Arrow-wielding elves and fiery Smaug amp up action in 'The Hobbit'

Thu Dec 12, 2013 6:10pm EST
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By Piya Sinha-Roy

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A small-town hobbit faces larger-than-life challenges in "The Desolation of Smaug," as director Peter Jackson intensifies the action in the second installment of fantasy film "The Hobbit," expected to be one of the biggest blockbusters of the year.

"Desolation of Smaug," out in U.S. theaters on Friday, picks up the tale of "The Hobbit" as Bilbo Baggins and the band of 13 dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield make their way across treacherous terrain on their quest to the Lonely Mountain, currently guarded by a fire-breathing dragon, Smaug.

The Warner Bros. production is expected to be one of the year's highest-grossing worldwide with projections of $1 billion in ticket sales. Industry experts predict it will ring up $80 million in its opening weekend at the North American box office.

Bilbo, a reserved hobbit forced out of his comfort zone, has come into his own in the second film. But his possession of the mysterious ring he stole from Gollum's cave in the first installment - the same ring that leads to an epic saga in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy - is taking a hold on his soul.

"He can feel that he needs it and he can feel that he really does not want to relinquish it, and he doesn't know why. I think that confuses him and troubles him that he has this strong feeling of a trinket," British actor Martin Freeman, who plays the hobbit in the live-action 3D film, told Reuters. Hobbits are fictional human-like creatures in author J.R.R. Tolkein's fantasy novel "The Hobbit."

Made for $250 million, "Desolation of Smaug" sees the unlikely band of heroes chased by giant carnivorous spiders and brutish Orcs, challenged by arrow-wielding elves and the desperate humans of Lake Town, and finally, the great Dragon of Erebor, Smaug.

British actor Benedict Cumberbatch voiced the dragon and also helped create the movements of the giant mythical reptile through motion capture, a special-effects film technique, researching the characteristics of komodo dragons, serpents and bats to embody Smaug's slithering and flight.

"I wanted his pitch to be a lot lower ... really placing it in the body and trying to make it sound old, warm but incredibly powerful," the actor said.   Continued...

A fan holds up a sign upon the cast members' arrival at the Japan premiere of the movie 'The Hobbit - An Unexpected Journey' in Tokyo December 1, 2012. REUTERS/Issei Kato