Director: Peter Jackson

Cast: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee, Andy Serkis, Elijah Wood

Rating: B-

Many of us fantasy film lovers hold “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy near and dear to our hearts as some of the most perfect films ever made. Director Peter Jackson created a visual wonder and masterfully told the story of Frodo, a brave little Hobbit that was the unlikely hero of a classic story. Many have been anxiously waiting for Peter Jackson to bring to life J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic novel “The Hobbit” to get another big dose of a movie with that dream like quality that you can just get lost in for three hours. So the question of the day is – did Peter Jackson deliver us another flawless cinematic wonder?

Packed with all the technological bells and whistles Hollywood has to offer, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” does not disappoint in the special effects department. Jackson opted to shoot the film in 48 frames per second vs. the traditional 24 frames per second. The high speed shooting and of course the 3D effects pack a big punch. The end result is that middle earth never looked better. The scenes of the landscape, the Elf city of Rivendell, and many of the action sequences are so sharply detailed you will feel like you stepped into artistic masterpiece.

Our story starts with Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) being tricked by the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) into going on an adventure, which will aid a group of 13 Dwarfs in their quest to win back their homeland that was stolen from them by Smaug the dragon. The leader of the Dwarfs, Thorin (Richard Armitage), is heir to the Dwarf throne. The Dwarfs, who have been wandering nomads since losing their kingdom to the dragon, went to war with the Orcs. The leader of the Orc clan vowed to eliminate the lineage of Dwarf royalty, leaving the clan with no one to rule. Biblo and his motley crew of Dwarfs along with Gandalf set out on a journey to reach the mountain where the Dwarf kingdom is being held by Smaug. The courageous group encounter obstacles that include nasty little killer goblins, battling giants made from rocks, man eating trolls, and of course the nasty murderous Orcs.

In addition to being packed with amazing special effects, the film is also packed with long drawn out scenes that cause the movie to come to a screeching halt. The action sequences take off at hyper-speed and then all of a sudden there are long drawn out conversations thrown in that just cause the film to grind. There are side plots thrown in with no explanation, making the film very confusing for those that have not read the book. One can only hope that that all the back stories will somehow be connected in the films to come.

One saving grace is Andy Serkis reviving the role of Gollum, who steals the show when he gets caught up in a game of riddles with Bilbo. This tortured character is so entertaining, as the CGI effects make Gollum’s already classic facial expressions come to life even more perfectly. Freeman is a joy to watch as he goes from a reluctant participant on the journey to the hero with untapped potential. True to form, Ian McKellen, with the iconic beard, flowing rob, oversized hat, and that famous magical staff provides that majestic flare that only a strong actor like he can do without coming off completely ridiculous.

Tolkien’s novel “The Hobbit” is 310 pages vs. the 1571 pages for “The Lord of the Rings.” Was it really necessary to draw out the story over 3 hours that ended right at chapter 6 leaving us knowing that more sequels are on the way? I am going to go out on a limb and say that more than likely the whole story could have been told in one movie. This ‘pretty as a picture’ movie has moments that will delight but is also filled with moments that will bore the socks off you. For those that loved “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, standards will be set high, and “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” may wind up being an unexpected disappointment.

THE HOBBIT is set to hit theaters on December 14, 2012

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