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YOU'RE A HARD HOBBIT TO BREAK; Jackson's screen spectacle is a hairy-footed masterpiece that will leave fans hungry for more.

Byline: MOVIE PREVIEWS BY JOHN MILLAR

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY 12A

You will not be surprised to discover that there is very little unexpected about Kiwi director Peter Jackson's return to the fantasy world of JRR Tolkien.

Dwarves, hobbits, elves, orcs, goblins and wizards populate the 3D screen as the adventure - spread over three movies - begins. There's even the glimpse of a malevolent dragon.

The epic and very detailed nature of the proceedings will delight the Lord of the Rings franchise's followers. But newcomers, or those yet to be converted, might find the opening stretch a bit heavy going . Indeed, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey does take quite a bit of time before slipping into top gear.

Until that happens, and it really does take flight as it heads towards a cliffhanging final battle, there is an overworn gag about Bilbo Baggins finding his home invaded by a bunch of ravenous dwarves.

And then, there is the setting up of the reason for the quest, which is to reclaim the kingdom of Erebor. Initially, Bilbo Baggins is a reluctant recruit to the dwarf army.

As the film gains momentum, there are magnificent sights. The Hobbit is, despite the sluggish start, a spectacular screen experience.

And, of course, there is a multitude of grotesques on view - the battlescarred orcs on the backs of gigantic, slavering wolves, goblins that dwell in a nightmarish subterranean kingdom, and misshapen trolls who argue over the best way to prepare and cook dwarves. The greatest and most ghoulish of all the creatures, however, is Gollum, whose confrontation with Bilbo Baggins, as they engage in a deadly game of riddles, is one of the film's most memorable sequences.

While a movie like this is more about spectacle than performance, there are some acting highlights to relish.

Martin Freeman's puckish demeanour makes him a perfect Bilbo Baggins and Andy Serkis has long-proved just how brilliantly he has got under the skin of the bug-eyed Gollum.

Also worth a mention is Ken Stott, who channels the Old Testament-style of legendary Scots star Finlay Currie for his portrayal of Balin, and Richard Armitage, who gives heroic substance to Thorin.

Kids will want to see The Hobbit but be warned, much of what goes on may well be too gruesome for some youngsters.

And, at close to three hours running time, it is also long, too long in my opinion - despite the visual delights and hi-tech magic.

But devotees will lap up each and every morsel and be hungry for the lots and lots more that is to come.

CAPTION(S):

BROTHERS... Dean O'Gorman as Fili and Aidan Turner as Kili

BATTLE… Above, some of the dwarf army. Left, Hugo Weaving as Elrond

DEMONIC… Gollum features in the most memorable scene

ON A QUEST… Left, Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Dec 16, 2012
Words:485
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