For a while there, it looked like a live-action adaptation of The Hobbit was doomed to never become a reality. Principal photography on the two-movie project officially begins today (at last), and filmmaker Peter Jackson is thankfully alive and thriving – as evidenced by the above image of the director entering the home (or hobbit hole) of Bilbo Baggins.

New Line/Warner Bros. is sparing no expense to bring J.R.R. Tolkien’s story to life, investing some $500 million and purchasing state-of-the-art 3D technology for Jackson and his team to use in order to properly tell the tale of how a young Hobbit came to acquire the Ring of Power, 60 years before the events of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

For those who never read Tolkien’s original novel, here’s an official synopsis from Warner Bros.:

“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.

Although their goal lies to the East and the wastelands of the Lonely Mountain first they must escape the goblin tunnels, where Bilbo meets the creature that will change his life forever… Gollum (Andy Serkis).

Here, alone with Gollum, on the shores of an underground lake, the unassuming Bilbo Baggins not only discovers depths of guile and courage that surprise even him, he also gains possession of Gollum’s “precious” ring that holds unexpected and useful qualities… A simple, gold ring that is tied to the fate of all Middle-Earth in ways Bilbo cannot begin to know.

Jackson, on the set of 'The Hobbit'.

Jackson, on the set of 'Lord of the Rings' - what a difference, eh?

Jackson has assembled his original Lord of the Rings trilogy production team for The Hobbit, which will also benefit from Guillermo del Toro having worked on the film’s script and creature designs for almost two years.

The two films will inevitably be compared to Jackson’s previous cinematic ventures to Middle-Earth, but they should very much be their own creation in terms of tone, narrative structure, and even visual style – despite the involvement of so many technical artists who were also involved with realizing Tolkien’s LotR on the big screen.

The first half of The Hobbit (which could have a subtitle other than Part 1) will arrive in theaters at the end of 2012, followed by the second in 2013.

Source: New Line/Warner Bros.