If we had caught this at age ten or eleven, it would have been the greatest movie we had ever seen in our lives. But only a slice of the putative audience for Peter Jackson’s prequel to Lord of the Rings
actually fits into that pre-teen category, so we’re forced to admit that is merely the most spectacular movie fantasy of 2012. With help from maestro Guillermo del Toro and writers Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, Jackson weaves the marvelous tale of the eponymous, diminutive Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), the wizardly Gandalf (Ian McKellen), a band of combative dwarves, and their quest into the land of fearsome creatures. At the heart of it, Andy Serkis reprises his indelible role as the repulsive/attractive Gollum, the “precious” true star of this splendid trip into unbridled imagination. All that wonderment is tempered a bit, of course, when we realize that Parts Two and Three are already lined up for production. So the journey never really ends. Maybe that’s the point after all. Also with Christopher Lee, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Sylvester McCoy, Richard Armitage, and Barry Humphries. (169 min.)
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May be Hobbit-forming.