War is coming to Middle Earth, the land portrayed in "The Hobbit" trilogy. After building up the ultimate conflict for two films, the payoff will finally begin in "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies," director Peter Jackson's final entry into his epic, Oscar-winning franchise. Since this will be the final film in the trilogy, fans across the globe are hanging on every single press release, teaser, trailer, poster and piece of gossip that gets released. In honor of that mania, here is a list of all the latest updates and announcements concerning the highly anticipated film.
When films are in development, they often undergo name changes, and some start filming before the name is even settled on. However, the stakes are very high with "The Hobbit" trilogy, and readers always want to know the name of each film. Originally, this third installment was supposed to be called "The Hobbit: There and Back Again," and that remained the title all throughout filming and quite a bit of post-production. However, in the spring, Jackson said that he felt the title didn't really tell what the film was about, and didn't seem appropriate for the film's content.
The announcement sent ripples throughout the Hobbit-loving community, because it was a huge change. Most approved of the title switch, because it definitely makes more sense given the context of the film. Rarely is a simple name change such a big deal, but in a world where word travels fast on the Internet and everyone can be a critic with an audience, this was a big deal.
The next big news regarding "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" came out of the San Diego Comic-Con, which is where just about all studios with a fantasy movie like this go to make big announcements.
First, there was the panel, which was chock full of fun surprises for the fans, some of whom waited hours and paid steep prices to get a ticket. In addition to featured players like Martin Freeman, Lee Pace and Evangeline Lily, a few favorites from the first trilogy such as Elijah Wood also showed up.
As if that wasn't enough, super fan Stephen Colbert, who has unabashedly shown his knowledge and love for the films and their source material, showed up in cosplay to moderate the panel. As one might expect from the wily and funny Colbert, there was a lot of comedy. He asked Wood why the youthful actor never ages, and insisted to Jackson that there be six more "Lord of the Ring" movies, which got a lot of raucous applause.
The biggest reason the panel was such a hot Comic-Con ticket, besides meeting and asking questions of all the stars, was that the first full-length trailer was scheduled to be released. Clocking in at just under two minutes in length, the film showed off the spectacular special effects work that Jackson's company, Weta Digital, had done. Though Jackson was careful to point out to the panel that there was still plenty of editing to be done on the film ahead of its winter release, the trailer looked very polished.
It featured lots of shots of the titular armies readying for battle, a few hints of the mayhem about to be caused by Benedict Cumberbatch's Smaug and lots of shots of forlorn characters dreading the inevitable battle ahead. It caused quite a stir at Comic-Con, but then it was unleashed onto the Internet shortly thereafter. The reaction was swift and mostly positive, with fans dissecting every image and trying to figure out what it could mean.
In lighter news, there will be character-inspired beers to be released sometime before the release of the film. There will be one with Smaug's face on it that has chili peppers in it, since Smaug is a fire-breathing dragon. Even Gollum is getting his own brew, called Precious Pils. They will be available in 22-ounce bottles, though no exact release date or pricing information has been released.
Even though Colbert insisted on six more films, and Jackson said he would do them if Warner Bros. would allow him to, this will likely be the final film of the series. Since there are still several months until its release, the expectation is that there is still plenty of time for more big announcements, including at least one more trailer, and a few more movie posters. The film is slated for a Dec. 17, 2014 release.