Staff Reviews

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Peter Jackson on a surprisingly flawed new quest.

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Well, Peter Jackson is no George Lucas, I'm happy to report, and his new Middle-earth prequel is no Phantom Menace. But the movie is a disappointment, and not only because it fails to equal the grand achievement of Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy of a decade ago. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey wanders and slumps and generally fails to engage. It's a welcome entrant in the annual holiday box-office scrum – big and busy and often beautiful to look at. But it's not what you might have been expecting, or hoping for.

First of all, at nearly three hours, the movie is just too long—especially since it's only the first installment of what is now being inflated into a new trilogy. J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings books, which ran to more than a thousand pages, fully warranted a three-part movie of more than nine hours. However, Tolkien's 1937 novel, The Hobbit, or There and Back Again—his introductory exploration of Middle-earth mythology—is only about 300 pages long. Jackson has pumped up this slender tale with about 150 pages' worth of additional material from the Return of the King appendices, and it sometimes feels like padding.

The story involves another quest, of course—the one that's alluded to in the Rings films, which were set 60 years after the events in this one. The quest here is once again organized by the wandering wizard Gandalf (a returning Ian McKellen), who once again recruits an unlikely Hobbit, the young Bilbo Baggins, to take part. Bilbo, who was played as an old man by Ian Holm in the earlier pictures, is here incarnated as a youth by Martin Freeman. Freeman is a star in Britain, and best-known here at the moment for his up-to-date Dr. Watson in the excellent BBC TV series, Sherlock. He is an actor of warm, cheery appeal, and he is not one of the movie's problems.

But there is also a fellowship here, and this is a problem. The quest is to be in aid of 13 dwarves, who seek to regain control of their homeland, Erebor, which has been invaded and occupied by a fiery dragon called Smaug. The dwarves are distinguished mainly by their complicated beards; apart from their king, Thorin (sternly played by Richard Armitage), they never quite register as individual characters, and soon become a blur. We meet them when they are summoned to Bilbo's cozy Hobbit-hole. Here they pillage Bilbo's well-stocked larder for a long night of feasting, drinking and singing—a sequence that goes on far longer than necessary. Finally, with Bilbo roped in, they all set off on the long journey to Erebor.

Now we're once again treated to long helicopter shots of the craggy, snow-capped mountains of Jackson's native New Zealand, and they're as glorious as ever. So is the ravishing elf haven of Rivendell, still bathed in the golden light that so strongly recalls the work of Maxfield Parrish. The new fellowship stops off at Rivendell to seek counsel from some familiar characters: the elf king Elrond (Hugo Weaving), the mind-reading Lady Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), and the white wizard Saruman (Christopher Lee), who at this point has not yet gone to the dark side. After an all-too-brief and not especially encouraging consultation (a darkness is falling over Middle-earth), the fellowship moves on.

Set-piece adventures soon begin to accumulate. There's a lively but tediously extended encounter with a trio of Cockney trolls who seek to roast the dwarves on a spit over their crackling campfire. There's also a rampaging attack by evil Orcs mounted on slavering Wargs, never a welcome sight. Unfortunately, the lead beastie here, a character called Azog (Manu Bennett), pales in fearsomeness compared to the snarling Uruk-hai of the Rings films. Equally unfortunate is the appearance of a mushroom-fuddled wizard called Radagast the Brown, who zips about in a sledge pulled by rabbits. It would be overstating things to call Radagast the Jar Jar Binks of the movie, but he's rather sillier than would seem entirely necessary. We also get a great wattly goblin, a CGI battle between two towering rock monsters, and a misty passing shot of a sinister character called the Necromancer (wordlessly played by Freeman's Sherlock costar, Benedict Cumberbatch), who will loom much larger in future installments of the story.

The movie's high point is the legendary meeting, in a vast dripping cavern, of Bilbo and the wretched Gollum (Andy Serkis), possessor and victim of the magical Ring that was at the center of the previous trilogy. Gollum continues to set the standard for digital performance-capture, and Serkis is once again brilliant in the role, all devious wheedling and spiraling, half-mad rants. As Gollum and Bilbo engage in a high-stakes riddling contest, we are reminded of what a virtuoso filmmaker Jackson is, and we wish that there were more such perfectly constructed scenes in the picture.

The Hobbit's overriding flaw is technological. As everyone is by now aware, the movie was shot in 3D at 48 frames per second—twice the frame rate that has been standard in films for the last 80 years. This pictorial strategy is not exactly new—special-effects master Douglas Trumbull devised a system for shooting at 60 frames per second some 30 years ago, although at the time no one wanted to know. High-frame-rate filming may be the future of big-budget movies. (James Cameron has already announced he'll be shooting his Avatar sequel at either 48 or 60 frames per second.) At the moment, though, 48fps is a considerable annoyance. The intention of doubling the amount of visual information in this film was to provide enhanced resolution—an unprecedented clarity and crispness. This goal is certainly achieved; but the result, especially on interior sets, is to give the images a Blu-ray sheen that may put you in mind of your home sofa and big-screen TV. As for the 3D component, that may be a matter of taste at this point. The Rings films hardly suffered for lacking it (although 3D retrofitting is now being contemplated for that original trilogy), and the problem of the light-dimming glasses persists.

Jackson's next two Hobbit movies could be terrific—the man is a protean craftsman, and it's hard to imagine this series getting anything but better. It's off to a shaky start, though.   

NEXT: 400 U.S. Troops to Turkey

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  1. Isn’t The Hobbit a 310 page book. How are the ever going to stretch that out into three 3-hour movies?

    1. I believe it was stated somewhere that Jackson is going to use stuff from the LOTR books that was not used in the movies.

      1. “Jackson has pumped up this slender tale with about 150 pages’ worth of additional material from the Return of the King appendices, and it sometimes feels like padding.”

        Next time I should read the article before posting.

      2. Well, okay. But that’s nice really the story that people want. People probably want what’s expressed in the original novel.

        Yes, I know Tolkien changed things in the second edition of The Hobbit*, but still, what’s been made sounds like it’s going to bore a lot of people who didn’t read all the Tolkien appendices.

        *Actually, Jackson would have got my attention had he attempted the original 1937 version instead.

        1. *”that’s not really the story”

        2. I don’t want what’s expressed in the original novel, I want to see something creative and new. I want it to adhere to the major plot points and the “feel” of the story, but I want the director to surprise me a bit. Give me a new interpretation or some creative twists that keep the story coherent while skipping scenes from the book.

          I’ve seen plenty of films that just literally portray exactly what happens in the book, and they’re generally rather lifeless. You have to allow the director and writers to be creative with the material, or they’ll get bored and you’ll end up with a boring movie.

          1. me 2

          2. I get that. But padding it with the appendices and personal notes of Tolkien isn’t exactly saying anything about Jackson’s own creativity either, is it?

            1. “How are the ever going to stretch that out into three 3-hour movies?”

              Like this

              1. Got me. Half way through the article before scrolled to the top to check the source.

                Frickin’ Onion.

              2. Don’t forget the 45-minute sequence on Verb Tenses in Sindarin Elvish.

            2. Right. The fact that this is 3 movies tells me that Jacksom slavishly adhered to the source material instead of getting creative.

              What I’m saying is I’m not opposed to bringing in extra source material to flesh out the story. But it appears that the reasonthis is 3 films is because he added *everything* instead of excercising some creative judgement and forming a coherent narrative arc.

          3. I generally am not anxious to see movie versions of books I like specifically because I have an idea in my head of what the movie “should” look like and I know that the director has a different opinion of what it should look like and I’m probably not going to like it.

            (Case in point – Kubrik casting Jack Nicholson in ‘The Shining’. We all know Nicholson is insane, the story would have been better seeing Tom Hanks being possessed by The Overlook.)

            But I do have this picture of Jackson *not* being faithful to the book and the resulting swarm of protesters decrying his apostasy, a crowd of bloated, pasty-skinned overaged professional college students shuffling a picket line, heads bent over as their Cheeto-stained fingers poke at hand-held gaming devices, muttering their sarcastic complaints at the blasphemies suffered by Saint Tolkien.

            That being said, I liked The Hobbit book, LOTR book not so much. I liked LOTR movie, probably won’t The Hobbit. I keep seeing references to the 48 fps and figure it’s like the cassette/8 track or VHS/Beta argument – if you’ve never seen 48 fps it’s going to be a distraction but it’s not that big a deal otherwise. 3D does nothing for me so I’m probably just going to see the 2D 24 fps version. And expect my ass to be numb afterward.

            1. I liked LOTR the film better than the books and I agree with you on the hordes of slavish book fans picketing Jackson.

              That’s the reason they fucked up the theatrical cut of ROTK. The book fans were adamantly opposed to the (them rumored) fight scene between Gandalf and the Witch King. And then they latched onto a continuity error involving Gandalfs staff. And the scene was ultimately cut, even though doing so significantly diminishes the climax of the big battle scene, and renders an entire subplot extraneous.

      3. Not seeing it until to tomorrow, but my understanding is that there will be the backstory of Smaug taking over Erebor, and the whole White Council driving out the Necromancer thing. The whole is then framed as a recollection told to Frodo by Bilbo. In addition, all the actors of LOTR have to make their appearance somehow.

        I dearly love Tolkien, and I loved Jackson’s LOTR… but I greatly fear this might be another King Kong (a great little story with some good scenes, but ninety minutes longer than it ever should have been).

        Doing this in just one three hour movie would be rushing it, but three three hour movies is far too much.

    2. According to a couple of reviews, he is incorporating a LOT of the Appendices which Tolkein wrote to provide a backstory to both The Hobbit & LOR. Jackson is also using originally unpublished notes written by Tolkein that were later edited and published by his son after Tolkein died.

      1. Do you need a PhD in the works of J. R. R. Tolkien to appreciate the incorporate material?

        1. I don’t think so. The deep history Tolkien invented is my favorite aspect of his work.

      2. The origin of the notes is an interesting story itself: as anyone who’s read the books knows, the Hobbit has a much different tone, almost that of a children’s fairytale, than the Lord of the Rings. This is because Tolkein hadn’t really conceived of the Lord of the Rings when he wrote the Hobbit and didn’t originally intend it as a prequel. But if you consider them as documents produces by a real society rather than fictional constructs, what would be the in world explanation of this difference?

        Tolkein, as a philologist theorized that The Hobbit must have been written later than The Lord of the Rings and adapted from an earlier work that matched the tone of the other story. The notes were produced as part of an aborted project to write that original document.

        So in a sense, Loder is right that the novel doesn’t have enough material for three movies. But the movies aren’t really movies of that novel.

        1. “a much different tone, almost that of a children’s fairytale”

          Which it was – but it incorporated several elements from the mythos Tolkien was developing. Tolkien himself had to modify the original Hobbit to fit the mythos better, and I can understand the *concept* of Jackson doing the same, what matters is how well Jackson pulls it off, which would require seeing the whole 3-part Hobbit movie.

          Whatever else it is, it’s certainly ambitious.

    3. Inserting plotlines from Tolkien’s appendices.

    4. He padded it out with all sorts of stuff from the Silmarillion and the LOTR appendices.

      1. He couldn’t include anything from the Silmarillion. The family wouldn’t give him the rights. All the extra stuff is from the unpublished notes and the appendices of Return of the King.

        1. Incidentally, why did he get the rights to the unpublished notes but not the Silmarillion?

          1. Apparently the family figured there was no money in withholding the rights to the notes.

  2. Well, Peter Jackson is no George Lucas, I’m happy to report, and his new Middle-earth prequel is no Phantom Menace.

    The long sequences dealing with the disfunction in the Shire Senate are riveting.

    1. So, let me get this straight:

      Naboo is ruled by a monarch named Queen Amidala, but it is also a member of a Galatic Senate? And Padme Amidala is no longer Queen in Attack of the Clones because her “term” is up?!

      1. Yes, they elect their Queen

        1. “Yes, they elect their Queen”

          Yup. At fourteen years of age.

          I’ve always had a pet theory that there’s something in the water on Naboo that causes permanent brain damage. The existence of the Gungans would appear to qualify this.

          1. I’ve suspected on that point that Lucas was inspired by the Kumari or “living goddesses” of Nepal, girls who are chosen as divine representatives when they infants or small children and are stripped of the title when they hit puberty.

      2. Yes. And if you think that’s problematic or unrealistic, I’d suggest that you read up on the governance structure of the real life Holy Roman Empire: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prince-elector

      3. That actually didn’t bother me. Some of the founders wanted to call the President his Excellency. You can elect a head of state and call them whatever you want. I could see tradition taking over and calling the head of state a Queen or King or God-Emperor.

        1. The real problem is that the motives of the main factions make absolutely no sense.

          The trade federation wants to blockade Naboo WHY? But they are secretly on the side of Senator Palpatine (Again Why?) who is doing what exactly? So he can get emergency powers ? But then the Naboo Jar-Jar binxs creatures fight off the TF’s army of easily destroyed drones. But then it turns out that was all part of Palpatines plan. (Or something?)

          I mean, the Trade Federations actions make absolutely no fucking sense. There’ no apparent reason for them to be attacking Naboo and no coherent explanation of how the hell this fits into Count Dooku or Palpatine’s plans.

          Ther’es just a bunch of incoherent political shit happening which is the backdrop for some special effects.

          1. Agreed,There was no coherency to the plot especially in the begining. And is blockading an entire planet really that useful?

          2. Actually the Trade Federation was working with Darth Siduious and had no idea that he was really Palpatine

    2. Actually, Lucas would have replaced all scenes of characters smoking tobacco with characters smoking walkie-talkies.

      1. Gollum shot first!

        1. +1 billion

    3. Christopher Lee’s character is the traitor!

  3. Too Gay; Didn’t Watch

  4. I became resigned to some level of disappointment when I saw they had stretched it over three movies. Two, just barely maybe. But three? Too much.

    It sounds like this movie suffers from a director who is too self-important to edit.

    I’ll still go to see it though. Probably catch the 2D version; just not that big a fan of 3D, really.

    1. You know a story is going to be long and drawn out if it includes a level of detail even Tolkien thought to be too much. Of course, I’ll still see them all in theaters.

      1. In other words, you’re part of the target audience.

    2. Maybe, but I really have no complaints about the Extended Versions of LOTR.

      One could argue that letting the “Extended Version” go straight to the screen is actually a plus. Of course, that assumes there won’t be a super-extended version of The Hobbit, that extends over 6 blu-rays and last 14 hours.

      1. If means buying the blu-rays, New Line probably already has a plan for the 2022 tenth anniversary edition.

      2. I thought LOTR should have been six 2+ hour movies, matching up with the 6 books, instead of 3 3+ with extensions pushing 4.

        For those who havent read it, each of the 3 novels is divided into 2 “books”.

        Who could have gotten Tom Bombadil, Goldberry, the scouring of the shire, etc, etc.

        I realize at the time that Jackson didnt yet have the pull to make that happen. Getting a trilogy approved and budgeted was hard enough.

        That said, have to agree with RC. Extending to two with some backstory makes sense, three is insane.

        1. We could have…

        2. Tom Bombadil would have been ridiculous in the movie format, and I’m glad Jackson left that part out, although the Barrow Downs could’ve been awesome. The scouring of the Shire would’ve been cool, but idiots who never read the books already complained that the ending was too long.

          1. You can say that again.

          2. Tom Bombadil will be included in the Hobbit, via Doctor Who playing Radagast

          3. “The scouring of the Shire would’ve been cool, but idiots who never read the books already complained that the ending was too long.”

            People who think the film’s ending is overlong should read the ending to the book. The scouring is so tacked on and dragged out. But then, Tolkien had a tendency to render something as pivotal and central as the Battle of Helm’s Deep to a whopping two sentences about soldiers crashing together like waves, while dedicating fifty+ pages to Hobbit dietary customs and annoying songs.

        3. Tom Bombadil would have been ridiculous in the movie format, and I’m glad Jackson left that part out, although the Barrow Downs could’ve been awesome. The scouring of the Shire would’ve been cool, but idiots who never read the books already complained that the ending was too long.

      3. I though a lot of the extra material in the extended cuts was really book-fan shout-outs. Like throwing in Legolas and Gimli having a drinking game. Or having Gandalf use the “Black Speech” at the Council of Elrond.
        Not much of it really aids the story. It’s just there because it happens in the book and the book fans thought it was important.

        1. I think it’s lame that the studio and Jackson feel compelled to bring in all of the LOTR crew. They should’ve done the one movie, more or less the book, then put together a sequel that used the appendix material.

          1. I read that Jackson wanted to do the Hobbit and then something akin to the Silmarillion, with all the back story stuff, but the studio wouldn’t underwrite the second part without the name recognition of The Hobbit. And the Tolkien family wouldn’t give him the rights to do the Silmarillion for any less than he paid for the Hobbit, which would make for an interesting discussion of Copyright. But this amalgamation is the closest he could reasonably get to “An illustrated Middle Encyclopedia.”

            1. “Middle Earth Encyclopedia.”

          2. Well technically at least 1 additional character from the LOTR should be in the movie even though he never appeared in the book, Legolas.

            Course I seriously doubt you could get Orlando Bloom to sign on as essentially a glorified extra

            1. It’s called a cameo. Why not?

              1. Well he realistically would have been in 2 parts.

                First, when the dwarves were held captives by the elves of Mirkwood, Legolas was the son of that elven king so realistically he should be hanging around in the background of a few scenes shot there, and could in theory even have a couple of spoken lines.

                Then later he realistically should be at the Battle of 5 Armies (and you could give him a somewhat expanded role there).

                I suppose that Gimli should probably also be at the Battle of 5 Armies as well given that he was ~70 years old at the and likely living with Dain in the Iron Mountains at the time.

                Also they should likely encounter Aragorn as a small child when they stop off in Rivendell as he was living there and about 10 years old however he went by the name Estel at the time, be interesting to see if they include that little nugget in the movie.

                1. Aragorn was 87 years old in LotR. This was 50 some years earlier as IIRC. He’d be 30 something, no?

                  1. According to this…

                    http://lotr.wikia.com/wiki/Timeline_of_Arda

                    He was born in the year 2931 of the 3rd age and the events of the Hobbit take place in 2941 with the War of the Ring taking place in 3018

                2. Well, Bilbo is 111 at the start of FOTR, and he’s 50 in the Hobbit. So Aragorn actually would’ve been 26 and travelling in the Wild at this time. Although he should’ve been included in the fight against the Necromancer, if I remember correctly.

            2. I wonder if Jackson is going to stick his kids in it all over the place again?

        2. It’s just there because it happens in the book and the book fans thought it was important.

          It’s there because Jackson is a fan of the books. That’s why the movies were so good.

        3. There is something to that, but the extended versions also just flow better. The theatrical releases are (understandably) choppy in comparison. I originally wondered if the added scenes would make the films boring, but they did not at all, except for the very end where it was like Jackson just didn’t want to let it go. Kind of like one too many encores at the end of an amazing concert, dragging it out but the true fans don’t really mind.

        4. I agree. I greatly prefer the original movie cuts over the extended. There were a few scenes that could have been left in, but most were just silly or boring. Getting buried in a mountain of skulls? Really?

    3. It sounds like this movie suffers from a director who is too self-important to edit.

      Yes, well, they made so much money off of the “extended” versions of LOTR that I’m usre they assumed that they owuld gte more repeat viewers if they just stuck everything in.

      Personally, although I own both the original and extended cuts, I kind of wish I could do a recut and only put ing SOME of the material that was added in the extended cuts.

      I think the sequences I would keep would be:

      FOTR: Extra opening Shore narrative about hobbits. (nothing else)

      TTT :
      All of the extra Rohan storyline material. Except the bit about Eowyn and the stew, and Aragorn being a horse whisperer.

      ROTK: Just Gandalf vs. the Witch King, which should never have been cut. Also added scene with Merry with the Rohirrim. Nothing else.

      1. Er Shire narrative.

      2. Of all the things that bug me about the LOTR movies most I can accept. O.k. maybe not the sparkler torch runner at Helm’s Deep. It still bothers me that the scouring of the Shire was taken out because the writers felt like you couldn’t restart the action in a movie once the ring was destroyed. The story misses something by taking that out.

        1. I see both sides, but I agree with you more. The scouring drives home the point that even in victory, a price is paid.

        2. Agreed.

          I like to whine about Bombadil, but when I heard the movies were being made, I knew he was gonna get cut. Its the obvious place to cut.

          But getting rid of the scouring of the shire misses the whole point. Tip O’Neal would have understood: All politics is local.

        3. No way.
          The Scouring of the Shire would make a nice stand-alone short film, but it completely fucks up the ending of the story. It shouldn’t even really be in the book.

          They could handle the ‘OMG! The Shire has been raped by Orcs!’ moment in a few seconds, maybe. Have them arrive back in town just AFTER the Shire residents have already burned the nasty industrial mill down and run the miscreants out of town. Have some old codgers fill Frodo in on all the excitment that’s been happening while they were out of town.

          1. You could do it as like a horrifying moment where they come over the hill and see this huge cloud of smoke and the nasty polluted creek. And then they get closer and it turns out that it’s already over. And some old guy runs out of his hobbit hole excitedly to tell them all about it. Barely stops to notice the fine clothes and ask what they’ve been up to.

          2. The Scouring of the Shire would make a nice stand-alone short film, but it completely fucks up the ending of the story. It shouldn’t even really be in the book.

            That is insane. While it goes against standard story telling styles, that is the point. Real life works more like this.

            While you are off fighting Nazis gloriously in Europe, balloon bombs kill your family back in Oregon. Or little nazis have taken over the local city council.

          3. The point was that hobbits were not fighters, and other than the four Travellers, hobbits hadn’t been threatened by anything in hundreds of years. They needed to be shown that they could still fight for their freedom. Your suggestion is the worst possible way to handle it.

            1. The problem is that it puts the climax of the story in the third chapter of the third book. And then you have this very extended lengthy denoument that rambles on for another 700 pages or so.

              And why should hobbits have to be *shown* they could fight for their freedom? It would be more in keeping with Tolkiens description of hobbit’s innate internal resilience that they would rediscover that without help. Or are Frodo and Bilbo the only Hobbits who are capable of showing unusual stengths under extreme circumstances?

              1. 1. Chapter 13 (Its chapter 3 of Book VI, which is chapter 13 of ROTK)

                2. 98 pages, not 700.

                And The Scouring of the Shire is all of 27 pages. Less than 10% of ROTK. So assuming its proportional, we are talking about maybe 15 minutes of screen time.

                Yes, its non-conventional story structure, but so fucking what?

                1. The so fucking what is in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

                  Sure, you could get book purists to watch it in droves. But there aren’t that many of them. You make movies for general audiences. Not to cater to a small minority of book fetishists.

                  If you tried to do the souring on film you would have pissed off people getting up and walking out of the theater in the middle of it.

                  1. He could have cut out the whole “Aragorn falls off a cliff” scene, and put in the Scouring, and everything would have worked out fine.

    4. Agree and disagree.

      Agree…3D sucks ass!

      Disagree on the editing. I thought the director’s cuts of LotR added massively to the story, filling in aspects from the book that were missing in the original theatrical release. Of course, I don’t have any problem sitting through a 4 hour movie. I love director’s cuts. Once I’ve seen a movie the way it was originally envisioned, I have a hard time going back to watching the short versions.

  5. I was planning to see it in the theater, but the more I read about it the, more I think I’ll wait for it on Netflix.

    1. Dang misplaced comma. Wish they had a preview button.

    2. I’ll probably go see it in the theater just so I don’t have to spend the next 6-8 months punching people in the face for spoiling it.

      1. Bilbo makes it home safe. Ned Stark, on the other hand….

        Also, its a frickin sled.

        1. o/~ Leia’s his sister and Vader’s his dad
          What could I have said that would make her so mad?
          Norman Bate’s mom is dead, Bruce Willis is a ghost
          And Jesus comes back three days after he’s toast… o/~

    3. I hear that the 48 frames per second rate induces nausea in some people. Couple that with 3D generated headaches and you my friend are missing out on a night to remember.

  6. Most of what the review describes in the movie is in fact in the book. Jackson also has stated that in addition to using material from the appendices of the LOTR, the book itself is rather sparse when it comes to detailing action (for example, virtually no detail is given regarding the Battle of the 5 Armies). So by necessity they have filled some of that in. And you should remember that in making LOTR they cut a lot of material for the theater releases; the special editions released on DVD have more than 10 hours of material and even then there is still quite a bit missing (the barrow-wights, Tom Bombadil, and the Scouring of the Shire immediately leap to mind). Why aren’t we celebrating the fact that the Hobbit takes its time to tell the story properly rather than just a rush to action set piece after action set piece?

    1. Because films shouldn’t just literally translate the book to visual form. They have by necessity a different narrative structure, and need to edit the story to have appropriate pacing to build suspense and a climax and then end the film before the audience gets bored. Where a book can wander and go on long digressions (like the Tom Bombadil episode), this will just bore a film audience.

      I totally understand fleshing out some parts, but if he is including things like the rock-throwing fight between mountain giants, then he’s way overdoing it.
      We really don’t need every detail explicitly rendered on screen.

      1. We really don’t need every detail explicitly rendered on screen.

        Yes we do need it!

        OK, we really don’t.

        BUT WE WANTS IT, PRECIOUS, OH YES WE DO…

  7. Hapless hobbit caught up in evil conspiracy of dwarf extremists (with Elf financing) to hijack a dragon and fly it into Laketown? Where do they come up with these plots?

    1. I blame Bush

  8. Wow, only took a review of the Hobbit to find out who the dorkiest people on this site are…I am apparently one of them.

    1. Guilty, nobody here posting Bar Rafael shots here, or speculating on whether she has a landing strip or a Hitler.

        1. OK, None of the alleged female libertarians are posting here either. Women don’t dig on Hobbitses.

          1. My wife wants to see the movie. Then again she’s more of a conservative than a libertarian.

            1. She wants 30 minutes of dwarves eating and farting?

              1. Wouldn’t be much different than the average Saturday night at my house.

                1. That is so sarcasmic.

                  1. That’s So Raven!

          2. My wife does. Extremely libertarian. Just won’t re-watch 100 times, like I will.

          3. My wife tried to convince me to sneak out and watch the midnight showing last night.

  9. At the risk of plagiarizing the RedLetterMedia Phantom Menace review, I could never get into the LOTR movies because I felt they fucked up the most basic element: the characters.

    The only one of the good guys I felt strongly about was Frodo, and I HATED him even in the first movie. (Then he proceeded to get worse.) And the bad guys consisted of an army of anonymous ugly things, a wizard who switched teams so fast his betrayal couldn’t have that much emotional impact, and………an eyeball on top of a tower.

    1. I felt that the LOTR films, while doing some scenes very well, really got worse and worse the more they diverged from and cut the books.

      1. True, I thought the 2nd movie was the weakest as it diverges the most. Everything that was added in that wasnt from the book was weak content.

        1. That was my beef. Better stuff was excised for worse stuff.

          1. Agreed. When you have more material than you can fit in, why would you add new stuff at all?

            1. Because film is a different medium from books. You have to keep tension going throughout as much of the three hours as you can.

              Going on a totally unrelated aside about Tom Bombadil or the Barrow Wights or the conference of the ents for half an hour is going to kill a movie. Even though it’s great for a book you’re reading in discrete chunks over a span of days.

              1. That isnt my point. As I said somewhere, Bombadil was always to be cut.

                My point is WHY ADD NEW MATERIAL!

                Look, yes, you have a different medium, but that helps in the selection of scenes. But there were plenty of scenes, no need to add in new ones. Specifically, the Warg scene that ends with Aragorn falling off the cliff. WTF was the point of adding that scene in?

                1. Theoden had to find out that the Uruks were on the march somehow, plus it gave them the chance to go into the Arwen story (along with prissy elves, helpful for putting female butts in the seats)

                  1. gave them the chance to go into the Arwen story

                    This.

                    And I knew they were going to do it, because, um, major character cant be left out of an entire movie. But, I would have left a major character out of an entire movie.

                    Of course, I was suggesting 6 movies earlier, and #3 and #4 are following two separate groups if the books are followed reasonably closely.

                    1. Meh. They should have tried to do 2 movies as they were originally planning.

                      And don’t get me started on how Atlas Shrugged should have been condensed into one movie if they wanted it to have any impact.

                    2. They felt they had to shoehorn a romantic interest in there. It probably wasn’t necessary, but you can see why they thought it was. It’s a staple of mainstream movies, and they wanted a wider audience than just fans of the books.

                    3. In the book, the Arwen material was in an appendix, which is somewhat unusual. Not too much of a stretch to add it to the main action, like a normal narrative.

                  2. The problem wasn’t the idea of going into Arwen’s story or having an action scene with wargs. The problem was that the results were a bit cheesy and ridiculous.

                    Aragorn, the king of men, this really, really important guy, falls off a cliff and Theoden and co. simply shrug and says “oh well, let’s move on”. That’s like Washington falling into the Delaware River and the rebels shrugging and paddling on forward. All that for some goofy flashbacks and scenes of a wandering staggering Aragorn to fill the viewers in on Arwen. There had to have been a better way, frankly.

                    The LOTR movies never went full-Lucas but they did have their periodic lapses, mostly from new material or changes Jackson added.

                    1. “The LOTR movies never went full-Lucas but they did have their periodic lapses, mostly from new material or changes Jackson added.”

                      What are you talking about? When Boromir tells Gimli “don’t be short with me,” I bust a gut laughing! Could Tolkien have done as much?

                    2. Yes, I too loved those midget jokes with Gimli. “TOSS ME..” The stodgy Tolkien never appreciated a good midget joke.

                      Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go skateboarding on my trusty shield; eat your heart Tony Hawk.

                    3. Theoden doesn’t really know who Aragorn is at that point. He’s just some guy who hangs out with Gandalf.

                2. And without the warg fight, there’s no action in the film between the Rohirrim attack on the Uruks and Helms Deep. That’s like two hours, possibly more.

          2. +1

          3. NOBODY TOSSES A DWARF!

        2. Really? I thought most of the additions in TTT worked OK, and the stuff cut from the book was good but would not have made good film. For example, you weren’t seriously expecting them to show the ents digging a new channel for a river over a period of days, were you?

          IMHO, ROTK was where they started taking some pointless and cliche divergences from the books. Gollum fighting Frodo on the edge while not bothering to put the ring on? And Frodo catches onto an outcropping and Sam helps him up…how cliche.

          1. I’d still like for someone to explain why did Sean Bean’s brother have to drag Frodo’s ass all the way down to a battle in Osgiliath to do what took a couple pages in the book (reject the ring).

            Or why a bunch of talking trees are apparently be so out of touch with their own forest, they somehow didn’t notice Saruman reaving it blind until conveniently at the end of the film. Dude, you just now noticed?

            Then there’s this:
            Theoden: “Look around you Aragorn! The elves have left, Gondor is not coming! We are alone!”
            Random Elf Warriors: “Hey we’re gonna join this battle k thx.”
            Theoden: “…Ok. OTHER than those random elves, we are alone!”

            Each film has their quirks (Fellowship actually made a lot of improvements from the books), but TTT was pretty wacky in retrospect.

            1. Because it makes Faramir’s rejection of the ring more dramatic, and more meaningful. Having him dismiss it in two seconds with little hesitation elevates him to being more moral than Galadriel. But Faramir is a human. It’s better if he shows weakness, but ultimately overcomes it.

              1. No, that’s stupid. Jackson had this fixation with the idea that every character needed to have a fixation on the ring. But not every character did. Bombadil, for one, and Faramir. Faramir was supposed to be a contrast to his brother, not a whiny baby with daddy issues.

                I despise P. Jackson for changing Faramir’s motivations. It was a stupid change.

    2. a wizard who switched teams so fast his betrayal couldn’t have that much emotional impact

      Assuming you’re talking about Saruman, he was on the same team all the way through. He was always out for himself; he hoped to play Sauron for a fool and get the ring himself.

      1. That’s what happens in the book, but I think the film makes it seem like he’s totally on Sauron’s side.
        It’s not at all clear that Saruman is trying ot get the ring for himself in the movies.

    3. Ok, I agree that in the movies Elija Wood’s Frodo came off as far more of a whiny little bitch than he did in the books but outside of that the characterizations of the rest of the cast are pretty much dead on to those in the books.

      The only significant character I can recall who they ruined was Farimir.

      Also the bad guys being anonymous ugly things was kind of the point, a central theme of the books was the dehumanizing aspect of technology.

      1. I’m no longer a Star Wars fanboy (I think the RLM reviews of the prequels are more entertaining than the prequels themselves), but in the original trilogy we had Stormtroopers for the anonymous villains – but they were controlled by truly memorable antagonists like Darth Vader and the Emperor.

        All I’m saying is, in my opinion LOTR had no compelling villains – no Vader, no Emperor, not even a Jabba the Hutt. Sauron spent most of the 10 hours as a flaming eyeball, and we learned in a flashback that even when he had the ring he managed to lose. Who else was there? That dragon-riding demon who got killed by a 90 pound woman?

        1. Shit, I just remembered that Jabba the Hutt also got killed by a 90 pound woman. Who was wearing a metal bikini.

          I stand by what I said about Vader and the Emperor being way better villains than Sauron though.

          1. The Nazgul were pretty good enemies, but yes, the main struggle was from within.

        2. The villian is the human lust for power. It’s internal.

      2. Anonymous? Shagrat? and Gorbag? What about Ugluk?

        And who can deny that Gothmog had one of the best lines in the movie?

        Even Lurtz, created for the films, had his moment in the sun, who wasn’t revolted when he pulled Aragorn’s knife from his body and licked his own blood from the blade before continuing his attack?

        Not anonymous at all.

      3. Anonymous? Shagrat? and Gorbag? What about Ugluk?

        And who can deny that Gothmog had one of the best lines in the movie?

        Even Lurtz, created for the films, had his moment in the sun, who wasn’t revolted when he pulled Aragorn’s knife from his body and licked his own blood from the blade before continuing his attack?

        Not anonymous at all.

        1. what’s squirrels, my precious?

          squirrels, you know–squirrels, fry ’em, mash ’em, boil ’em in a stoo…..

    4. Faramir trying to steal the ring from Frodo? Are you freaking kidding me?

  10. Protean? OK, I loved “It pays to increase your word power.” too. Anything wrong with versatile? Oh, sorry about my low brow status for asking.

  11. But it’s not what you might have been expecting, or hoping for.

    Hence the title. Moron.

    1. Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.

  12. The Hobbit is 169 minutes long (which is apparently “too long”). Without further ado, here are the lengths of the standard editions of the Lord of the Rings movies:

    The Fellowship of the Ring: 178 minutes
    The Two Towers: 179 minutes
    The Return of the King: 201 minutes

    1. Which would be fine, if The Hobbit movie covered The Hobbit novel.

      1. Now you’re just repeating the review.

        There is a TON of history in the universe of The Hobbit. If Peter Jackson had the desire, he could, using only writings from Tolkein and his estate, make far more than three movies to cover any particular time in the universe’s history. If you’ve ever heard of the Silmarillion, you’ll know what I mean.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Silmarillion

        Upset that the book was split into three parts? Fine. “Too long” for fans of the original trilogy, the shortest of which was 9 minutes longer than The Hobbit? Nah.

        1. I own the Silmarillion.

          And, yeah, there are legal issues. But The Hobbit isnt a 3-movie novel.

          Stretching it to two with some backstory padding, Im okay with, but 3 is just crazy.

          1. I think the whole “business away south” sub plot could be a movie. I admit I cringe to think how they will pull it off, given that we already know who the big bad is and what happens next.

          2. I can get behind criticism of the movie from the standpoint that it shouldn’t be expanded into three movies, even if I don’t agree with it. That’s all about personal preference. I just think it’s lazy and forgetful to accuse the movie of being too long, when fans of the original trilogy were clearly prepared to watch and enjoy longer movies.

            For my own part, I say the more the merrier. The whole franchise has a special place in my heart, so I always welcome new additions.

            1. Mel Brooks said that movies shouldnt last over 90 minutes, because by that point, the audience had finished their snacks.

              1. Speaking of Brooks, was just looking at his wikipedia page.

                Not only did he win an EGOT, he also won a Hugo and a Nebula. I think he has to be the only person to have won all 6, but Im not willing to research it.

                1. It’s good to be the king!

    2. The Fellowship of the Ring: 398 pages
      The Two Towers: 327 pages
      The Return of the King: 412 pages.

      The Hobbit: 276 pages.

      Just because I hate people who try to give pithy answers without context. Way too HuffPo-ish.

      1. Look up for more context. Sorry for setting off your “HuffPo-sense.”

      2. Um, ROTK may have been 412 pages but the actual story was much shorter because something like the last 80 pages was appendices, character bios, and timelines.

        1. It’s even shorter than that if you take out the Scouring of the shirt.

          ROTK pretty much starts with them almost at Mount Doom and then they throw the ring in before you’re barely into it. And thne spend the rest of the book wandering around concluding stray threads.

          Thing is if they wanted to do a trilogy they should have cut it earlier in TTT.

          1. NO.

            Once again, you are describing book 6.

            There are 10 chapters, HALF of ROTK in book 5 that also occurs before the ring is thrown into Mt Doom.

            13 of 20 chapters. Then there are 7 chapters of conclusion.

    3. Some people have claimed that Baby Geniuses 2 was too long at 88 minutes. I like to remind them that Baby Geniuses 1 was 95 minutes long.

      1. NOBODY TOSSES A BABY GENIUS!

        1. NOBODY PUTS BABY GENIUSES IN A CORNER!

          If we’re gonna reference bad movies, you have to reference the worst movie ever made.

      2. My impression was that Baby Geniuses was 95 minutes too long, and Baby Geniuses 2 was 88 minutes too long, but I’ve only ever glimpsed them as I whipped past with the remote.

        1. What? But Oscar? Winner Jon Voight!

        2. My kids loved baby genuises.

          I know admitting that they watched it nakes me guilty of child abuse but in my defense my wife and I were in a different room , um… Cleaning, yeah cleaning is it at the time.

  13. If the movie doesn’t work in at least a passing reference to the song The Greatest Adventure, then I’m very disappointed in Peter Jackson’s (or his music director’s) sense of humor.

    1. Probably doesn’t have the rights. Nor wants them.

  14. Looks terrible. CGI is hideous and the bane of my existence. This movie looks even more video-gamesque than most. Not cool. Definitely not watching. I don’t feel like I missed anything by skipping Avatar and I’m not missing anything with this one either. Shame, as I liked the books alot back when I was 12.

  15. But, candidly, I bet he could make more money off 3 movies than 1, much of it from people who complain about there being 3 movies but watch them anyway.

    1. I’m just grateful he didn’t do a movie per chapter.

  16. I don’t understand the complaints about the length. What’s better than hobbits and wizards? MOAR hobbits and wizards!

  17. “There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.”

    Fuck Paul Krugmen. I learned more about real life from these books than from his latest POS cult-fiction.

  18. So after this, 5 movies based on Farmer Giles?

    1. +1

      Then a five season cable television arc of “Leaf by Niggle”.

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  21. I really do not get the objection to the high frame rate. I watched Avatar in 3D and it was so jerky that is was hard to watch, especially the panning scenes. 24 FPS 3D is really only 12 FPS per eye, which is not much better than flip book animation. Slow frame rates turn action scenes into unwatchable jumbles because you need a minimum of continuity to interpret discreet images as motion. Events that happen in a fraction of a second might only have 2 or 3 frames. I thought the 3D HFR of the Hobbit was MUCH more comfortable than Avatar.

  22. SPOILER ALERT!!!

    Radagast is an awesome character … but he does not belong in this movie. HUGE mistake, especially the foreshadowing.

    Azog the orc king is original, but the blood-feud between Azog and Thorin is new and all Hollywood. The movie lacks the darkness of the book, where orcs attack travelers just because orcs are like that. The orcs within the mountain are much better.

    I also missed the real origins of the Elvish blades and the relative safety of daylight: orcs by day was so significant in the Lord of the Rings because it was so unusual, only possible because of Sauron’s power.

    The fact that orcs only come out by night also allowed the original to have a better sense of scale – the dwarves traveled by day for weeks in peace and quiet, with occasional doses of fright and horror. This movie is all action from the time the party leaves the Shire, which suggests that the lonely mountain must be next door – as the party can’t possibly be running like that for long or they would all be exhausted.

    The change with the eagles is also a problem.

    On the other hand, the cinematography is great – except for a few out-of-focus moving shots that caused mild nausea, but fortunately lasted only a few seconds. The episodes in the Shire and in the mountains, and especially the scene with Gollum, were all that could be hoped for.

    There were a few gems in this film, but the biggest disappointment comes from expecting an A+ and getting a B-.

    1. “The change with the eagles is also a problem.”

      I assume you mean Gandalf’s “talk to the moth” trick.” Well, while Jackson lampshades the serendipity that permeates the book (Thorin & Co. just happen to get the magic map to the only guy in the world who can read it, on the only day of the year in which the magic writing will appear), he gives the characters much more control of their circumstances than Tolkien. Gandalf’s trick is a case in point. In the book, the eagles just happen to notice something weird going on, and drop down to investigate; Thorin & Co. are rescued by a happy bit o’ luck. Jackson’s version has Gandalf actually doing something wizardy (apart from shooting pinecone firecrackers) to try to escape. I actually prefer the latter situation.

  23. I went into the theater expecting a lot of cheese, so I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed it much more than any of the LOTR movies, although FOTR was better than the second and third installment.

    Martin Freeman was able to actually act like a hobbit, and not just a melancholy human with giant, fake feet. Elijah Wood was much too young for the part of Frodo, but Freeman seems to be the right age for Bilbo.

    If “The Hobbit” doesn’t have the grand scale of LOTR, it’s because the book is basically a D&D-style treasure hunt, written about forty years before D&D was invented. I guess that’s the other reason I didn’t mind the over-the-top stone giant fight, or any of the rest of the over-the-top scenes. The movie is not about the War to Save the World from Ultimate Evil(TM), but about a bunch of fantasy folk wanting to steal back their treasure from a dragon.

    I see that Galadriel had the shining even way back then.
    “How’d you like some ice cream, Gandalf?”

  24. we are reminded of what a virtuoso filmmaker Jackson is, and we wish that there were more such perfectly constructed http://www.cheapbeatsbydreonau.com/ scenes in the picture.

  25. “Freeman is a star in Britain, and best-known here at the moment for his up-to-date Dr. Watson in the excellent BBC TV series, Sherlock.”

    The Godfather is excellent. Patton is excellent. The first part of the Matrix Trilogy is excellent. The BBC TV series, Sherlock, struggles against cuteness in every scene, and has the BBC’s signature lack of any craft approaching cinematography.

    By the way, Freeman was in the Office. The Office was excellent.

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