The cynical play here would be to knock the “unexpected” nature of this enterprise because, after the overwhelming success of Peter Jackson’s justifiably epic Lord of the Rings saga, why wouldn’t Jackson and New Line seek to replicate that run with The Hobbit? It’s not like they had to invent a prequel from scratch or come up with a new format for capturing Middle Earth (although utilizing 48 frames per second offers a hyper-real rendering of the environments that many may find difficult to accept at first glance, but hang in there).
Adding to the cynicism, though, is the idea that Jackson and company felt the need to taffy-pull The Hobbit into three films that will undoubtedly clock in close to nine hours. Fortunately, we will be spending the majority of that time in the engaging company of Martin Freeman (Bilbo), Ian McKellen (Gandalf) and a host of dwarves, elves and dragons who will make us want to believe in fantasy once more. Now in theaters. (PG-13) Not screened for review