There are many highly anticipated movies coming out this December, but perhaps none more so than Peter Jackson’s long awaited follow-up to his Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit. Jackson announced earlier this year that he would be splitting J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel into three separate films, each approaching three hours in length. This added to the list of questions that fans and critics had about the upcoming series. How will Jackson sustain a film series that is the same length as each Lord of the Rings film based on material that is shorter than any individual Lord of the Rings book? How will Jackson’s chosen method of 48 frames per second affect the film’s look? Can Jackson re-create the magic that brought so much success to his first trilogy?
The first film in the series, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, was screened for critics last week and the review embargo went up as of late last night. Multiple full reviews and quick blurbs went up reacting to the film with responses that can mostly be described as tepid praise.
Germain Lussier of /Film was one of the first to chime in, saying that Jackson’s film has enough great scenes to distract from its lesser moments. However, he says the film does get repetitive:
But then Jackson does it again. And again. And it’s still exciting, just decreasingly so. Excepting the entertainment value for the audience, the only real purpose of this action is to cement the fellowship of this group, especially the initially unwelcome inclusion of Bilbo. From the outset, Bilbo’s status is well-established as an unwanted outsider, and over the course of the movie, his acceptance by the group is a primary arc. Unfortunately, it’s treated with the more importance than the journey itself and 90 minutes into 160 minute movie, it doesn’t feel like the dwarves have gone anywhere.
Eric Kohn of Indiewire suggests that The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey might be less a movie than a theme park ride. He says that even though the film feels purposeless it looks gorgeous and has a lot of imagination:
There’s a sense throughout “An Unexpected Journey” that Jackson has transitioned out of a conventional filmmaking role and instead become New Zealand’s resident Willy Wonka, the skillful proprietor of a wondrous Hobbit factory the country can call its own. The lush green hills, often captured by a roaming virtual camera, stand out more than individual performances or various plot twists.
Rodrigo Perez of The Playlist says the film meanders somewhat, but has a third act that is thrilling and epic. He also puts some fears to rest about the use of high frame rate:
48 frames per [second] is essentially harsh-looking and disconcerting…until it isn’t. It’s incredible how discordant and off-putting the increased frame rate appears to the human eye initially, but as Jackson himself has asserted, audiences will tend to forget (and or tolerate) once they’re absorbed into the story (though admittedly, it takes about a good hour and the experience will be both subjective and divisive). And becoming engaged in ‘The Hobbit’ once the adventure truly starts isn’t difficult. In fact, by the third act when the action is at its thunderous peak the 3D/48 fps visuals are wholeheartedly spectacular and ravishing. Indeed, a few moments of panoramic action vistas are as stunning and gorgeous as anything seen in “Avatar,” “Hugo” or “Life Of Pi.”
Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter says that the film is definitely too long, but it leaves him believing there is hope for the series:
It takes Jackson a long time to build up a head of steam, but he delivers the goods in this final stretch, which is paralleled by the hitherto ineffectual Bilbo beginning to come into his own as a character. One of Tolkien’s shrewdest strategies in writing The Hobbit and designing it to appeal to both youngsters and adults over the decades was making Bilbo a childlike grown-up who matures and assumes responsibilities he initially perceives are beyond him. Freeman, who at first seems bland in the role, similarly grows into the part, giving hope that the character will continue to blossom in the two forthcoming installments.
This is less enthusiasm than I was hoping Peter Jackson’s film would receive, but overall I am not too concerned. As soon as the announcement was made that the book would be split into three films instead of one or two, I knew that Jackson was planning on adding a lot of fluff, much of which would probably not work. However, if even a small amount of the magic and imagination from the original Lord of the Rings franchise is present, I’m sold.
What are your thoughts on the upcoming Hobbit movie? Do these reviews give you any hesitation?
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opens in wide release on December 14, 2012.