It’s not The Phantom Menace so you can relax. However, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is more disappointment than it is achievement. The most notable success of the film has got to be the extra injection of humor, and a more compelling Hobbit lead in the form of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman). Let’s be honest, despite Frodo (Elijah Wood-who shows up for a cameo) being possibly considered the main character of The Lord of the Rings, the real stars were Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli.
The film centers around Bilbo, a shy and decidedly average Hobbit embarking on a journey along with a company of dwarves lead by Thorin (Richard Armitage) and Gandalf (Ian McKellan, reprising his role from The LOTR films), to retake the dwarf kingdom of Erebor from the dragon Smaug. And that’s just the basic plot. The filmmakers have added additional materiel found in Tolkien’s other works in order to make 3 films out of the one book. This is one of the films faults, it’s more overstuffed than a spoiled 3 year old’s Christmas stocking. The extra plot points feel convoluted and distract from the main story. Instead of adding so many plot points the film should have let us get to know the company of dwarves that Bilbo accompanies, very few of whom getting named more than once or are given much to do.
They have two more films, but to contrast, we got to know the entire Fellowship within the framework of about half of the first LOTR film’s running time. Some might say it’s unfair to compare the two films, but when it’s the same universe, and same crew it’s difficult not to, and fair to.
The film’s biggest flaw lies in its biggest undertaking, technology. Director Peter Jackson shot the film on 48 Frames-Per-Second 3D format. To give you an idea, it looks as though you are watching a big budget History Channel special, and it ruins the beautiful cinematography that’s clearly there under the surface. Furthermore there’s a serious over-reliance on CGI. The last films looked real, especially with the make-up effects. Now everything seems computer generated and it takes away a lot from the film, especially the action sequences which are rather unmemorable, and boring.
This also says nothing of the films runtime, which like its predecessors is close to three hours, but these drag, especially at the beginning.
Redeemed by some stunning cinematography beneath 48fps, strong performances, humor, and a set-up for later amazing films, the Hobbit is underwhelming but could prove to be worth it after later installments. But whatever you do skip the 48fps.