'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey': Is it really necessary? (+trailer)

( PG-13 ) ( Monitor Movie Guide )

'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' has everything 'Lord of the Rings' had, but all the dwarves and wizards are getting old.

Warner Bros./AP
'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' will be followed by two planned sequels.

My first thought in watching “The Hobbit” was: Do we really need this movie? It was my last thought, too. Having powered his way through the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, which had its occasional majesties, director Peter Jackson now feels compelled to give us this prequel, based on the Tolkien novel that spawned the cult I never joined.

Whether this makes me the best or the worst judge of this movie I leave to others to decide. But I must confess that by the time the last of the “Rings” movies wrapped, I had had quite enough of orcs and dwarves and rings and Gandalf and Middle-earth. I even had my fill of Gollum. And so, wouldn’t you know, all of that and more – though with less effect – is present and accounted for in “The Hobbit,” which tells of the troll-infested exploits of hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) in Middle-earth.

As a further lure, Jackson has even fashioned this CG-heavy film in 3-D and shot it digitally at 48 frames per second instead of the usual 24 f.p.s. (A 2-D, 24-f.p.s. version is also being screened.) Among other things, this supposedly enhances the clarity of the imagery, although why expend all that energy on imagery that isn’t inherently awesome to begin with? And did I mention that Tolkien’s novel is going to spawn two sequels? I suppose we should be thankful that Hollywood is trilogy-crazy these days and not quartet- or quintet-mad. Grade: C+ (Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images.)

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