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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the first part of a new trilogy of films from director Peter Jackson that are based on J. R. R. Tolkien’s fantasy novel The Hobbit.  Jackson is best known for his epic The Lord of the Rings trilogy which is one of the most profitable movie franchises in history.  He now heads back to middle-earth with some new cast members with the likes of Martin Freeman and Richard Armitage and also many of the same cast members from The Lord of the Rings such as Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, and Elijah Wood.  The final two films of The Hobbit trilogy, The Desolation of Smaug and There and Back Again are scheduled for theatrical release in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

The adventure begins with the evil dragon, Smaug, terrorizing and taking over Lonely Mountain, the only dwarf mountain left on middle-earth.  After a devastating war with the Orcs, only 13 dwarfs remain.  This is where we meet the hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Freeman), who is recruited by the wizard Gandalf (McKellen) to join the dwarfs on a quest to defeat Smaug and take back their homes and regain control of the mountain.  Along the way, there are many obstacles such as Goblins, Trolls, and other mystical creatures that stand in the way of our heroes accomplishing their mission.

Peter Jackson has managed to create a CGI world that seems as real as the one we live in.  Seeing it come to life on the big screen is truly magical.  The landscapes and scenery are absolutely breathtaking, and these otherworldly creatures are veritably brought to life.  This is definitely a movie to see on the big screen.  The screening I attended was in 3D, the downside being a lot of blurry images during the action sequences due to things moving so fast.  When things did slow down, the 3D images really came to life and were beautiful.  All things considered, I wouldn’t recommend spending the extra dollars to see it in 3D.  Overall, it was nice spending a few hours away from reality and being transported to another world.  The storytelling is good, but also drawn out which makes the movie seem slow at times.  That said, even with a running time of just under 3 hours, I never once found myself wishing that it would just hurry up and end. The only other problem is that we will have to wait until 2014 to see how it all ends.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opens everywhere Friday, December 14.

Grade:  B+