Be warned. "The Hobbit" is long. Nearly three hours as a matter of fact. And while perhaps a bit longer than it needed to be, the original "Unexpected Journey" of Bilbo Baggins is a great blend of story, action, scenery and fun.
The biggest difference between The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy (which, much like the Star Wars films, is not delivered in order of events) is the lighter tone that seems to linger above the danger facing the group of misfit warriors.
The big screen retelling of J.R.R. Tolkien's 1937 novel, "The Hobbit," is being broken into three tales. The first, recently released, "An Unexpected Journey" will be followed by "The Desolation of Smaug" in 2013 and "There and Back Again" in 2014. The Lord of the Rings trilogy are actually sequel stories to the new films. Peter Jackson continues to rule the world of Middle Earth -- as producer, director and screenplay writer -- where the world of Orcs, trolls, dragons, dwarves, elves, wizards and yes, hobbits, live together in an eroding peace.
The movie begins with Smaug, a fire breathing dragon with a love for gold, invading and chasing the dwarves out of their gold-rich kingdom. Chased from their home, the dwarves scatter and some battle a legion of Orcs, led by the White Orc, who kills both the king and king's son in battle. The grandson and heir to the thrown, Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), battles the White Orc, cutting off its left arm.
The new tale is shared as a memoir from Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm) to his nephew Frodo (Elijah Woods in a cameo). Taking place 60 years before The Lord of the Rings events, "The Hobbit" introduces us to a young Bilbo (Martin Freeman) who has no interest in adventures and is content to smoke his pipe, read, enjoy fine meals and live a calm, peaceful life in The Shire. That's until Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen reprising his role) shows up on his doorstep and challenges him to take part in an adventure. Bilbo flees from the challenge, hiding in the sanctuary of his underground home, until his peace is disturbed by the arrival of several uninvited, very hungry and thirsty dwarves.
Gandalf joins the group as they lay out the plans to re-take their homeland back from Smaug, who has remained unseen for decades. The wizard wants Bilbo to take part in the adventure and he reluctantly agrees.
Leaving The Shire, Bilbo and the warriors embark on the journey frought with peril and danger.
Giants, orcs and a growing evil stand between the fighting dwarves, an out-of-place Hobbit, and the wizard who secretly realizes all is not as it seems in Middle Earth.
Among those reprising their roles from the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Hugo Weaving as Lord Elrond, Cate Blanchett as Lady Galadriel, Christopher Lee as Saruman the White, and of course, our introduction to the "ring" and its obsessed possessor Gollum, based on the movements and voice of Andy Serkis.
The movie is enjoyable and sets the story on its way to what will assuredly be an enjoyable trio of films. I encourage you to take part in the unexpected journey.