It's nine years since the finale of the Lord of the Rings saga, The Return of the King, premiered in 2003, but now Tolkeinites are a-quiver again as they await the first instalment in a new Hobbit trilogy, which hits cinemas Thursday. Can it recapture that old magic? Well, critics are split, but there's a lot of admiration out there for Peter Jackson's epic vision.
Over at the Den of Geek NP Horton says there's one thing about this film that can't be overlooked (or under-looked or anything but looked-at-in-horror) - the frame rate: at 48 fps instead of a traditional 24, The Hobbit looks like "a cheap soap opera". Most of the film looks "completely unrealistic and fake". These are strong words, and particularly damaging since Orcs, elfs and wizards are prominently featured here. It's altogether a shame, says Norton, as The Hobbit is "a triumph in almost every other regard".
The Independent's Geoffrey Macnab has concerns that the material is overstretched, this being the first part in a trilogy based on what is, when it comes down to it, a fairly slim children's book: "For all the sound and fury, not a great deal actually happens." Swirling camera-work can't hide the fact that producers have made three sandwiches out of the ingredients for two, tops.
Forget the naysayers, booms Metro's Ross McG. There's a lot of the good old fellowship on show here: An Unexpected Journey "has the same camaraderie" that made the first series so great. In fact, this film follows so closely the trajectory of the first Fellowship movie, it almost feels like a retread. And that's no bad thing.
Peter Bradshaw at the Guardian enjoyed the crunching battles, Gandalf's re-appearance and Martin Freeman's understated performance as Bilbo. But the final word must be Gollum's. Andy Serkis, playing the part once again, gives an "ineffably creepy" turn. His battle of wits with Bilbo is "where the drama really comes alive". Overall this contains "an enormous amount of fun, energy, and a bold sense of purpose."