Check out the trailer below for a glimpse of Bilbo's sad little face, some elfin butt-kicking courtesy of Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Thranduil (Lee Pace), and much more. Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Luke Evans, Evangeline Lilly, Cate Blanchett co-star, with Benedict Cumberbatch as the voice of Smaug.
"The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies" opens in the United States on December 17.
Gallery | Peter Jackson's 10 Best Action Sequences
- The Barrel Ride From 'The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug' (2013)
- The Lawnmower Showdown From 'Dead Alive' (1992)
Peter Jackson's early splat-stick classic, about a zombie outbreak that originates from a Sumatran rat monkey (where does he come up with this stuff?) generates a unique kind of power from its goofy amateurishness (even watching the new "Hobbit," you kind of feel like he still hasn't quite figured out how to make a movie and that's not necessarily a bad thing). In its most infamous scene, and honestly, we're being judicial by calling it an action sequence at all, involves our hero (Timothy Balme) mowing down a whole fleet of zombies -- quite literally -- with a lawnmower. It's the moment "Dead Alive" really comes to life and a thrilling indication of where the untested filmmaker would be headed.
- The Reaper Chase From 'The Frighteners' (1996)
"The Frighteners" remains one of Peter Jackson's very best movies and one of his least watched. It's a nifty black comedy about a ghost buster (played by Michael J. Fox) who is in cahoots with the ghosts he's supposedly hunting, and concerns an undead serial killer who takes the form of the grim reaper. In one of the most exciting sequences in a movie mostly comprised of exciting sequences, Michael J. Fox is racing away from the reaper figure, with the reaper following in hot pursuit, leaping over rooftops and, in the sequence's best moment, shoves his scythe into the car, just underneath Fox's chin. It's absolutely dazzling, made even more dazzling by the fact that Jackson was still very much in low-rent, DIY mode in the rudimentary early days of CGI.
- Kong vs. Dinosaurs From 'King Kong' (2005)
It's really "King Kong" and not the "Lord of the Rings" movies where Jackson was able to showcase his seemingly endless imagination when it comes to constructing complex action set pieces. One of the very best from the underrated remake is the sequence where Kong makes his big debut -- unlike the original film, which had the giant gorilla fighting off an attack by a single T. Rex, Jackson ups the game considerably by having him fight two terrifying dinosaurs. The design work here is wonderful; Jackson and his team have made Kong a battle-scarred warrior and given the dinosaurs themselves subtle evolutionary flourishes (they have three fingers!) But it's the intricacy and cleverness of the sequence itself that is the biggest star -- Kong and the dinosaurs tumble and fall, into a cavernous ridge full of grabby vines and across a roaring plain. The ferocity with which Kong dispatches of the dinosaurs is even better -- it goes a long way in reminding you that, no matter how amazing Andy Serkis's performance capture performance of Kong is, he's still a hell of a monster.
- Bagghar Chase From 'The Adventures of Tintin' (2011)
OK, so this is kind of cheating because Jackson only produced "The Adventures of Tintin" and shot some of the second unit stuff, but without Jackson's complete commitment to the project (he even shot test footage as one of the main characters) and the ingenuity of his Weta Workshop, there would be no "Tintin" movie. The biggest example of Jackson's creative imprint on the project is probably the Bagghar chase, set in a fictionalized, vaguely middle eastern city, where plucky adventurer Tintin, his dog Snowy, and a whole bunch of bad guys, are chasing after the same bit of treasure map (or something -- this really isn't important). In a single, swooping shot, we watch as various characters try to track down the piece of parchment. It really is a sight to behold, and even if the challenges were slightly lessened due to the fact that it was wholly created inside the computer, it's still a huge feat and a testament to Jackson's complete willingness to push the available technology to its breaking point... and beyond.
- Battle of Helm's Deep From 'The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers' (2002)
Quite possibly the most impressive battle sequence of the entire "Lord of the Rings" trilogy (more on that in a minute), this epic, rain-soaked sequence was just about as complicated and epic as anyone had ever seen before. Good versus evil clashed, violently, on the muddy battlefield, and Jackson brought it to life with his trademark virtuosity, the camera swooping and craning, doing amazing, impossible things that never would have been possible even a few years before. It's the perfect marriage of practical effects, since Jackson really went out in the freezing rain and shot a lot of it, and visual effects, here used to augment and enhance the photography, instead of creating it wholesale. If you want to know why "Lord of the Rings" has been aped endlessly since, this sequence is a pretty good reminder.
- Orc Escape From 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' (2012)
The first "Hobbit" wasn't all that memorable, with goofy characters and an uneven sense of tone, but there was at least one unforgettable sequence -- a moment when Bilbo and his dwarf companions are imprisoned in some kind of dungeon/mining operation run by orcs (and led by a giant orc king). The dwarves (and Bilbo) manage to escape, running up a series of Escher-esque stairs and hunted by an endless army of orcs. The camera bobs and weaves with even more dexterity than it did in Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" movies, freer still thanks to the 3D technology that lets the creatures and characters pop out at you even more. By the time the subterranean chase is over, you'll have to catch your breath (and thank your lucky stars you're above ground).
- Manhattan Mayhem From 'King Kong' (2005)
Of course, what everyone remembers from the original King Kong is when he's loose in New York City and scales the city's tallest skyscrapers like they were nothing more than overgrown Skull Island shrubbery. Jackson's rendering of these sequences is considerably more complex and technologically innovative, replacing the rudimentary stop-motion effects with more pristine but just as artful computer animation. King Kong does all of the things King Kong once did and more -- we love the moment when he leaps up and swats an attack airplane like it was a pesky gnat. Jackson's remake was criticized for being overly long and too sentimental, but this sequence really showcases that when he wanted to, he could bring the action like few others could even imagine.
- The Prologue From 'Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring' (2001)
When Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy started, it was quite literally unlike anything anyone had seen before, right from its opening moments, which detailed epic tribal feuds, magical elements, and a whole lot of clashing swords. You basically had to pick your jaw up off the ground, and this is before the old-timey title card even glimmered across the screen. It was Jackson throwing down the gauntlet to anyone who wanted to try and challenge him, and was a triumph of both technological wizardry and surefooted storytelling. In many ways it's also a distillation of what made the series so unforgettable, a sequence that is seared into your memory forever and ever. Countless filmmakers attempted prologues just like this, as nifty ways of getting rid of cumbersome exposition. The best of them utilized the same structure but in a new format (like the puppet version in Guillermo del Toro's brilliant "Hellboy II: The Golden Army" or the animated prologue to the otherwise miserable horror fantasy "Priest"). But, as U2 once said, there's nothing better than the real thing. Still.
- Elephant Takedown From 'The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King' (2003)
Remember when Legolas took down that giant elephant thingee in the third "Lord of the Rings" movie? That was so f-ing cool.