At this point it's hard not to chuckle at the title "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," since Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy has given us plenty to expect for his return to the J.R.R. Tolkien well.

In the trailer for the first installment of Jackson's prequel to "LOTR," (out Dec. 14), we see the vividly realized Middle Earth world just as we remember it: Towering mountains, deceptively simple maps, long treks across dangerous terrain and, yes, Gollum, holding fort with Andy Serkis' creepy voice giving life to a creature both lovable and terrifying. Martin Freeman looks to make a good Bilbo Baggins, and Ian McKellen's Gandalf should take all voiceover gigs that Morgan Freeman passes on--if documentaries and commercials want their material to sound really, really grandiose.

Those who shrugged off the "Lord of the Rings" films will have no reason to care about "The Hobbit," but everyone else--and considering the movies' earnings, that's a big group of people around the world--should be satisfied to see that Jackson's clearly picking up right where he left off. Uh, at the beginning.

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