"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" is a three-hour dorkfest.
That's meant as praise.
Peter Jackson's first chapter in a planned film trilogy hits all the notes needed to please both hard-core Tolkien nerds and casual lovers of his "Lord of the Rings" films.
He also adds a dash of intrigue for cinema geeks interested in the next wave of movie projection.
The film is frequently gorgeous, technologically adventurous and eventually thrilling
It's also bloated, repetitive, and -- especially at first -- slow going.
For those who aren't hep to the latest happenings in Middle-earth, Jackson is splitting up Tolkien's first novel into three movies.
This first installment covers roughly the first 100 pages of the 300-page book and clocks in at 2 hours, 50 minutes. You can read it faster than you can watch it, but fans of the multi-million-dollar Oscar-winning franchise know what they're in for. Each film is a marathon, not a sprint -- truly, people have run actual marathons in less time than it takes to watch any one of them.
So when told the film takes 45 minutes to get through the first chapter of the book, many of us say, "Shut up and take our money."
Besides, as Ian McKellen's wizard Gandalf says, "All good stories deserve embellishment."
Some 60 years before the events of "The Fellowship of the Ring," Gandalf visits the young Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman of the BBC's "Sherlock" and "The Office") and asks if the little guy is up for an adventure.
Bilbo assures him he most certainly is not.
Hobbits, you see, like to sit and smoke pipe weed at home. That way they can be close to the pantry when they are stricken by the munchies.
Bilbo's protestations don't stop the old man from telling an unwieldy number of dwarves to invade Bilbo's hobbit hole. They raid his food stores, throw around the dishware and sing some froggy-sounding dwarf songs.
There by Bilbo's hearth, the dwarves conspire with their Moses-figure Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage). They'll journey to their ancestral home of Erebor and reclaim their kingdom from the dragon Smaug.
With some coercion that's both passive and aggressive, Bilbo relents and joins in the adventure.
Along the way there will be Orcs, trolls, goblins, elves, giants and lots and lots of walking.
So much walking.
Prequels aren't necessarily about showing what happened. We know what happened. Indiana Jones lives to fight the Nazis, Vito Andolini becomes Don Corleone and the darn dirty apes take over the world.
Instead, prequels are about how something happened. How does Bilbo know Gandalf? How did he get the ring?
And things happen in "The Hobbit" much like how they happened in "Fellowship."
The gang walks along a precarious mountain ledge again. An unseen villain grows more powerful again. A threatening mega-Orc chases our heroes down a mountainside ... again.
Some of this is thrilling to devotees. Subplots, footnotes and minor points from the book and the author's other works are expanded (see sidebar on this page).
But one can't help but compare "Hobbit" to the first "Star Wars" prequel.
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