Movie review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

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From the December 13, 2012 edition

I have just one question for you: ARE YOU READY FOR SOME HOBBIT?!

OK, measure your excitement level for that question. That will probably say a lot about how you’ll feel about the first part of Peter Jackson’s “Hobbit” trilogy.

It’s been a decade since Jackson wrapped up his epically epic “Lord of the Rings” trilogy — and a long and winding road to bringing “The Hobbit” to the big screen ended up back with Jackson.

That’s both the good news and the bad news. Jackson’s devotion to bringing the world of J.R.R. Tolkien books to life is apparent. He’s been an amazing steward for the fans of the book.

But this also leads to a strange sense of sameness as Jackson revisits Middle Earth. We have, in fact, been here and back again … only this time in 3-D.

Our younger Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) sets out on his expectedly epic adventure. You know the drill by now. Dwarves, Orcs, the wit and wisdom of wizards.

Jackson’s decision to spread the book over three films should have meant a breezier film with a more manageable running time, but Pete just can’t seem to cut anything.

With the first film pushing three hours, purists will be pleased. Less die-hard audiences will find a lot of meandering set-up — albeit visually gorgeous meandering setup.

And while the film is really quite spectacular in 3-D, the visual style is so familiar that we start to take the eye candy for granted.

One thing we shouldn’t take for granted is some of the great returning cast. Getting more of Sir Ian McKellan’s Gandalf? I’ll take it. And the motion-capture magic of Andy Serkis’ Gollum is again a delight.

You’ve got the perfect casting of Freeman (of the original UK incarnation of “The Office” and “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”) as Bilbo.

We’ve got two more chapters where we’ll really get into the good stuff, and Jackson probably could have saved a half-hour for the director’s cut.

But if you want Hobbit, you got it.