LOVERS of director Peter Jackson's work have just one week left to catch The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, at Tiverton's Tivoli cinema, which is showing both the 2D and 3D versions of the epic movie.
There is a moment in the film when Gandalf The Grey (Sir Ian McKellen) turns to diminutive hero Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and counsels: "All good stories deserve embellishment".
Jackson and co-writers Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Guillermo del Toro have taken the wise wizard's words to heart and embellished JRR Tolkien's novel to the point of creative obesity.
Visually stunning flashbacks, which fail to advance the plot, are roughly hewn in to a sprawling narrative that doesn't kick into second gear for a good 45 minutes.
In the first deviation from the text, Jackson opens his picture at Bag End with the elderly Bilbo (Ian Holm) penning a book to his cousin Frodo (Elijah Wood). We rewind 60 years to meet Bilbo (Freeman) in the Shire as he encounters Gandalf (McKellen) and a 13-strong company of dwarves, who intend to reclaim their lost gold from the dragon Smaug in his mountain lair.
After a sleepless night, Bilbo agrees to accompany dwarf leader Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) and his troops on their perilous mission. En route, the brave souls encounter elvish allies including Elrond (Hugo Weaving) and Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), as well as wretched Gollum (Andy Serkis) and the corpulent Goblin King (Barry Humphries).
The Hobbit reunites Jackson with cast and crew of the Lord Of The Rings trilogy including cinematographer Andrew Leslie and composer Howard Shore. The writer-director employs the same visual lexicon: sweeping aerial shots of characters traipsing over New Zealand landscapes, close-ups of ethereal figures in deep contemplation. Nerve-racking scenes with Gollum are undoubtedly the highlight of this opening salvo.
An hour of substance is bloated to 166 minutes of digital trickery and breathless action sequences.
Freeman brings humour to his pint-sized weakling, who learns that "True courage is knowing not when to take a life but when to spare one."
When Bilbo subsequently remarks, "I do believe the worst is behind us," we know he must be joking, else the next two chapters, Desolation Of Smaug and There And Back Again will be exceedingly dull affairs.