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The Hobbit trailer: 5 talking points

The new trailer for The Hobbit invites audiences to return to Middle Earth. But will a lighter, more cartoonish tone turn off fans of the Lord of the Rings trilogy?

Few movies are more anticipated this year than The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the prequel to Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy, which earned a slew of Oscars and billions at the box office. On Wednesday, the film's latest trailer was released, showcasing a lighter, goofier tone. (See the trailer below.) Will the family-friendly follow-up disappoint fans of the original trilogy? Does it capture the tenor of J.R.R. Tolkien's original novel? And can the movie hope to live up to the deafening hype when it hits theaters on December 14? Here, 5 talking points:

1. It's clearer — and funnier — than the first trailer for The Hobbit: Unlike the film's first trailer, which was more sweeping and thematic, the new trailer "is more narrative-focused," offering a voiceover that describes the dwarves' mission to reclaim their homeland, says Noelene Clark at the Los Angeles Times. Though the new trailer has no shortage of action, it also "takes a less serious tone," capturing the lighter mood of Tolkien's The Hobbit before the darkness of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

2. But it might be too silly for Lord of the Rings fans: "We've got giants tossing dwarves and hobbits around, lots of physical humor, a slightly less ominous Gollum than we've seen before," says Travis Woods at ScreenCrave. But the most worrying aspect of the trailer is the CGI, which looks "cartoonishly depthless and fake." Is the look intentional, or is the CGI not yet finished?

3. It was clearly inspired by the year's other big blockbuster: The new Hobbit trailer "took a cue from Marvel's The Avengers and aimed to highlight some of the film's lighter moments," says The HD Room. The goal is clearly to make The Hobbit "feel more mainstream and appeal to a broader audience" — a smart move, given the record-smashing success of The Avengers earlier this year.

4. It amply references the Lord of the Rings trilogy: After the runaway success of Jackson's original Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit "doesn't have to sell audiences on taking Middle Earth seriously," says Gregory Ellwood at HitFix — it just has to remind them why they loved it the first time around. Consequently, the trailer is packed with familiar characters like Ian McKellan's Gandalf and Andy Serkis' Gollum.

5. But the big villain is nowhere to be found: Though The Hobbit's overarching plot is about an attempt to win the dwarves' homeland back from a dragon named Smaug, none of the film's trailers have featured Smaug himself. Of course, there are still two more Hobbit films to come, and since the big confrontation occurs near the end of J.R.R. Tolkien's original book, "it seems perfectly reasonable to believe he won't show up until the second film," says Katey Rich at CinemaBlend.

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