Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is off on his grand adventure! Peter Jackson's first film of his new Middle-earth trilogy opens this weekend. But will you see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in 48 HFR 3-D or standard? Does the big-screen version of the novel really merit three films? What's our answer? Of course! Don't act like the son of a fool, Took!
Bilbo, Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and the 13 dwarves' trek to the Lonely Mountain has a lot to offer. A prequel of sorts that sets the stage for Frodo's (Elijah Wood) eventual quest to destroy the One Ring to Rule Them All has kickass dwarves, big trolls, even bigger giant mountain-size beasties and a fire-breathing dragon with a thing for gold. Here are five reasons to go see The Hobbit right away:
1. Sexy Dwarf Thorin and a New Quest: As fans know, The Hobbit was always a much lighter, funnier adventure than the grim war-ravaged world of Rings. The structure is the same: A hobbit, wizard and company walk a lot, battle Orcs, etc. But the more kid-friendly mood does take some getting used to. A campfire scene with trolls boarders on camp. Thorin (Richard Armitage), who's basically the dwarf version of Viggo Mortensen's Aragorn, commands authority immediately, which is a good thing. You didn't just want a retread of Rings, did you? If you did...
2. Gollum's Riddle Time With Bilbo: The gang is back! About halfway through the flick, audiences are treated to many LOTR staples: The signature music swells and visions of Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) look exactly the same. Actually, she's 60 years younger, but who can tell with elves. Gollum shows up to play a game—and lose a ring! We never realized just how much we missed Andy Serkis' high-pitched, raspy voice. And Bilbo is not the sourpuss that Frodo was. Yay!
3. The High-Frame-Rate Version Is Insanely Detailed: There are several ways to see the movie: the HFR 48 frames per second in 3-D or the standard 24 fps in both 3-D and 2-D, as well as an IMAX version of the standard 3-D. The extra dimension isn't really that big of a deal, but the high frame rate is. Your eyes may need some time to adjust to the immersion. The dreaded video look eventually gives way to fantastic clarity. A wide shot that reveals the expanse of Rivendell is jaw-dropping: Even the tiniest of details can be seen. On the downside, a lot of the camera movements (particularly the opening in Hobbiton) are jerky. Still, for the true Unexpected Journey experience the premium ticket price is a must. At least for your first viewing. (Like you're not gonna see this more than once?)
4. Wizards! Gandalf the Grey, Saruman the White and Radagast the Brown? Fellowship Gandalf was always more fun than his badass White self in parts two and three. Ian McKellen has so much um, "spirit" with all that love of the Halfling's leaf. Our only real question is why it takes Bilbo so long to accept his mission. Nice to see Saruman (Christopher Lee) as not quite all-out evil yet. Later, we meet Radagast the Brown, who is only mentioned in Hobbit but appeared in Rings. He's a wizard who loves nature and has a sled driven by bunnies!
5. Our First Peek at Smaug: Sherlock's Benedict Cumberbatch will eventually provide the voice for the bigger-than-the-screen dragon, but for now all we get of the reptilian-skinned one is quick glimpses in the opening and a stunner of a parting shot. (And nope, filmmakers have not yet released official stills of the baddie.) It's incredible to see how far visual effects have come. There's likely nothing real at all in that scene. What is real is how much we can't wait for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug next holiday season.