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“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”

Director Peter Jackson returns moviegoers to the land of Middle Earth as he presents the first installment of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit.”
We are welcomed into the story by Bilbo Baggins, uncle of Frodo (the main character from “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy). Bilbo tells us the story as he is writing to Frodo.

The story is centered on the desire of the Dwarves to reclaim their homeland after it was taken over years before by a great dragon.

Thirteen dwarves set out on a journey to the Lonely Mountain to confront the

dragon, Smaug. They are led by Prince Thorin (Richard Armitage), the last in the line of Dwarf kings.

Joining them is Gandalf (Ian McKellen), the wizard, who desires to take another person along on this journey.

Gandalf selects Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), a reluctant traveler on this adventure.

Bilbo makes it clear he does not want to be a part of this group. Being a hobbit, he is one for staying home and not leaving the comforts of the Shire. He steadfastly refuses to go with this group.

But Bilbo eventually does decide to leave home to “go on an adventure.” Out the door he flies to be with these strange creatures that seem full of nothing but mischief.

As the group moves toward its destination, they meet all manner of creatures, including goblins and orcs. Trolls nearly consume the company. But Bilbo meets one creature that changes his life forever.

While traveling through the Kingdom of the Goblins, Bilbo meets Gollum (Andy Serkis), who plays a game of riddles with Bilbo that will lead to great discovery and change.

“The Hobbit” has arrived with lots of baggage. Top on the list is the way Jackson shot it.

Jackson did not shoot in the traditional frame rate of 24 frames a second; he shot it in 48 frames a second, which is supposed to give a more vivid picture (my IMAX viewing was blurred at points).

Another thing the movie has going against it is the feeling that we have been on this journey before. The three movies that made up “The Lord of the Rings” are still fresh in the minds of many.

And “The Hobbit” really starts slowly. The journey is just beginning when it comes to an end.

The adage in show business is that you want to leave the audience wanting more. Jackson does that here, but it would have been great to have had a little more now. There are two other movies to come, and the more I wanted will have to wait until then.

Yet, I cannot say I hated “The Hobbit” or really disliked it, for there is much to be said for it.

It is telling a story that many churches need to hear and experience. The idea of having to choose between playing it safe or striking out on an adventure should be dealt with by many congregations.

Bilbo embodies the feelings of many: The world is changing, tradition isn’t embraced as before. But Bilbo needs to face up to the danger of going on the journey in order to become who he can be. The church faces that same kind of struggle.

Mike Parnell is pastor of Beth Car Baptist Church in Halifax, Va.

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence and frightening images.

Director: Peter Jackson

Writers: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro (based on the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien)

Cast: Martin Freeman: Bilbo Baggins; Ian McKellen: Gandalf; Richard Armitage: Thorin; Andy Serkis: Gollum.

The movie’s website is here.