Credit: Mark Pokorny

After Peter Jackson announced last month that he would be making a third film from J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel The Hobbit, the inevitable speculation began: How would the second film change, now that it was a middle chapter instead of a final one? What would the new film be titled? And when in the summer of 2014 would it be released?

Never fear, Tolkien fans, your questions have been answered — sparking an entirely new round of questions! Warner Bros. Pictures and MGM announced late Friday that the second film in the series, which will hit theaters Dec. 13, 2013, has been retitled The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. And the third and final film, which now takes on the title The Hobbit: There and Back Again, will arrive in theaters on July 18, 2014. (The first film,The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, is still set to open on Dec. 14, 2012.)

The announcement suggests a more clear delineation of climaxes for the second and third Hobbit films. The Desolation of Smaug refers to the wasteland surrounding the Lonely Mountain, the lair of the dragon Smaug, who’s responsible for stealing the dwarf treasure that launches Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) onto his adventure. That indicates that the second film could likely focus on the confrontation with Smaug (played via performance capture by Benedict Cumberbatch), while the third film would turn its attention to the Battle of Five Armies.

It also means that, thanks to the recently announced July 18, 2014 release date for X-Men: Days of Future Past, moviegoers could be faced with the impossible decision of choosing between young Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and old Magneto (Ian McKellan), plunging fanboy against fanboy in a geek war in which nobody wins and yet everybody wins.

Read more:

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
  • Movie
  • 170 minutes