The first of what will probably be at least five trailers for "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" has been released, and somewhat surprisingly it offers a pretty good first look at the title villain: the treasure-hoarding dragon known as Smaug.
The trailer saves the best for last, of course, as it closes with a silent face-off between Smaug and Bilbo Baggins. "Sherlock" fans should especially get a a kick out of this, as the dragon is played by Benedict Cumberbatch (via performance capture, of course) and the hobbit is played by Martin Freeman. And if Peter Jackson follows their scene pretty closely as it's laid out in Tolkien's book, the two actors will once again be engaged in a sly and witty back-and-forth that will come to a close when one of them loses their temper.
The trailer also features Evangeline Lilly in action as Elven warrior woman Tauriel, a character created by Jackson & Co. because there just aren't enough ladies in this story. Lilly shares most of her moments with a fan favorite: Orlando Bloom as fellow elf Legolas, who hasn't aged a day thanks to the joys of digital filmmaking.
Beyond that, this first look at Chapter Two of Jackson's latest Tolkien trilogy features what we've come to expect from big-screen Middle-earth adventures: lots of breathtaking New Zealand landscapes and big action set pieces involving a lot of CG wizardry. As usual, the imagery is grand but the tone is grave and somber, even though the stakes are considerably lower in this story as compared to that of "The Lord of the Rings."
It will be interesting to see how "The Desolation of Smaug" turns out now that we've gotten past the novelty of Jackson returning to this world with last winter's "An Unexpected Journey" — and recovered from his rather strange and bewildering new filmmaking gimmick of shooting in 48 fps (this writer liked the look of it, though he's certainly in the minority). The scenes with Smaug make for some of the most compelling in the novel, which means this second installment certainly has the potential to be the best of the "Hobbit" films.
Stay tuned for the second trailer, which hopefully will feature Smaug growling, "Thief."
"The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" opens on December 13.