Fan Expo Chicago 2022 Photos, Part 4 of 4: Stargirl and the Hobbits

Hobbits jazz hands!

Frodo! Pippin! Merry! Sam! And two humans searching the Shire for pizzazz!

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

This past weekend Anne and I attended the inaugural Fan Expo Chicago, the comics/entertainment convention formerly known as Wizard World Chicago, and before that the unbranded Chicago Comic Con. As a proud continuation of that chain of comic-con provenance, a 50th-anniversary logo featured in their decor and con souvenirs. Their initial guest-list game was strong enough to lure us back to the suburb of Rosemont for our first time in four years to see what we could make of this latest iteration. Would it be an all-new all-different Chicago Comic Con, or Wizard World under a bed sheet with two eye-holes poked in it?

It all comes down to this: Saturday, July 9th, our final day at the all-star four-day show. At least, we hoped it would be our final day. We had to work Monday. We didn’t want to come back Sunday. We’re getting old and we need more recuperation time after these super fun pop-culture endurance tests. Conventions are the one place where we can hang out with fellow geeks who get our interests. Back home, people like us seem like an extinct species. But after a while hanging around with the hobbyist crowds, and walking for miles up and down the geek habitat of exhibit hall aisles, is wearying. Also, there’s that pandemic thingamabob people worry about sometimes.

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Trailer #2 for “The Hobbit” Starring Dr. Watson and Doctor Who

Longtime fans of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy who’ve been watching last December’s two-minute teaser for The Hobbit: an Unexpected Journey on an endless loop every day for the past nine months can finally close that browser and tune in for the new, full-length trailer that was released to the Internet on Wednesday. It’s comforting to see our old friends Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, and Andy Serkis all returned and on point, but I’m personally more interested in the new tidbits:

I’m delighted to see Martin Freeman portraying astounded exasperation with his usual finesse. Whether as Tim from The Office, Arthur Dent from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, or the average-minded John Watson from Sherlock, Freeman specializes in men who can’t believe what he sees in the other men that surround them. To his credit, his Bilbo Baggins (at least in these scant samples) seems to retain at least a smidgen of confidence in stressful situations, a trait that his adopted nephew struggled to inherit in the trilogy.

New to our eyes this time around: Sylvester McCoy, erstwhile Doctor Who, as Radagast the Brown, a wizard colleague of Gandalf and Saruman who was name-checked in passing in J.R.R. Tolkien’s original novel. I remember reading it in seventh-grade English class, where our teacher Mrs. Price gave us extra credit if we completed our Hobbit homework and quizzes in green ink. I don’t recall Radagast’s name at all, but I’ll take everyone else’s word for it. Here his role has been broadened to compensate for his complete deletion from the LOTR trilogy, and set far apart from those other, mainstream sellout wizards by donning the world’s craziest winter hat and possibly threatening to invoke a divination method certain to make the Middle-Earth Humane Society cry.

Also integral to my seventh-grade Hobbit experience: the three trolls! I was hoping one of my favorite scenes from the book would be included in the first movie, instead of being relegated to The Hobbit Part 7 or however long this series ends up.

I’m especially curious to see more of Richard Armitage’s version of dwarf’s dwarf Thorin Oakenshield, the new face of 21st-century dwarfdom — to say nothing of his dozen companions. Compared to these nimble warriors, in hindsight Gimli son of Gloin looks like Volstagg the Voluminous.

You’ll also note the younger, cleaner Gollum who’s a little less sinister in his threats of hobbit cannibalism. Little does Prequel Gollum know he’s sparring with an opponent who’s a little less highstrung and morose than Frodo was. I don’t look forward to the moment when crafty ol’ Bilbo absconds with his Precious and shatters his heart.

In the grand tradition of The Return of the King and its endless parade of endings, Warner Bros.’ official movie site offers a total of five different versions of this trailer that end with different scenes, each one amusing in its own right, four of them at Bilbo’s expense. Laugh while you can, pesky dwarven bullies. Over the next three years, Bilbo will show you all.

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