The Hobbit: An Expected Journey hits theaters this weekend. The movie marks director Pete Jackson's return to Middle-earth after the critically acclaimed Lord of the Rings trilogy. Below are five non-spoilery things to know before getting spirited away into the movie's fantasy world.
Jackson once again tackles a J.R.R. Tolkien fantasy novel for his latest epic. This time it's Tolkien's 1937 novel, The Hobbit, or There and Back Again. The movie adaption remains true to the book, following the evolution of the main character, Bilbo Baggins. The novel explores greed and its consequences; and the movie forces audiences to question whether noble intent justifies the means for achieving an understandable, even ideal, outcome.
With the film's return to the fictional land of Middle-earth, redoubled by Jackson's direction, it's almost impossible not to consider Lord of the Rings and its place in this story. Hobbit takes place about 7,000 years ago and 60 years prior to the start of LOTR. Fans won't notice much of a difference in Hobbiton, though the setting seems a little livelier, and Bilbo's house has a few extra rooms. Returning actors Sir Ian McKellen as the wizard Gandalf, Cate Blanchett as Galadriel and Andy Serkis as Gollum won't seem to have un-aged much either.
To find another way this movie differs from LOTR, fans have to look no further than the protagonist, Bilbo Baggins. Whereas Frodo Baggins and his trusty sidekick Sam Gamgee were steadfast and good, even under pressure from the most evil powers in the land, Bilbo wavers. He is neither entirely good nor wholly bad. He remains focused on his goal, but is willing to deceive and steal in order to achieve it. Fans will cheer for him nonetheless; however his actions create an opportunity for introspection. He is also arguably the more engaging and relatable of the two protagonists.
There are 13 dwarves in the film: Balin, Bifur, Boful, Bombur, Dori, Dwalin, Fili, Gloin, Kili, Nori, Oin, Ori and Thorin. They all have distinguishing features, but don't feel bad if you can't pick a single one of them out of a crowd. However, it's important to know that their story line is the driving force behind the movie. The gang enlists Bilbo to help them reclaim their homeland after the film's antagonist Smaug, a dragon, steals it.
This fantasy film is the first to feature the new 48 frames per second format. It may seem like a small detail, but it's double the traditional frame rate for a film; and it will take some time for your eyes to adjust. The resulting higher definition will give fans an opportunity to see sharper images in greater detail. At first glance it can be off-putting—you may find yourself paying attention to how awkward everything looks as opposed to what is actually happening in the film. If you'd rather not chance it, movie theaters will give you an option. You can watch it in 3-D at 48 fps, 3-D at 24 fps or the regular 2-D at 24 fps.