The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Rated 3.0

Having done all right with his Lord of the Rings, director Peter Jackson returns to the fantasy fiction of J.R.R. Tolkien and another planned nine-hour trilogy, beginning with this overlong but eventually appealing first installment. As the eponymous diminutive, Martin Freeman excels at comporting himself with kooky company, particularly by means of self-effacement. Obediently, the movie also provides not just the requisite CGI spectacles but a few of the previous trilogy's other human touches: the patient wizardry of Ian McKellen; the elfin nobility of Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving; the moistly sibilant voice and motion-captured form of Andy Serkis. Mercifully, it's less like watching someone else play a video game (albeit in unprecedented high definition) than it might have been—Jackson's enhanced digital imagery has a vaguely fluorescent chill, but at least the film it's in seems like a promising warm-up.