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The dragon appears in the first trailer for 'The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug'

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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey may not have lived up to director Peter Jackson's earlier Middle-earth films, but there's no doubt it resonated with at least a segment of J.R.R. Tolkien and Jackson's passionate fanbases (and made over $1 billion at the box office). That fanbase has been waiting for a good look at the second film in the trilogy, and they're getting it today with the first trailer for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Somewhat surprisingly, the end of the trailer shows a good, long look at Smaug the Magnificent — or at least his full head, sliding out from behind a pile of gold to confront Bilbo Baggins. There's also a lot of Evangeline Lilly's controversial elf warrior Tauriel and the return of Orlando Bloom's Legolas Greenleaf, plus plenty of the dwarves you've come to know and love (or barely tolerate, depending on how you liked the first film).

While those who picked up the film on Blu-ray or DVD got a chance to see a short clip from the movie during a live streaming video event, this marks the first time the general public will get a look at the middle film in Jackson's trilogy. The trailer generally gives off a much darker tone than those for the first Hobbit film; there's no chaotic dinners in The Shire to be found here. It's a good match for the film's first official poster that was revealed a few days ago — a grim affair showing Bilbo standing alone outside the ruined grand entryway to the dwarf kingdom of Erebor. The trailer should help whet fans' appetites until December 13th, when The Desolation of Smaug arrives, but in the meantime, keep your eyes on Peter Jackson's Facebook page — chances are good he'll be sharing more behind-the-scenes video diaries as the film's premiere draws closer.