How to enjoy The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
OPINION: There is a very good movie somewhere in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
It can be a bit lost under the distractions of superfluous scenes, curious directorial decisions and an avalanche of expectation, but it's there nonetheless.
Rousing action scenes, beautiful scenery, wonderful music, some heartfelt moments and a couple of turns of excellent acting from Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins and Ian McKellen as Gandalf.
Could it have been better?
Of course it could, but there are few movies where this is not the case.
Considering The Hobbit is still dwarfing its rivals (sorry about that) at the box office, it seems plenty of people out there on the Fraser Coast and the rest of Australia are still going to see it, despite generally unfavourable reviews from the critics.
Here are a few tips for potential visitors to Middle Earth to get the most out of the first instalment of Peter Jackson's latest trilogy.
1. Remember the Lord of the Rings: plenty of criticism was directed about the way the first instalment of that trilogy ended - namely - right in the middle of the story.
Remember though, that Peter Jackson did not film The Lord of the Rings as three separate movies, but as a single, epically long one that was split into three. By the time the third was released, there wasn't a critic in the world who hadn't fallen under the spell of the story.
It is the same with The Hobbit - if you watch it knowing you are seeing part one of the story, you will avoid the disappointment of not getting enough Smaug for your buck this time around.
2. There is good reason for this movie being split into three: the above point links to another major complaint against the movie - that there is not enough material in the book of The Hobbit to warrant the same trilogy treatment.
In a sense, this is correct - comparing the length of the books could easily lead to that conclusion.
In the book version of The Hobbit, however, there are many things hinted at that really did need to be expanded on for the movies to make sense.
How the dwarves lost their kingdom and the wars with the orcs in Moria are two additions to the movie that were vital to show why these 13 dwarves showed up at Bilbo's home in the first place.
The main addition is the storyline of the Necromancer at Dol Guldur and the various plans of wizards and elves to deal with this threat.
Those who have read The Hobbit would know Gandalf basically disappears from the story for most of the second half of it while this threat is investigated and confronted off-page.
Not to give too many spoilers, but considering who the Necromancer turns out to be, for Peter Jackson not to give this storyline sufficient weight in these movies would create some major problems in continuity when it came to placing them beside The Lord of the Rings movies.
3. See it in 2D: really, the much hyped 48 frames per second, 3D aspects were more distracting than daring. I haven't seen it in 2D, but I couldn't see how the 3D version added anything of value to the experience.
Yes, a few scenes could have been cut or shortened, and it is not perfect. But overall, it is a perfectly acceptable first instalment in another Middle Earth epic.