Fans of Middle-earth have thus far had little news to whet their appetites for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, the upcoming second chapter in director Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings prequel trilogy. The film – which releases in December – was not featured at this summer’s Comic-Con, with much of Warner Bros’ attention focused on the aim to spin its Man of Steel success into a shared (and long overdue) DC Movie Universe.

However, now that the theatrical release of The Desolation of Smaug is months away, the time has come for the studio to shift its marketing efforts for the film into high gear. A trailer for the film (as well as details of the extended edition Blu-ray release of its predecessor) has already been released, and now that initial footage is being followed by a pair of promo images that provide further hints at what fans can expect from the film.

Check out the images below:


The first image features Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and his dwarf companions as they ride barrels across a raging sea, presumably a moment from the novel’s “Barrels Out of Bond” scene in which this particular fellowship makes a daring escape to Lake-town. This shot isn’t likely to reflect an actual still from the finished film; rather, it provides a stylized look at what may prove to be a thrilling action sequence. However, it does reveal some key differences between the novel and Jackson’s adaptation.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s original text depicted the scene as a more stealthy escape, in which Bilbo seals the barrels (with air holes, of course) and the group’s journey continues. Jackson’s take, at least according to this artwork, indicates that the dwarves will undergo a great deal more struggle in their escape. The arrows sticking out of their barrels indicate that they will be under fire, and the fact that the barrels are uncovered is surely intended to make the scene more engaging, from a character standpoint. Time will tell if the sequence actually plays out as this image implies.

The second image is a bit more straightforward. Bilbo’s reflection in Smaug’s eye certainly harkens back to the final shot of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and its reveal of the dragon’s massive eye opening. It has long been expected that this second film will center on the dwarves’ confrontation with Smaug, and the connection this image hints that Bilbo and Smaug will come face to face and engage in some riddles, as they do midway through the novel. This could serve as a nice callback to the “Riddles in the Dark” sequence from An Unexpected Journey and provide a nice bit of tension for audiences.

On a side note, any conversation between Sherlock stars Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch (who voices Smaug) will be of particular interest to fans of that BBC series.

Are you looking forward to The Desolation of Smaug, Screen Ranters? What do you think these promotional images reveal about the film? Sound off in the comments section.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug opens in theaters on December 13th, 2013. The final installment, The Hobbit: There and Back Again, arrives in theaters on December 17th, 2014.