ADVENTURE; 2hr 49min
STARRING: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Andy Serkis
To kingdom come: Freeman
Welcome back to director Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth, a spectacular, 48-frames-a-second 3-D landscape in which the uncanny and the momentous are everyday currency and Herculean crusades are waged by tiny, hirsute folk in the noble cause of justice.
Since we’re talking Herculean, An Unexpected Journey is the whopping first part of Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings prequel trilogy, co-adapted from J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy by the director, his long-term collaborators Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens and newcomer Guillermo del Toro. At its centre is Bilbo Baggins (Freeman), a homebody Hobbit recruited by the wizard Gandalf (McKellen) to join a rambunctious troupe of dwarves, led by gloomy-Gus Thorin Oakenshield (Armitage) in reclaiming their mountain kingdom from a flame-spewing dragon. As Gandalf sees it, this plainly insane undertaking requires “a great deal of stealth and no small amount of courage,” neither of which peaceable Bilbo appears to possess.
On a low note, the screenplay gives itself too much latitude, plodding where it should pick up its furry feet. The highs? Serkis, reappearing as chitter-chattering Gollum, is a swimmy-eyed shot of adrenaline. And you can’t help but be blown away by the mad grandeur and technical expertise of Team Jackson as they sink their teeth into the seemingly impossible.