More of the same from director Peter Jackson, here pulling a proper Lucas and giving us the first installment of a prequel trilogy to his earlier three-parter, The Lord of the Rings. (Then, he was adapting three books; now, he's stretching just one, packing a straightforward quest with all manner of history and political intrigue.) And like Lucas, he has fallen in love with technology; in this case, High Frame Rate visuals that highlight every pore and strip-mine the magic from a movie that should be laden with it. (Do yourself a favor and stick to plain old 2D here.) The story involves 13 dwarfs (plus a helpful wizard) who hire a diminutive burglar to help them take back their mountain kingdom and its treasures from an invading dragon. Again, Jackson manages the creation of a believable fantasy world through well-pitched performances (Martin Freeman makes a fine homebody hobbit, and Andy Serkis’ Gollum gets to mix comedy with his menacing pathos), resonant themes (the dwarfs are seeking to regain their homeland after a diaspora), and really fine costumes. And again, he indulges his taste for overlong action set pieces, special effects that lean heavily on cartoon physics, and weepy-eyed alpha males. With Ian McKellan, Hugo Weaving.
Length: 2 hours, 46 minutes