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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Let's kick off with the score I've given it. 5/10. That's for the
reasonable job with the comedy, design, and things not related to story
and pacing (with the exception of Gollum and the cave scene). I am
tired of saying "The graphics are great, but..." I have rated it 1 here
to reduce the average in order to reflect reality and not the fanboy
I am not going to sugar-coat this film or give it a good review just because people tell me I should. I am sick to death of sheep. I don't care if this is Tolkien or Jackson or how much money it took to make the film. If it's bad, it's bad.
Graphics count for nothing. The reason I watch a film is primarily for a great story and well written characters (I have to CARE about what is going on). I don't get dazzled by graphics anymore (if I ever did at all), and 3D action films do not make a film good. So right there is the problem with The Hobbit. The story is shallow and pretentious and cardboard. Let's run through why the film had me rolling my eyes throughout:
- The introduction is way too long.
-The pacing is dire (and scenes that weren't in the book have been added).
-One brainless action scene after another for no other reason than to eat screen time (because the book is 300 pages and they are trying to maximise profits by having 3 films at 3 hours each). Watching 2 rock monsters fight for minutes is not captivating or cool, it's boring.
-Implausibility factor 10. I understand this is a fantasy. I understand that if everything was ultra realistic it would end up boring, but for heaven sake, that does not mean you can get away with what happens in this film. EVERY single scene shows something that would ordinarily kill someone. Fall down multiple ravines, battle 100's goblins with just a few men, rocks the size of cars flying at you... and no scratches, no deaths. It just doesn't work.
-Lazy writing. You know you are witnessing a lazy-ass story when your heroes are saved at the last minute EVERY time in multiple scenes. Where does that leave us? It leaves us with all main characters intact and no dramatic tension. Every scene you see a massive rock crush a character you know they aren't dead. Every time you see them perilously close to the edge of a cliff, you know that even if they fall, they will be saved and/or survive. Further to this point, smaller problems exist such as Bilbo never handling a sword to suddenly taking on killer beasts like he has been to He-Man training school.
-Cliché crap. The way Bilbo goes from being an outcast to being accepted is contrived and rushed and totally obvious. It just smacks of lazy cliché writing. The acting that goes with it is not good either. Kind of like "I once said... you weren't one of us... OH how wrong I was!" *Roll eyes time*. Then you have the White Orc that Thorin said he had slain, and you just KNEW it was coming back at the end for some sort of showdown, didn't you? Talk about obvious. I blame the film for this because the scenes involved in the exposition were way too see-through... might as well have had Thorin wink at the camera! That brings me onto the whole "Thorin dislikes Elves" angle, where you know the Elves are suddenly going to become important allies just so we can have a totally obvious and expected reversal. Wow, Thorin, you got Bilbo wrong and you got the Elves wrong too! DRAMA.
-Lack of character development (Think Final Fantasy XII if you are a gamer). This was the stake through the heart of this film... Most of the dwarfs are completely redundant and I could not identify or even accept Bilbo. This was due partly to the lack of character development, partly to the script and partly to the actor. Same goes for Thorin except the scenes he is in feel more like a bad soap opera than they do a "blockbuster" film.
It is just dull and lifeless and stupid. You shouldn't do things just because you can. The LOTR trilogy for the most part had decent pacing, and it didn't do things too fast, too soon, or for the sake of it. The original trilogy suffers from some the complaints above AT TIMES, but nothing like The Hobbit does... The Hobbit is in a league of its own. I went to watch an engaging movie and I got a cartoon.
The use of CGI is also glaringly obvious and fake; like with the prequels of Star Wars, when the movie cuts between humans and CGI blobs, your brain is onto it. Stop relying on CGI for everything. It's getting annoying, not to mention OLD. At least Jackson makes real sets so it isn't a total wash out.
There is some real potential in this film and it is squandered; whether that's because Tolkien wrote a flawed book, whether it is because he wrote a book that doesn't take well to a feature length movie or whether it is because Jackson messed it up, that's what we ended up with.
The Hobbit should have been 2 films, and making it 3 has been the final nail in the coffin.
So, I am sat here mightily annoyed that once again graphics and self indulgent, completely pointless action scenes have trumped good storytelling and pacing.
Of course, the film is still entertaining at times and the 3D visuals are fun, but for me it is a massive disappointment.
Visuals can not MAKE a film, but when used like in The Hobbit, they sure as hell can break it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I was convinced the (many) criticisms I read beforehand were
exaggerated and wouldn't bother me. To my surprise, quite some
criticisms seemed justified in the end ...
ADDITIONS: On paper, the additions looked like a great way to create added value. However, while I understand why they included them, they all feel out of place.
- Opening scene: Ian Holm just looks too dissimilar from his appearance in FOTR (especially his haircut), which is really distracting. The frame story doesn't blend in naturally and the history of Erebor has too much to show in too little time.
- Radagast: He appears as suddenly as he disappears. His scene in Dol Guldur really threw me out of the movie.
- The White Council: I know the screenwriters want to underline the growing dark powers (hence the - preposterous - finding of the Morgul blade), but the empty talk about things of which we all know how they've played out in the LOTR films isn't convincing at all.
- Azog: An appallingly one-dimensional character, who feels most out of place (the fact that he looks like a creature from a cheap horror movie also doesn't help ...). His scenes have a strange "un-Tolkien" vibe, particularly the battle of Azanulbizar (the worst scene of the movie), which doesn't feel like a fierce and thrilling battle at all.
FROM THE BOOK: The episodic structure prevents the film from having a fluid narrative and squeezes the tension out of every new dangerous situation: the events just leave you cold.
In the book, we experience everything through Bilbo's eyes, which creates a strong connection between the reader and the main part. This is missing from the movie: Bilbo even seemed to have more or less disappeared between the troll encounter and the stone giants' battle. His homesickness, his doubts, all of this isn't really developed in the script.
The emphasis on Thorin is a good thing, but also not perfect: during the enclosure by the Wargs, I didn't buy Thorin's charge towards Azog and especially Bilbo's sudden "action hero saves the day in the nick of time" intervention. The latter seemed like a very inappropriate way to illustrate Bilbo's courage.
There were actually only two great scenes: Riddles in the Dark is amazing, but ironically, it also painfully shows how mediocre the rest of the movie actually is, because this is the only moment that comes close to the level of LOTR. Also, Bilbo's speech after they've escaped Goblin Town is a very welcome, for rare touching moment.
It's quite astonishing some people complain about the pacing, because the film was over before I knew it. In fact, I think the pacing is about just right and proved it would have been really difficult to adapt the book in just one fully-fledged movie. But since I didn't like the additions, I'm doubting whether a third film is necessary after all (but I suspend my judgment until 2014).
One of the biggest (unpleasant) surprises is the cinematographic style. I'm not talking about the bright colors or the digital images, but the (lack of physical) camera use. Whereas LOTR has stunning "real" camera movements and an extremely accomplished "handicraft" feel, AUJ often feels like a video game. The camera is flying and whirling so limitlessly that it just doesn't feel like an authentic movie anymore. This is particularly apparent during the Orc chase and above all the absurd Goblin Town escape. The CGI is perfect, but too much is just too much.
After my long list of complaints, I'm truly relieved to say there is at least one thing that unconditionally gets my support, which is the score. The people who unfairly label Howard Shore's work as a "re-hash of LOTR" obviously didn't pay full attention, because when you listen to the score multiple times (and I admit it also took me several spins to really appreciate it), you discover a new rich and diverse musical tapestry once again masterfully woven by Shore. OF COURSE you hear the same themes when EXACTLY THE SAME places are visited as in "The Fellowship of the Ring" ... If someone deserves credit for "The Hobbit", it's Shore: his music is in my view the only aspect of the movie on par with the level of LOTR.
***3D & 48 FPS***
- The 3D was good, no complaints about that. However, although I have no problems with watching movies in 3D, I start questioning its necessity.
- I am bewildered many people claim that 48 fps creates a "TV-look" with "actors with clear make-up on a fake set". I didn't have that feeling at all, but on the other hand - and this was the most surprising - the difference with 24 fps isn't THAT spectacular. After 30 minutes, I even had to remind myself: "Oh, I'm watching 48 fps, right?". Yes, the images look very clear and it does smooth fast movements, but the latter (which is positive) only sticks out a couple of times (and no, the motion never comes across as "sped up", so I was never distracted by the higher frame rate). All in all, I consider 48 fps to be an improvement over 24 fps (without diminishing the "cinematic" look of a film), but I didn't have the feeling I had witnessed a "revolutionary new cinema experience".
***** CONCLUSION *****
I didn't expect (or want) a replica of LOTR, but while "The Hobbit" isn't a bad movie, it isn't good either. I'm still perplexed I don't feel any urge to go see it again, unlike the LOTR films. We can only hope that Jackson recovers in time to save the next two films from unnecessary additions, lack of focus on Bilbo and a video game feeling. Well, at least we have new brilliant music to listen to!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Peter Jackson's return to the world of Tolkien is rather weak. At first
I was against the idea of such a small book being made into a trilogy.
I still am. Many say not to compare this film to the far superior "Lord
of the Rings" trilogy. Well, it's hard not to considering Jackson has
tried so hard to recreate the style of the original films because
that's what the audience wants. But he fails big time.
The bizarre, unfunny, slapstick humor is painful. This involves snot jokes, burping, poop hair, and lame one-liners. Don't give me the "it's based on a children's book" crap. Sure, the source material was written for children but I'm talking about the movie. Adding all this stupid humor really messes with the tone; it doesn't feel like it belongs in the LOTR universe which "The Hobbit" is trying so hard replicate. The film will go from trying to be epic to pathetic gags. It doesn't work. I don't mind a little humor occasionally but this is just overdone and it makes the film feel very unbalanced.
Now to the pacing. Many say the beginning is slow but they're wrong. The entire film is slow! Radagast's involvement is pointless and his bunny sled is ridiculous. We also get to see Saruman and Galadriel in a boring scene that has absolutely no relevance to the main narrative. Wait, what exactly is "The Hobbit" about again? Apparently Jackson is trying to make connections with LOTR, but "Fellowship of the Ring" already explains past events pretty well. Seriously, all the LOTR fanboy pleasing scenes could have been left out (including Frodo). But no, we need them in order to have enough material for the trilogy. Not good.
And I understand that Jackson is taking material from the appendices of LOTR. I wouldn't have a problem with this if all these extra scenes actually advanced the plot. But the White Council just talks and they never decide to act on anything. Also, that scene has NOTHING to do with the dwarfs reclaiming their homeland. At least in "Fellowship" the plot makes major advancements but in "The Hobbit" the story hardly goes anywhere.
Let's discuss the action. It's like watching a video game. The main orc villain, Azog, looks fake. Everything is CGI overload; there's no tension. Characters survive unbelievable situations. Compare the ending orc scene in this film to the one in "Fellowship." Huge difference. Unfortunately everything in "The Hobbit" is cartoonish. Not to mention most of the action has no impact on the story whatsoever.
Now to the characters. Gandalf is great but that is to be expected. Martin Freeman does fine as Bilbo but his transition from weakling to hero happens a little too quickly and feels unrealistic. Thorin is your typical warrior like character; I didn't care for him too much. Bifur is probably my favorite of all the dwarfs (hold on, I just searched his name and realized I got the wrong one, his name is BOFUR, my bad). All the other dwarfs are just there and if you were to ask me to name them and describe something about their character, I couldn't do it. And I'm sure you couldn't either.
But the film does have some good. We get to see Bilbo and Gollum interact in an iconic scene. The finding of the Ring is also significant and is really the only scene that should have any connection with LOTR unlike Galadriel, Frodo, etc. And that's about it. Honestly, nothing really happens. While watching "The Hobbit" you kind of forget about the main adventure because of all the padding. Then at the end you're like, "Oh yeah, there's a dragon." Maybe the second film will improve.
It's such a shame that "The Hobbit" ended up being a drawn-out, bloated, boring mess that lacks compelling characters and an engaging story. I really wanted to love it but it's hard not to ignore the many problems. I couldn't wait to return to Middle-earth but now I'm not sure if I want to go back to this new cartoon version. Hopefully improvements will be made in the sequels but after witnessing this my hopes aren't too high. All these years of anticipation and this is what we get...
*IMDb auto corrects the plural word for "dwarf" when it really should be dwar(ves)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"All great stories deserve a little embellishment." So says Gandalf the
Grey (Ian McKellen) in the most telling line in The Hobbit: An
Unexpected Journey, Peter Jackson's return to the world of JRR Tolkien.
It's a line that clearly outlines Jackson and his co-writers'
intentions, yet it comes off as a veiled apology, as if the film-making
team knew that what they have created is going to be problematic for
die-hard Middle Earth fans. Sadly, Jackson's new film doesn't come
close to silencing the skeptics like his Lord of the Rings films did,
and is actually more ill-conceived than expected.
Things that do work well for the most part in The Hobbit are sequences that come directly from the source novel. Iconic scenes, such as the arrival of the dwarfs at Bag End or the encounter with the trolls are handled pretty well, despite being padded out to unnecessary lengths with lame gags and pointless alteration of the original events in the book. Juggling such a massive primary cast is obviously a challenge, and as such the film's best moments involve only one or two characters, with Bilbo's (Martin Freeman) meeting of Gollum (Andy Serkis) and the finding of the ring being a particular stand-out sequence, the only one that seemed like it could have used more time.
However, all of the good work that Jackson & Co do with the direct source material is swamped by the content they felt they had to develop themselves. The great achievement of the LOTR films is how they managed to distill the huge source novels to their most important story beats, only hinting at most of the wider story in a way that brought incredible richness to the world in which they take place. With The Hobbit though, Jackson only has a 300 page novel to start with, and the decision to make three lengthy films, I assume to parallel the first trilogy, is precisely why this first film doesn't work.
The Hobbit should be allowed to stand alone as its own film, but it is structured in such a way, almost identically to the first LOTR entry The Fellowship of the Ring, that it's all but impossible not to compare them. As a side-effect, the much lighter tone will be jarring for a lot of established franchise fans, the very people the film seems to be primarily aimed at. The chase sequence in the goblin tunnels for example is little more than an updated version of the Moria scenes from LOTR. It's exciting enough, but much of the action feels in service of the film- making technology on display rather than the story, and as such none of the stakes of the earlier films are built here.
Where the LOTR films had to keep moving at such a pace to fit everything in, The Hobbit dwells on unnecessary moments which had only the briefest of mentions in the novel to reach its 2 hour 49 minute runtime. Most damaging are the call backs linking the previous trilogy, setting up what is likely to be an almost completely new story bridge between the two trilogies in the third film due in 2014. There is absolutely no reason for Frodo (Elijah Wood), Saruman (Christopher Lee), and Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) to appear in this story, yet here they are, taking us away from a perfectly good narrative about a quest to fight a dragon. It reeks of cynical franchise care, and arguably disrespectful to the carefully crafted world that Tolkien created.
There's a good movie somewhere in The Hobbit, and had Jackson shown more restraint we might have seen it. The film could easily lose at least 45 minutes, but it feels as if director feels so beholden to his previous work that he needs to deliver an epic on the scale of LOTR. But that's not what this book is, and we're left with an uneasy balance - the lighter tone to distinguish this as a separate story but a strict adherence to the LOTR structure - but ultimately doesn't fulfill either side.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
First came the original trilogy, a popular success and critically
acclaimed. Then, some years later, a second trilogy began, a prequel to
the original, and the first installment of this second trilogy turned
out to be awful. We saw this pattern play out once, with "Star Wars,"
and now, alas, it begins again, with "The Hobbit," a movie that is
exactly one Jar Jar Binks away from being as bad as "The Phantom
Menace." The problem may be built into the design. The previous "Lord
of the Rings" films were each based on a single book. "The Hobbit" -
more like a children's novel than the other three, a kind of "Tom
Sawyer" to their "Huckleberry Finn" - is just one book, smaller than
any of the other J.R.R. Tolkien books, and yet it is being blown out
into three enormous films. This first installment runs 169 minutes.
This puts a lot of pressure on a simple story, especially when you consider that director Peter Jackson and his screenwriters really can't take liberties with the tale, not without incurring the wrath of millions. They must work with what they have, and what they have is quite enough for one pleasing and inventive two-hour movie - or a nine-hour disaster stretched over three years.
This pressure, this obligation to stretch everything to the limits of endurance and beyond, is felt from the film's early minutes. Howard Shore's beautiful theme music, from the previous trilogy, filters in. We see the idyllic Middle-earth countryside and are introduced to Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins - Freeman was born to be a hobbit; he is ideal casting - and we settle in for a magical experience. And then, slowly, a fatal distance opens up between what we're hoping and what we're actually seeing.
Bilbo is a happy hobbit, a homebody who enjoys his creature comforts and doesn't have a violent impulse about him. Yet he is recruited by Gandalf the Grey Wizard (Ian McKellen) to join an expedition by dwarfs to retake their homeland from a dragon. See how quickly it takes to say that? Bilbo is recruited. Period. Yet the movie takes this tiny bit of crucial plot movement and dilutes its effectiveness: The dwarfs show up for an impromptu party at Bilbo's house. Bilbo frets about what the dwarfs will do to his house. Then the dwarfs clean up. Then Bilbo says he won't join their fight. But then he does. The film milks every detail of the text, every hint of vacillation in the main character, to turn water flowing downstream into molasses walking uphill.
It must be said that if you plan to enjoy "The Hobbit," it really helps to love dwarfs. Others may prefer hobbits - they're adorably idiosyncratic, small, chubby, eat all day, have big ears, and they're incredibly sincere. Still others may prefer the Olympian elves - beautiful, pristine, sure and eternal. But there is only one hobbit in the entire movie, and only one brief sequence involving elves. Otherwise you're stuck with the dwarfs, who are like Vikings - boorish, slovenly, hearty and heavy-drinking - and not exactly lovable.
The three "Lord of the Rings" were heavy on battle scenes, but "The Hobbit" is almost nothing but battles. Without a stopwatch, it would be hard to know for sure, but probably 50 percent of screen time is taken up with fighting - perhaps up to 80 percent if you count planning for and recovering from battles. Some of these battles have pockets of interest: A conflict with goblins plays out like a trapeze act, in three dimensions, with the combatants falling through space, landing and regrouping. But most of "The Hobbit" is like looking over Peter Jackson's shoulder to watch a computer screen.
Occasionally, when the smoke clears, we get a glimpse of what "The Hobbit" might have been, had Freeman's quirkiness and humanity been given a chance to set the tone. The movie really springs to life only when Freeman dominates, as when Bilbo falls into a cave and discovers Gollum, looking like James Carville but acting like Peter Lorre. It's an encounter worthy of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy - so is the all-too-brief scene between Gandalf and Galadriel (Cate Blanchett).
If you loved the earlier films, these are moments you will hold on to, but they're very few, and they're not enough.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I was about 8 years old when I was first introduced to the Hobbit from
the animated 1 hour movie. The movie was a yearly event. As a child, it
freaked me out. But, my Dad loved Glenn Yarbrough and the music, so, I
was made to sit through it.
Since that time, I eventually appreciated the storyline of that silly cartoon and the characters from it. And, when I grew up, I read the book, and then the LOTR series and fell in love with them.
I think that you have to look at this movie from 2 points of view. From 1. Viewers like myself who fell in love with the books and original characters and are looking for some semblance of that universe in a movie. 2. Viewers, like my kids, who have never read the books and are fascinated by animated computer novels, games, and the unrealistic expectations of immortality in virtual super humans.
If you are type 1. You will hate this movie. It fell short of all of my expectations. The Hobbit is not an epic story. In other words, this story was short, a 300 page book. It was, however, an epic adventure seen through the eyes of a single character, a character who had a realistic perspective of his small contribution to the world around him. His character never wavered from that perspective as he watched events unfold and did what little he could to contribute and help. He never became the grandiose, cocky, tempered tough guy that this movie seems to try to portray him as.
"The Hobbit" was a story that sets up the universe that these characters lived in. Elves, Goblins, Orcs, Hobbits and Humans and other creatures defined their roles in this world and their conflicts. Then, the story moves on to show how a band of characters, plus the Hobbit, interacts in this world and the story unfolds giving a lesson and a way to perceive our own world and how we, as individuals, interact with it. It's a simple message, yet, the book finds a way to make this message profound giving the characters depth and meaning and focusing on the hobbit as one individual, insignificant in his eyes, in an amazing world. This most basic message which encompasses the entirety of the book is completely, 100% lost in the movie. The one line in the movie, by Gandalf, which was never spoken in the book, but, was the most significant and meaningful in this movie was, "All good stories need to be embellished a little..." That was an understatement.
If you are type 2, you might enjoy this movie. Tons of action, crazy cgi, most of the film is animated, and it attempts to tie into and be a prequel for the LOTR trilogy. Lot's of battles and fighting, immortal death defying falls (just like any computer game) that serves no purpose to define our mortality (since no one dies or even gets injured), last second cliff hanger rescues, gross ugly characters that sound goofy and look like Jar Jar Binks on steroids, pretty scenery, loud noises, explosions, more bad guys killed per second that you can shake a stick at and pretty much any other Hollywood formula that draws in money. And, that was just one movie in a trilogy that has no purpose other than to make lots and lots of money.
I took the Kids to watch this and spared no expense. IMax screen, popcorn, Icees, candy and some snacks. $100 down the toilet. The kids fell asleep during the first hour and I wanted to leave after the 2nd.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
THE QUALITY OF THE FILM Imagine "Spy Kids" with elements of Tolkien's
writing. Technological demonstration, a large budget at the hands of a
tasteless creative group. The CG animation of trolls was almost as ugly
as in the Lord of the Rings. The only reason of making it 3D was making
me cope with the uncomfortably of 3D. The dwarf parcour and scenes
copied from the Lord of the Rings (compare the fight of Thorin and Azog
with that of Isildur and Sauron), artificially added action-scenes and
castrated non-action scenes spoke of lazy, commercial, mainstream work.
Radagast's animal companions were Walt Disney's "Snow-white" bad.
THE PLOT The poor novella (yep, Lord of the Rings is a novel trilogy, The Hobbit - only a small novella, yet both amount a trilogy of films) was so stretched out that the original and added material could be equal to each other. And whatever was taken from the book, was mutilated for reasons unknown: in the book, Azog is a goblin, not an orc, and is killed by Dain, not Thorin, and his son Bolg replaced him in Moria. The "stone giants" are only a dwarf legend about thunder. Radagast isn't a main character in any Tolkien work I know, because he doesn't give a damn about the wars of humans, elves and the rest. The Dol Guldur conflict and the ousting of the Necromancer actually has nothing to do with "The Hobbit". There is no toilet humor in the scene with trolls - in the book, Gandalf gives the trolls advice in troll voice, makes them change their mind so many times that dawn comes. In the movie - a troll blows his nose on Bilbo, then Bilbo starts a lecture on tapeworms. An awful lot of cliché ("NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!", "I'm sure we're through the worst" *Dumb Dumb Dumb* DRAGON'S WOKEN UP!!!). It was made so it would please a diaper-wearing kid, but don't make them sad. I hate the tragic scene->happy end formula, which was abused, raped, killed, buried, taken out of the grave, raped again in this film.
THE HEROES The heroes were lacking any defining traits so intense in the book. Only a Hollywood template - smart-mouthed guys with tactless jokes. They were given one-liners/catchphrases to define them instead. It wasn't always easy to see the difference between certain dwarfs and the Great Goblin. In the book dwarfs are polite, but dry and greedy. In the book - kind-hearted heroic men, a bit stubborn, and loving to troll people now and then. Bilbo's not a conservative gentleman hobbit, who gets carried away by his curiosity for adventure, but a timid teenager. Gandalf isn't a powerful mage, but a well-informed homeless guy, Radagast is another one, and a schizophrenic in addition. Might as well fit in in Terry Gilliam's "The Fisher King" (awesome movie btw). Actually, there was no Bilbo character at all: there was a combined character of Frodo, Sam, Mery, Pin from LOTR.
Verdict - if you want Tolkien, read the book. The movie isn't worth watching even once.
When I heard that there was to be a film version of The Hobbit, I was
quite looking forward to it as the big finish of Lord of the Rings was
still in my mind and, unlike LotR, I had actually read The Hobbit
several times many years ago. When I heard that it might be two films I
wasn't surprised but the news that it was to be three did rather dampen
my spirits as I don't know if I had the interest for this story to be
concluded as 2016 rolls into town. Regardless I did of course watch the
film because it is still a large blockbuster and, at a time of the year
normally filled with overly earnest Oscar contenders, I did quite like
the idea of returning to this world again.
With this in mind I did wonder why I watched it with a surprisingly detached air and why I wasn't able to get into it like I should have done. I had some reservations with the first film in the LotR trilogy but this seemed different because it certainly wasn't a lack of action and forward motion that gave me a problem here. Quite the opposite actually because, once the first 45 minutes or so are out of the way then the action set-pieces come thick and fast and noisy. The opening hints at the power of the dragon to come before settling down for a gentle reintroduction to the Shire and then the characters we will follow; this section I found a little longer than it should have been and I could have done with a bit less noisy banter from the Dwarfs, since the film would provide much more from them. The majority of the film is the journey (or at least that bit of it that this film covers) and it produces plenty of action with great special effects really well integrated into the live action. So visually and technically there is plenty here. Problem is that little of it felt urgent or tense and actually the delivery of the constant action does rather detract from it.
With Fellowship of the Ring, the group was smaller and the development of the plot better; additionally the action was more scaled down and comparatively simple. Here we have set-pieces where it feels like everything has been thrown at the screen and every inch of every frame has been filled with movement wherever possible. This tended to overwhelm me rather than draw me in though and in effect the noise prevented me really getting into it. Likewise by the time I had seen the characters survive impossible situations and defy gravity for the third or fourth time, the film sort of lost the ability to make me believe there was danger involved which is a problem given I was already being pushed away by how busy and noisy it all was. Tellingly the scene that worked the best for me was with Gollum; this scene had tension, had uncertainity, had threat and did it all with small movements and dialogue; also worth noting that while Gollum is of course another special effect, you don't notice it in that scene because you are focused on the content instead of the visual.
The cast sort of fit into this approach as well. While everyone is fine and does as required, at times they do tend to become part of the noise and effects rather than being characters. Freeman is a good Bilbo and his mannerisms work well (which helps negate his limited range) while of course McKellen is always welcome. The dwarfs didn't make much of an impression on me though, even if they all looked the part and delivered a few laughs. The rest of the cast are all fine but to be honest the effects are the main stars here and technically it is very impressive even if it is a bit overdone at times.
I didn't dislike The Hobbit but at the same time I was disappointed in it. The action is noisy and busy but there isn't enough to draw me into the story or to make the action thrill me so much as it did overwhelm me. Hopefully the second film will see the characters and plots grow me on so that I am more emotionally bought into the films, but for this first one I must confess to being surprised by how much the film seemed content to have me watch from a distance rather than draw me in and engage me.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
First of all, let me first say that while I enjoyed the LOTR trilogy,
and admired the directorial and technical greatness of it, I'm no LOTR
fanboy, and I also recognize its flaws. I'm saying this so that one
understands that I'm not the type of person who will blindly speak
greatly of any film of the Tolkien/Jackson series if I don't feel it
This being said, I have difficulties understanding some of the negative professional reviews which said The Hobbit is a failed attempt, and not as good as LOTR. The artistic and directing style are exactly the same (so I won't comment on this more). I also wasn't expecting to like the 48 fps since I'm the kind of guy who squints even at high definition TVs, but surprisingly, I thought it looked great in The Hobbit, and I think 48 fps is the future. There are slow moments in The Hobbit, broken regularly by excitingly over the top action scenes. Again, just like LOTR - so I don't see why one would like the original trilogy and not The Hobbit.
The Hobbit is perhaps a little less dark in tone than LOTR, considering the source material which is more of a children's book, but it's clearly not a children's movie anyway, and displays many exciting and stressful moments. It also offers something more than the LOTR, that is five genuinely important villains right then and there. The dragon Smaug, in this first film, is like Sauron in the LOTR. A distant, mysterious figure who is the ultimate goal of the quest, whom we don't see much of yet, but we know it's going to be brutal. The "necromancer" is mostly alluded. Those who know the book will know who that is, and he'll surely be important in the sequels. Azog, the giant orc, is a main villain and is much more appealing than the Uruk-hai chief in Fellowship of the Ring, or any other orc villain in the LOTR series. The Goblin King also has a strong key role in the movie. And of course, Gollum, who's riddle scene with Bilbo is fantastic.
Martin Freeman as Bilbo is superb and there couldn't be a better choice. The rest of the cast is pitch perfect as well. While the 13 dwarfs are too many for us to get to know each and every one of them well enough by the end of this first movie, I didn't feel it was a downer. We got to know at least a third sufficiently - and I'm sure we'll get to learn about and appreciate the rest in the subsequent films - this allows us to still have characters to discover later on.
Anyway, great film. I think it's better than Fellowship, and I'll be seeing it again for sure and can't wait for the sequels.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is the first of three films Peter Jackson has made to adapt J.R.R.
Tolkien's prequel to Lord of the Rings. An elderly Bilbo Baggins writes
to Frodo about the land of Erebor, where the Dwarf King Thror lost his
land and prosperity to the dragon Smaug. Bilbo then recalls the earlier
years of his life (played by Martin Freeman), where he's timid and lost
his sense of adventure. Bilbo's complacency is questioned by the wizard
Gandalf (Ian McKellen), who secretly arranges for a meeting to be held
in the hobbit's house. One evening Bilbo is interrupted by thirteen
dwarfs who invite themselves inside. He's told these dwarfs are in
search of a home but need a burglar who can accompany them to the
mountain where Smaug is and take back their land and treasure.
Initially reluctant, Bilbo trails after the unit but this does little
to impress Thorin (Richard Armitage), the dwarf leader and grandson of
Thror, who doubts the hobbit's commitment.
Even without reading the novel The Hobbit, nothing erases the feeling while watching An Unexpected Journey that this is a deliberately inflated work of fanfare, with eyes drawn acutely towards the box office. Good cinema is defined by economics and how efficiently a story can be told with images. Peter Jackson demonstrated this skill with his Rings trilogy, gracefully balancing multiple narrative threads and characters, and ensuring each one possessed an appropriate amount of emotional weight.
Why then has he chosen to make a soulless, linear action movie, extravagantly scaled, but so insubstantial that it never justifies itself as the start of a trilogy? Penned by no less than four writers, including Jackson, this would have been more satisfying as one film with richer themes and selective action. Instead, a novel of barely 300 pages long is extended to nearly three hours, if only to showcase boring battle scenes and superfluous new technology, falsely touted as innovative.
The excess of Jackson's passion stems from his fascination with geek culture. Since the inception of his career in the 1980s, making low budget horror films, he has been concerned with subjects like the undead and the uncanny. His recent films have been criticised for being overly dependent on special effects. The trajectory of his career, from horror to global blockbusters, is not unlike James Cameron, who is coincidentally using Jackson's special effects studio Weta Digital to work on Avatar 2.
Both men have become transfixed by spectacle, with each of their films more elaborate and technically sophisticated than the last. They seem intent on blurring the lines between video games and cinema, which means more investment into technology and effects, rather than the scripts. Someone distanced from the source material and video game culture might have made The Hobbit less self-indulgent and plodding. A legal battle between Jackson and New Line Cinema meant Guillermo Del Toro was originally meant to direct the film but was eventually replaced.
As it stands, Jackson's love for video games is all too visible here. The script is short on themes, characterisation and subplots. It's overly rigid structure means the film becomes too absorbed in its sets and its environments, instead of the story. Each scene is like a level from a game, designed to showcase a gallery of monsters, which are cogs in the film's tired formula for suspense. Exposition is followed by danger and then an escape route. Press start to begin.
If the desire for a home offers some resemblance of a motive, it's regularly lost in the flurry of the action, most of which is extremely unengaging and lacking in tension. The film's one good scene admittedly adds some suspense and intrigue. It involves the reappearance of the monster Gollum and begins tying threads back to the Rings trilogy. The detail in Gollum's expressions, beautifully captured again by Andy Serkis, is even more incredible than before.
How do scenes like this, as overlong as they are, fare through the introduction of 48 frames per second? The standard frame rate for films has been to use 24 frames per second. The additional number of frames on the screen adds more detail and colour to the images. The trade-off is that it gives the illusion the images are moving much faster, which is very distracting. It's an unnecessary addition so if you must see the film, watch it in 2D.
Will fans enjoy the movie? Undoubtedly, but for most hardcore fans, more is always more. Consider the families who will now be paying for three movies instead of one, as well as the 3D surcharge, and must then wait another two years to finish the story. They're shown a footnote of a narrative here and that's not right.
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