Financially, last year's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was an absolute smash, grossing over a billion dollars at the global box office. But critically, the film was tepidly received, with numerous critics complaining that director Peter Jackson had stretched Tolkien's slim children's novel to the breaking point by spreading it across three movies. When a film's low-budget, 1978 animated version is rated higher than its $200 million-plus blockbuster adaptation, it's clear that something is rotten in the state of Middle-Earth.
With that in mind, it's no great surprise that the new trailer for the second movie in the ongoing Hobbit trilogy serves primarily to show off all the things that separate this sequel from the first Hobbit movie. The sequel may be called The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug, but this trailer features surpassingly little of either the titular hobbit or the titular dragon. Instead, the first part of the trailer highlights the return of our old Elvish buddy Legolas (Orlando Bloom), who has developed an infatuation for his beautiful companion Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) — a character wholly invented for the films. Callbacks to the more acclaimed Lord of the Rings trilogy abound; even Sauron makes a brief appearance.
It's not until the end of the trailer that we see our Hobbit hero Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and the dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) go head-to-head. "Thief. Where are you?" growls Smaug as he hunts down Bilbo among his piles of gold. "Come now. Don't be shy. Step into the light."
It's a well-constructed trailer that's sure to excite fans of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but it raises a few questions. How will the new Elvish characters fit into the narrative? How will Peter Jackson tie The Hobbit's narrative into his Lord of the Rings films? And how can they possible milk another movie out of this simple story? We'll find out when The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug hits theaters in December.