The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey review round-up

News Simon Brew 4 Dec 2012 - 06:46

The reviews start coming in for Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Here's our round-up...

The first reviews have started filtering in for Peter Jackson's return to Middle Earth with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. And truthfully? They seem a little up and down. Early signs suggest that the almost-unanimous praise that greeted the Lord Of The Rings films isn't going to be repeated here.

That said, there's still a lot of positivity swimming around. Here's what the early reviewers are saying about the film.

"Fulfilling just a fraction of JRR Tolkien's There And Back Again subtitle, The Hobbit alternately rewards and abuses auds' appetite for all things Middle-earth. While Peter Jackson's prequel to The Lord Of The Rings delivers more of what made his earlier trilogy so compelling - colorful characters on an epic quest amid stunning New Zealand scenery - it doesn't offer nearly enough novelty to justify the three-film, nine-hour treatment, at least on the basis of this overlong first installment".

The Hollywood Reporter.
"In Jackson's academically fastidious telling, however, it's as if The Wizard Of Oz had taken nearly an hour just to get out of Kansas. There are elements in this new film that are as spectacular as much of the Rings trilogy was, but there is much that is flat-footed and tedious as well, especially in the early going". [Note: The Hollywood Reporter's review, not for the first time, seems very spoiler-y to us]

The Playlist.
"As epic, grandiose, and emotionally appealing as the previous pictures, The Hobbit doesn’t stray far from the mold, but it’s a thrilling ride that’s one of the most enjoyable, exciting and engaging tentpoles of the year"

"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a classic adventure quest in the making; packed with colorful characters, gorgeous settings and plenty of action, the only setbacks are technical ones."

"To be honest, yes there are other bits that are a bit confusing and may feel misplaced, but I will want to watch it a second time before I pass final judgement on this film. I loved the ending, it is rather awesome."

Cinema Blend.
"And though The Hobbit feels in its first half very much like a brief story stretched far too thin, it eventually settles into its own enjoyable rhythm, a comic adventure that's a good enough excuse to make a return visit to Middle Earth."

We'll add our own review of the film next week...

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Which format will DenOfGeek check the film out? HFR IMAX in 3D or?

The one thing that's been putting me off the film is the seemingly ridiculous decision to make a not very long novel into 3 movies. I had a feeling that they would have to stretch the plot thin to make this happen, and it seems that's exactly what they've done. It seems greed may well spoil this one. But hey... not condemning it. I'm definitely going to reserve full judgement untill I see it! Everyone has different opinions after all.

Critics need to remember that The Hobbit was originally a book for children and will probably be slightly different in tone than The Lord Of The Rings was. Although I've stopped listening to 'mainstream movie critics' a long time ago. I enjoyed the book and Peter Jackson's take on LOTR too, and I'll be going to see it in any case. The only decision will be in what format to chose in (or not depending on what the local flicks get in in).

Most of us won't have a choice of formats. The 48fps showings are only happening in a few theaters in big cities. I was really looking forward to it, just to see something different. As for the film, I do think it was a terrible decision to split the film up into three films. Heck, one film would have been sufficient. Still keeping my fingers crossed, but my enthusiasm is definitely dampened by the reviews.

Putting in an early request: Will some awesome person out there make a supercut of the 3 movies into 1 that just tells the story of The Hobbit? Pleeeeeease?

Not sure why people keep going on about this being a single book stretched across three films when it isn't. It spans not just the Hobbit but mines the appendices of The Lord of the Rings, which is huge.

Ok, another one of these people. If you did your research, you would know that BOTH Lotr and The Hobbit take place over almost exactly the same length of time, 1 year. So just because Tolkien didn't write a lot in the Hobbit doesn't mean it's a short story.

Uh oh. I hope this isn't Peter's King Kong in three parts.

Are you extracting the Michael with that comment? 'The Hobbit' is a 300-page, 19-chapter book that could easily be read in a few hours... 'The Lord of the Rings' on the other hand is over 1, 000 pages in length and split over three distinct parts, each of which are roughly equal to the length of 'The Hobbit' by themselves!

If Peter Jackson is adapting roughly one film for every six chapters of 'The Hobbit' novel, then those three films - even taking into consideration the additions of Tolkien's appendices - should be no more than about 140 minutes each... having a 169-minute running time for about the first 100 pages of the book is truly excessive, in my opinion, and shows that Jackson has a real blind spot when it comes to judicious editing and tight run-times (as the LOTR extended editions already showed), you don't have to include EVERY last little minute detail that Tolkien ever wrote about...

I loved the extended editions! The more the better. Quit whining.

Wow, you sure are full of yourself. Arrogant dick.

That's fine, many people greatly enjoyed them, and SOME material in the extended editions should never have been cut in the first place, but I also feel there were MANY scenes that should not have been in the films at all because they did little more than slow the overall pace to a veritable crawl sometimes and would have been better being presented as deleted scenes...

As far as whining goes, I'm just merely expressing concerns that many others have expressed when Peter Jackson extended the 'Hobbit' movies from two to three and that many reviewers of the new film have mentioned; that it could have been a little shorter and tighter in it's more-than-ample running time... that being said, I've went back since and checked out the appendices that Jackson and co appear to be including - the battle of Dol Goldur and the White Council to name but two - and it might yet prove a roaring success, there's certainly some rich and fantastic stuff there to include, just as long as each film is tightly edited and includes everything that needs including in the THEATRICAL cut... no leaving out important scenes just to hock the extended editions later (like Saruman's final scene in 'The Return of the King')!

Forget about the length, the dubious frame rate, the feeling of been there, done that. Is the bloody film any good? Or is that not important anymore?

As a previous commenter noted, this is not just the Hobbit book, split into 3 movies, 100 pages per movie. This is the Hobbit, including the Lost tales book and the Appendixes of LOTR, combined with some additional "screenwriter" stuff.

These three "books" are as long as the original LOTR (the appendixes are the same length as The Return of the King, the Lost tales is longer than the Two Towers, and the Hobbit is the shortest of the three).

Should be epic!

Shall we start a list of cinemas where you can view it in the new 48fps? I'll start:

Leicester - Cinema De Lux - listed as 3DHFR

I always thought that The Hobbit felt a bit rushed (for the first half it is basically a repeating series of "travel for a bit, get into trouble, get out of trouble, run away") so I, for one, welcome the extending of the story and the slowing of the pace. The book can be read in a day, yet the story is set over the course of a year. I'm glad the first movie stops around the point where they escape the elves in barrels because that marked the departure of the repeating series mentioned above and moved into different territory - it's a natural cut off point. How they split the last two parts seems natural too and with all the extra stuff from the LOTR appendices I can easily see it filling three whole, enjoyable movies.

It's one not-very-long book spread out over three films, which means absolutely nothing will happen in this first film. I bet that scene with the dwarves at Bilbo's house lasts a good hour.

Hollywoods plan:

1. Turn one book into 3 films to squeeze more money out of the fans
2. Release each film in 3-D to make people pay more
3. Release each film on DVD, Blu-ray and 3-D
4. Release each film again 6 months later in a 'special edition' case version or directors cut.
5. Release the 1st two as a box set.
6. Once all films are out, then release the trilogy box set.
7. Then the special edition box set.
8. All re-released at the cinema as a Hobbit Trilogy 9hr Marathon
9. Then a Hobbit and LOTR cinema release marathon.

And I for one will be there every step of the way!!!!

Cinema De Lux, Leicester, over-priced and s**t specs.

I think it's because it's called 'The Hobbit', which is a 200 page children's book.
Had it been called 'Tales from Middle Earth', I think less fuss would have been made.

Really? It's no more expensive than the Odeon or Vue, and far nicer surroundings

SPOILER: I think this film will stop when they reach Mirkwood. The Elves and barrels will be in the second film.

I'm getting so sick of these whiners (You know who you are)!! Okay, listen up whiners....First of all The Hobbit was written in a completely different style than LOTR. It was geared more towards children. Had Tolkien written The Hobbit in the same descriptive, narrative style that LOTR was written in, it would've been 700 pages long. Second of all, as has been pointed out by various people here, Jackson will be "mining" the appendices for stop complaining about this book being turned into 3 movies
Go away whiners...nobody cares about your negative BS...especially me. Arm yourselves with proper information before you start talking out of your butts! These movies will be amazing!!!

All the better for having more content for the next film then!

True but the Hobbit is such a recognisable name they probably didn't want to lose it.


Me too, because Hollywood's greed aside, PJ & Fran's idea is to give US another trilogy worthy of sitting next to LOTR on my DVD shelf

You sir, are correct!

Creative implications of making it into 3 films aside, the aesthetics of increasing the frame rate is the most worrying sign of cinema's future, much more so than 3D.

It's already difficult to find a 2D showing of new releases, the inferior and cheaper brand of digital projection is also becoming the norm. But 48 frames per second is a fundamental departure from the the established language of cinema. The 'film look' which used to be the holy grail of independent filmmakers and is what we've all grown up regarding as a mark of quality (contrasted with tacky TV soap opera video etc) - is all of a sudden being sacrificed by an industry scrambling to make up for the creative deficit ingrained in the vertically-integrated movie franchise "product".

The multi-national corporate structure of today's Hollywood realises that they are running a production line with a business model centred around high short term sales and repeat business coming from a marketable range of products (movie sequels/prequels/spinoffs). It's a risk averse approach to maximise profits as quickly as possible before the punters realise no-one will be watching these products 10 years from now. Transformers anyone?

Films like Lawrence of Arabia are treasured and re-released 50 years later continually making a profit, this risk taking approach to epic filmmaking probably ended 10 years ago - Lord of the Rings being the final example of the old Hollywood.

Now we have a media industry so deeply integrated - one division buys advertising from another division of the same company - promoted on their own TV networks and creativity disintegrates.

The marketing 'experts' are so important that the story/script cannot proceed without extensive market analysis.

The art of Filmmaking is reduced to a brochure of cinematography, editing, music and design styles, so much that every genre, every story, has the same colour template, applied to it - ever notice the orange and blue look nearly every movie has? - not to mention the shaky cam etc..

Add to the mix the obsessive paranoia of piracy and you have an industry that will continue to clamp our eyelids open with 3D 48fps HFR technologies - desperately trying to convince us that it will blow your mind. Clearly with some morons this approach works.. Not to mention the casual film goers who don't know or don't care about the aesthetic implications.

The fact is though - a great many people cannot stand 3D - it does cause visual problems in a significant number of people. Also many people already hate the look produced from 100hz or 'pure motion' or whatever crap is shoved into most TVs but marketed as an essential new feature - just so they can sell the latest model. Fortunately in most cases you can turn these things off. But it is depressing to see Directors such as Peter Jackson falling into such an obvious trap and implementing these gimmicks at the production stage.

This demonstrates an ignorance - or a contempt for the cinema language we all know and love. You don't hear anyone complaining about a properly filmed movie projected in the way perfected over a hundred years - so why are these filmmakers alienating a huge percentage of people, potentially forcing them out of cinemas for good? My guess is that they're only really counting on teenage boys to flock to blockbusters aimed squarely at them. Particularly James Cameron, Peter Jackson, Michael Bay have all but given up on adults anyway. The rest of Hollywood will follow..

24 frames per second is part of film's visual language and it's beauty - you subconsciously register this as familiar to how we see the world (motion blur, judder from eye and head movements) but slightly removed from reality - almost like a dream. This elementally helps you suspend your disbelief at what you're seeing, blending perfectly with narrative storytelling.

48 frames per second breaks this illusion in the same way as nearly every TV show ever made looks hyper-real which, in the same way that digital effects tend to render everything in focus, ignoring depth of field, draws attention to itself - breaking the illusion. Of course, many US shows, despite the TV signal being 50/60 frames per second, 24fps is still chosen because of it's aesthetic superiority. The alternative is everything looking like a soap opera.

Most of the Hobbit will look like a behind the scenes feature - or a live broadcast version of a movie, but it's guaranteed that a chunk of the audience will convince themselves that they don't need to adjust their eyes - what they're seeing is not a shameless gimmick but spectacle.. Surely this is the intended effect, because when you throw away your creative voice, spectacle is all you have left!

Maybe we'll only have the art-house scene tempting anyone over 25 back but personally I'm still waiting for another great Die Hard, grown up sci-fi or even another Star Wars or Spielbergian adventure (Star Trek is the closest there's been for years)

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