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Early reviews are out for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first installment of Peter Jackson's troubled return to Middle Earth, and the critics are saying exactly what everyone expected: this children's book is being stretched thin. Because, let us not forget, Jackson made the decision to take Tolkien's relatively short book and beef it up with enough information from appendices to make it into three epic movies. So, while detail is certainly appreciated in a world as rich as Tolkien's — and while the handful of reactions to the first screenings are generally quite positive — there might be a little too much "epic" in there after all. Time's James Poniewozik put it this way: 

Todd McCarthy at the Hollywood Reporter also made a grammatical joke, but added that the diehards Tolkien fans, whose legions include Stephen Colbert, will love it. McCarthy wrote: "Spending nearly three hours of screen time to visually represent every comma, period and semicolon in the first six chapters of the perennially popular 19-chapter book, Jackson and his colleagues have created a purist's delight, something the millions of die-hard fans of his Lord of the Rings trilogy will gorge upon." Even the hobbits over at The New Zealand Herald said the movie started off a "bit slow and twee."

So there's an issue of length, which according to Rodrigo Perez at Indiewire doesn't much matter once it gets going, but then there's also the problem of Jackson's visual punctuation marks, the details accentuated by his use of 48-frames-per-second technology. Steve Pond at The Wrap resisted, but admits in an update that its growing on him. Peter Debruge at Variety calls it "disconcerting," but notes that it becomes less bothersome as The Hobbit continues.

It's not all bad news, of course. The film, sounds at times thrilling, and also funny. And at least it's not the Star Wars prequels. Perez says that the wizard Radagast the Brown, whose role is vastly expanded in the movie's version of the story, is no Jar Jar Binks, as had been feared. And that would have been really bad.

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