It might be hard for those unfamiliar with J.R.R. Tolkien’s work to see how the tale of a single Hobbit could pave the way for a saga as large and sprawling as The Lord of the Rings. But The Hobbit has been deemed not just rich and entertaining enough to be expanded into an entire trilogy, but may just rival director Peter Jackson’s previous trilogy in both inspired design and visual effects.

The extended trailer for The Hobbit showed that the unimpressive size and presumed weaknesses of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) will face him with many of the obstacles that his nephew Frodo (mostly) overcame with the help of a few friends. But as the new poster implies, Bilbo is poised to become as heroic and iconic a figure as any that emerged from the Fellowship of the Ring.

The Hobbits may be the smallest of the main races depicted in Peter Jackson’s adaptation of Middle-earth, but that hasn’t resulted in lesser accomplishments. A group of foolhardy Halflings already managed to unite the realms of Men, Dwarves and Elves against the overwhelming forces of evil, but none of that would have come to pass without Bilbo Baggins, and his ‘unexpected journey.’ The original novel may have preceded the War of the Ring, but the big screen adaptation doesn’t have the pleasure of such humble expectations.

Bilbo Baggins may not have Sauron to tangle with, but he will be facing off against spiders, trolls, goblins, and the legendary dragon Smaug. Even with a party of eccentric Dwarves at his side, that’s one tall order (pun absolutely intended). The trailer proved that the film will have more than a few laughs thrown in to keep the tone from becoming as dark as LotR. But if anyone thought that Bilbo Baggins’ quest would be all fun and games, the new theatrical poster isn’t kidding around.

Take a look:

From the first glance, it’s clear that every effort is being made to emphasize the continuity between both The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It’s hard to believe that some could be unaware of the connections, with the original films’ most recognizable stars set to return. Then again, enough years have passed since Gandalf and friends gracefully faded from pop culture to warrant a refresher. Framing Bilbo and his trusted blade Sting as directly continuing the tradition forged by Frodo and Aragorn is quite a statement, but we trust Bilbo to live up to the claim.

Epic Dwarf battles, another dose of Andy Serkis as Gollum, and even more wizards are all things to look forward to with The Hobbit, but Bilbo’s central role can’t be overlooked. He may be in over his head to being with, but Sting doesn’t earn its name by chance, and Bilbo’s encounter with Gollum isn’t one that either will soon forget. As Martin Freeman is most well-known for his more comedic roles, it’s not such a bad idea to show his embodiment of Bilbo as capable of doing some damage with that “letter opener” of his.

The trailer and images released so far show an extremely whimsical and magical version of Middle-earth, with Peter Jackson planning on adding some drama and darkness as the films proceed, leading the way into the LotR trilogy. From the poster, it seems that fans can expect the first film to show at least some of the strength and courage that Bilbo will need to find to survive.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey hits theaters on December 14th, 2012; its sequel, The Desolation of Smaug, follows on December 13th, 2013; and the final installment, There and Back Again, release on July 18th, 2014.

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