And does the new 48 frames per second presentation deliver the goods?
Frustratingly, the jury’s still out on both.
In making three movies, back stories have been enlarged and storylines re-appropriated as Bilbo (Freeman) journeys with Gandalf and a group of dwarves, encountering a certain item of jewellery and its protective owner Gollum (Serkis doing his ‘precious’ mo-capped performance).
But while the strong narrative’s loaded with magical moments, barbaric scenes and monstrous creations (orcs, goblins, trolls – tick!), its three-hour run-time will test even the patience of die-hards.
Derided as looking like telly by some, the revolutionary High Frame Rate (HFR) tech, presenting the film in twice as many frames as the norm, is a new look that takes adjustment: the frenetic action’s smoothness impresses but the detail afforded by the hyper-real visuals will turn off as many as it will enrapture.
Freeman is fantastic as Bilbo, playing him with charm and sincerity, and McKellen’s Gandalf is a wizened guide ready with wit and wisdom.
It’s undeniably Jackson’s film, though, and his ambition is there for all to see as he leads cinema into the next realm.
Despite veering dangerously close to indulgence on occasion, this is a stunning, breathtaking and mostly triumphant return to Middle Earth.
Good for: Seeing the (possible) future of cinema – it’s full of hairy footed little people, for now
Starring: Martin Freeman, Andy Serkis, Ian McKellen | 12A | 169mins