The mountain road is treacherous. The cave dark and deep. Know not death and wield it unfeeling, for what is light in the shadow of a giant?

It is interesting to take a step back from The Hobbit and really put it in perspective. This is a film that not only: Had on the fly rewrites. Originally planned as two films, the writers found themselves reworking the scripts as they realised that a trilogy would be better. Changed director. Original director Guillermo Del Toro left after various delays. Threw out most of Del Toro’s original designs. Had the good fortune to find one it’s rights owners enveloped in the dark grasp of bankruptcy. But also tried to recapture the lightning in a bottle that was The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The Hobbit should not have worked. The Hobbit should not have been made. Peter Jackson definitely should not have returned to direct. It’s production is an unlikely story. Almost as unlikely as the story of a hobbit who lived in a hole, and never, ever went on adventures. But we all know what happened there.

The Hobbit is stunning! An amazing achievement.

Unbelievably it fits perfectly alongside the original trilogy. In design, tone, and pace The Hobbit is a worthy successor.

The acting is first rate. For those that doubted the casting of Martin Freeman rest assured your doubts were unwarranted.

Since the days of ‘The Office’ Freeman has shown himself capable of engendering something in audiences that all actors strive for empathy. Deep down, in it’s bones, The Office was a love story between Tim and Dawn. We rooted for Tim, because he was a good guy. In Sherlock John is the audience, he is human, he is fallible, he is emotional.

It is this everyman quality Freeman possesses that makes it all the more compelling when his characters stand up and do what is right, when they take a chance. In the case of Bilbo Baggins this is essential and rest assured this is Bilbo’s journey. It’s a role that takes tremendous humanity, and it’s a testament to Freeman’s performance that in a world populated with wizards, orcs, elves and dwarves. Whenever he is offscreen you miss him.

The rest of the cast are extremely well cast, the dwarves are a difficult proposition for the film, but here it is accomplished well. Familiarity with an idea, can often be a hindrance in film, and those who wish to pick flaws in The Hobbit will find it easiest here.

There are twelve dwarves that is a lot of characters in order to demonstrate each dwarves personality in a subtle manner it would probably take the running time of the entire film, which means like the seven dwarves before them, the dwarves of The Hobbit are sometimes one note characters. In the beginning of the films we are introduced to their characters in rapid succession: there is hungry dwarf, and grumpy dwarf, wise dwarf and… Well you get the idea. This would have been a problem, if Jackson had doubled down on the idea, instead he chooses to focus on four dwarves. The rest are relegated to functionary characters, serving to deliver lines that move the plot forward and expose exposition. British viewers will be happy to know that fan favourites: Richarad Armitage, Aidan Turner and James Nesbitt are among the four. Each is excellent in their respective roles. Turner recalls a darker, shorter version of Legolas. Nesbitt delivers humour and warmth, but Armitage is the stand out. Armitage best known for his lead role in Spooks is Thorin the leader of the group, alongside Freeman and Mckellan his role is the most demanding.

Mckellan is once again excellent, his inclusion in The Hobbit was inevitable as a main character from the original story and he delivers, it is as they say, good to have him back.

Mckellan is among several actors from the original trilogy which seek to validate The Hobbit as belonging to the same world. Often times in film this technique can seem: forced, obvious, manipulative; this is never the case with The Hobbit. Instead Jackson uses said characters to tie The Hobbit to the original trilogy in a way which seems natural if not inevitable. For those that have seen the original trilogy there is a lot to love here, for those that haven’t these are still fantastic scenes.

The action is also excellent. Although the physical fighting lacks the diversity of fighting styles of the original trilogy, the main fighters are all dwarves. Attempts are made to give them their own specialities. There is also something to be said for the switch to CGI for the depiction of goblins over the use of practical make up for Orcs in the original trilogy. The choice it would seem has been made in order to grant goblins body shapes that are not possible, it would however have been nice to see more diversity of costume in the large scale action scenes this is somewhat noticeable. Though it must be said that the effects are gorgeous, I am a purist and will always prefer practical effects over CGI where possible. The set pieces superb, we are treated to several, epic scale pieces, the likes of which we have not seen since The Return of the King.

When the choice is made to split a rather slim book from two films into three it is natural to worry that the extra running time would lead to unwanted padding. Rest assured that the first film at least avoids this trend. I am also happy to say that this film manages something rather special, as I have said it is part one of three. Being the first of a trilogy, especially of a series that is not itself a trilogy can cause problems regarding the sense of an ending, a sense of catharsis and emotional release.

A traditional story requires three acts: equilibrium, dis-equiibrium, resolution. When the original resolution is two films away this can be tricky.

Jackson solves this problem in two ways, by choosing to bet on the character’s personal journeys he is able to give us a sense of internal as well as external progression that leads to a satisfying ending.

And thus onto the technology.

Much has been made of the choice to film The Hobbit at 48 frames per second. There were cries that it looks too real, too weird, that it makes the sets and costumes look fake. I’m quite happy to say that this is utterly untrue in my experience. I will admit that for the first couple of minutes it did seem that the actors movements were too fast and unnatural and then I realised that the phenomenon, no the miracle, I was observing was the absence of motion blur.

Motion blur has been personal source of hatred for years and one that seems to be exacerbated by the use of 3D. If you watch any action film of the past… forever! You will notice the little trail of movement artefacts that are captured when there are not enough pictures being taken at speed and later projected onto the cinema screen and viewed by the human eye.

Motion blur reminds me that it’s a film I am viewing. I for one am happy to see the death of it. Hell I’m looking forward to 60 frames per second. The Hobbit was also filmed in 3D with the new R.E.D. cameras, it is quite simply a beautiful use of 3D. The combination of; 48 frames alongside 3D and the stunning practical and visual effects work of WETA make Th Hobbit among if not the best looking film of the year.

Overall I would call this a five star film. A ten out of ten blockbuster that should rightly have people queueing around the block. But both seem disingenuous. Instead I will call it what it is. An unexpected triumph.