Remember the Empire Magazine cover that went online two whole days ago, showing off new images of Ian McKellen as Gandalf and Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins? Well now the larger version of both of those images have finally gone online over at Empire, but I'm going to warn you now not to get too excited. Not only are they the same images we saw before, but they're nearly identical to images debuted by Entertainment Weekly last week. We're being shown the same general formula of Bilbo and Gandalf at Bag End, and while it's nice to see these guys back, it's a little irritating that the images are being presented again and again as something new. But at this point, any Hobbit news is big news on the Internet, and if you're the kind of person who's dying to see these images anyway, you know who you are. Click on either of them below for the larger versions at Empire.

The good news is that the images accompany a long article in Empire, including a set visit and a conversation with Peter Jackson, who somewhat alarmingly tells them "I'm exactly the same filmmaker I was ten years ago." Wait, so the experience of seeing the Lord of the Rings films become massive hits didn't change him? How about winning an Oscar? Or making his two follow-up films King Kong and The Lovely Bones? I get what Jackson is trying to say here-- that he's slipping effortlessly back into the world of Middle Earth, and all the imagination and epic scale he brought to the LOTR franchise is going to be right back where it was for The Hobbit. But saying you haven't changed a bit as a filmmaker in the most successful decade of your career seems to be giving the wrong idea. Hopefully he'll have more to say in the actual magazine article that's more promising.

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