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Are audiences ready for yet another trip to Middle-Earth? That's the key question for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, the upcoming sequel to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which hit theaters less than a year ago. Though the first Hobbit film grossed over a billion dollars worldwide, it faced a relatively tepid reception from critics, earning just 65 percent positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes — a far cry from the three films in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which all scored in the mid-90s.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug picks up where An Unexpected Journey left off, as Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf the Grey, and a host of dwarves march toward the hideaway of the fire-breathing dragon Smaug, who has stolen the dwarves' gold. In addition to the returning faces from the first Hobbit film, The Desolation of Smaug introduces several new characters — including Lost's Evangeline Lilly as an Elven warrior named Tauriel.

Will the addition of new characters — and a storyline that promises some actual forward momentum — help The Desolation of Smaug earn back some of the critical goodwill that was lost with An Unexpected Journey? We'll find out when The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug hits theaters in December.