“So… Did you like The Hobbit?”
Everywhere I go everyone who knows me well keeps asking me the same question. But it isn’t so simple.
For starters, the real question should be “Did you like The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey?” because this is, after all, the first of THREE movies. Fans of the novel arriving at the cinema expecting to see The Hobbit may be a little disappointed as the film ends roughly six chapters in to the slender children’s book.
If you’re worried about spoilers you should probably stop reading now.
Did I like the movie? Sure. Was it a good movie? Not really. It was too long, too slow, too repetitive. There were no really big jaw droppers like the Balrog or Helms Deep but there was some pretty cool moments. For all the movie’s flaws I was always going to be a fan. I saw the movie three times in 24 hours. I hated parts of it and I loved parts of it but neither in the quantities that I hated/loved the Rings movies. This comparison quickly breaks down for a number of reasons starting with the fact that the Rings movies, Fellowship in particular, were an unknown prospect. A real gamble. In the shadow of such a trilogy The Hobbit kind of feels underwhelming and shallow, even though if they had beefed it up anymore it would have been ludicrous. The Hobbit is grand and spectacular but it feels easy, it feels like we know how it’s done so it’s unimpressive. My biggest gripe with An Unexpected Journey, other than the longness and the monotony of characters telling each other the plot, is the lack of Tolkien geography. There are plenty of breathtaking helicopter shots and gorgeous landscapes, but there are not enough great Middle Earth calling card moments. In the original trilogy Jackson would keep coming back to Middle Earth money shots like Minas Tirith, Isengard, Argonath, Helms Deep or Edoras. Now I know we only have six chapters to work with and Bilbo & Co. don’t really get that far in that amount of time, but I don’t feel like we see enough Middle Earth. We get some great shots of The Shire, and even a little glimpse of Weathertop, but I was hoping to see more recognizable landscapes, more Dol Guldor for instance. I was very pleased with a glimpse of The Lonely Mountain at the end, and I look forward to seeing more of the Dwarf Kingdom that we were able to glimpse in the prologue.
My favorite thing about The Hobbit was also the most controversial. I loved the High Frame Rate (Hfr or 48fps). The film is only playing in this format in about 500 theaters worldwide but it is the way the film was shot and the way PJ intends it to be viewed. Most reviews made Hfr sound unpleasant, off putting, uncanny, and even jarring – taking most people out of the movie and making the effects and sets look fake and obvious. I was all geared up to hate my first viewing (which I had specifically selected in Hfr 3D because that’s how PJ watches it) and even felt regret that I hadn’t chosen a format that would allow me to just watch the movie. I was so stressed out about the frame rate that I bought a second set of tickets for the next morning so I could see it the normal way too and compare.
Well I was just blown away by the Hfr 3D. It was absolutely gorgeous from minute one. Something about the movement and the clarity was just so riveting. I noticed some of the things that people were talking about but none of them bothered me and none of them took me out of the film. I found it quite the opposite, and was mesmerized by the whole experience. In fact the next day when I saw it again in regular 24 fps I found myself immediately longing for the higher resolution. The prologue especially benefits from the new format. If you are interested in seeing the film and are curious about how to watch it I can’t recommend 48fps enough! It was absolutely spectacular.
Like I said earlier, it’s hard for me to review a movie like this because of how much of a Tolkien nerd I am, but I really had a fun time watching it. Because of the fact that PJ and Co. seem to be milking the source material for all its worth this first chapter suffers from feeling very drawn out and filled with talking and plot set-up. But I’m excited because the film really does end on a high note and really has me excited for the next two installments which I will certainly be seeing in Hfr 3D as soon as humanly possible.
My favorite parts:
The prologue (The Dragon sacks Erebor)
The Smaug tease at the end
With all its flaws and extra weight, I still give it 7.5/10
Bring on next years The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug!
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey . Director: Peter Jackson . WB/MGM/New Line Cinema . 2012