The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (12A)
Director: Peter Jackson.
Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen Andy Serkis, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Barry Humphries, Ian Holm and Elijah Wood.
Running time: 2hrs 46mins
There is a moment early in The Hobbit when Gandalf turns to Bilbo Baggins and counsels: “All good stories deserve embellishment.”
Director Jackson and his co-writers have taken the wise wizard’s words to heart and embellished Tolkien’s novel to the point of creative obesity.
Visually stunning flashbacks, which fail to advance the plot, are roughly hewn into a sprawling narrative that doesn’t kick into second gear for a good 45 minutes.
In the first deviation from the text, Jackson opens his picture at Bag End with the elderly Bilbo (Holm) penning a book to his cousin Frodo (Wood).
We rewind 60 years to meet Bilbo (Freeman) in the Shire as he encounters Gandalf (McKellen) and a 13-strong company of dwarves, who intend to reclaim lost gold from the dragon Smaug in his mountain lair.
After a sleepless night, Bilbo agrees to accompany the dwarf leader and his troops on their perilous mission.
En route, the brave souls encounter elvish allies including Elrond (Weaving) and Galadriel (Blanchett), as well as wretched Gollum (Serkis) and the corpulent Goblin King (Humphries).
The Hobbit, which should perhaps be subtitled The Return Of The Fellowship Of A King, reunites Jackson with cast and crew of the trilogy.
Freeman brings a touch of humour to his pint-sized weakling, who learns that, “True courage is knowing not when to take a life but when to spare one.”