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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Movie Discussion: The Hobbit:
Is Smaug marketable to mainstream movie-goers?
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May 2 2008, 1:20pm

Post #1 of 26 (893 views)
Is Smaug marketable to mainstream movie-goers? Can't Post

Is Smaug marketable to mainstream movie-goers?

I agree with MrCere, that Smaug is going to be the most significant thing to come out of The Hobbit film and be the most challenging to realize. I love the article, and I think it is superbly thought out. It echoes many of my own thoughts and there is one in particular that I'd like to draw particular attention to. I totally agree with MrCere's comment that:

Smaug must be Smaug. The Magnificent, not Smaug The Third Dragon I've Seen this year

THAT in my mind is the biggest problem facing Guillermo del Toro and Richard Taylor. Is a dragon, even the best literary dragon (IMO) of the modern age, going to be an actual drawcard for mainstream moving-going audiences?

I honestly don't think dragons have EVER been a drawcard, and few dragon movies have EVER been particularly successful, certainly not to the level that people's expectations for The Hobbit's hopeful success at the box office returns will be. Beowulf, Eragon, Reign of Fire, Braveheart, Dragonslayer... all featured a dragon as their major "gimmick" and the results in terms of getting bums on seats in theatres were bad to mediocre. I think from the POV of most movie-goers who aren't opposed to seeing a fantasy film, will have the very thoughts that MrCere suggests, that this is just another dragon movie.

The only time anything comparable was a big success was Jurassic Park, and also King Kong, but the former drew on children's love of dinosaurs, and it was a first of its kind outside of claymation. In the case of the latter, it was far less focused on dinosaurs, but this time they were just there for a fantastic fight scene with a giant ape. Smaug is going to trash Lake Town, but he is also going to have to hold a conversation Bilbo, he's not going to be a popcorn movie dragon... and by that I mean simply there to give the audience a wild action packed ride. And conversational dragons like Eragon and Braveheart didn't exactly thrill the general public. So the public is unlikely to get jazzed up about Smaug unless del Toro, Taylor, Jackson and the whole team can make him into something really genuinely exciting to the general public. I think that is going to be tougher than most of us (Tolkien fans) think.

Jackson has made big monsters work in both LOTR and KK, where the audience responded directly to the visualizations of these creatures in the dramatic sequences. In Guillermo del Toro's case, I can only think of the big monster at the end of Hellboy, and that certainly wasn't the big thing about that film, I don't think it was even in the trailers. I donít doubt Guillermo for a second though. Just seeing the Lovecraftian cosmic tentacled horrors reaching down from the clouds towards the end of Hellboy thrilled me to bits. I wanted to see the whole deal, with those things walking the earth and decimating mankind. That sort of cosmic horror fantasy fires up my imagination and excitement. And I think itís the visuals that will excite the audience from a trailer point of view.

Smaug has to be terrifying. A far cry from Eragon and Braveheart, and he has to be more significant and appealing than the rather generic dragons in Reign of Fire. He has to completely kick ass and set a new benchmark for movie monsters. I would say I donít envy the Weta team, but I actually would love to be involved in a challenge like that. Itís like Guillermo saysÖ this is a challenge that is once in a life time.

I hope Smaug is huge, and I hope Smaug has a crocodile smile that would make Aslan cower. In fact, I hope he looks like he could tear Aslan into a thousand pieces.

(This post was edited by merklynn on May 2 2008, 1:25pm)


May 2 2008, 2:53pm

Post #2 of 26 (628 views)
I'm With You On That [In reply to] Can't Post

Those are very good points and are similar to my sentiments as well. But with folks like John Howe and Alan Lee doing the initial sketches and designs along with the talents of Guillermo, Richard Taylor, Peter Jackson and the gang I am very confident that Smaug will be fully realized as the terrifying, calculating and intellligent "flying storm" that he is. There will be many different sketches made of Smaug to try and nail down the definitive look and feel. I'm not as much worried about that (more hopeful than anything) as I am about how they'll handle his discussions with Bilbo. Will his mouth move? If so, I haven't thought of a way so far that won't look silly but then again, I worried about Treebeard as well - and was very happily surprised how well PJ and Weta did with that design. I think GDT and Weta will find a solution.

I had similar concerns regarding the Balrog in "Fellowship" and they came up with something better than I could have even imagined - and still love a comment that one reviewer wrote that said something akin to "... the Balrog is the most terrifying creature put onto celluloid; King Kong would wet his pants and Godzilla would turn tail and run".

So I'm also hoping for similar comments after Smaug gets revealed in the next few years - but we'll just have to wait and see while putting our trust into very capable hands....


May 2 2008, 3:18pm

Post #3 of 26 (662 views)
Dragonheart, not Braveheart [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm assuming you mean "Dragonheart", the Sean Connery one, not "Braveheart".

Though the Scottish might have fared better if they'd had a dragon.

For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much -- the wheel, New York, wars, and so on -- while all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man, for precisely the same reasons. -- Douglas Adams


May 2 2008, 3:24pm

Post #4 of 26 (631 views)
LOL yes, I meant Dragonheart... damn Sean Connery! - NT [In reply to] Can't Post



May 2 2008, 4:20pm

Post #5 of 26 (1264 views)
Dos cents... [In reply to] Can't Post

Dear M:

I thank you for your nice comment about the cloud guys in HB. I love them too... NOw, the risk with any of my past movies (including PANS LABYRINTH and the upcoming HELLBOY II) is to try and deduct from them how the HOBBIT is going to look. The Fanatsy world in HBII is menat to move away from the LOTR model because we could nOT outdo that look on the budget we had and because it was already a look replicated in so many Celtic / Saxon sagas on film.

PL has some faint passages of some tenuous things I will try but only the faintest connection...

I think you should take a gander at my post about smaug on the FRONT PAGE article discussion, but your point is taken up to a point- The marketing is down the line and the elements in the movie will be treated -tonally- in a different way than you may expect. The Mirkwood episode is going to be pretty striking and the Goblin army alone will be a feast and the Wargs- oh, man- Beorin turning, etc, etc. I think it will be fine...

Anyway guys, I'm off circulation for a few days-

Until then



May 2 2008, 4:29pm

Post #6 of 26 (1120 views)
By the "look" I also mean- [In reply to] Can't Post

-that the Hellboy movies have a different super-saturated color palette with very Pop sensibility and a broader, much more pulpy sensibility for the creatures, techno-ruin sets, etc...

So, as we say in Mexico:

C'est La



May 2 2008, 4:34pm

Post #7 of 26 (607 views)
Smaug vs the Cloud Guys [In reply to] Can't Post

Oh I have faith in your abilities, I love the imagination in Pan's Labyrinth with the creepy fantasy aspect of the film being my favorite part, particularly the child eating guy with the hands. Visually it knocked my socks off, especially the method employed to set up the threat of the thing sitting at the end of the table by using the paintings on the walls. Brilliant. I loved the "cloud guys", are we going to see more of them in Hellboy II? Or in Mountains of Madness, if it ever gets greenlit? Those things represent real horrific power.

I just know Smaug is going to be tough. To a great extent I expect he will be a similar challenge like Gollum, but energizing the mainstream audience and making them understand that this is one dragon they have to see seems equally challenging. At least Tolkien's name gives the film that added merit now that the previous film trilogy revitalized and made regular movie goers aware of his world. So... good luck. And hope to see you back soon.

Oh and thanks for responding on this. That's pretty neat. :-)


May 2 2008, 5:01pm

Post #8 of 26 (574 views)
We'll see Beorn transforming? [In reply to] Can't Post

In Reply To
The Mirkwood episode is going to be pretty striking and the Goblin army alone will be a feast and the Wargs- oh, man- Beorin turning, etc, etc.


Wait....we'll actually see Beorn transforming? Actually see him "skin-changing" from giant Man-form to Bear-form?

In the book, we never got to see him transforming: he always did it "off screen". He'd just arrive at the Battle of Five Armies *already* in giant Bear-form.

Weta Workshop will probably have quite a bit of work to do if they're going to make (biologically realistic) transformation...which i mean I think they WILL do and I look forward to it; all of the models of the Trolls, Wargs etc in the past are physically realistic and computer modelled with a real skeletal structure, musculature, etc...so we'll actually see Beorn's transformation?

***The parts about Smaug that made him stand out for me WEREN'T all of the major action scenes attacking Lake-town and shrugging off its defenders....its that he's so witty and intelligent; he's an actual "character" in the story. The Marketing folks will probably emphasize his major fight scenes, but we're watching for the character stuff...

...I mean some of the best scenes in Tolkien are just "horror" they involve no real "action": "Riddles in the Dark" for example, involves no real fighting action; its Bilbo sitting next to a small monster in the dark who he can't see well who wants to EAT him, and he's locked in a battle of wits with him. There's no real fighting in that.

"Pleased to meet you, hope you guessed my name, but what's puzzling you, is the nature of my game"

Formerly known on TORN as "Draug the Unspeakably Violent"


May 2 2008, 5:38pm

Post #9 of 26 (566 views)
I actually had a "fanboy" moment on your behalf... [In reply to] Can't Post

It was pretty cool, wasn't it.

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May 2 2008, 6:07pm

Post #10 of 26 (529 views)
Smaug [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm actually really hoping that they don't use a voice for Smaug. Smaug is a dragon and giving it a voice gives it human qualities which makes it less scary. It all may be just cause after seeing things like Aslan in lion & witch & optimus prime in transformers. The thing I disliked about their voices were how they didn't change. Liam Neeson no matter what he was doing, running, jumping, fighting, talking and not moving it was the same calm tone. No passion, was flat. Same with optimus prime he was jumping about but his voice doesn't strain or shout. It took away the amazing CGI that has been used. I think Smaug won't be as scary or real if it's given a voice. Again it may be just cause it's hard to imagine something like a god, dragon etc talking. I think of them as something you couldn't do with words. Sauron's deep voice briefly used worked ok but not knowing made it scarier. The beasts the nazgul flew when they appeared for minus morgul when frodo, sam & gollum are near the bridge,
emphasis is given to their loud shrieks, which are made deafening and that was amazing. Just a terrifying roar/growl that's huge and fills the area as far as the eye can see with more power than anyone could imagine would be one of the most terrifying things I could imagine if I was in their shoes approaching the dragon. I don't like things to be changed but I think giving it a human quality would take away some of the fear. You could be made to think you could talk it out of stuff but if it's pure animal there's nothing no one can do.


May 2 2008, 6:28pm

Post #11 of 26 (521 views)
Yes, it was pretty neat... ;-) [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks. I was trying to come across as cool and not too "fan boyish", but I was secretly thrilled.

I called my wife and said, hey, Guillermo responded to me. She's not nearly as big into LOTR but she loves Simon and Paula (Saula) from American Idol, and loves the show. So I put it in context for her that it would be like Randy Jackson responding to her post, since the only thing I can think that would be cooler than hearing from Guillermo directly is hearing from Peter Jackson or Ian McKellen. I love Ian to death.


May 2 2008, 6:33pm

Post #12 of 26 (521 views)
Super Special Awesome [In reply to] Can't Post

I agree. It is the whole package that makes Smaug great. He's one of the originators of modern dragons in fiction, if not the original. He is evil, but slightly charming too. I'm not interested in a town burning dragon, that's nothing remarkable or special. But one that sits on a nest of gold and treasure and talks to a tiny little hobbit named Bilbo Baggins (at the same time as being evil, not some chummy buddy like Dragonheart or Eragon) is "super special awesome" to quote a certain fan abridged Youtube series...

As for Beorn transforming, I think that is great. From the sounds of it, I'm going to enjoy Guillermo's movies, because he has an exciting and very visual imagination. Fingers crossed he likes the same stuff a lot of us having been pining for.

Fatty Lumpkin
Registered User

May 2 2008, 7:08pm

Post #13 of 26 (517 views)
I froze up just then [In reply to] Can't Post

I was all ready to post a response to you this morning when I saw the name Guillermo come across my screen and I froze up. I am just thawing out right now. That was pretty cool.

(This post was edited by Fatty Lumpkin on May 2 2008, 7:10pm)


May 2 2008, 7:42pm

Post #14 of 26 (482 views)
*high five* // [In reply to] Can't Post


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May 2 2008, 8:17pm

Post #15 of 26 (483 views)
For me... [In reply to] Can't Post

Smaug must have a voice. His conversation with Bilbo is one of the best parts in the book... and I think part of Smaug's power is in his voice. The voices of the the Middle Earth dragons are bewitching, and very important to the character as a whole, just look at Glaurung and all the damage his speech managed to do to the children of Hurin.

*Jazminatar the Brown*


May 2 2008, 9:47pm

Post #16 of 26 (479 views)
I think for Smaug to work ... [In reply to] Can't Post

... it's got to be in his eyes.

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 it's where we look 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 great 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 pull off the eyes with as much reality and subtlety as they did with Gollum, then we're going to see his intelligence and "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 the same needs to be true of Smaug. Because he's not a monster ... he's another actor. And we're hoping for a great performance.

(PS: I'd print out this page with GDT's response and frame it Merklynn! That's about the coolest thing I've seen all day!)

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


May 2 2008, 11:06pm

Post #17 of 26 (463 views)
Way to go :D .. [In reply to] Can't Post

I was just about to write, "so in what article did Guillermo say this" ...

The Mirkwood episode is going to be pretty striking and the Goblin army alone will be a feast and the Wargs- oh, man- Beorin turning, etc, etc. I think it will be fine...

Then I thought, I'll just check the posters name ...

Im thrilled as punch - Beorn is in!!

Were off to Hobbiton finally!

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

Superuser / Moderator

May 3 2008, 12:35am

Post #18 of 26 (459 views)
Y'know, [In reply to] Can't Post

In Reply To
The Mirkwood episode is going to be pretty striking and the Goblin army alone will be a feast and the Wargs- oh, man- Beorin turning, etc, etc. I

It's going to be bad for the heart to be so excited SO FAR OUT from the movies appearing!

Four years of this? I'm going to be a fangirl wreck by the time the opening credits appear on screen.

Celebrimbor: "Pretty rings..."
Dwarves: "Pretty rings..."
Men: "Pretty rings..."
Sauron: "Mine's better."

"Ah, how ironic, the addictive qualities of Sauronís master weapon led to its own destruction. Which just goes to show, kids - if you want two small and noble souls to succeed on a mission of dire importance... send an evil-minded b*****d with them too." - Gandalf's Diaries, final par, by Ufthak.

Ataahua's stories


May 3 2008, 12:53am

Post #19 of 26 (479 views)
I think 'mainstream' viewers are as ready for Dragons [In reply to] Can't Post

as they were for Hobbits and the question of scale. By the time we were a wee-bit into FotR, it was firmly established that Hobbits were this tall, Dwarves were that tall, and Elves and Men were about the same size as Wizards. When spiders, trolls and dragons appear in The Hobbit, they'll be as readily accepted as the rest of the iconic characters in LotR... like Smeagol, Shelob and the Balrog (not to mention Orcs).

I think we're going to be blown away with Smaug. He's going to be that one character everyone involved in his creation will have ideas and a wish list a mile long. By now, those people in NZ are masters in creatures; and Smaug will be their ultimate creation.

sample sample
Trust him... The Hobbit is coming!

"Barney Snow was here." ~Hug like a hobbit!~ "In my heaven..."

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Tol Eressea

May 3 2008, 1:19am

Post #20 of 26 (462 views)
That's so true gramma! [In reply to] Can't Post

In Reply To

I think we're going to be blown away with Smaug. He's going to be that one character everyone involved in his creation will have ideas and a wish list a mile long. By now, those people in NZ are masters in creatures; and Smaug will be their ultimate creation.

The ultimate WETA creation!

Besides, anyone who says he doesn't want more dragons, is simply lying. Cool

Here's to Del Toro becoming the Irvin Kershner of Middle Earth!

Essay winner of the Show us your Hobbit Pride Giveway!


May 3 2008, 1:31am

Post #21 of 26 (471 views)
wargs, goblin army, and Beorn, oh my.... [In reply to] Can't Post

Holy Sweet......can I say that?
I am jumping out of my chair thinking of just Beorn.....as a Bear....fighting.....
Of course Smaug is a central focus but the marketing could leave him out completely and focus on Hobbiton and I would still rush out to see the movie ten times....lol....goblin armies, trolls, eagles....I can imagine the commercials now....

I am sure the Smaug you create will blow away all previous dragons.....dragons be gone!!

Tol Eressea

May 4 2008, 2:54am

Post #22 of 26 (411 views)
What about Disney's Pete's Dragon? [In reply to] Can't Post

Mickey Rooney and Red Buttons... that's a Disney classic


May 4 2008, 4:22am

Post #23 of 26 (422 views)
Congrads Merklynn! [In reply to] Can't Post

And may I point out that the "child-eating monster with the hands" was the indomitable Doug Jones, in costume. He is a mainstay in Del Toro's films, and I can guarantee you'll see him somewhere in the films. If you want to know more about him, he has a great website: http://thedougjonesexperience.com

What I find fascinating about PL is that almost every scene that takes place in "real life' inside the Generals' house is exactly echoed in Ofelia's fantasy world. (If "fantasy" it is--GDT leaves this up in the air, even in his commentary on the DVD There is one scene that could NOT have taken place in a fantasy light..)

So for example, the now-famous scene you allude to, when Ofelia fails in her test of retreving the keys in the banquet room without consuming any of the food on the table, this EXACTLY echoes an earlier scene where the General gives a lavish dinner for guests in the house. And as we know the General is a Fascist and the film is full of proof of this, the camera angle in the scene that shows him sitting in the chair at the head of the table exactly echoes shots of the General at his table. And as GDT subtely hints, Ofelia is a metaphor for Spain itself....

Congrads on getting a reply! I would be over the moon all day!


May 5 2008, 6:40am

Post #24 of 26 (356 views)
oops...that's the Captain, not the General:) [In reply to] Can't Post



May 5 2008, 12:55pm

Post #25 of 26 (353 views)
I 100% think I know who will voice Smaug.... [In reply to] Can't Post

I actually think GDT is going to cast Doug Parker as the voice of Smaug and add some modulation effects. Him or Perlman. Doug could very well have a major role, but completely unseen.

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