, Port Arthur, Texas


December 14, 2012

The Hobbit: A never-ending film

— There aren't many movies as eagerly anticipated as "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey." This is director Peter Jackson's return to Middle Earth; J R R Tolkien's fantasy world that he explored so successfully in "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy.

The legacy of those films has many of us salivating in anticipation, but it also means that there's no way that this new film can live up to the expectations of a nostalgic fan base. Simply put, the first installment of "The Hobbit" trilogy is good, but it's just not on the same artistic level as the "Lord of the Rings" films.

 Part of the problem is that Jackson has fleshed out the rather simple story into epic proportions. This first film runs two-and-three-quarter hours and it only covers the first six chapters of Tolkien's book. The first hour of the film is basically a never-ending dinner party where our mild-mannered hero, Bilbo (Martin Freeman) joins the wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellan) and thirteen dwarves on an adventure quest to free their homeland from a malevolent dragon. There's really not much happening in the entire book, and the first film barely even gets started.

To be fair, things do pick up considerably once the characters head off on their adventures. We do get to see Bilbo's life-changing encounter with Gollum (Andy Serkis) and his precious ring that will launch us into"The Lord of the Rings" trilogy. There is an undeniable joy in seeing Gollum and the other recurring characters back up on the big screen. Super fans of the series will get a nostalgic thrill, but average moviegoers will be left champing at the bit, anxious for the adventure to truly start.

My other issue with the film is the 48fps projection rate, which makes everything so crystal clear that it stops feeling like a burnished fantasy epic. There were too many moments when I was pulled out of the story as I noticed Gandalf's whiskers or an less-than-impressive CGI shot that might have gone unnoticed with a traditional projection method. It may simply take time for audiences to get acclimated to this hyper-realistic format, but it seems intrusive this first time out.

All of that is not to say that "The Hobbit" isn't a good film, especially if you're a fan of the series. I count myself among that group and there were many moments when I was thrilled by the film. We only get a glimpse of the dragon, but that's enough to make me giddy about next year's second installment. I am eagerly anticipating a repeat screening of this film, as well as upcoming movie marathons of all three films after they are finished. That being said, from a purely critical basis, there's no justifiable reason why "The Hobbit" is a potentially nine hour trilogy. Jackson should either hire a better editor or rename the film to "The Hobbit: A Never-Ending Journey."

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