"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," which is rated PG-13, opens at 12:01 a.m. at Gateway Cinemas 12 in Bethlehem.
After the success of "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, director Peter Jackson has filled in the back story by producing "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," the story of Bilbo Baggins and his adventures below and above ground. Jackson has done so ... for hours, breaking the original, little story into nine hours of film.
The first movie is a flashback, with the older Bilbo (Ian Holme) talking with Frodo (Elijah Wood). We soon see the wizard Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellan) drawing a younger Bilbo (Martin Freeman) into an adventure that involves a long journey to a distant land, lots of dwarfs, trolls, orcs, elves, a dragon and, of course, more Gollum (Andy Serkis), for which critics appear to have nothing but praise.
"Andy Serkis again excels as the treacherous renegade hobbit, but even his famous scene underground with Bilbo has at least one riddle too many, so that it drags on repetitiously," Chris Tookey writes for The Daily Mail.
Here's what other critics are saying about the film:
What saves the day is the spidery, schizoid Gollum, again performed by the great Andy Serkis through the craft of motion capture. Though Serkis works on set with the actors, he has been denied Oscar recognition because of the computer-animated involved. Fie on you, Academy! Serkis equals and surpasses most of what passes for award-caliber performances. — Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
Actor Andy Serkis plus motion-capture still equals the most memorable character in all of 21st century film. Here, though the surrounding story tends toward boisterous high spirits befitting the material's origins in a child-friendly book, Gollum is insidious — even dangerous. The high-stakes game of questions he plays with Bilbo is the one moment when this movie can't be dismissed as Lord of the Rings-lite. — Bob Mondello, NPR
Here is a three-hour movie that I wished were four hours. It’s not to say that The Hobbit is a perfect movie — it’s not. But it’s a wonderfully realized, appealing adventure that does a remarkable job of translating one of fantasy’s best-loved books onto the screen. It’s worthy of multiple viewings and as many awards. — Carol Pinchefsky, Forbes
At nearly three hours, “Journey” is so overly padded that Jackson’s decision to divide the tale into a trilogy feels more like indulgence than necessity. Still, each major scene is exquisitely rendered, with the Elven land of Rivendell as likely to inspire awe as the Orcs are to induce fear. The effects are truly dazzling, and Jackson fills the screen with one surprise after another. Freeman is a delight, and thanks to the wonderful McKellen, Gandalf remains one of the all-time great screen characters. — Elizabeth Weitzman, New York Daily News
More than a decade has passed since Peter Jackson and company first ventured to Middle Earth with "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring." At this point, audiences pretty much know what to expect from "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," despite the title's insistence to the contrary. That's hardly a knock on Jackson's fourth installment in the franchise, a prequel that takes place 60 years before the earlier movies' events but basically resurrects the same world of limber and furry-footed humanoids, fire-breathing dragons and deadly Orcs. Plot comes secondary to the care involved in bringing Middle Earth back to life. — Eric Kohn, Indie Wire
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