The Hobbit, Peter Jackson’s long-awaited return to Middle-earth, has had Tolkien fans salivating for months. From the director’s behind-the-scenes set video to the continued casting updates (including returns from Legolas and Elrond), every new piece of Hobbit news to hit the web has been met with high praise and excitement.

We shared the first official images from The Hobbit last week, featuring Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen). Given how long it took for The Hobbit to finally get off the ground, it was great to finally see the characters back in action and now we have two more images from the film, again featuring Bilbo and Gandalf.

The image of Bilbo is very similar to the previous release from Entertainment Weekly, but it offers a better look at Martin Freeman’s face which looks just right for the character and similar enough to Ian Holm in Lord of the Rings to bridge the two films, but distinct enough to be memorable in his own right.

Ian McKellan’s new image offers a look into the actor’s seemingly impressive resistance to aging. He must have found the fountain of youth. Yes, I know that Gandalf is supposed to look old, and McKellan certainly fits the bill, but it really seems like he hasn’t aged a day since the first Lord of the Rings film.

The pair of new images come from Empire Magazine and you can see them below:

I’m a big fan of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy and was very happy when the director announced that he was returning to direct The Hobbit. Still, part of me will always wonder what the movie might have looked like had MGM’s financial mess and delays not scared off Guillermo del Toro.

Despite the general positivity surrounding this film, as I mentioned in the opening paragraph, I’m wondering how many people out there feel the same way? Do you have any lingering doubts about how The Hobbit will stack up with the familiar Jackson in the director’s chair instead of somebody new?

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will arrive in theaters December 14th, 2012. The Hobbit: There and Back Again is set to follow a year later on December 13th, 2013.

Source: Empire