What will Smaug the dragon actually look like in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug? We might not know until the movie arrives on December 13. But in the meantime, it might be even better to know what Benedict Cumberbatch looks like when pretending to be that dragon, a human decked out in motion-capture dots and making some truly amazing faces.
The photo above and the ones below emerged via The One Ring, appearing to be screenshots from a behind-the-scenes video showing how director Peter Jackson put Cumberbatch on a mo-cap stage and let him go to town with his dragon rage. Check out a few more of them below.
Though his name is right there in the title, Smaug has kept a fairly low profile in the marketing for the next Hobbit movie, and rightly so-- the idea of Cumberbatch-as-dragon is pretty irresistible to fans, and given the middling reception for the first movie, Jackson and Warner Bros. ought to do everything they can to increase fan fervor for the next go-round. We did get a sense of Cumberbatch's voice for Smaug, though, in the most recent trailer:
Can they capture some of that Sherlock magic when Dr. Watson is a hobbit and Sherlock is a fire-breathing dragon? I wouldn't count it out, actually. There's something satisfyingly perfect about Cumberbatch slipping on dragon scales, and if even a bit of these wild expressions can translate once he's got a fire-breathing dragon snout, the performance ought to go a long way toward selling the dragon character. After all, Peter Jackson pioneered the idea of a motion-capture animated character feeling authentic when Gollum showed up in The Two Towers, and even over a decade later Gollum was still the best part of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Cumberbatch has major shoes to fill, taking over for Andy Serkis as Middle Earth's #1 motion-capture actor… but I've got a feeling it'll work out better than the time he tried to one-up Ricardo Montalban.