The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey **** (PG-13) Welcome back to the works of Mr. Tolkien, the pristine vistas of New Zealand and the epic mastery of Peter Jackson’s team of techies. This first installment of another film trilogy is a must-see for fantasy film fans - especially the hordes who savored the Lord of the Rings series. This round is based on the eponymous novel about Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman)’ first foray from the Shire, due to Gandalf (Ian McKellen) using his wizardly ways of persuasion to get him to sign on for the dangerous trek.
The script includes a surprising (and appreciated) amount of levity in the arduous quest by a group of hard-nosed dwarves to regain their mountain home from the dragon that drove them out, contending with a slew of other foes along the way. New Zealand again provides splendid scenery, complementing the dazzling special effects of locations and creatures. One sure sign of quality is that the film seemed much shorter than its nearly three-hour running time. Make the effort to see this on the largest 3-D screen within range. The technology greatly enhances the action - especially in the major battle sequences. (12/14/12)