This is great news, if it actually happens. I've always preferred The Hobbit to its more epic offspring. I agree the filmmakers will ditch the talking animals. Poor Smaug will probably lose all his humor, but perhaps the actor playing Bilbo can insinuate the proper tone in those scenes regardless. Too bad Ian Holm isn't younger. I hope they don't go as young as they did in LotR. Frodo I could buy in a younger incarnation, but Bilbo needs to be at least a bit older.

I'll trust the filmmakers, but ask a few hypothetical questions anyway:

1. What are the chance we'll see Gollum the blood-thirsty cannibal here, and not the same funny/pathetic schizo from the movies? Personally, I need to believe he's ready to chow down on hobbit flesh. He never quite achieved that level of menace in the LotR films for me. I really want to see Gollum as the "ghost that drank blood," ate infants, all that jazz. Although we don't find those events out until FotR (and never in the film), it would be neat to see them somehow hinted at in the prequel.

2. Would we actually see Gandalf and co. attack Sauron aka the Necromancer, sort of like they did with the scenes between Gandalf and Saruman in FotR? In that case, could there be two plotlines here: one dealing with Gandalf and Sauron, and the second dealing with Bilbo and Smaug?

3. How might they play out the climax of the movie? If memory serves me, doesn't Bilbo literally pass out at some point, and wake up when its all over?