Warner Bros. has started screening The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey for select media, and the reviews coming in so far have been a mixed bag.
The Hollywood Reporter starts off this review round up with thoughts on how director Peter Jackson has added to J.R.R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings prequel which is being split into three films. “One of the reasons this ‘unexpected journey’ to ‘a land far away’ is so bulked up is that Jackson has filled it out with an enormous amount of back story relevant to the characters at hand. In doing so, he is able to provide a titanic opening battle sequence, one in which a wealthy ancient kingdom of dwarves alongside the Lonely Mountain is decimated by fearsome giant trolls. One of the only survivors is the heir to the throne, Thorin, whose effort to reclaim the kingdom will occupy the thrust of the story,” they write.
But all of the extra storylines don’t necessarily add to the story, writes Slashfilm. “‘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.”
Jackson chose to shoot in 48 fps (frames per second) compared to the industry standard 24 fps, and this has caused a good bit of controversy over the past few months. Hitfix comments on the final result, saying, “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.”
It’s worth noting that theaters will offer 48 and 24 fps versions of the film, so don’t worry about being forced to see it this way.
Indiewire argues that the film has a massive ending which makes up for the length of the story. “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.”
Overall critics enjoyed the story, felt it was a worthy prequel to The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and believe Tolkein and Jackson fans will be satisfied. The film opens on December 14.
The time of this writing, Rotten Tomatoes has a 71% average review.