that…was a dragon (in that trailer)

two weeks ago, Peter Jackson uploaded the first teaser trailer for The Desolation of Smaug (in theaters December 13) onto his Facebook page. when we last saw Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf and the company of dwarves, they were whisked off to Mirkwood Forest by the Eagles (Middle-Earth’s answer to the Zip Car). meanwhile, the final shot of the film panned onto a massive hoard of gold which gave way to a glowing eye belonging to the dragon Smaug, who clearly senses his stash is in danger of being discovered.

the clip sets up the framework to what is expected in the next chapter of Jackson’s grand Hobbit trilogy. it essentially picks up where An Unexpected Journey left off, but it’s obvious this film will be a lot more fast-paced and action-packed than its predecessor. the last few moments of the trailer are among the most chilling as a tremor is felt and it is determined that the dragon has stirred…and oh, how he has stirred!

this is the final frame of the teaser, and in these few seconds Smaug’s entire cover is nearly blown. while the public has speculated what the colossal flying beast will look like for quite some time thanks to the internet, his exact features are still as largely guarded as the treasure he snoozes upon. however, the decision to include his head in the trailer was completely unexpected and prompted a fair amount of complaints from fans hoping to avoid spoilers.

the better approach to piquing curiosity and keeping the audience in line would simply be to hear Smaug’s voice off-camera. by now, the world knows what Benedict Cumberbatch sounds like after seeing his career take off on both the big and small screen. the dragon’s name appears in the title, so it was only logical that some part of the creature would appear in the preview. but to hear the booming voice and catch a fraction of a claw or eye would have proven more effective at raising the suspense factor than to stick the entire head in the shot.

Smaug isn’t the first dragon to be a featured portion in a major movie. he is, however, the first to be named one of Forbes‘ wealthiest fictional characters.

this is Vermithrax Pejorative, star of the 1981 classic Dragonslayer. aside from having a commonly misspelled (and awesome-sounding) name, VP is one of the most spectacular creations in motion picture history…in fact, there is a wonderful interview with VP’s human co-star Peter MacNicol on his website detailing the creation of the high-flying fire-breather. but unlike Smaug, VP doesn’t speak with a charming British accent (or at all) and the film’s creators understood that the element of surprise is crucial to attracting an audience by not featuring the head in any advance promos. on the other hand, this might have contributed to Dragonslayer‘s lack of financial or critical success…or maybe it was because Disney was attached to the production. at the time, this was the organization’s first “adult” release, and few were prepared for the violent battle scenes and the fleeting shots of Peter MacNicol’s butt or the late great Caitlin Clarke’s breasts. regardless, it was nominated for several awards and is considered a cult classic today.

was it a mistake to introduce Smaug in the trailer 6 months before the release date? the answer depends on how deeply passionate people are about spoilers. but even with criticism of the timing being too premature, Peter Jackson shouldn’t have much issue raking in the billions once again come December.

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