The Hobbit: an unexpected journey
Direction: Peter Jackson
Actors: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen
Nine years after The Return of the King, the concluding chapter of his The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, Oscar-winning director Peter Jackson returns to Middle-earth for another adventure epic adapted from a novel by JRR Tolkien.
Originally intended to precede The Rings saga, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is now the first installment of a new trilogy.
Auspiciously, our expectations for the three-part prequel are fulfilled by this episode. There is little doubt that Jackson has again raised the standard by which all future fantasy blockbusters will be judged. With characteristic zeal, the Kiwi auteur narrates the tale of a merry band of 13 dwarves on a quest to reclaim their lost homeland and stolen treasure from a greedy dragon.
Brimming with a gallery of picaresque characters, rugged locations and eye-popping production design, here's a feast for the senses all right. The imaginary world of Tolkien's first book, published in 1937, is recreated with a flawless look of authenticity.
We are in the company of the reluctant hobbit hero (Freeman). The pint-sized protagonist is cajoled by a wizard (McKellen, eloquent as ever) into accompanying the 13 quarrelsome little warriors on their peril-fraught journey.
Engaged in the proverbial David-versus-Goliath fight to the finish, the bravehearts have to contend with an array of demonic orcs, trolls and goblins. The film is a showcase for the visual effects team at New Zealand's Weta Digital studio who transport us to a world of enchantment.
On the downside, a sense of déjà vu sets in especially during the battle sequences. Characters from The Rings trilogy are re-introduced, albeit in all-too- brief roles.
Filming in 3D for the first time, Jackson also shot the film in the much-maligned new 48 frames per second format. However, most cinemas here are screening it in the standard 24 fps version.
Hobbit may not measure up to the Rings opus but it is as dazzling as movie entertainment gets.