The first of Peter Jackson’s two Hobbit films (subtitled An Unexpected Journey) is easily one of the most hotly-anticipated titles that will make an appearance at the Comic-Con 2012 next week.

An Unexpected Journey teaser trailer was released for the moviegoing masses last winter, while those who attended the CinemaCon Hobbit presentation were treated with previously-unseen material (projected in 3D at high-speed 48 f.p.s., no less). However, Comic-Con will mark the first public unveiling of Hobbit footage, following the completion of principal photography on the $500 million endeavor.

Peter Jackson made the announcement, with the following statement:

We made it! Shoot day 266 and the end of principal photography on The Hobbit. Thanks to our fantastic cast and crew for getting us this far, and to all of you for your support! Next stop, the cutting room. Oh, and Comic Con!

The key element to keep in mind is that principal photography has been finished; additional photography for both Hobbit movies will surely take place in the future, on top of the lengthy post-production process. Still, this is certainly a noteworthy accomplishment for Jackson and his production team of hundreds (literally) – and now, the general moviegoing public can start looking ahead to the actual films.

Members of the Hobbit crew spoke to Entertainment Weekly about the project, with costar Ian McKellen (back as Gandalf the Grey) offering the following statement:

“A lot of people weren’t even born when we were filming ‘Lord of the Rings’ and only know the movies from watching them on DVD…. They’ll see Middle-earth on the big screen in ‘The Hobbit’, and I guarantee there will be a lot of minds blown wide apart.”

Several new screenshots from An Unexpected Journey were released this week. That provided Jackson with the opportunity to address certain fans’ concerns about the expanded roles for Lord of the Rings characters such as Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) – who were either barely present or not featured at all in J.R.R. Tolkien’s original Hobbit novel:

 “In the movie we want these characters to have story lines and a little more substance than they do in the book. Almost everything we’re doing is from Tolkien somewhere, whether it’s in the [original ‘Hobbit’] book or the subsequent development that wasn’t published in ‘The Hobbit’ itself.”

“Subsequent development” presumably refers to much of the supplementary Middle-Earth literature Tolkien wrote in addition to The Hobbit and Rings trilogy. The inclusion of such material has reportedly been part of the plan ever since the Hobbit adaptation was envisioned as two movies (rather than a single feature).

Martin Freeman as ‘The Hobbit’

The question “Can you come home again to Middle-earth?” has been looming over movie geeks’ heads ever since Jackson began production on his Hobbit films. One factor that’ll affect the answer is how those extra narrative threads Jackson mentioned are woven together with Tolkien’s original Hobbit story – and, whether they tie into the Rings trilogy in a manner that doesn’t feel clumsy or forced.

Given the talent involved – coupled with the narrative blueprints already written up by Tolkien, there’s definitely reason to be optimistic, on that count.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opens in theaters on December 14th, 2012. Look for our coverage of the film’s Comic-Con presentation in the upcoming week.

Source: Peter Jackson, Entertainment Weekly