Now that the infernal embargo has finally been lifted, the first wave of reviews for Peter Jackson‘s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey have made their way online, and the results are invariably mixed to say the least.
Whereas most critics have complimented the film’s action sequences and its inherent fun factor, they have been quick to criticize Jackson’s decision to shoot in 48FPS, a move that has caused many of them to compare the look of the film to that of a TV movie. The consensus so far, then, is that this thing isn’t anywhere nearly as good as The Fellowship of the Ring, and lacks the character appeal and pace of that much better movie. Alas, not a single 10/10 or 5 star review in sight.
Gollum’s sequence – which takes place at around the 90 minute mark – has been pointed out as a highlight of the film, but most critics are suggesting that Jackson’s decision to presumably bow to studio pressure and split this thing eight ways from Sunday have proven unwise: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a two-hour movie in a two-hour forty-minute shell. The first hour of the movie has come under particular scrutiny, with many claiming that it could have been cut in half and still had the same dramatic intent.
It’s important to remember that these are just the first wave of reviews (and the film has a fair 73% rating on Rotten Tomatoes so far), though early reviews usually have a way of predicting how the rest will turn out. Anyhow, you can read excerpts from some of them below, conveniently collected together for your pleasure (or unpleasure, as it be). They’re not that bad, though, with many critics just pleased to return to Middle-Earth, albeit a return that encompasses a universal hatred for 48FPS (sorry James Cameron, we don’t want it on Avatar 2).
Just think of it like a holiday in which you lose all your luggage at the airport. Great holiday – you just didn’t have any luggage.
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… 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.
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: 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.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey hits theatres worldwide December 14th and stars Martin Freeman, Ian Holm, Ian McKellen, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, Barry Humphries, James Nesbitt, Christopher Lee and Richard Armitage.
Just remember to see it in 24FPS, people! You’ve been warned!