Building a better Gollum

Andy Serkis brings Gollum back to the big screen in "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey."

Photo by Courtesy of Warner Bros. Picture, © 2012 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. (US, Canada & New Line Foreign Territories) © 201

Andy Serkis brings Gollum back to the big screen in "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey."

The adventure follows the journey of title character Bilbo Baggins, who is swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor ...

Rating: PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence and frightening images

Length: 170 minutes

Released: December 14, 2012 Nationwide

Cast: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Ken Stott, Graham McTavish

Director: Peter Jackson

Writer: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Guillermo del Toro, Peter Jackson, J.R.R. Tolkien

More info and showtimes »

LOS ANGELES — It's been nine years since the release of "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," the concluding installment in Peter Jackson's Oscar-winning J.R.R. Tolkien trilogy.

In movie terms, that might not seem quite so long ago, but when it comes to the light-speed at which movie-making technology advances, it might as well be a lifetime.

Which explains why, when "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" opens in theaters today, audiences will see a more intricately rendered Gollum, the motion-capture creation memorably brought to the screen by actor Andy Serkis, according to Jackson.

"Gollum certainly benefits from a much more intricate muscle system," Jackson told the Los Angeles Times in July at Comic-Con International in San Diego, just before announcing that the two-film adaptation of "The Hobbit" would become a trilogy.

"Obviously with a CGI character you're building a character in much the same way as a real creature is built," he said. "You build the bones, the skeletons, the muscles. You put layers of fat on. You put a layer of skin on which has to have a translucency depending on what the character is.

"Gollum is a much more sophisticated performer now than he was 10 years ago," Jackson continued, though he made a point to note that the creature, disfigured by his own dark obsession, will still seem quite familiar. "We've deliberately made him look the same. I really wanted 'The Hobbit' to very much have a consistency with the first three movies."

The filmmaker discussed the changing nature of visual effects and how the advances in technology offer him new creative freedoms as a storyteller.

"Anything you can imagine you can put on film," Jackson said.

Jackson, of course, has employed a groundbreaking, though controversial, new technology for his latest Tolkien films, shooting the productions in a revolutionary 48-frames-per-second-format — a new projection technique that's designed to offer viewers a hyper-realistic "immersive" experience.

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