After years of speculation and rumor, and then several more years of planning, active development, talent changes, and last-minute delays, Peter Jackson and company are finally rolling cameras on the two-part The Hobbit. A joint statement from the major studios involved has announced the start of principle photography, while Peter Jackson’s Facebook Photo page has added two pictures of Jackson on the newly dressed and lit Bag End set. One must admit, the director really does look like he belongs back on that set- the delicately crafted representation of a special world that Jackson was kind enough and talented enough to sacrifice such an enormous amount of his life and health to take us to. A couple of buttery warm photos are well-earned markers of such an occasion.

Recall the most recent delays resulting from the Actor’s Equity controversy, an unfortunate and destructive studio fire, and even some health issues from Jackson, all of which occurred immediately before and even after the greenlight. Combined with the piled on years of delays, the first call for “action” must mean much celebration and cork-popping for the studio heads, while the production crew gets down dirty, firing up those dozen+ hand-machined RED cameras (with the pretty new sensors) to roll on some 3D Middle Earthin’. There’s a new official synopsis, though no mention of the potential sub-headings for the two films…

The Hobbit follows the journey of title character Bilbo Baggins, who is swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor, which was long ago conquered by the dragon Smaug. Approached out of the blue by the wizard Gandalf the Grey, Bilbo finds himself joining a company of thirteen dwarves led by the legendary warrior, Thorin Oakensheild. Their journey will take them into the Wild; through treacherous lands swarming with Goblins and Orcs, deadly Wargs and Giant Spiders, Shapeshifters and Sorcerers.

Although their goal lies to the East and the wastelands of the Lonely Mountain first they must escape the goblin tunnels, where Bilbo meets the creature that will change his life forever … Gollum.

Here, alone with Gollum, on the shores of an underground lake, the unassuming Bilbo Baggins not only discovers depths of guile and courage that surprise even him, he also gains possession of Gollum’s “precious” ring that holds unexpected and useful qualities … A simple, gold ring that is tied to the fate of all Middle-earth in ways Bilbo cannot begin to know.

So start the clock on your just-under-two-years countdown timer, and gird your loins for what will be another three years of hyper-teasing status updates, photo leaks, trailers, re-shoot controversies, set photos, costume discussions, font discrepancies, and spy shots, which will cumulatively rival even the obsessive coverage of the original LOTR trilogy’s production — which helped spawn the online movie coverage paradigm in the first place! Keep your eyes peeled on CHUD, where we’ll keep you up-to-date on everything (that isn’t completely dumb).

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(via MTV)