Today marks the first day of the new year, according to the Chinese calendar, and, since it’s 2012, January 23rd also kicks off another Year of the Dragon. And there’s at least one dragon that we can thing of off the top of our heads, whose going to have a very interesting year indeed, and that’s Smaug, The Hobbit‘s self-styled King under the Mountain himself.
Where movies like How to Train Your Dragon, Eragon, and even as far back as Dragonheart have enjoyed playing dragons as no more good or evil than your average person or wild animal, Peter Jackson and Co. are going back to dragon roots, so to speak, to craft a true monster. (Okay yes, there was Reign of Fire, but one movie that can only be enjoyed via Rifftrax can hardly be considered part of a trend.) And they started with Benedict Cumberbatch.
Cumberbatch will not just be voicing Smaug, the last of the great dragons, he’ll also be performing his movements via a motion capture suit, much like experienced colleague and assisting director on the shoot Andy Serkis. Cumberbatch has said of the role:
Preparation for something like that is quite unique. I think it will be partly to go with going back to the book, but I sort of want to look at real life serpents and creatures of that ilk, dragons. He’s a reptile, obviously, so it’s not like Andy Serkis’ work with Gollum. I’m going to be on my belly, so that’s going to take a bit of practicing…
He’s an exceptionally beautiful, vain, devilish and also, in a lightly weird way, an innocent character. He’s fooled by an invisible midget. It’s quite frustrating. There’s something quite exceptional about the power he has over people and the imagination of that world that is unlocked in this story.
MTV managed to corner Andy Serkis recently and badger him on Smaug’s actual design (picture above is Tolkien’s own illustration of the creature, for the interior of The Hobbit), but Serkis gracefully maintained his tightlippedness.
I can’t say that, because its still under wraps, it’s still a secret character that is closely safe-guarded and is still in the design process.
Indeed, Smaug doesn’t appear until quite a ways through the books, but that doesn’t mean we wont see him in flashback early in the first of the two Hobbitses: characters Thorin and Balin were actually present when Smaug slaughtered most of their kin, driving dwarves from the Lonely Mountain for several hundred years.
Here’s hoping: we’ll have to wait most of the Year of the Dragon to find out.
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