If you thought there were too many characters to keep tabs on in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings film trilogy, just wait until you see his three-part adaptation of The Hobbit. The first installment, An Unexpected Journey, introduces no less than 13 dwarfs who hail from different regions of Middle-earth - united together on an adventure to reclaim their Misty Mountain from a terrible, treasure-hoarding dragon (who will be teased near the film's conclusion, before fully appearing in the second movie, The Desolation of Smaug).
We have character posters for all 13 of those diminutive, bearded, warriors (well, except for the youthful Kili, who's mostly just short and scruffy), as well as official one-sheet versions of those Empire Magazine covers that released last month.
An Unexpected Journey features familiar faces like the immortals Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) and Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), the shriveled Gollum (Andy Serkis, reprising his iconic motion-capture role) - alongside Martin Freeman as the young, constantly-flustered, Bilbo Baggins and the brave leader of the Dwarf company Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage). There will be more characters introduced in the second and third installments - including, Freeman's Sherlock costar Benedict Cumberbatch playing Smaug via performance-capture - so it's for the best that you start keeping track of who's who (lest you end up really confused).
Jackson brought J.R.R. Tolkien's epic Rings trilogy to life in a gorgeous and breath-taking cinematic fashion, and there's no reason to doubt that he will do likewise with The Hobbit. The decision to stretch the relatively-simple fantasy story out into three movies could prove for the best, given the required amount of new character development; not to mention, the incorporation of Tolkien's supplementary notes concerning the greater history of Middle-earth. Moreover, major events like the Battle of Five Armies (which Hugo Weaving has indicated takes place in the finale, There and Back Again) can be covered in greater depth.
On the other hand, the final result could end up being a blockbuster film trilogy that's bloated with CGI extravaganzas, an excess of uninteresting characters who are given too much screen time, and a narrative that feels stretched too thin to sustain attention - as well as a more succinct interpretation might have managed (think the worst aspects of Jackson's King Kong remake and multiple it by three). We're keeping our fingers crossed that's not the way this project will go, if only because there's enough material written by Tolkien to justify Jackson's approach.
Check out the new character posters for An Unexpected Journey:
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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.