Despite its title, there's not too much that's unexpected in "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey."

There are goblins, wizards, trolls, rock monsters and, of course, dwarfs.

This should please fans of the J.R.R. Tolkien (1892 - 1973) novels, on which "The Hobbit" is based, as it did my son, Elias, who accompanied me to a 3D screening of "Unexpected Journey."

It was the second time Elias saw "The Hobbit" movie. The first time he saw it was in the regular format. Elias said the 3D version enhanced some scenes, but it's not necessary to see "The Hobbit" in 3D.

My son, Elias, has read the Tolkien books and he and his friends, fellow students at Moravian College, are big fans of "The Hobbit." Elias plans to see the film again and looks forward to part two, set for release one year from now, and part three, set for release in summer 2013.

It's been awhile since I've read "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings." My son, Elias, assures me that "Unexpected Journey" director Peter Jackson has not strayed far from the primary source material, but has added elements from "The Silmarillion," a series of works based on Tolkien's notes and manuscripts published after his death by his son, Christopher.

Peter Jackson directs from a screenplay he wrote with Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Guiillermo del Toro, based on Tolkien's works.

For those not familiar with "The Hobbit," Bilbo Baggins, the Hobbit, goes on a journey with Gandalf, a wizard, and Thorin Oakenshield, the heir-apparent to the Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor, with a goal to reclaim it from the dragon Smaug.

As with many fairy tales, fables and fantasy novels, as well as graphic novels, brought to the big screen, special effects dominate "The Hobbit." There are also numerous battle scenes.

The scenes in "The Hobbit" that I most enjoyed involved the interactions of the main characters, and the lovely landscape (filmed in New Zealand) and not the big battle scenes between the dwarfs and the creatures called the Orcs, the huge dragon Smaug and trolls and goblins.

Martin Freeman is charming as Bilbo Baggins, the Hobbit. He is our "everyman" window into the world of Middle-earth.

Ian McKellen is friendly and solid as Gandalf

Richard Armitage is rakish as Thorin Oakenshield.

Hugo Weaving is a convincing. Elrond. Christopher Lee is Saruman. Cate Blanchett is Galadriel. Sylvester McCoy is Radagast.

Gollum, portrayed by Andy Serkis, is still one of the most fascinating combinations of motion-capture and computer-generated imagery ever in cinema (and was obviously the inspiration for Dobby the House Elf in the "Harry Potter" movies).

"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" should please fans of the J.R.R. Tolkien novels. Those who aren't fans should enjoy the journey, albeit a long one, at nearly three-hours viewing time.

"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," MPAA Rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13) for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images; Genre; Fantasy, Adventure; Run time: 2 hrs., 49 mins.; Distributed by New Line Cinema.

Credit Readers Anonymous: "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" was filmed in New Zealand, including Stone Street Studios, and at Pinewood Studios, England.

Box Office, Dec. 21: "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," No. 1 two weeks in a row, $36.9 million, $150 million, keeping "Jack Reacher" opening at No. 2, $15.6 million; and "This is 40" opening at No. 3, $12 million;

4. "Rise of the Guardians," $5.9 million, $79.6 million, five weeks; 5. "Lincoln," $5.5 million, $116.6 million, seven weeks; 6. "The Guilt Trip," $5.3 million, $7.4 million, opening; 7. "Monsters, Inc. 3D," $4.7 million, $6.2 million, re-release; 8. "Skyfall," $4.7 million, $279.9 million, seven weeks; 9. "Life of Pi," $4 million, $76.3 million, five weeks; 10. "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2," $2.6 million, $281.6 million, six weeks

Unreel, Dec. 25, 28:

"Les Miserables," PG-13: (Dec. 25) There's Oscar buzz for Allentown's Amanda Seyfried as Cosette, as well as for Anne Hathaway in the Golden Globe-nominated film version of the Broadway musical that also stars Hugh Jackman.

"Django Unchained," R: Director Quentin Tarantino directs the western about a bounty hunter in the slave-era United States south starring Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio and Kerry Washington.

"Parental Guidance," PG: Billy Crystal, Better Midler, Marisa Tomei and Tom Everett Scott star in a comedy about parenting and grandchildren.

"Promised Land," R: Gus Van Sant directs Matt Damon as a natural gas company salesman who has second thoughts about fracking. Frances McDormand, John Krasinski and Hal Holbrook co-star in the drama.

Read previous movie reviews by Paul Willistein at the Times-News web site, tnonline.com. Email Paul Willistein pwillistein@tnonline.com and on Facebook.

Three Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes