Reviews Are In For THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY! See What the Critics Think
Mild Spoilers! Reviews for Peter Jackson's latest fantasy offering, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey have arrived! Hit the jump to check out a compilation of excerpts from some of the top film critics.
What the 48 frame-per-second projection actually means is flat lighting, a plastic-y look, and, worst of all, a strange sped-up effect that makes perfectly normal actions—say, Martin Freeman's Bilbo Baggins placing a napkin on his lap—look like meth-head hallucinations. Jackson seems enamored of 48 fps, but I can't imagine why. To me, it turned the film into a 166-minute long projectionist's error. I wanted to ask the projectionist to double-check the equipment, but really, I should just ask Jackson why he wanted his $270 million blockbuster to look like a TV movie.
That's not the only challenge faced by The Hobbit, Jackson's adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's 1937 novel of fantasy and adventure. It's the problem of prequels. Like what George Lucas bore when he returned to Star Wars for The Phantom Menace, the audience, the expectations and filmmaking itself have matured but the storytelling is more juvenile.
And where the Rings trilogy had weight, The Hobbit is all wigs and slapstick and head-lopping violence unsuitable for children—who are the only audience who won't be bored to tears.
- When people run, they look like they are on the ‘Benny Hill Show.’
- Fire looks weird. This doesn’t matter too much when it is just a burning hearth, but when it is dragonbreath or hurled, flaming weapons, it is a problem. As a result, a moment that should read as triumph ultimately comes across as goofy. It looks so strange and unusual (as do many of the special effects) that it looks somewhat. . .cheap.
- Anything shot in daylight looks like a BBC production from the 1970s. The movement is too smooth. And yet, when the camera movies, too, it looks somewhat jerky.
People interested in tech should see ‘An Unexpected Journey’ in 48fps (which is being marketing as HFR 3D). People just looking to see a great movie should just see it in 24. Of course, anyone looking for a great movie will be disappointed. ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,’ despite its many gimmicks, is just an okay movie.
Throughout the entire film, there was a strange Benny Hill quality to sequences, with things that appeared to be sped up. It happened in both dialogue and action sequences, and the overall effect was like watching the most beautifully mastered Blu-ray ever played at 1.5x speed. It doesn't make any sense to me that this process, which is supposedly all about clarity and resolution, would create that hyper-speedy quality unless they were doing something wrong in the projection of it. Peter Jackson would see this immediately. The voices are off-pitch, and the pacing of scenes goes to hell when it's played this way.
There are several returning artists on the film, like Ian McKellen and Howard Shore and Andrew Lesnie, whose work is every bit as good as it was before, and I think for the most part, "Lord Of The Rings" fans are going to feel like this is a welcome return to MIddle Earth. But there are enough uneven qualities this time around that i find myself astonished by the letter grade (B) I'm assigning the film. My hope is that the three films taken together will work better than this one does on its own, and that the pacing issues are not going to be ongoing as the series continues.
“Again and again” is also the film’s biggest issue. On a consistent basis, it’s almost as if Jackson forgets he has two more films to release and is forced to pump the brakes. Tangents pop out of nowhere, dialogue scenes are stretched into infinity, and a familiar structure of capture followed by rousing escape, is consistently repeated. Much of the film feels like it’s purposely attempting to stall the dwarves’ quest from progressing.
Overall The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a lot of fun. Fans of Jackson, Tolkien and the Lord of the Rings films will enjoy it. However, it’s long and uneven, which keeps it from reaching the heights of Jackson’s first three Middle-Earth films.
As for the movie's "real" characters, this is Freeman, McKellen, and Armitage's show and they don't disappoint. Freeman is wonderful as Bilbo, even if he can't quite single-handedly out-charm the original trilogy's Fab Four of hobbits. Still, Freeman brings a warmth, wit, and, well, a humanity to the whole affair. McKellen is as regal and coy as ever as Gandalf, while Armitage adeptly captures the bitterness and drive of the rather cold fish that is Thorin, portrayed here as much younger than he's traditionally been depicted.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey almost attains greatness yet despite so many moments of epic fun, greatness remains just out of its reach. This is a very good and entertaining movie even if it never quite recaptures the wonder or mystique of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Flaws and all, though, it was just nice to be back in Middle-earth again.
At almost three hours, Peter Jackson’s fourth foray into the world of J.R.R. Tolkien, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” is initially worrisome and typically self-indulgent. An extremely jarring 48 fps look -- which looks like an odd "Masterpiece Theater" in HD -- is unsettling and the opening is slow-going and tepidly genteel, taking its time with two prologues, one that includes an aged Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holmes) and Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood). And while “The Lord Of The Rings” films always sported a jovial and light-hearted tone, 'The Hobbit' (set some 60 years before the events of ‘LOTR’) ratchets up the goofiness to a near unfortunate level (yes, the source material is more of a kids' book, but even this is a little much).
While it will be too formulaic and familiar to some (and certainly non-fans won’t be won over), 'The Hobbit' is another grand achievement from director Peter Jackson. While this distended picture threatens to buckle under the weight of its own self-importantance, Peter Jackson clearly believes he’s earned the right to preamble and make nearly three hour long tent poles each time out of the gate. And the last two acts of 'The Hobbit' are simply a non-stop action-adventure rollercoaster that is just as engaging and winning as anything in the director’s previous trilogy.
Spending nearly three hours of screen time to visually represent every comma, period and semicolon in the first six chapters of the perennially popular 19-chapter book, Jackson and his colleagues have created a purist's delight, something the millions of die-hard fans of his Lord of the Rings trilogy will gorge upon. In pure movie terms, however, it's also a bit of a slog, with an inordinate amount of exposition and lack of strong forward movement.
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.
The greatest achievement of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, is how well it ties in with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, much better than, say, the original Star Wars films and their prequels, which are widely-considered to be inferior. As we recently discussed in our Star Wars podcast, watching the films in episode order is not only visually jarring, it ruins the dramatic tension of the whole arc. At first blush, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey appears to avoid this pitfall. The film is set up in such a way that new viewers are briefly introduced to Bilbo and Frodo, but regard them only as an old storyteller and his nephew, nothing more.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has set a high bar for the next two installments, but if the Lord of the Rings trilogy is any indication, I fully believe that bar will be surpassed. Moving forward, I’d like to see the films become a bit more serious, especially since Bilbo is now in possession of a certain ring and all the grave consequences that portends. It would also be a more gradual transition into the Lord of the Rings trilogy and would allow new fans to mature along with the entire six-film arc, much like the Harry Potter films so expertly achieved.
The Hobbit is an upcoming two-part epic fantasy film directed by Peter Jackson. It is a film adaptation of the 1937 novel of the same name by J. R. R. Tolkien and prequel to The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. Jackson, director of The Lord of the Rings, returns as director of the film and also serves as producer and co-writer. The film will star Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins and Richard Armitage, known for playing Lucas North in the BBC drama series Spooks, as Thorin Oakenshield. Several actors from Jackson's The Lord of the Rings film trilogy will reprise their roles, including Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee, Ian Holm, Elijah Wood, and Orlando Bloom. Additionally, composer Howard Shore, who wrote the score for The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, has confirmed his role in both parts of the film project. The two parts, entitled The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: There and Back Again, are being filmed back to back and are currently in production in New Zealand; principal photography began on March 21, 2011. They are scheduled to be released on December 14, 2012 and December 13, 2013, respectively.
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