“I can honestly say I have told you the truth, but I may not have told you all of it,” an aging Bilbo Baggins (played by Ian Holm, reprising his role from The Lord of the Rings) tells Frodo (Elijah Wood) about his history with The One Ring in the clip Jackson showed — and so far it applies to the description of Jackson’s presentation, too.
While the technical quality was irksome, the storytelling on display was as taut and intriguing as any fan of Tolkien or the previous movies could hope.
“Bilbo Baggins …” speaks the familiar, warm grumble of Ian McKellen’s gray-bearded Gandalf. “I’m looking for someone to share in an adventure.”
From there, we see Martin Freeman (from the British version of The Office and the recent BBC Sherlock Holmes reboot) as a younger, fussier version of Bilbo meeting Thorin and his band of dwarves and basically finds himself shanghaied on a treasure-seeking quest. There’s a comical scene where he encounters three massive goblins, and later he finds himself lost in a series of caves where he encounters Gollum (Andy Serkis, reprising his acclaimed role) — a relationship that will ultimately lead him to discover The Precious, a.k.a. The One Ring.
Jackson also showed footage of Gandalf meeting with the Elrond (Hugo Weaving) and Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) as well as the white wizard Saruman (Christopher Lee) about a grave discovery he has made — a Morgul sword, made for the witch king of Angmar. “Buried with him, when Angmar fell,” Galadriel said. “And sealed deep within the rock, in a tomb so dark” it could never be opened again.
Well, so much for that plan.
We then see Gandalf visiting said tomb, a kind of vertical mineshaft with caged crypts that have been ripped open. This is the tomb of the witch kings, seen in The Lord of the Rings trilogy as the black, spectral wringwraiths. In this tomb, Gandalf meets the brown wizard, Radagast, played by Sylvester McCoy, who has three little birds who live under his hat — and occasionally drop poop down his beard. (This is where the HD really pays off, people!)
Radagast seems to have arrived there against his will. “Why am I here, Gandalf?” he asks in a whisper. “This is not a nice place to meet.”
“No,” Gandalf agrees, peering down into the abyss. “It is not.”
Radagast examines some etchings above one of the tombs. “These are dark spells, Gandalf — old, and full of hate. Who is buried here?”
“If he had a name it has long since been lost,” Gandalf replies. “He would have been known only as a servant of evil.”
From there, the footage ends with a sweeping score, epic fantasy landscapes, and the promise of a cliffhanger leading into the second film, The Hobbit: There and Back Again, due Dec. 13, 2013.
The first installment, An Unexpected Journey, comes out later this year on Dec. 14.