It's been eight years since the last Lord of the Rings film graced the big screen, but this week fans were thrilled to get a quick glimpse back into Middle Earth when the first trailer for the first of two upcoming Hobbit films hit the web (see below).
Though it might have been exciting to see what Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth), who was once tapped to direct, might have done with J.R.R. Tolkien's work, fans of the film trilogy breathed a sigh of relief when del Toro stepped down and Peter Jackson returned to the helm. Our first look at Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey gives some hints as to what audiences can expect when the film hits theaters in December 2012:
- Phenomenal visuals: With his $3 billion-grossing Lord of the Rings franchise, Jackson proved his gift for bringing the vibrancy of Tolkien's imaginative landscape to life on the big screen. The two-plus minutes of the first Hobbit trailer proves that his dedication to fully realizing the scope and atmosphere of places that are as vital to the story of Middle Earth as its characters has not faltered in the slightest.
- Familiar faces: Along with Ian McKellan as Gandalf, Andy Serkis reprises the role of Gollum and Ian Holm returns as the older Bilbo Baggins. Even Elijah Wood has a quick cameo as Frodo, meaning in the end, fans will be able to enjoy the full set of five films as the congruous whole Jackson intended when he first set his sights on Tolkien's canon more than a decade ago.
- A darker tone: It seems Jackson is going with a more serious tone that's more in line with the Lord of the Rings than the lighter-hearted There and Back Again. For example, Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) looks far younger, more warrior-like, less pompously amusing, and graver than the dwarf king I always envisioned. But given some of the changes Jackson is making to the original text, the shift in Thorin's character may prove necessary, which brings us to the next point …
- Plot changes: It's too soon to know exactly how much Jackson is planning to alter the plot of the Hobbit, but the appearance of Cate Blanchett reprising her role as Galadriel along with early leaks from the set give us some idea what the changes will entail. Word is events only spoken of in the novel-the activities of the White Council and the chasing of Sauron from Mirkwood-will play a significant role in the film. And, maybe I'm reading too much into a simple brushing aside of the hair, but does anyone else get the impression we may be seeing something of a romantic subplot between Galadriel and Gandalf? Only 357 days until we find out.