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Peter Jackson, making a Hobbit of Middle-earth


If you loved J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, then you will absolutely love the first of a trilogy of films called “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.” I was on the edge of my seat way too many times, I was so caught up in the fast-paced action that I didn’t want to miss one second of it.

Academy Award-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson and his team are back with a masterpiece. “The Hobbit” tells a continuous story set in Middle-earth 60 years before “The Lord of the Rings.”

“We want ‘The Hobbit’ films to be a visual experience that goes several steps beyond ‘The Lord of the Rings,’” said director Jackson. For the first time, Jackson utilized state-of-the-art digital cameras to record the action in 3-D.

The adventure follows Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), who is swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome dragon Smaug. OK, that sounds like a mouthful. Let me break it down for you.

Baggins is very happy with his life, basically not a care in the world. And then one day a wizard, Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen), truly out of the blue shows up at his doorstep, and marks his door with a sign that Baggins didn’t take notice of when he thought he had sent the wizard on his way. That sign turned out to be invitations to 13 dwarves led by the legendary warrior Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) to not only enter his home, but to alter his life forever.

The dwarves are a most motley crew, loud, sometimes gross, and proud of it. But you grow to love them, cheer for them and like Gandalf count them, one through 13 after every hair-raising battle.

The dwarves are without a homeland. The Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor was at one time the richest and most beautiful place in Middle-earth. Dwarves were great miners and all the riches of the earth were at their fingertips. But greed, at one point, entered the kingdom, and what follows greed is always war, and this time the war was with the fearsome Smaug. The cruelty waged by the dragon against the dwarves wiped out their kingdom, leaving only the 13 hearty warriors to reclaim it.

In all this drama, Baggins can’t imagine how he could be of any service to the dwarves. He is not a warrior, has never brandished a sword, and has never left the Shire. But Gandalf has decided the dwarves need a secret weapon, a burglar, somebody who could sneak into Erebor right under Smaug’s nose, and Gandalf likes the idea of a Hobbit because dragons aren’t aware of their smell.

This film focuses on the creatures of Middle-earth, without the influence of man. We meet the wizard of the forest, Radagast the Brown (Sylvester McCoy), and the creatures that inhabit it. The elves are there to lend a hand, even though not truly trusted by the leader of the dwarves because of their failure to help in an earlier battle.

Gollum (Andy Serkis) is almost likable. His character is developed to the point that you see him in a different light, but his “precious” still rules over his life, and we get to see how Baggins uses “precious” to save his life and that of others.

Then we have the trolls, and rock fighters, wargs (wolf-like creatures), goblins, the truly evil orcs and the mysterious dark sorcerer, the Necromancer at Dol Guldur, all present obstacles that are beyond deadly for the dwarves, Gandalf and Bilbo Baggins.

The journey itself is treacherous. They are always outnumbered, and only with cunning, excellent fighting skills and taking advantage of nature do they win.

“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” will be in theaters Dec. 14.

Gail can be reached at