The Hobbit: What We Know So Far About Peter Jackson’s Epic Trilogy

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J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit turns 75 on Friday, and the folks at Warner Bros. must have thought it was the perfect time to release a brand-new trailer. The new trailer, full of action that will leave you cheering for the underdog, reminds us that every legend has a humble beginning.

But what do we know so far about Peter Jackson’s films? For starters, we know that the project, originally slated to span two films, has been expanded to three movies.

(LIST: Top 10 Alternative Places to Film The Hobbit)

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey kicks off the Tolkien trilogy on Dec. 14. Expect to view The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug on Dec. 13, 2013, and since you are setting your calendars this far in advance already, you might as well pencil in The Hobbit: There and Back Again for July 18, 2014.

Jackson wrote on Facebook in July that when he had a chance to sit down and look at the film he had shot, including a large chunk of the second movie, there was plenty more story to tell by adding a third one — and the cast was certainly capable of following through.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will introduce audiences to the story of how Bilbo Baggins joins a group of 13 on a quest to restore a lost dwarf kingdom. As with the original Tolkien classic, the cast of characters encounters challengers and foes en route to defeating the mighty dragon Smaug. (We expect the second movie’s name isn’t just a clever title and will include that battle.)

That cast features Martin Freeman as Baggins. (Jackson told Entertainment Weekly that Freeman “fits the ears, and he’s got some very nice feet. I think he’s got the biggest hobbit feet we’ve had so far.”) Other stars include Orlando Bloom, Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett, Richard Armitage, Hugo Weaving, Evangeline Lilly and Elijah Wood.

The original Unexpected Journey trailer got an update when the trilogy was announced, with a few new scenic clips added to the introduction of Baggins, Gandalf and the group of fighters embarking on a search for the lost dwarf kingdom of Erebor. Jackson’s vision for the beauty of Middle-earth is stunning. In April 2011, Jackson revealed on his Facebook page that the films would be shot in ultra-high-resolution at 48 frames per second, but now the film will be released only minimally in that format.

The new trailer has a distinct action-movie vibe, showing some of many quests featured in Tolkien’s book. First we see Baggins somewhat unwillingly being dragged into this “adventure” of discovery. Then there are scenes that show the battles pitting the little guys against the giants. From underground-dwelling goblins chasing dwarves and fighting Baggins to stone giants — not a key part of the novel, mind you — atop mountains and even some wargs (supersize wolves) mixed in for more mayhem, the list of enemies is long.

The new footage offers life past Middle-earth scenery, showing the “wild” realms full of goblins, orcs, wargs, shapeshifters and more. But, more important, the second trailer also offers us a fuller look at Gollum and the dialogue we can expect from Baggins’ encounters with the creepy creature, including the two engaged in “Riddles in the Dark” when Gollum threatens to eat Bilbo whole.

While we’ve learned quite a lot over the course of nearly five minutes of footage, we know there’s more to come from Warner Bros. as the film’s release date approaches. After all, The Hobbit trilogy is the prequel to another trilogy that just happened to go out with a Best Picture Oscar.

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