Film Review : The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The Hobbit: An Unpected Journey PosterThe Hobbit: An Unpected Journey PosterToday I finally discharged my duty as a loyal New Zealander and saw The Hobbit, in all its high frame rate 3D glory. The ticket cost $20.50 (sans glasses which I already had), but I figured it was worth it since between the stereoscopic 3D and the 48 frames per second film speed I was getting 4 times the average film for my money.

I really enjoyed the Lord of the Rings films, and so it was a delight to step back into the same world. The acting was great, Martin Freeman doesn’t look much like how I picture Bilbo but steals the film as the title character. The myriad of dwarfs are well realised and clearly differentiated, not easy when there are 13 of them.

What is not so great is the pacing. The decision to stretch out the story into 3 films made great financial sense, but really screws up what could have easily been a simple 2 hour children’s film. What we get instead is a long prologue set during Lord of the Rings which looks like it sets up a frame story but is never mentioned again, several long expository conversations that foreshadow stuff we have already seen in the previous trilogy (the screenwriters seem to have invented retroshadowing), some flashbacks to faraway events that don’t payoff in this film, and some action sequences.

The action sequences are excellent, everything else is very pretty to look at but serves no purpose. Even worse, The Hobbit leans heavily of the Lord of the Rings films, not bothering to introduce familiar characters as they appear. Galadriel and Saruman show up for a dull interdepartmental meeting at one stage but don’t expect this nearly 3 hour film to expend any precious running time explaining who they are. There are even some scenes recreated almost exactly from the previous films, which seems a little lazy.

On the technical side, much has been written about the new 48 frames per second technology that Peter Jackson is using to shoot these films. Unlike some, I am in favour of it although I could live without the 3D. I can understand why some people don’t like it though, everything had a more realistic look almost as though you were watching actors on a stage in front of you rather than a prerecorded film. This contrasts with the sometimes dreamlike feel of tradition film, perhaps The Hobbit would have suited a lower fidelity look but it certainly wasn’t distracting.

Ultimately I enjoyed The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. As a step back into Middle Earth. it feels a bit like putting on an old pair of trousers you haven’t worn in several years. Highly comforting, but you might find them stretched a bit thin.


6 thoughts on “Film Review : The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

  1. Stu

    Interesting review. I recall the first LOTR movie being a little patchy too simply because it was the first. I wonder if the The Hobbit Trilogy will be better viewed as a marathon Bluray session in my living room in 5 years when it comes out as a boxed set. Certainly I don’t give a shit about 3D (which always makes me feel vaguely ill for the whole movie, like I’ve eaten an entire bag of malteasers too quickly), nor 48 fps. Can I get the 48fps without the 3D please? No, I didn’t think so…

    1. Andrew

      The 3D in The Hobbit was actually pretty well used. I am not sure if it is the director being more restrained or that the high frame rate helps complete the illusion, but I didn’t have the same headaches that some 3D films give me.

      I thought the first LotR film was the strongest because although it took a long time to get going, it at least used that time to introduce the characters we would be seeing for the next 2.5 hours. Almost every scene has a purpose even if it does not directly drive the plot forward. The Hobbit has several scenes that serve no purpose and aren’t even interesting. It is not a bad film, just padded.

      1. Stu

        Finally got around to see it and you know what struck me the most? That the Hobbit story is clearly just a ‘prototype’ of the considerably expanded LOTR story in many ways. Possibly wasn’t helped by the fact that ‘The Hobbit’ movie is almost exactly the same as the first LOTR movie in terms of pacing and content imho.

        Leaving Hobbiton? Check. Visit Rivendell? Awed by Elvsies. Check. Minor adventure on the borders that convinces the Hobbit he’s not in Hobbiton anymore? Check. Shenanigans in the mountains? Followed by shenanigans underground with Moria/Mountain goblins? Check. Followed by a flight down the mountainside? Check.

        Gollum in the classic riddle scene was well done though, but really he had to be. If they stuffed up that iconic Gollum chapter of the book the nerd rage would have been almost palpable.

        1. Andrew

          I was wondering how they were going to do the riddles, and was pleased that they played it straight and didn’t muck around too much with the scene. Did you see it in 48 FPS?

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