I expect I'll get lynched for this review, but I promised films I loved and hated, and, well, I really hated this one....
THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY
USA/ New Zealand 2012
Running Length: 169 minutes
Cast: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellan, James Nesbitt, Richard Armitage, Ken Stott, Aidan Turner
Director: Peter Jackson
Screenplay: Fran Walsh, Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens and Guillermo del Toro
Cinematography: Andrew Lesnie
I’ll be honest and say I was never looking forward to seeing this film. Elves and trolls and other fantasy creatures do absolutely nothing for me, and although I sat through all three Lord of the Rings films, I didn’t enjoy them much. So it’s no great surprise that The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey did nothing for me.
There is much to be admired about the film, of course. It looks spectacular, especially once the film moves out of Bag End and into the vast landscapes. The effects are so seamless that it’s impossible to find the line where reality meets CGI.
Unfortunately, no amount of technical wizardry can make up for the painfully languorous pace and flabby storytelling. When it was announced that The Hobbit would be released as two films, I didn’t think it was possible, so when it became clear that it was going to be three, my heart sank. It’s a slender book with a small story and translating that into three nearly three-hour epics was always going to mean stretching things out.
And boy does Jackson stretch things out. Every single scene could easily have been 10-20 minutes shorter. It takes 40 minutes of screen time to get Bilbo and his companions on the road. This might be forgivable if that 40 minutes had been spent developing the characters of the 13 dwarves so each was a recognizable individual for some reason other than his facial hair.
Once the company does get on its way, the journey becomes rather predictable. They get somewhere, find a threat, fight a battle, escape and move on. To the next location, the next enemy and the next battle. I admit I fell asleep for while in the middle, so I may have missed something (I think it was the elvish village – when I woke up Cate Blanchette was saying goodbye), but I found the plot repetitive and the constant overlong battle scenes wearying.
The version I saw was the 3D, 48FPS version, and I have to say I was impressed by the visual style. It took some getting used to, and the 48FPS made everything look so real it was hard to believe I wasn’t standing in the scene with the actors. The problem with this is that you can see the acting. And the artifice of the sets and props. It was not until the film left the Shire that I could settle into the visual language of the film.
So while I can appreciate the sheer effort and amount of work that has gone into creating this film, I didn’t find it engaging to watch. And I certainly won’t be rushing out to see the next two films in any great hurry.