It started promisingly enough, a mysterious being with fantastical ears greeted a band of sturdy dwarves.
It turned out it wasn’t the start of the long-awaited first instalment of the Hobbit, but Prince William greeting the cast, filmed live from London for somebody’s pleasure.
What really kicked off the premiere of Peter Jackson’s much discussed prequel to his epic Lord Of The Rings trilogy was a bit of a visceral spat between dwarves and orcs.
It immediately set the back-story for the first part of the Hobbit trilogy, and dumped us back slap bang into the middle of, um, Middle Earth, the land of swords, guts, stirring strings
and uncanny New Zealand-like geography.
That’s when the 3D kicked in, as an effigy of Pete Burns on an elk (yes, an elk) and his merry band of elves galloped too late to rescue.
It was as if the horns were in the auditorium with us.
And so began this relentlessly serious, elongated and curiously muted take on the classic kids’ tale of derring-do, dwarvish gold and hairy feet.
We didn’t have to wait long for the first glimpse of the Coleraine contingent of Thorin Oakenshield’s company of dwarves.
It seems James Nesbitt as Bofur was there for the light relief, and as such he topped the
lines-per-dwarf quotient since Freddie Mercury’s infamous 40th birthday party.
Looking like the lovechild of George Harrison and Genghis Khan, his cheerful regionally tinged quips included “Bless me, the legends are true — storm giants” and “Oh aye — he’ll take the flesh off your bones in the blink of an eye”.
Where ever there was danger, there was a chirpy bit of north Antrim banter from old Bofur.
In truth, the dwarves were a pleasing bunch of accomplices, and Martin Freeman as Bilbo served up an endearing slice of Hobbity fun.
But Mssrs McKellen and Blanchett seem to be busy trying to recapture something of the gravitas they brought to Lord Of The Rings, but without the aid of the ponderous, end-of-everything events in those films.
There are way too many “meaningful” scenes of people (by people I mean elves, wizards, dwarves, wargs, orcs, trolls) looking menacingly, fearfully, hopefully, sadly, waggling inscrutable eyebrows in time to the overblown score.
There are saving graces — namely the so-stupid-it’s-awesome rabbit-led sled of Radaghast the Brown, and the CGI eagles are a hoot.
The biggest cheer of the night came not for Nesbitt but for Gollum. He, of course, lost his Precious, setting us up for a showdown three films back but 20 years in the future— that’s the problem with follow up prequels... so confusing.
In short — excuse the dwarf pun — An Unexpected Journey is disappointingly slow, ponderous and often feels like reheated Rings. But there’ll be a part of Eredor that’s forever Coleraine...