One problem with turning your two-part fantasy epic into a three-part fantasy epic is that you need to find a new title from somewhere. It's all right when a "Twilight" or a "Hunger Games" decide to split their final installment into two, because they can always go for a "Breaking Dawn Pt. 1 and 2" or "Mockingjay Pt. 1 and 2" type deal, but for "The Hobbit," Peter Jackson had already added two new subtitles to his one-book source material -- admittedly ones already associated with the books: "An Unexpected Journey" and "There And Back Again."
But after his decision earlier in the summer to add a third part to his already-mostly-wrapped "Lord of the Rings" prequel, Jackson was faced with a dilemma. With "An Unexpected Journey" set to hit this Christmas, presumably too late to be retitled, did he keep the second film as "There And Back Again," and add a new name to the third, or would he rename the second somehow, and make "There And Back Again" the last installment? Warner Bros' trademarking suggested that they were still considering going either way on the project, and were sadly neglecting our own preferred approach, "The Hobbit: There" and "The Hobbit: Back Again."
It looks as if a decision has been reached, and it looks like those hoping for "The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies," one of the two proposed titles, will be disappointed: Deadline reports that the second film has now been retitled "The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug." The title, for the uninitiated, refers to the great dragon (being played, via performance capture, by Benedict Cumberbatch), who guards the treasure that Bilbo Baggins and his dwarf companions are in search of. It's not a spoiler either, as some who don't understand the meaning of the word 'desolate' have suggested: it's a reference to a portion of Middle-Earth which has been scorched by the title character.
This means that the third film is now known as "The Hobbit: There And Back Again," despite presumably focusing more on the 'back again' than the 'there.' And while "The Desolation Of Smaug" stays on the original December 13th release date for Part Two, "The Hobbit: There And Back Again" has officially got a release date, of July 18th, 2014. It's a bullish move by Warner Bros, as it's the same date that 20th Century Fox had already marked out for their "X-Men: First Class" sequel "X-Men: Days Of Future Past."
It's become a key slot in recent years thanks to the success of "The Dark Knight," "Captain America: The First Avenger" and "The Dark Knight Rises," and the move's already made some geek fans hilariously pissy. Obviously the films are unlikely to open at the same time, and unless the unthinkable happens and "The Hobbit" disappoints at the box office this December, we imagine it'll be Fox that blinks first, leaving them with the tricky business of finding a slot in a schedule already full of sequels and superhero fare like "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," their own "Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes," "Transformers 4" and "Guardians Of The Galaxy."
But to sum up, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" hits on December 14th 2012, "The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug" (which really is kind of a terrible title) on December 13th, 2013, and "The Hobbit: There And Back Again" on July 18th 2014. Now all Peter Jackson needs to do is write the extra film...