opposite to the less-innocent, and maybe darker, tone, which Del Toro plans for the end of the movie. Personally I think that Smaug should talk "in Bilbo's mind", with some sort of telepathy; actually the voice would be heard by people watching the movie, since the movie will be most likely done from Bilbo's point of view. This may of course sacrify a bit the faithfulness to the book, but I think it would be more suitable, for the movie(s) will be for a general audience, and not only for children as the book is. It wouldn't be too out of style with the Tolkien world, which actually features "instant at distance" magic like the Palantiri's. In addition, this "telepathy" would contribute well to convey the extreme power of Smaug. It's one of the few points were I think the movie should get a bit of distance from the book.


(This post was edited by DarthProject on May 21 2008, 4:03am)

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