BARRY NORMAN: FILM OF THE DAY The Hobbit: an Unexpected Journey★★★ 6.35-9.45pm ITV
Director Peter Jackson has stretched one novel into three films, which does seem a touch excessive. Tolkien wrote The Hobbit as a single adventure and it would have been more exciting if filmed as one. Still, there is much to commend in this first episode, as an older Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm) remembers how his younger self (Martin Freeman) helped a band of dwarves, led by Richard Armitage, to win back their kingdom, which had been snatched from them by the dragon Smaug. Jackson’s visual flair and use of computer magic, so well employed in his Lord of the Rings trilogy, are strongly in evidence. There is humour, too – for instance, Bilbo’s dislike of adventures because “they make you late for dinner” – along with comfortably familiar figures such as Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and Gollum (Andy Serkis). But what might have been a thrilling, light-hearted romp rather takes its time because, hey, there are two more films yet to come.