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After the smash hit of the Lord of the Rings trilogy in the early 2000s, it was only a matter of time before director Peter Jackson brought The Hobbit to life as well. As one can imagine, Jackson has split the story into three separate films, the first of which - subtitled An Unexpected Journey - will be released this December. Here's the first, and still only, full-length trailer available for the film:

And now, for a few questions that came to mind after watching the trailer:

1. At the end of the day, The Hobbit trilogy is going to be compared to the Lord of the Rings trilogy whether it likes it or not, so why not tackle that right now? How will this new "franchise" hold up in comparison to its predecessor?
When you take a look back at the accomplishments of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, it can seem a bit staggering. Combined, those three films won a total of seventeen Academy Awards and have earned over $2.9 billion at the worldwide box office. You can make the argument that The Lord of the Rings is the franchise of the 21st century, and you probably wouldn't have many naysayers. All that being said, how will The Hobbit fare in comparison? I think the hype leading up to this first film will bring plenty of people to the theaters, but the overall success of the continued franchise will rely on how well-made An Unexpected Journey proves to be.
2. Why is this new saga being released so long after The Lord of the Rings? Will that affect its popularity?
There are a number of reasons that Peter Jackson probably waited this long to bring The Hobbit to audiences, many of which probably deal with his work schedule. In the time between The Lord of the Rings and now, he directed both 2005's King Kong and 2009's The Lovely Bones, both of which were rather grand in stature. After spending so much time creating The Lord of the Rings, the guy probably needed a bit of a break. Seeing as The Hobbit has, like its predecessor, all been shot at once, Jackson ultimately just needed the time to take on such an endeavor.

Now, as to the question of whether or not the nine-year delay between The Return of the King and An Unexpected Journey will have any affect on this new film's popularity, I have a few mixed feelings. Normally, I'd want to say that it will have no bearing, and the recent buzz makes it seem as though there are quite a few people excited for this film. However, in a world where franchises like Spider-Man are being rebooted only five years after the previous installment, it's really hard to say how today's "younger" audience will take an epic feature like The Hobbit. Teens and young adults are sure to be a key demographic for The Hobbit, but these people were only pre-teens or younger when The Lord of the Rings was released. Who knows how they'll respond to a film like this. 

3. Why is Jackson crafting The Hobbit into a trilogy rather than the original plan of a two-parter?
To be honest, I'm still trying to figure this one out. When the announcement for a third Hobbit film was made, Jackson stated, "It has been an unexpected journey indeed, and in the words of Professor Tolkien himself, 'a tale that grew in the telling.'" He hopes that using three films will allow him to tell more of the story, but it's left a lot of people scratching their heads. From a pure standpoint of source material, we can see why a The Lord of the Rings trilogy made sense: it was already separated into three books with a combined page count of over 1500. The Hobbit, however, is a stand-alone story that tops out at 310 pages, making it shorter than any of the Lord of the Rings books individually. How can Jackson possibly craft two films, let alone three, out of such a small amount of material? This one has all the feel of a grab for more money, and I'm still not sure how I feel about it. 
4. At least the film seems to have the same vibe as The Lord of the Rings, right?
From this lone trailer, I think we're seeing a lot of the same pieces we got from the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and I think that bodes well for the carry-over audience. At the end of the day, most fans of a franchise want to see somethingsimilar to what they've already loved, and The Hobbit presents a very strong possibility for such. The trailer seems to show a good mix of drama, comedy, adventure and action, all of which made The Lord of the Rings such a success. If The Hobbit can dial into that vibe, there's no limit to what success it may enjoy.
5. Doesn't it seem like there are a lot of characters bouncing around?
That was one of my first real issues with the trailer. We're introduced to a number of characters right from the start, and they come flying at you at a very rapid pace. While The Lord of the Rings had a slew of key central characters, it never really felt like there were too many. Everyone played their role, and it all balanced quite well. This trailer, however, makes it seem like there are a few too many new pieces entering the canon, and that may cause a bit of confusion for movie-goers. 
6. Is anyone from the cast of The Lord of the Rings returning for The Hobbit?
While a lot of the talk should be about the newer characters - namely, Martin Freeman as a younger Bilbo Baggins - many people are going to wonder which of their favorite
characters will be making appearances this time around. Heavily featured in the trailer is Sir Ian McKellen's Gandalf, so we can be sure to see plenty of him. Also noticeable are the returns of Cate Blanchett as Galadriel and Andy Serkis as Gollum. And according to the cast list, we should be seeing appearances by Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee, Orlando Bloom, Elijah Wood and Ian Holm. So we'll see how that goes, I suppose.
At the end of the day, none of us can truly be sure as to what's going to happen in The Hobbit, and we can't know for sure just what kind of an impact it will have. Although I wasn't a huge fan of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, I do find the films entertaining, and I understand their impact and presence on the cinematic landscape. For that reason, I am excited for, and am eagerly awaiting, the release of The Hobbit this holiday season.

The Hobbit is currently slated for a December 14, 2012 release here in the United States.

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Relevant to: Trailer Breakdown: THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY + trailer