Opinions about “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” are all over the board. Yet even people who aren’t that keen on the first entry in Peter Jackson’s film trilogy have been struck by one scene in particular — the meeting between Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and Gollum (Andy Serkis) — which was improved dramatically by huge leaps in technology.
When Jackson depicted Gollum in his three “Lord of the Rings” movies, Serkis’ performance was recorded months after principal photography on his scenes had wrapped, with Serkis acting the scenes all by himself. Because his largely computer-animated character was created on a motion capture stage, it didn’t make sense to bring other actors into the mix.
But with “The Hobbit,” advances in motion-capture production meant that Freeman and Serkis could act opposite each other in real time, with Jackson shooting repeated long takes. The result is that the two characters — especially when they are throwing riddles at each other — actually feel as if they are in the same scene.
“There was stuff I didn’t know was possible,” Freeman says of the technology. “There was a live event to it — in the past, you would have shot the scenes several weeks apart.”