At least, that’s the impression the world premiere in Wellington yesterday gives. The red carpet was over 500 yards, running the length of several city blocks, and the crowd was estimated at 100,000. The cast arrived earlier in the week in a plane plastered with the faces of hobbits and dwarves, there was a “hobbit artisanal market” in downtown Wellington in the days before the premiere and thousands of people actually went there; the airport now has a giant Gollum sculpture in it, and the prime minister—who is in charge of running an actual country—spoke at the premiere. New Zealand really is an episode of Flight of the Conchords.
So, the premiere was a big f*cking deal. The movie is expected to be big, too, with predictions putting it in the $150-160 million range, which would make it the second or third biggest opening of the year, depending on if it can top The Dark Knight Rises. Also a big deal: Richard Armitage, the English actor who plays the head dwarf. I commented once that I couldn’t keep the dwarves straight and didn’t recognize any of them, and got yelled at for not knowing Armitage. So now I know Richard Armitage, and that he’s been in the BBC’s Robin Hood and MI-5 and Captain America.
For now, though, the headlining star is Martin Freeman—at least until some pretty elf shows up to steal his thunder (ahem, Lee Pace)—who looks like he thoroughly enjoyed himself, as he should. This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and Freeman is a dude who’s waited a long time for this level of recognition, so yeah, make the most of it. I just hope he’s ready for the other side of the coin, which is people dressed like hobbits and elves approaching on the street, calling him “Bilbo” and wanting to discuss the route he took through the Mountains of Despair or whatever (and yes, this is a thing I have actually seen happen). Dear Martin Freeman: Your life is going to be pretty awesome for the next couple years, but it’s also sort of over for a while.
Also on hand was the cast from the original trilogy which carried over to this film, including Elijah Wood, Hugo Weaving and the Incomparable Cate Blanchett herself. We need to talk about Blanchett’s dress. Lainey addressed Evangeline Lilly’s poorly styled pixie cut yesterday, but now we need to discuss that this Neapolitan colored Antonio Berardi “gown” almost does poor Cate in. I say “gown” with sarcasm (I wish my sarcasm font, Sarcastica, was a real thing), because at first glance it looks like stretchy pants and a tank top, which is not very flattering. It’s ultimately saved by her sleek little bob and supreme “I do not give a sh*t about what you think of this” attitude—which is why she’s Incomparable—but it’s a near thing.
The premiere was a grand affair, but was not without controversy. Because The Hobbit is cursed, there will always be a shadow around it, and the latest trouble comes in the form of an accusation that as many as twenty-seven animals died while housed on a farm during production. The claim is at least partly true—Peter Jackson acknowledged that some animals did die during the production, though he disputed the number and the circumstances. The question, then, is whether or not this is enough to put a dent in those massive expectations. Will it keep you out of the theater?