The awards season is over, finally giving us the chance to put aside movies past and anticipate what's coming up.
2012 has a lot left to offer, and standing tall in the horizon is December's MVP, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," the much-anticipated prequel to director Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.
What's that you say? You don't like fantasy?
No worries: Here are nine reasons you'll love "The Hobbit" anyway.
The Point of the Journey Isn't Just to Arrive
Getting there is half the fun and "The Hobbit" is about hitting the road with some friends. So are a lot of movies — but in this case, getting to December is also half the fun. No filmmaker is so open and shares the process with fans like Jackson, who posts regular filming diaries to his Facebook page. The show's already begun - we'll wait while you friend Peter Jackson.
Traveling to Middle-earth
The amazing thing about the "The Lord of the Rings" books is how it makes you homesick for a place that never existed. But with the breathtaking beauties of Middle-earth (A.K.A. New Zealand) captured on film , viewers have the same experience of longing for a place they can see in the cinema. The good news is, at least to some degree, you can visit, and even if you only travel there for two hours with your popcorn, it's a trip worth making.
The Pop-Culture Bandwagon Is Going to Be Crowded
So grab a seat. The film has serious buzz from just one trailer and a few character photos. Remember, "LOTR" actually had the caché to win at the Oscars (a record-tying 11 times, no less) — which never happens with fantasy films. The $7-billion-grossing "Harry Potter" films never got even one. As excitement builds, this will be everywhere. From chat rooms, to the toy isle to tweets and chatter everywhere, "The Hobbit" is coming. Climb aboard.
With the recent announcement of the final cast member in place (comedian Billy Connolly as Dain Ironfood) Jackson has assembled an impressive collection of talent, even if they aren't household names — yet. He has a powerful history of launching careers of up-and-comers like Kate Winslet in "Heavenly Creatures," Orlando Bloom in "Fellowship of The Ring," and Saoirse Ronan in "Lovely Bones." Even with already-emerging stars like Luke Evans, Evangeline Lily, Benedict Cumberbatch, Richard Armitage and Aiden Turner, keep your eye in and the unknowns like Dean O'Gorman, among others. (See Hot Dwarves below.)
There will be real-world laughs in a fantasy setting. We go to the movies to have fun, and there will be plenty of lighter moments for anybody to enjoy.
Everyman Bilbo Baggins
Martin Freeman excels at being a likable, relatable, non-fantasy everyman. Even though he is a Hobbit, he is us — or at the very least, like, our cousin. We're going on the journey with a guy who seems as grounded as can be, as real as doing the dishes.
Magic? What Magic?
Unlike the "Harry Potter" series, magic in Middle-earth is barely there. Fireworks might have a little extra pop and certain wizards might know just a bit too much, but there are no spell books, batwings or eye of newt.
For the ladies, Jackson may have brought back Legolas, but count on some other audible sighs in the theater. Armitage and Evans already have swooning fans, but Jackson and company are going to deliver some hot dwarves, especially the younger ones, played by Turner and O'Gorman.
The Visual Feast
Prepare to have your eyes pop out - and not just from incredible scenery. Weta is doing the special effects for these films, and besides the Academy Awards they won for "The Lord of the Rings," these are the same people who brought you "Avatar" in all its alien-world splendor, the gritty cat-food-loving aliens of "District 9" and other cutting-edge sights from "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," and "X-Men: First Class."
TheOneRing.net veteran Larry D. Curtis is NextMovie's regular "Hobbit" gollumnist, exploring Middle-earth and all things halfling as we gear up for the December 14 release of Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" prequel, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey." Follow The Gollumnist on Twitter!