Martin

Martin Freeman as a young Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The Peter Jackson film opens in theaters Dec. 14, 2012. (PHOTO: Screen Capture / New Line / Warner Bros.)

Friends, it's time to return to Middle-earth.

On Tuesday, Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema released the first trailer for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first of a two-part prequel from Lord of the Rings film master Peter Jackson.

The film, based J. R. R. Tolkien's 1937 novel of the same name, stars Martin Freeman (Love Actually, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) as the young Bilbo Baggins. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey follows the early days of Baggins and his part in trying to save the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor. Baggins meets Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) and the thirteen dwarves, including the great Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage).

My dear Frodo, you asked me once if I had told you everything there was to know about my adventures . . . while I can honestly say I have told you the truth, I may not have told you all of it, an older Baggins (played once again by Ian Holm) says in the trailer.

The Hobbit evokes the same sights, smells and feelings that The Lord of the Rings film trilogy gave fans nearly a decade ago. The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Two Towers (2002) and The Return of the King (2003) grossed a combined total of $2.9 billion worldwide. The trilogy also earned Jackson and company 17 Academy Awards, including Best Picture for The Return of the King. In fact, the last film won all 11 awards it was nominated for at the 76th annual Academy Awards.

Joining McKellen and Holm in The Hobbit are fellow LOTR vets, including Cate Blanchett (Galadriel), Christopher Lee (Saruman the White), Orlando Bloom (Legolas), Elijah Wood (Frodo), Hugo Weaving (Erlond) and Andy Serkis, who reprises his role as Gollum (cue the precious imitations).

Sir

Sir Ian McKellen reprises his role as Gandalf in The Hobbit, directed by Lord of the Rings film trilogy master Peter Jackson. (PHOTO: Screen Capture / New Line / Warner Bros.)

Just like the trilogy, The Hobbit was filmed in Wellington, New Zealand. The second part of the prequel, The Hobbit: There and Back Again, is currently in production and is expected to wrap by the end of the month. The film is due in 2013.

On the Twitter front, news feeds have been flooding with initial reactions to The Hobbit trailer, accompanied by hashtags like #thehobbit, #bilbobaggins, #middleearth and #precious.

Ian McKellen has also been hyping up The Hobbit buzz, posting the trailer on his Twitter page Tuesday night. The 72-year-old also took some time to remember a special anniversary on Dec. 10:

Today is the tenth anniversary of the premiere of 'The Fellowship of the Ring' (in London December 10, 2001). Time flies! he wrote.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opens in theaters Dec. 14, 2012.

Scroll down to watch the new trailer.