I’ve watched each of the Lord of the Rings films more times than I care to admit, but I was hoping this return to Middle Earth would be a bit different. Instead, in the first trailer for Peter Jackson’s long anticipated The Hobbit—due out about a year from today, on December 14th, 2012—we get what looks like a fan trailer recut from the first three movies.
Opening with the Howard Shore’s Shire theme, and returning to the familiar territory of Bilbo Baggins’ house, soon we’re introduced to a small motley crew set to take off on an adventure—is this sounding familiar yet?—an ominous montage soundtracked by a character singing, and a series of swooping helicopter shots over maps and mountaintops. (Is the “From the director of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy” title card really necessary?) Ian McKellen is back as Gandalf, Cate Blanchett puts the pointy ears back on as Galadriel, and the young Bilbo Baggins is played by Martin Freeman (Sherlock fans will recognize him as Dr. Watson, and might be amused to know that Benedict Cumberbatch voices Smaug, the movie’s big bad).
Part of the pleasure of the original trilogy was the sense of adventure that came from plunging deeper into new and bigger territory. “What lies inside Shelob’s lair?”, we’d wonder (or, if we’d read the book, we’d at least wonder what she’d look like). The big reveal at the end of the Hobbit Part 1 trailer (like other recent fantasy sequels, it’s been serialized into two parts) is … Gollum. He’s looking a bit younger, perhaps, but not by much.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will probably win a whole new generation of young fans, for whom it’s all a little less, well, expected. For longtime fans of the franchise, it might seem as dusty as Gandalf’s cap—in other words, old hat.