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Friday
Dec212012

THE HOBBIT

Stars: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Ken Stott, Graham McTavish, William Kircher, James Nesbitt, Stephen Hunter, Dean O’Gorman, Aidan Turner, Barry Humphries and Andy Serkis.
Writers: Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Guillermo del Toro; based on the novel by JRR Tolkien.
Director: Peter Jackson.

Rating: 1.5/5


It is not enough to merely gawk at the spectacle that is The Hobbit and bleat, “Job well done, Mr Jackson!” Afforded the budget of his dreams to revisit the billion-dollar Rings franchise, Peter Jackson should provide effects work that is nothing short of perfect; that is very least the fans have a right to expect. The much-discussed 48 frames-per-second camera technique offers a ridiculously crisp image, at times beautiful but certainly robbing The Hobbit of any real-world grounding. Ultimately, it is just another geeky tool, the kind that ‘techy’ directors like Jackson and James Cameron love to utilise just because they can. The Hobbit didn’t need it, but the look of the film is not the biggest problem with the New Zealand director’s return to The Shire.

What needs to be addressed is just how ploddingly boring The Hobbit is.

Clocking in at an astonishingly indulgent 170 minutes, Jackson bulks up Tolkien’s lean story with invented, convoluted scenes of no consequence whatsoever. Already much-discussed is the film's first 25 minutes, in which the band of warrior dwarves converge upon the home of our reluctant hero, Bilbo Baggins (an ok Martin Freeman), at the behest of the wizard, Gandalf (Ian McKellen). Much singing and eating and general dwarfish shenanigans ensue, all of which frustrates Baggins and, increasingly, the audience. There is no dramatic momentum created, no character emerges as particularly compelling. The tone of the film is set in this opening sequence – very often, a lot will seem to be going on in The Hobbit, but nothing ever really happens.

The dwarves, with Baggins in tow and Gandalf riding shotgun, set off to reclaim their rightful home, the Kingdom of Erebor, which has been seized by the dragon Smaug. They are chased by Orcs, take a time-consuming sidetrack to visit Rivendell (a passage not in the book that only serves to work LoTR favourites Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving and Christopher Lee into the new trilogy) and encounter the horrid visage that is Gollum (Andy Serkis, of course, riddling-off against Bilbo in the film’s best sequence).

As was the case with The Lord of The Rings trilogy, there is a great deal of walking, running and climbing in The Hobbit. The dwarf army travels an interminable distance, encountering horse stealing trolls (a terribly written sequence that plays like a bad Monty Python sketch); duelling giant rock monsters (affording a glimpse at the darker vision that Gullermo del Toro may have employed); and, the underground lair of the Goblin King (Barry Humphries) and his minions (which the dwarves must flee, traversing an elaborate maze of ladders and bridges that start to resemble a game of Donkey Kong). The peril is evident, but there is not a whisp of tension in any of these adventures. Knowing The Hobbit is merely the beginning point for a new trilogy, there is no threat to any of the lead characters and, even after 2 ½ hours, we don’t get to know any of the support dwarves enough to care in they live or die.

Given the source material is so beloved and the last three films were bathed in Oscar and commercial glory, The Hobbit carries with it inherited cache. And Jackson knows that all too well; there is a lazy smugness at work here, a mood that has deadened the director’s instincts. For thousands, the Lord of The Rings trilogy was an emotion-filled spectacle; The Hobbit, by comparison, is all pixels and no pulse. The Lord of The Rings was heroic cinema bolstered by new technology, a new generation’s Lawrence of Arabia or Braveheart; The Hobbit is only new technology. The trilogy it most resembles is not the past Tolkien adaptations, but the bloated, plotless Transformer films.  

Reader Comments (19)

Spot on. I am done with Hollywood

A review with which I wholeheartedly agree. Peter Jackson is well on his way to becoming the next George Lucas, following his much-beloved trilogy with a second that plays more like a video game with insipid techno-characters and pointless special effects that amuse the director and test the audience's patience. The millions of LOTR fans will find their good will greatly tested upon seeing this disappointment of a movie.

December 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPaul

Amen! I am a Tolkien fan, and loved the first trilogy. But after watching this schlock, all I want is less tech. How is it that the technology of the original trilogy looks better to me? I left the theater with a list of woes. Disappointing.

December 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCat C.

"..take a time-consuming sidetrack to visit Rivendell (a passage not in the book that only serves to work LoTR favourites Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving and Christopher Lee into the new trilogy)..."

Actually, they do go to Rivendell in the book. It is the setting for much of Chapter Three. http://lotr.wikia.com/wiki/A_Short_Rest But Galadriel and Saruman are not there, that is true.

Sounds disappointing, overall. Sigh.

December 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKels

I agree with the review. I regret that I spent 80 $ for my family for 3 D movie. We all agreed the Hobbit was boring. Too much effects, no breaks between "scary" events and very little human, emotional dimension which makes any movie interesting and real. Let's learn from 80ies where movies were actually exciting and thrilling, instead of focusing on blasts, pixels, visual effect. What leaves lasting effect in your heart is not the effect, but the katharsis, as described by Plato more than 2000 years ago!

December 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPeter

Nailed the review. There was always a sense of purpose, tension and flowing plot in LOTR. The Hobbit seemed like a bunch of scenes hastily thrown together. At no point did i care they were on a quest, care at all about the characters, and unlike in LOTR, i had no clue where they were or where they were headed in Middle Earth (other than rivendale). The trolls were awful, so corny, and so was the goblin king. Why did they add that Disney BS???

December 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGabe

Frankly you are all overly critical whiners. It was an excellent movie, much better than Fellowship as a starting point. And to the point that the 48fps technique removed any realism from the movie, it is a movie about Middle Earth! It isn't real! And it is a place where magic exists and should be viewed as such. I guess you guys don't remember Lord of the Rings accurately and had too high of expectations. Since this is the return to middle earth it will never be as good for some I suppose.

December 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDan

I agree. There is no emotional connection with any of the dwarves, who come off as flat. The scene between Freeman and Serkis is by far the most watchable, because they are both allowed to act and the audience is allowed a respite from the video game-like action sequences. For my full review, visit bitesizemoviereview.blogspot.com.

December 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmy Pollard

Too much negativity here, imo. The movie was good, tho certainly not as good as any one of the LoTR trilogy. Some of the added material worked, while some did seemed forced and unnecessary. Some scenes did stretch too long, such as the dwarves escaping the goblin lair - too much slashing across too many wooden rope bridges and chasms, etc. However, it was still pretty good overall.

I must mention that some of the plot points criticized as time-wasting Jacksonian inventions in this review were taken directly from the book. It's important to know what the hell one is talking about before sitting down at the keyboard.

December 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterzenny

I agree completely. 100% spot on.

December 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterumamibathsalts

A movie with a hobbit, not a movie of The Hobbit. :-(

December 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDeltaSlyHoney

I am a huge Lord of the Rings fan and was mesmerised by Peter Jackson's rendition of the trilogy. I went to go and see The Hobbit this afternoon and as it neared the end, a sad wave of disappointment came over me. I'll admit that it was good to see some of the cast return and there were a few enjoyable scenes, such as Bilbo's encounter with Golum (which was probably the highlight of the movie for me), and, although not actually in the book, the sleigh of rabbits and Sebastian the hedgehog had me in tears of laughter.

However, The Hobbit's reckless abuse of special effects and plethora of lengthy action sequences left me bored in my seat, wondering how long there was until the end.

I can't believe they've drawn it out into three movies, especially given that the novel is less than half the size of the first Lord of the Rings book. It should have been made into a single movie of the same length, without all of superfluous special effects and fight scenes, and with more of the classic storytelling magic that Jackson imparted to The Lord of the Rings.

December 30, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterunanimous

I completely disagree with most of this article. Yes the film was long, but it was packed full of action and adventure, which is what the fans want. I think the criticism directed towards Peter Jackson here is unjustified, and is a case of people having the attitude of 'let's try to bring down someone who's successful'. I agree the whole 48 frames per second technique was unnecessary, but so what, directors nowadays seem to be transfixed on making things 3D, He isn't the first and he certainly won't be the last director to use these things. Besides I don't really see the harm in it, as the film is available in normal old school 2D. On the whole I enjoyed the film and would happily see it again.

December 31, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjoe

I last read Hobbit and LOTR about 30 years ago, so I'm not a hardcore fan and I dont' remember every detail. Nevertheless I loved the LOTR movies and I enjoyed this movie too. I didn't really care whether this or that detail was in the book. The most enjoyable aspect was the beautiful scenery and visuals. Rivendell is a breathtaking spot that I enjoyed revisiting.
My main criticism of the film is the overuse of battle & chase scenes with the Orcs, Wargs and trolls. I felt the same way about Return of the King. Battle scenes involving thousands of orcs just became boring after awhile. Aside from that, I realize that some of the extraneous material must have come from the Silmarillion (which I have not read.) People need to realize that Tolkien was not a concise writer. Why do they expect that anything about Middle Earth should be brief, stripped-down, concise? Going to Middle Earth is a mental vacation... people should sit back and enjoy it for what it is.

January 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterWoodswalker

I've just seen the movie. It has its moments but I have to agree that in terms of storytelling and emotional content, it's pretty weak. Plus it's quite long and tedious, and the physics is weird. I just find nothing looks real at all - the lights, backgrounds, CG, nothing... I can't explain it how LOTR seemed real, the locations and everything. Now here when rocks fall, or they run on a bridge and all, there is something off... I don't buy it at all, despite the quality in the detail and all.

I don't know how long we have to let this industry be driven by geeks like Jackson and Lucas who while honest and sincere in their desire, kind of ruin our experience because of their childish need to sanitize and over sample every frame of every thing. Cameron too. It started with 3D and now one guy decides that it's more natural to go 48fps to patch 3D motion panning when 3D is a freakin gimmick to start with and we have to listen. Then the geek trolls come to comment that it's a great and amazing movie. Do they even remember what storytelling is about. All they care is having a freaking encyclopedia of dwarf lore put to screen. But we're not all anal retentive and there is also this thing it's called art. Yeah the geeks who have hijacked Tolkien's work and blindly approve what's happening have ruined it for us all!

I hope people who are into cinema speak their mind.

January 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMrX

Gosh. Comment quality certainly plummeted with THIS disguise for free speech. Somehow there's always a selfproclaimed speaker of the enlightened ones. And he's leading us to this intelligence-averse heaven of trolls by calling people of different opinion "trolls". AND "anal-retentive". No less...

About the movie:
Why does almost every review clobber the framerate for lending this motion picture its "unrealistic" look and feel? To me it seems this should only play its role in panning sequences or at least fast action scenes... But it does look odd in the slow-paced opening shots of bilbo in his home. I'm really not trying to be overly clever here. My impression is, that there is some sort of blunt aversion towards Peter Jackson at the moment, be it based on jealousy or whatever. And to vent it accordingly one has to find something that's dislikeable in specifically HIS way of shooting movies. Since the framerate stands out, it is the culprit. Only that it isn't. But since "High Definition" is so popular and everybody does it and it is in every shiny new toy we buy... Let's be kind to it.
To sum it up: I seriously doubt that high framerates make oddly crisp movies. What they do is provide improved temporal integration (especially for people trained in resolving fast-paced scenes.). If you do dislike the movie's looks for being too crisp at times, or too stagelike, say so. I hope we can make it more difficult for people bearing a grudge against Jackson (or anybody really) to hide behind fuzzy arguments.

January 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFraend

You could see this coming. Even in the LOTR films, the final film, ROTK, was bloated and full of needless effects sequences that came off as corny and overdone. There were also parts of the story line that just felt thrown together. The first two films were far better.

As expected, the Hobbit followed suit, but went even further off the tracks. Several really corny scenes (the trolls; the mountain duel in which we see them bodyslamming and uppercutting one and other like a WWF highlight reel; the troll king sequences; the cheezball acting and CGI forAzog; and again the cheezball sequences highlighting Thorin's overt machoness and Galadriel's obnoxiously overdone etherialness) ruined the film. Note to Jackson -- sometimes less is more. Also agree that there were too many "look at this!" 3D effects moments, included purely to remind us that the film was 3D. As if we'd forgotten. What a waste of a film. There is no recovering from this stinking heap of dung. The next 2 will be even worse I predict. Jackson's lost the plot.

January 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterVeritas

In Tolkien's book, the party of hobbits, wizard, and dwarves do indeed take a break in Rivendell; in the book, they stay for two weeks! So please get your facts straight if you're going to complain that the film doesn't follow the book.

That said, the film is indeed kind of an incoherent mess, with poor pacing, inconsistent tone, and revisionist scenes and lines that constantly dragged me out of the story. It doesn't really succeed as a children's movie, or as a straightforward action movie, or as something to really inspire fans of the books, while the first trilogy managed to strike a great balance between keeping the story moving and keeping the hardcore fans interested.

I am hoping that there might eventually be a re-cut version on DVD. But mostly I just hope the screenplays aren't so broken that the next two films are already doomed to be this bad, no matter how they are edited. The frustrating thing is that it will probably make money, even though it is so far from one or the other of the great movies it could have been.

January 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPaul R. Potts

"The Hobbit, by comparison, is all pixels and no pulse. "
Simon, this is the quote of the year. Brilliant. I takes me hat off to you.

February 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDominic

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