Things get hairy for dwarves William Kircher (left), Graham McTavish, Martin Freeman, James Nesbitt and John Callen.
THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY directed by Peter Jackson, written by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Jackson and Guillermo del Toro based on the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien, with Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage and Andy Serkis. A Warner Bros. release. 170 minutes. Some subtitles. Opens Friday (December 14). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NNN
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is fan service on a gargantuan scale, as Peter Jackson returns to the world of The Lord Of The Rings to cram in every last conversation, song and footnote in J.R.R. Tolkien's text.
This is good news to diehards who can't wait to see the texture of Smaug's scales and hear an assortment of Dwarvish laments; those of us who never really felt the pull of Middle-earth will find it a very, very long journey indeed - at least for the first hour or so.
But once the adventure is finally underway, and Martin Freeman's meek hero starts to come into his own, Jackson digs in and delivers an appropriately epic companion piece to his earlier trilogy. And dear lord, the things Andy Serkis has done with Gollum.
One caution, though, about the high frame rate 3D: the much-vaunted process makes the makeup and CG look terrible, and plays hell with Jackson's signature swooping camera moves. (Imagine watching it on an over-cranked demo TV at Future Shop.) Stick with good old 2D.