‘The Hobbit’ finally comes to the big screen

The project’s been a long time in the making, but it’s one that fans (myself included) hope will be worth the wait.

There’s been talk of turning “The Hobbit,” the prequel to the “Lord of the Rings” series, into a movie pretty much since the final “Lord of the Rings” film, “The Return of the King,” was released in 2003. Now, almost a decade later, it’s finally making it to the big screen.

The story is being split into two parts: The first, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” will release on Dec. 14, 2012, and the second, “The Hobbit: There and Back Again,” will release on Dec. 13, 2013.

The project has been hung up by a number of factors, including a legal battle between LOTR director Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema, which produced the LOTR films, and the departure of Guillermo del Toro, who was originally hired to direct the Hobbit film. Peter Jackson is now on board to direct.

Normally all this back-and-forth and upheaval could be a bad sign for a movie, but I think it should work out in this particular film’s favor. It’s not that Guillermo del Toro would have been a bad director; I just think keeping Peter Jackson on as the director will help maintain the same tone as LOTR and tie the projects in together. “The Chronicles of Narnia” films switched directors during the series, and although I did enjoy “Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” I could tell the film had a different tone due to a new director, and I didn’t like it quite as much as the first two films. When fans come to expect a certain tone, it can be difficult to switch things up successfully.

Many of the LOTR actors will be reprising their roles, including Ian McKellen (Gandalf), Orlando Bloom (Legolas) and Elijah Wood (Bilbo) — which also will help maintain continuity. “The Hobbit” movies are being filmed in New Zealand, which provided the breathtaking scenery in “Lord of the Rings.”

There’s a strong cast of new actors coming in as well, including Martin Freeman (Bilbo) and  Benedict Cumberbatch (Smaug / Necromancer), who play Dr. Watson and Sherlock Holmes in the BBC’s popular “Sherlock” reboot.

There’s no trailer as of yet, but there are several production photos available on http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0903624.

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