After the success of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, I hoped and expected that director Peter Jackson would stick to the same format for The Hobbit. In some ways he does, but the feel isn't exactly the same.
What I like about this first installment of Tolkien's first trip to Middle Earth is that the same sets are used for Hobbiton, and many of the actors return. It was also a good idea to reprise some of the music used in the previous trilogy. When I saw the familiar setting and heard the music, I was already partly won over by the movie. Unfortunately, my opinion had changed long before it finally ended.
So why do I have mixed feelings?
The first major problem was the decision to make this much shorter story into a trilogy. Many of the scenes felt overly long, and did not serve much purpose. I didn't have a watch or a phone with me, but it seemed as if we spent around an hour in Bilbo's house before the quest even began.
The Hobbit is the tale of Bilbo's first adventure. After a visit from Gandalf (Ian McKellen), dwarves start showing up at his house unannounced. This unwelcome interruption of his routine is disturbing to Bilbo (Martin Freeman), as he learns that Gandalf has persuaded the dwarves that Bilbo should join their quest to retrieve their stolen gold from the dragon, Smaug. This part of the story shows the initial stages of that journey.
I'm not really sure what The Hobbit wanted to be, or what the intended audience was. Like the books, some of the scenes involve characters breaking into song on a few occasions. I found this to be annoying rather than charming, but I am sure that some will be happy that songs were included. One of the flaws with the generally excellent previous trilogy was the use of humor. Well, The Hobbit turns that element up several notches, and most of it is incredibly stupid. The first clue was a belching scene at dinner in Bilbo's house, but the humor was relentless. The most out of place example was when one of the major villains died and had to deliver a one-liner as he expired. For me, this had the effect of completely removing any tension or drama. It was like watching a Roger Moore Bond movie set in Middle Earth.
The choice of Freeman as Bilbo seemed odd to me, but I must admit that he did a decent job. A few of his lines were actually funny.
I'm sorry to belabor the point, but the use of humor seemed to contradict the overall feel of the movie. Half of the speeches were too epic in tone to be taken seriously. I didn't know whether I was watching a Shakespearean production, a spoof, or an action movie. One of the people sitting behind me felt compelled to laugh at almost every line of dialogue, so the jokes obviously worked for somebody. My idea of humor would be to have Hugo Weaving saying "Mister Oakenshield" in his best Agent Smith voice, so it's probably a good thing that I didn't write the screenplay.
It's a shame that The Hobbit doesn't seem to be up to the same standard set by Lord of the Rings. The movie's opening has been incredibly successful, and my theater was still sold out two weeks after it was released. I have to wonder how many patrons will return for the remainder of the trilogy.
The setting is beautiful, and some of the actors return, but there are too many inconsistencies for me to give The Hobbit a passing grade. If you want to hang out in Middle Earth, watch some great special effects, and admire some enormously detailed sets, you might enjoy the movie. If you care about the books, or the characters, you may be sorely disappointed. I saw the film four hours ago and can only put faces to the names of four of the dwarves. They were thinly-drawn at best.
This release might just persuade me to skip the other two installments in theaters. I'll borrow the Blu-rays and see if the story improves.
How does The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey compare to The Lord of the Rings trilogy? Itís ďa lesser son of greater sires,Ē a disappointment based on the lofty expectations set by its predecessors.
Sixty years prior to The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) visits hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) in the Shire, and tricks him into hosting a company of dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), who are under the mistaken belief that Bilbo is an expert burglar who will join them on their expedition to reclaim their home from the dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch). Meanwhile, rumors of a dark threat called the Necromancer (also Cumberbatch) worry Gandalf.
Director Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings, The Lovely Bones) returns to the fictional world of his greatest cinematic success, but he just canít recreate the same cinematic magic and poetry. I very rarely give any film a full five stars, but every one of the LOTR films earned it and then some. Iím convinced that it will be difficult for another high fantasy film or series of films to reach that level of greatness. J.R.R. Tolkienís novel The Hobbit was never cut from quite the same epic scale of cloth as his Lord of the Rings, so perhaps the problem here is Jackson trying to make it into something it isnít, and as a result, it falls short of the mark. On the positive side, Jacksonís eye for visual sweep is intact, even if there are a few surprisingly clumsy sequences.
Jackson and his principal LOTR writing collaborators Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens had to figure out how to compress the massive text that was LOTR into three films of three to four hours in length. They face the opposite task here, to turn a much shorter text into three films of three hours in length each, which strikes me as a commercial rather than a creative move. It transpires that theyíre better at compressing than expanding. Every scene in the LOTR films, even in the extended editions, had a purpose that moved the story forward in a compelling manner. In contrast, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey drags along. After nearly three hours, the characters havenít even reached their destination of the Lonely Mountain.
An additional writer was involved here, Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, Panís Labyrinth). After Jackson initially dropped out of directing the film after delays resulting from a legal dispute with New Line Cinema, del Toro was brought in to co-write and direct. After numerous production delays resulting from MGMís financial woes caused del Toro to also drop out, Jackson returned to direct. Del Toro is credited as a co-writer and a creative consultant. Itís not easy to discern an obvious del Toro influence, although the scenes with the Great Goblin strike me as having some, so itís hard to say if his presence helped or hindered this adaptation.
Along the way, the writers make some rather dubious choices. Wizard Radagast the Brown, who was mentioned but never seen in The Hobbit novel, has been turned into an eccentric with bird poop caked in his hair, travelling around on a sled pulled by rabbits. Oh, and his pet hedgehog is as sugary cute as any animated Disney animal, and one almost expects it to speak like one. Thankfully, the writers spared us that horror. But, oh, they didnít spare us a terrible one liner from the Great Goblin that is cringe inducing.
Jackson chose to shoot the film in the experimental High Frame Rate 3D digital video format. I say experimental because this is the first film to be made using this process. While it does result in impressively sharp, clear, and deep images on screen, it also has a live video look that uncomfortably reminds one of a daytime soap or a live television broadcast. Also, the images are so sharp and clear that sets look like sets, props look like props, special effects makeup looks like special effects makeup, and CG visual effects look like a video game. The format also has the odd effect of exaggerating character movements, including gestures and facial expressions. Itís just another burden keeping the film from being engaging. For a fantasy film, calling attention to its fakery is a serious flaw.
Cinematographer Andrew Lesnie also worked on The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and he does his best here to re-create that look, but those films were actually shot on film. While I think digital video can look very good, especially with the current generation of cameras, itís easier to match the look of film with film. With the use of the High Frame Rate format, the final result looks very different, less painterly and more video gamey. That said, the use of 3D itself in the film is quite good, and thereís one scene where myself and several other audience members flinched in our seats because the 3D effect of fire being thrown in our faces was so convincing.
Production designer Dan Hennah (the supervising art director for the LOTR films) recreates the Shire and Rivendell, and creates several spectacular new environments. Unfortunately, the quality of his work is overshadowed by the High Frame Rate format making his sets look like sets rather than real structures. The work of costume designers Richard Taylor (LOTR), Bob Buck (the LOTR extras coordinator), and Ann Maskrey (The Mumbo Jumbo, Thunderpants) is also affected by the format but not to the same degree.
The visual effects by Weta Digital seem to rely too much on CG, and not always rendered convincingly (example: some of the goblins in Goblin Town look more like Muppets), which is surprising considering how the same effects studio revolutionized CG with their work on Avatar.
LOTR veteran Howard Shore returns to score the film, and his work this time is good but not great. The best music, one song aside, seems to be cues from LOTR.
In general, the most solid aspect of the film is its cast. Martin Freeman is well-cast as the young Bilbo Baggins, living a comfortable life in the Shire before heís whisked away on an adventure into the wider, and wilder, world of Middle Earth. Ian Holm also returns as the older Bilbo, in framing scenes set on the same day as his eleventy-first birthday (as seen in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring), and Elijah Wood makes a brief appearance as Frodo.
Among other returning LOTR cast members, Ian McKellen is Ian McKellen, meaning he demonstrates once again why he was born to play the pivotal role of Gandalf. Christopher Lee, Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving also return as wizard Saruman the White, and the elves Galadriel and Elrond, but donít quite recapture the effortless perfection of their previous performances.
One returning actor, however, completely steals the film. Andy Serkis, once again playing the motion capture Gollum to perfection. Itís a more humorous performance this time, but he shines. The scene between Freemanís Bilbo and Serkisí Gollum represents the film at its absolute best.
Among the new cast members, Richard Armitage is a heroic and proud Thorin Oakenshield, former Doctor Who star Sylvester McCoy does what he can with the role of Radagast but canít salvage the mess the writers made of his character, Benedict Cumberbatchís two motion capture characters Smaug and the Necromancer are only very briefly seen so no real judgment can be rendered, and Ken Stott stands out from the rest of the dwarves as Balin. The problem is thereís too many dwarves, and the film doesnít give most of them much to do to really have a chance to stand out.
The acting was harder to judge than usual, because High Frame Rateís tendency to exaggerate character movements, including gestures and facial expressions, also makes the performances seem exaggerated. If this format continues to be used, actors will have to learn to underact.
After seeing the LOTR films well over a dozen times each, I still remain emotionally invested in the story from the first scene to the last. I never really felt that while watching this film. I really think part of it is the High Frame Rate, which was more distraction then benefit. Any time a filmís format serves to point out that itís all fakery, itís not good, unless the filmmakerís intent is to point out that itís all fakery, which isnít the intent here.
Now if you get the impression that Iím calling The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey the worst film ever, thatís really not the case. Itís just disappointing based on the expectations I had. Some people will no doubt find it entertaining. It just didnít have the same magic for me, and Iím saddened by that. I first read the The Hobbit as a child in the late 1970s, and itís where my love of the fantasy genre began. I expected the film version to be better.
Disclaimer: I found the High Frame Rate format to be so fake looking and distracting, that it no doubt made it even harder for me to get into the film. Which means that my review is biased by how I experienced the film. So if you are going to see this film, I would suggest seeing it in 2D or standard 3D. If you like the film enough to want to see it a second time, maybe then you could see it in HFR 3D if youíre really curious.
Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised by the entire film. I love what Peter Jackson has done with the story and how he has chosen to tell it. Looking forward to the sequels. I think the only problem people are going to have (not me) is that this is a setup movie. The payoff will come by in the 3rd film, but most people don't have that sort of patience.
My favorite part, as well as the audience I was with, was the Gollum sequence. People were actually cheering when they saw Gollum. Andy Serkis and the animation team really outdid themselves too. Gollum, was freaky during this scene, especially the glowing eyes.
My only problem with the film was the 48fps. Iíll admit it took me at least an hour to get accustomed to the format. To me, it made most of the film look like I was watching a awesome 3D TV movie. Some parts looked like they were in fast forward, while other slow mo sequences were sped up by the framework. It didn't work. Also, didn't like the look at all, which did detract from the overall presentation of film. I am sure the 3D was better because of it, but it made the movie feel cheaper/lower budget at times. Looking forward to re-watching this on a normal 24fps 3D IMAX projector.
I give the movie an easy 8/10, any Hobbit/LOTR fan will be happy with this film. I just recommend watching it in a normal 24fps IMAX 3D theater.
One thing the viewer must know before walking into THE HOBBIT is that it was originally intended to be a children's book. The storyline, primarily certain characters, were intended for a younger audience. On that note, it is almost a metaphor for an adolescent beginning which slowly matures to the events that unravel in THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, especially when we get to THE TWO TOWERS and into full gear in RETURN OF THE KING. I found it to be very acceptable to begin with the simplicity of THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY. For now, however, THE HOBBIT is not a complex storyline as were the LOTR trilogy, nor should it be.
It's hard to sometimes have an audience put the films in the right order, considering that chapters 4, 5 and 6 were shown to us first. Years from now, an audience will see the film in the order of THE HOBBIT trilogy and follow it up with the LOFR trilogy, if they decide. This is the same thing that happened with the STAR WARS saga, if you would.
No other director would be able to capture the feel and movement of what author JRR Tolkien had scribed other than Peter Jackson. Thank the lords that he had decided to pay equal attention to the story and do it justice as he did with the LOTR stories. It is a modern- day miracle to see a writer/ director take the original material of a novel and use it as the main source and not have it loosely based because of time constraints, production costs or marketing vending. We are getting the visual telling of THE HOBBIT as Tolkien intended.
I can understand that the film takes its time developing, but rightfully so. Movies nowadays quickly jump into the action without developing the true characters including rivals, struggles and triumphs. It is very refreshing to see a young Bilbo Baggins (played wonderfully by Martin Freeman) is very reluctant and not the adventurer we were led to believe him to be in the introduction of an older Bilbo in FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING. The audience can already detect a change in Bilbo by the third act...a taste of what will soon become the Bilbo we will come to know and expect.
WETA (Jackson's Visual Effects Department), did a fantastic job, again, with the visual presentation of Middle Earth and the creatures that inhabit the lands.
THE HOBBIT, as a whole, is a very rich and satisfying introduction to what chapters 2 and 3 will, no doubt, develop into more of the action and drama it is to become as it unfolds. Patience, viewer, it will all come out in the end!
If you enjoyed this review, please visit my Film Blogsite: cinemacounterpoint.blogspot.com Thank you!
Fantastic!!! Peter Jackson has again succeeded in producing a telling of the Hobbit that I believe J.R.R Tolkien himself would not only cheer for, but wholeheartedly wish to see more. The pure wonderment, and awe that my wife, my 7-year-old son, and I had in watching this telling of the Hobbit was notable. It was as if the story had been pulled into being from a dream created deep in the heart of Middle Earth.
Wonderful. The audience, and we, laughed, clapped, and cheered throughout.
There in hole in ground there lived a Hobbit... Those words will always have a special place in my heart since
the The Hobbit was one of my favorite books as a young adult. Now, after years of re-reads, The Hobbit has
finally been made into a full blown movie and that I for one could not wait for.
If you are unfamiliar with The Hobbit then know The Hobbit is a young adultís book that captures the readersí
imagination through song, laugher, peril, action, adventure, friendship, hardship, as a group of 14
underachievers sets out on an adventure to reclaim a loss kingdom. I will not go into more of the story, but
now it ranks up there as an all-time classic and is worth checking out.
Now, on to the movieÖ As you can tell, I am a diehard fan, but I can see this movie for its strengths and its
As for strengths, the movie is gorgeous, runs quick with lots of action, good character development, and good
As for its weaknesses, too much focus additions to the story, a campy feeling when it comes the humorous
parts of the books (the Dwarves cleaning the dishes comes to mind), and changes to the story that were not
needed (The Mountain giants battling comes to mind) and delivered a failed shock approach to the viewer.
Fans of the book will/might be upset at a few changes and additions that were added into the story, yet for
one can see why they were addedÖ and we will see how they all play out over the next couple of movies since
they stood out as huge plot holes.
Fans of the LOTR movies, yet hadnít read The Hobbit, you should know that The Hobbit is not as serious of a
movie as the LOTR movies were and it will not deliver the same epic feeling that you experienced in the LOTR
movies. The final Hobbit movie should deliver that for you, but you will not find this in this movie. Patience will
be virtue with here.
With all this being said, I enjoyed my viewing of The Hobbit. True, I grunted at the changes to the story,
grunted at the addition of characters, yet at the end I felt that this movie was very much worth my time and
moneyÖ and I am excited to see what the trilogy of The Hobbit will bring.
I absolutely loved and recommend the 48fps showing! Yes, it looks like video, it was shot on video. However the tradeoff in sharpness and the absence of strobing, gave the best 3D picture I've seen!! Just an amazing picture quality!! Some may not get it the first time, but I'm convinced it will be the future!
Ok... I never saw any of the Lord of the Rings movies in the theatres when they were out all those years ago! Let's just say, even though at that point I enjoyed movies, I wasnt an avid fan as I am now, and not really as clued in with the internet and all supporting marketing associated with big budget movies these days. However, I have watched the trilogy numerous times - on DVD and then Bluray, so when The Hobbit was announced, I was deffinatley gonna be there!
Not really too familiar with the Lord of the Rings lore prior to watching the movies, I really wasnt aware that The Hobbit existed as a book. However - I'll approach this "review" according to the movie, and not the book vs the movie. For me, unlike the LOTR movies, you could feel the running time. Maybe it was me already having watched Looper earlier, and then sitting through a +3 hour movie might have been a bit too much - but I think that maybe it was a bit too long. Peter Jackson, as great as he is for the LOTR movies, is taking a single book andf turning it into 3 feature films, all of which are gonna be 3 hours long!
Anyway - the quality of visual effects is great - but we've come to expect that from WETA. The 3D however, only came in handy at a few points in the film, and for a 3hr movie, its kinda a waste! The higher frame rate was not available, but its also been suffering a few probs from what I've read.
I wont go too into detail, but out of the whole film - it was the appearance of Gollum/Schmeigal that got the most attention out of the crowd. Andy's done a great job with his performance yeat again. As for the actors - it was good to see Elijah Wood at the start - and the several returning characters really made it feel like LOTR had never left. The dwarves were totally entertaining - but it felt like there was a bit TOO much humour in this movie as apposed to the LOTR films, but then again, maybe it was the direction the Peter Jackson felt adequate, especially when the dwarves were the main characters of the movie.
I really want to see where the next movies go from here, as it was clear to see, that its building up to the finale. The Hobbit may not be the masterpiece that most people expected, but I have a feeling that once the 3rd installment is complete, it will all come together perfectly!