Believe it or not, Peter Jackson didn’t want to direct the new Hobbit movies, but he did want to put his “stamp” on them. This was primarily because producing the original Lord of the Rings trilogy took up so much of his time and resources, comprising a five-year period that he claims was “taken out of [his life] unexpectedly.”

I wanted to be involved as a producer and screenwriter at the very least, because I wanted to put my stamp on the movie. I felt a little protective of it. But I initially didn’t want to direct it because I felt like I would be competing with myself to some degree with the previous films…. We weren’t just copying The Lord of the Rings. It’s largely new characters with a different tone — even comedic at times — so I decided to grab it for myself.”

It’s a good thing Jacksonchanged his mind, because I couldn’t imagine anyone else behind the reins of Tolkien’s genius series.

The Hobbit takesus swiftly back to the world of Middle Earth, to an earlier time. The evil necromancer Sauron is but a whisper on the tongue, yet a monstrous dragon named Smaug reigns supreme. Rightly so, because who doesn’t love dragons in a fantasy tale?

Jackson originally intended to stick with two films, but has decided to stretch out the Hobbit so that it fits into a trilogy. As a fan of Tolkien’s novels, this excites me more than anything because it means Jackson has plenty of room to remain true to the source material. Of course, we all know that Jackson loves to add his own flair here and there.

Obviously, the films don’t follow the book to a tee but that’s fine because it keeps the material fresh, while still remaining true to Tolkien’s original world and lore. However, some fans do take issue with Jackson’s decisionto stretch the material thin and add characters like Legolas who wasn’t originally named in The Hobbit.

An Unexpected Journey follows Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf and a party of dwarves as they begin the first leg of their quest to reclaim the lost riches of the dwarven people. Once a proud race, the dwarves lost their home Sindarin Erebor, also known as the Lonely Mountain, to a greedy dragon named Smaug. The beastly dragon attacked their people, moved into their home and hoarded their riches. Bilbo and friends set out to reclaim the mountain, thus returning the dwarves to their long lost home deep in the mountain.

Along the way, Gandalf discovers a rumor that an evil necromancer is plotting a return –which we later find out to be Sauron- and sets off on his own to find the truth. The rest of the party treks across Middle Earth to the Lonely Mountain, on a journey that spans two films so far, soon to be three.

Whether you’re a fan of Tolkien’s novels or not, An Unexpected Journey and the recently released Desolation of Smaug, are fantastic blockbusters that will delight old and young alike. (Though the books were originally written for a younger reader, hence some of the corny lines and songs.) The first film is the better of the two, in my opinion, but the second does seem to have more action.

If you have yet to see either film in the series, then I would certainly recommend seeing it in IMAX 3D for the full experience. The Hobbit films offer a treasure trove of pure geekery, right down to the very moment Bilbo and the dwarves confront the dragon Smaug.

I’ve also seen the extended addition and special features for An Unexpected Journey, which was fascinating to learn how they created the movie scene by scene and was almost as hilarious as the movie itself. However, it was slightly disappointing that they didn’t have many extended scenes, unlike the Lord of the Ringstrilogy. But that was to be expected considering The Hobbit is one book made into three movies but Jackson crammed each Lord of the Rings books into one movie per book.

The final movie to the trilogy There and Back Again will be released in theatres on December 17, 2014.

BIO: James is a photographer and works for WarrenCat. Read more of his articles on his blog