The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Peter Jackson) - 2012

This is the first of a trilogy of movies based on the short fantasy novel written by John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1892-1973) for his children.  The popular book was published in 1937, seventeen years before the trilogy sequel The Lord of the Rings.  Director Jackson's first of the three takes us from the home of Bilbo Baggins in the Shire when he was visited by Gandalf the Grey Wizard and the dozen dwarves; through various encounters with English-speaking trolls, wolf-riding orcs, hissing Gollum and the goblin underworld; to their rescue by the giant eagles.  The 14 travelers are on a quest to reclaim the dwarf homeland that is being guarded by a dragon named Smaug.  The screenplay by Fran Walsh is faithful to the improbable escapes from thousands of tenacious enemies as described by Tolkien.  The action scenes are expanded to fill nearly three hours.  There is much time wasted at the beginning to explain how this story relates the Rings trilogy.  I am amazed at the talents of Jackson and company to merge all of the special effects into a coherent adventure.  However, the scenic beauty of New Zealand is the star of the show.  [JAM 2/10/2013]