Though The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey doesn’t hit theaters until next week, reviews are already starting to pop up – and they’re not exactly “glowing.” Some of the criticisms (48fps aside) have been that it’s overstuffed, overlong, and that it includes too many references to Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings.

On a related note, the first image of Legolas (Orlando Bloom) from The Hobbit: There and Back Again – that is, the third film in the trilogy – has been released, along with an explanation from Jackson as to why the blond elf is appearing in the Hobbit movies when he did not appear in the source material.

Check it out below, courtesy of Entertainment Weekly:

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The picture features Legolas (obviously) on the right, and Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans) on the left. So – just a couple of bowmen, hanging out, talking about bows and arrows and that kind of thing.

Fans of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit know that Bard will be a key player in the next two Hobbit films (The Desolation of Smaug and There and Back Again).  It’s still unclear how large Legolas’ role will be in the films, though it has been described as being “more than a cameo” – whatever that means.

Peter Jackson explained the reason behind including Legolas in the Hobbit film (films?), saying:

“He’s [elven king] Thranduil’s son, and Thranduil is one of the characters in ‘The Hobbit,’ and because elves are immortal, it makes sense Legolas would be part of the sequence in the Woodland Realm.”

Though too many unnecessary references to LOTR has been one of the complaints for An Unexpected Journey – the beginning, which apparently dragged for some people, features (SPOILER ALERT!) an introduction with Old Bilbo (Ian Holm) and Frodo Baggins (Elijah Woods) – there’s little doubt that many a fan of Jackson’s previous trilogy will be elated.

Phillipa Boyens, Peter Jackson’s go-to screenwriter, also talked a bit about the Bard’s character and how they’ve expanded his role for the adaptation.

“Bard is an interesting character, but [in the book] he’s kind of a random character who comes in after the fact. We take more time introducing him. We know from what follows that he was a father, so we [explore] that. I don’t think we take liberties, because it’s all there in the storytelling.”

Are you happy to see Legolas return in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy? Let us know in the comments.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey hits theaters December 14th, 2012. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug hits theaters December 13th, 2013. And finally, The Hobbit: There and Back Again hits theaters July 18th, 2014.

Follow me on Twitter @benandrewmoore.

Source: Entertainment Weekly