The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

The Hobbit

6/10 (-3)

Yes, I will admit, I had high hopes for this movie, possibly too high. That having been said, I think I was justified in my high hopes: The Lord Of The Rings trilogy was phenomenal and very well crafted.

Before I go into any kind of depth in this opinion based review, let me say these two things, 1) I saw this in IMAX 3D and 2) I saw the 48fps version. These are important things for me to clarify because I will definitely be commenting on both of these aspects. I want to see it in 2D and at 24fps so that I can craft a better opinion of the overall craft of storytelling, however I don’t want to discount my 48fps/3D experience because this is how Jackson wanted to film it. This would be his “ideal” presentation format. For that reason this review is not going to pull any punches. Needless to say, I was very disappointed.

As usual, let’s begin with what I liked (because it is all too easy to tear down, and I will get to that eventually). For starters, the production values, as always, are superb! The artwork, the sets, the costumes, the props, the SFX…I mean, man, these are absolutely superb. And, when the camera isn’t moving, the 48fps really gives you a good look at the detail in everything! It’s great for that. The actors were incredibly well chosen. I kind of wished for more of each of the dwarves. You really got to meet maybe 6 of them, and of those 6, only about 3 or 4 really had any kind of development as characters. Martin Freeman as Bilbo was delightful. A very fun take on Bilbo that fits quite well. Of course, you can’t go wrong with Ian McKellen as Gandalf, although I will admit that I wasn’t sure about some of his choices as that character. He seemed a little out of his depths. It could just be me though. Probably the single most entertaining and artistically beautiful moment was the “Riddles In The Dark” bit. So incredible!

If you insist on seeing it in 3D and in 48fps, then you will thoroughly enjoy the last 10-20 minutes of the film, those are probably the moments that best take advantage of the craziness that is 3D and the unbelievable frame rate.

Well. That’s about it for the good for me. Sure, if you disagree with me, leave comments below, but don’t troll or be abusive…thanks.

Now, the not-so-good stuff.

Let’s start with the controversial 48fps frame rate that the movie was filmed in. The technology to film in a higher than normal frame rate has been around for years! It’s nothing new. Yet, for some reason, Jackson has grabbed onto it like a little child with a lollipop: it’s yummy, it’s colorful, it makes you see the world with a renewed vigor. It’s not new, and I feel, like my analogy, it’s not really healthy as an alternative to traditional movie making. The first thing I thought when someone moved in the movie was, “is this a BBC special of some kind?” Sure, the images were crisp and the detail was impeccable. But, do we want that? Or is this simply the infancy of a technology that we will get used to, like blu-ray? When blu-ray and hi-def video came out, people were stunned by the crispness of detail. Some even lamented the fact that everything seemed to be in focus all the time. Well, as we have learned from that part of recent history, it was simply demo’s that showed all the crispness of detail and everything in focus. Also, a lot of TV specials that try to have everything in focus. Once you started to see movies on that medium you quickly appreciated the detail when you wanted to see it and the traditional use of lenses and aperture and stuff like that.

I feel though that 48fps is a technology that we don’t need at this point. Like I said, this is a movie and so we should be able to recognize some of the traditional story telling devices that Jackson has used well in the past. But, for me, I didn’t see much of it at all. It felt like instead of being a new technology that was being experimented with in an appropriate venue, like a short film or something like that, we are getting it shoved down our throats on a film that doesn’t need it.

After I realized how much the 48fps was distracting me from the story, I started to focus on the story as much as I could. Now, I haven’t read The Hobbit in eons (something I am currently remedying), so, I will admit that I was confused by some of the dialogue. Now, there was stuff that I definitely remember and I was appalled at the inclusion of plot devices to create action where none was needed. The whole back story to Thorin Oakenshield, while entertaining and mildly relates to the overall plot, is used to a disgustingly large amount to make action where none is needed. Oh, wait, we have to stretch this short book over 9 hours! It’s absolutely ridiculous; Jackson fit 3 books, each of which alone was longer than “The Hobbit” by half at least, into 10+ hours of incredible story telling. Now he wants us to believe that he needs 9 hours to tell the story of one book? I don’t believe it. I think Jackson is suffering from George Lucas syndrome.

Well, time will tell.

You know, I’m going to stop here. I don’t want to go on and on. There’s other things to discuss, but I will wait a bit until I see the 2D, 24fps version before I comment much further. Sure, there are plenty of people out there who will disagree with me and that’s fine! That’s wonderful. I’m not saying I’m right about any of this. These are the things that made their impression upon me. My recommendation: see it in theatres, but don’t bother seeing it in 48fps. 3D is good, but not necessary. If you enjoyed the LOTR trilogy, then, in my opinion, be prepared to be disappointed.

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