“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit,” narrates Ian Holm as the elderly Bilbo Baggins in a new television spot for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, bringing the famous opening line from J.R.R. Tolkien’s source material to life. The new spot offers an exciting montage that mixes familiar and previously-unseen Middle-earth imagery (The Shire! Rivendell!), characters (Gandalf! Gollum!), and action ensues thereafter (Sword fights! Battles with trolls and rock monsters!).

That’s a potent combination of elements bound to send Tolkien-philes bouncing off the walls as much as the full-length trailer (if not more so). There are also five new character magazine covers and information about the official running time for An Unexpected Journey, for those who need a stronger fix of Hobbit-goodness.

To say that expectations are somewhat overblown for the first installment in Peter Jackson’s second Middle-earth film trilogy would be a massive understatement – almost as massive and overblown as the actual $500 million project (zing!). On a more serious note: we remain optimistic that the charm and sense of wonderment inherent to Tolkien’s novel won’t be lost in translation, even while being stretched out and supplemented with Tolkien’s additional notes in order to fill out three blockbusters.

Warner Bros. recently announced that an extended cut of An Unexpected Journey is arriving next year, but it’s Jackson who has broken the news about the running time for the theatrical version. He told Empire that he expects it to end up around 2 hours and 40 minutes (once end credits are added and all the effects/CGI shots have been finished), making it “our shortest Middle-earth [movie] yet.” Of course, by Jackson standards – remember, this is the same filmmaker whose take on King Kong ran for over three hours – “shortest” is very much a relative term.

Check out the 2D versions of Empire’s new 3D lenticular Hobbit magazine covers (per usual, click on each thumbnail for the full version):

Here is a synopsis for An Unexpected Journey:

“The Hobbit” follows the journey of title character Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), who is swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor, which was long ago conquered by the dragon Smaug. Approached out of the blue by the wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen), Bilbo finds himself joining a company of thirteen dwarves led by the legendary warrior, Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage). Their journey will take them into the Wild; through treacherous lands swarming with Goblins and Orcs, deadly Wargs and Giant Spiders, Shapeshifters and Sorcerers.

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, releases on July 18th, 2014.

Source: Empire