While the middle of Middle-earth prepares the red carpet for the world-wide premiere we get a preview of what it is possible to reveal without breaking the spell of a very special occasion.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

might be getting its world premiere in Wellington tonight but the movie has already been shown to local and international media so they can ask Sir Peter Jackson, his cast and crew their questions about the movie.

Studio Warner Bros made all media sign an embargo insisting no one runs reviews of the film - or tweets any thoughts - until next week when initial screenings are held in the US.

So while Herald Entertainment Editor Russell Baillie saw the movie last night, he's unable to give an opinion about it until the embargo expires.


Instead, he offers this tally of facts gleaned from last night's screening ... and yes the usual spoiler alert applies.

Approximate length of the film.
Counting nearly 10 minutes of end credits, about two and three quarter hours.

What's the opening scene.
A flash forward to a time before the start of The Lord of the Rings when Bilbo Baggins (as played by Ian Holm) is telling his nephew Frodo (Elijah Wood) about his past adventures.

How far into the book does it get?
To the end of chapter six, the one entitled Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire, more or less.

How many laugh-out-loud moments, judging by the reaction of the media audience?
At least 10.

How many times do the dwarfs burst into song?
The dwarfs twice. Neil Finn once at the end as those end credits roll.

How many big action scenes?
A dozen or so.

How many big action scenes involving monsters?
Not all of them. One involves a sleigh pulled by rabbits. Which are later chased by monsters.

How many times does Gollum say "preciousssss ..."
Approximately 12 or so which is down from 17 in The Return of the King (a fact gleaned from the Air New Zealand in-flight quiz on the flight to Wellington).

How many significant wideshots of New Zealand landscapes.
One at least every 10 minutes. Which is quite a lot.

Number of significant wideshots of NZ landscapes featuring a specially painted airliner.

How much younger do those Lord of the Rings characters look in this prequel.
A little, but given their characters' fantasy world lifespans it's hard to tell. Among those playing their younger selves are Sir Ian McKellen as Gandalf, Cate Blanchett as Galadriel, Hugo Weaving as Elrond, Christopher Lee as Saruman and the aforementioned brief return of a younger Frodo.

Any cameos or other significant walk-on parts?
Bret McKenzie of Flight of the Conchords gets a couple of lines as an elf having had little to say when he played another elf in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. If there was the traditional Peter Jackson cameo, it wasn't obvious.

Who was the biggest character?
Not counting the Stone Giants and the three trolls, it would have to be the Goblin King voiced by Barry Humphries. And you thought his Dame Edna was larger than life ...

* Visit nzherald.co.nz later today for full coverage of The Hobbit red carpet and premiere. Live updates will begin at 12pm and a live stream of all the action will start at 3:50pm.