Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Peter Jackson's Return to Middle Earth Falls Shy of Expectations for Many Reasons: Our Review of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" (2012)

Directed By: Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings trilogy) 

Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage

Rating: PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy violence, and frightening images

Run Time: 2 hours, 49 minutes

Synopsis: An unadventurous hobbit named Bilbo Baggins (Freeman) is sucked into taking part in a mission by Gandalf the Grey (McKellen), to help the dwarf prince Thorin Oakenshield (Armtiage) and his company of dwarves march to their former home in the Lonely Mountain and take it back from an evil dragon.


(Editor's Note: This is our longest review to date. If you're not familiar with our review style, the following is a transcription of our actual conversation about the movie immediately after we saw it. Fair warning - we talked for 40 minutes. Normally we go no longer than 20. Enjoy the review!)

Andrew: Hello readers! Last night Sarah and I were fortunate enough to catch an advance screening of Peter Jackson’s highly anticipated return to Middle Earth, TheHobbit: An Unexpected Journey. It is the first part of Jackson’s new film adaptation trilogy of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit,” Sarah’s all-time favorite book.

Now, this isn’t one that we’ve had a chance to really delve into and preview on our site yet, though we have talked about it in some columns prior to this, and we recently recorded an episode of the As You Watch podcasts as guests again, talking exclusively about The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. That will be coming out sometime next week.

But we’re going to talk about this in a full review right here, and I get the feeling that this is going to be a bit of a lengthy one. So Sarah, like I just said, this is your favorite book, bar none, and we’ve had some hesitations and some excitement heading in. Now that we’ve seen it, what did you think of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey?

Sarah: I actually want to know what you thought of it first.

A: Really?

S: Yup.

A: Alright. I would say that…hmm…I guess in sort of a general sense, it’s a good movie but it’s not a great movie, and it certainly does not compare to The Lord of the Rings. Now, this is partially because the source material is more of a children’s book. It’s a 300 page book…

S: Not even.

A: It’s a quick read. And so a lot of the material for this film was also a bit light-hearted. This particular film is definitely more of a set-up of things that are going to come in the next two films, but they try and shoehorn in some action pieces. Some of those worked for me, some of them didn’t.

The acting performances throughout aren’t amazing, but they’re not bad either. I thought Martin Freeman (BBC’s Sherlock) did a really good job as Bilbo Baggins, especially later on in the film, I really think he hits his stride with the riddle scene with Gollum and thereafter.

But I wouldn’t say I loved this movie, by any stretch of the imagination. And we’ll get to this later, but we saw this film in the new HFR format…

S: We saw this in the format that Peter Jackson intended it to be seen in.

Martin Freeman (center) stars as Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, previously portrayed by Ian Holm in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy 

A: Exactly. And they’re calling it High Frame Rate, which is fine. It was filmed and projected at 48 frames per second as opposed to the traditional 24 frames per second. But we’ll dive into that more later, but I’ll say this real quick – I didn’t like it at all. I hated it, to be more precise. But we’ll get to that later. Now…what did you think of the film?

S: Yeah….…I didn’t like it. Like…the more I think about it? There are moments that I liked. There are moments…but as a whole I’m very disappointed. I’m extremely disappointed.

A: What exactly about it left you disappointed?

S: So, let me say this: I’m not holding it up against the standard of the book. Peter Jackson took liberties with the original three movies and they turned out great! He took liberties with this one, too, so I’m not holding this film up and comparing it against the book. But I am holding it up against his previous work. I’m holding it in standard to the Lord of the Rings trilogy…and it paled in comparison.

A: But is it fair to compare it only to the first trilogy and not the book when that’s the source material?

S: Right, right. And I understand that…but I’m beginning to think now that the source material for this movie was not the strongest. It’s a children’s story, and I think it’s how Jackson handled it…he really kind of butchered it in my eyes.

A: The book was a bedtime story…

S: Yes! I was read this book at night by my father!

A: Exactly, it’s a bedtime, nighttime story. That is why Tolkien wrote it, but Jackson is trying to turn it into…

S: An epic. Bigger than it was intended to be. But it’s not just that. The source material, I understand, maybe didn’t have a whole lot to work with. He’s pulling stuff from other places, most notably the appendices of the “Lord of the Rings” books.

It’s the details of the movie…like I HATED the high frame rate with a fiery passion.

A: Do you want to talk about that now?

S: No, I just want to give you an overview. We’ll get into why, but I hated that all of the goblins and orcs are all motion-capture now. It didn’t look like there was anybody in makeup! No one! Except for a few characters, all the bad guys were digital. It kills me that none of the goblins were in makeup. There was maybe one.

A: I can only recall a couple of the orcs being real guys, those two orcs who are hunting the company during the first half of the movie. I think they were real dudes, because I could see their contact lenses.

S: You totally could. He, and his toady, who both report to Azog…yeah. So there were two! But for the most part all of the orcs and goblins are motion capture.

A: Well and not even motion capture, I’m sure a lot of them are just straight up CGI.

S: Oh for sure. And it made me so upset. That was one of the reasons why the original movies did such an amazing job, was because there was the feeling of some authenticity to them. There were real actors playing characters that don’t exist, and they did a phenomenal job.

And I understand, you know, that the first movies highlighted Weta Workshop’s ability to do makeup and props and prosthetics amazingly well. I understand that. They did a phenomenal job. This time they highlighted Weta’s digital workshop. It’s like Jackson went from one side of doing things to the extreme opposite. And you lose something with the actors.

In the fight scenes? You lose some of the intensity because they’re not actually fighting another human being. Well, they ARE fighting someone real, but then they remove the motion captured actors and have the main characters do it again without anyone there.

A: And there’s a certain feel to it, and it’s tough to describe…

S: It’s almost like pure animation.

A: Yeah. It’s tough to describe in spoken word or written word right now, you really kind of would have to see it to know what we’re talking about, but especially with the new high frame rate…just a lot of the times it’s far too obvious that someone is a CGI character.

S: Especially the Great Goblin.

A: Well the Great Goblin, Azog…

S: Two of the BIGGEST bad guys in the film and it’s soooo obvious that they’re computer generated, and it’s not good.

A: The trolls? Same deal.

S: And the trolls are iconic characters in these books! It’s an iconic scene and they butchered it, and I hate that.

The three trolls who catch Bilbo are just a few of the many antagonists in the film that are motion capture CGI creations, for better or worse.

A: Real quick, because I don’t think they butchered it per se, but why do you say that they did, using that specific term?

S: I understand that they wanted to give Bilbo more of a part in that scene to prove his worth to the group. But the way that it’s done in the book, where it really plays into the trolls’ stupidity where Gandalf is really behind the scenes doing the voices of each troll to throw them off to kill time…

A: Yeah, they didn’t do that at all.

S: They didn’t do it AT ALL. And the fighting in the movie during that scene? They don’t fight the trolls in the books at all, either. They set a booby-trap for them with Bilbo, and they scoop them up and put them into bags in like five minutes flat. There’s no fighting…so that really bothered me.

A: Well and that’s one of the fight scenes they shoehorned in, I agree.

S: Yeah! It was unnecessary. Just totally unnecessary.

A: Just a second ago we were talking about how a lot of the bad guys were digital. While that’s a downside visually and it really upset you, when we were on the podcast that our readers can listen to later, something that did come up was how the production span of the first three movies was like eight years. That’s a fact. It took eight years from start to finish doing The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

S: And this one took what? Two years? Two and half? And it shows.

A: It’s pretty obvious, because so much of it is computer generated.

S: It’s easily done. And now it makes sense when we go back and watch Jackson’s video blogs during production and he talks about how they created an entire department for the digital characters. And it shows, to a detriment. Because there was enough a mix in the original three, but I think that’s what kept it…

A: Well there were still a ton of people in makeup mixed in with CGI armies in the backgrounds. You’d see a battle with a lot of guys on horses…a lot of those people in the main shot were real, or at least felt real, and then the REST of the army was digital and those were mainly in wider shots, so you couldn’t really tell.

That’s not the case here. A lot of the fight scenes are very tightly shot…

S: And almost all digital.

A: Exactly.

S: So…do we want to finish our pros and cons before tackling the high frame rate stuff? Because there were some good things I liked about it.

A: Let’s finish our pros and cons first.

S: Alright. There were some things I liked about this movie. The one place where the motion capture has definitely improved, by leaps and bounds and is just amazing, was the Gollum scene.

A: Absolutely.

S: Gollum was terrifying! He’s much scarier in this than he ever was in the original three. And he is, in general, just because of the setting with the creepy underwater cave, it’s a creepier scene to begin with. I’d actually have my dad skip over that part when he read it to me at night because it scared me.

They bring that scene to life in this movie. It’s the one place where I didn’t mind the high frame rate because it literally felt like we were looking at another live character. Like, it was Gollum was a real thing interacting with Martin Freeman.

A: Exactly. The high frame rate and CGI, for that particular scene, it’s almost as if Jackson said, while making the movie, “We gotta make Gollum look kick-ass. The rest of it…whatever.” It’s very obvious that they put a lot of work into Gollum, because you’re absolutely right. He looked like a real live character.

We were just watching The Two Towers the other week in preparation for the podcast appearance and, granted the movie is ten years old now, but you look back and a lot of the time with Gollum you can see the outline – especially in Blu-ray – where the digital character meets the physical world.

You don’t get that at all here, especially with the high frame rate. We’re gonna see this in normal frame rate on Friday…

S: So we’ll see how it holds up.

A: Or we’ll see if there’s a difference. But here? It looked fantastic!

S: It was amazing. It was scary, and they have SO improved on capturing Andy Serkis and really expanding on the character of Gollum in general. I mean, you did see the two sides of Gollum in the original trilogy. You definitely saw the two sides, like your favorite scene in The Two Towers where he’s fighting with himself, which is one of my favorite scenes as well.

But here? You know, in the first films Gandalf talks to Frodo and Frodo says, “Pity Bilbo didn’t kill him when he had the chance.” And Gandalf goes, “Pity? It was pity that stayed Bilbo’s hand.” You actually see and understand that now. They brought it to the screen beautifully, because they really show the internal struggle between Gollum and Sméagol.

A: He’s straight up insane. He’s been down in the Misty Mountains for hundreds of years, right?

S: Almost six-hundred years old.

A: With nobody else but the ring, so obviously his personality has cracked, and we saw that. But you really get an even better sense because this film has unadulterated, unfiltered crazy Gollum. Like…he wants to kill Bilbo…

S: Well it’s definitely like in the book. In the book they talk about it’s this child versus the evil puppeteer. So when it’s Sméagol, this child-like character, you see the pity, and they capture it in his eyes. This character is not a two-dimensional character (no pun intended); he IS Andy Serkis. He’s an actor in the film, and it’s phenomenally done.

A: Not only that, but hands-down, the Gollum riddle scene is the best scene in the entire movie. That’s not even a question, it just is.

S: No question.

Even though we hated the High Frame Rate presentation (for reasons we'll get to) we have to admit that it helped Gollum look amazing. The best part of the movie, bar none.

A: And not just because Gollum looks great and Andy Serkis does great, but Martin Freeman does a great job playing off of him, and they managed to take the dialogue from the book almost exactly word-for-word to the screen. The riddles are exactly the same, the set-up is almost exactly the same…

S: Eh…not really…

A: I don’t mean like how Bilbo finds the ring…

S: Well and how he gets there, too.

A: True. They do change that and that irked us. But I meant like when Bilbo actually finally comes across Gollum and they wind up playing the riddle game. So that whole thing…and they show this in one of the trailers or commercials, but to me the best line in the whole movie is when Gollum is arguing with himself and his Gollum side asks, “And if it loses? What then?” And Sméagol responds with, “Well…if it loses, precious, then we eats it!” Then he turns to Bilbo and says…

S: “If Baggins loses, we eats it whole!” [laughs]

A: It’s the best scene, and that’s the best line, in the whole film! There’s another one later that’s pretty good, too…

S: There are some good ones, but that’s the best scene in the movie, hands down.

A: And it should be…

S: But it shows that they totally focused more attention to that scene than the rest of the film, at least in our opinion.

A: And what we mean is that everything else in the movie kind of pales in comparison. I mean, I’m glad they took so much time to do that scene right because it’s my favorite scene in the book, so I’m glad they handled it this well…

S: They certainly did it justice.

A: But the rest of the movie, I agree with you, I felt let down and I’m not even a superfan of it.

S: The problem with it is…I felt like they only reason they put so much effort and so much emphasis on that scene is because it connects it to the first trilogy. I felt like they put a lot of the reset of the movie on the wayside, and I feel like it’s because they were like, “Oh well this is just The Hobbit, you kind of know what happens, but THIS is the iconic scene…THIS is the reason that the other three happen!” And I feel like they miss the point.

They miss that this is a story about a character that is incredibly brave and courageous and…you know, I feel like the only time they actually show that is when Bilbo rejoins the crew and he says, “You’re right. I miss my books. I miss my chair. I miss my garden. That’s my home. You don’t have a home, but I will help you take it back if I can.” I think that line encompasses who Bilbo is.

A: Well yeah, that’s what the entire book is all about. And that’s the second best line in the movie, in my opinion.

S: Yeah, and…just…ugh. This is really bumming me out.

A: Here are some other pros for me, real quick. I felt like they did a better job with all the dwarves than I was expecting, simply from the aspect of knowing who was who throughout the film. I myself was able to go, “Okay, that’s Gloin, that’s Fili, that’s Kili, that’s Bofur, you know?”

S: Mhmm.

A: I didn’t think I was going to be able to do that so well in this movie because there’s so many of them. So I felt like the actors themselves, and the filmmakers, too, did a good job of differentiating themselves physically enough to where I was able to tell who was who.

But there are still a couple that I wasn’t able to remember who they were, like the one who has to hold the thing to his ear to help him hear better? I don’t remember who that was.

S: Gloin, maybe?

A: That wasn’t Gloin, no, he had these little blue things in his beard and a scar over his left eye.

S: Oh yeah!

A: So see? A couple of them did stand out to me, others not so much. I thought Ian McKellen (X-Men) did a great job again, but you can definitely tell he’s older. He even sounds a little different.

S: Well yes and no…

A: You can definitely tell, thanks to the high frame rate, that he’s aged. He still did well, though.

S: Definitely. I don’t know, that didn’t bother me. You can tell…the worst, I thought, was Ian Holm (The Fifth Element). I understand why they brought him back, but I don’t get why they thought it was totally necessary. Actually, you know what? I don’t understand their decision to make the prologue of the movie set in the time it is.

A: I understand why they brought him back. He makes much more sense than the next part, which again I understand, but I didn’t like that they brought back Elijah Wood (Celeste & Jesse Forever) to cameo as Frodo.

S: Yes! Because Elijah looks a lot different, you can tell he’s older…he was basically a kid when they did The Lord of the Rings and he’s definitely a man now. He’s very much thinned out, he’s lost his baby fat…

A: It’s just that I thought – and again, I get why they did it, I just disagree with the decision – where they set the prologue for this film as being set during the very start of Fellowship of the Ring. They set it right before the party in that movie.

S: It’s the day of the party, you’re right.

A: Again, I understand why they did it, I just don’t think it was a great move.

S: I don’t think so either.

A: Another pro, I thought Hugo Weaving and Cate Blanchett did well reprising their roles from the first films.

S: That was my only other pro, was that scene between the White Council. It’s not in the book, they shoehorned that in, not sure where they pulled it from because it’s not in the book at all, that’s NOT how they leave Rivendell…but I felt that it was a good scene. I like Cate Blanchett’s Galadriel, I think she does an amazing job. I thought it was one of the more beautiful scenes as far as…if they didn’t MOVE around, it looked good. Otherwise…

A: And most of the time they didn’t!

S: Most of the time they didn’t, which was good. Because Elves don’t tend to move a lot unless they need to, but that was one of the scenes where the high frame rate threatened to ruin the scene that I’m sure looks much better in a normal frame rate.

A: The last pro I can think of is that I liked the Stone Giants fighting. At least how the actual Stone Giants looked. Now this is how I feel about this scene, and I could be wrong, but Guillermo del Toro was originally supposed to direct this film and even after he dropped out as director he still had some credit as a screenwriter and producer…the Stone Giants felt very much like Guillermo del Toro.

S: It definitely had del Toro’s fingerprints on it.

A: I loved that part.

S: I’m glad you brought that scene up, because it’s a good segue way into what I’m going to dub, “Why We Hate 48 Frames Per Second on the Big Screen.”

A: Yes! [laughs]

S: That scene was one of the ones I despise the most because of the high frame rate. Here’s why: 48 frames per second helps when fast moving scenes are happening on the screen, because normally things might look a tad blurry in the normal 24 frames per second. Well, what the hell does it matter if the action scenes are done in slow motion???

That scene would’ve definitely been a bit blurry at a slower frame rate but…

A: I don’t think that it’s so much that the scene was in slow-motion but more that the giants were so big that when they moved about it looked like they were moving slow.

S: Maybe, but that’s not the only part that slow-motion is used though. The entire backstory of when the dwarves fought the orcs at Moria? Awful! It was slow motion and looked SO fake. BUT, even in the fast scenes, like when the whole company is fighting in the Misty Mountains – and also with Radagast the Brown riding around on rabbits – it turned those scenes and made them look like a video game. It was appalling.

I understand why Jackson did it, I understand why he thought it would look good in 3D, because so many people complain about regular 3D giving them headaches or motion sickness because of the blurriness…but this was awful.

A: Here’s my thing: you’re absolutely right. In case our readers don’t know, the reason Peter Jackson shot this movie in 48 frames per second was because he was going to shoot it in 3D and as you said, a lot of people don’t like 3D because too much action makes things look blurry or it hurts their eyes.

So his thinking was to shoot it in 48 frames per second, which literally means that, thinking in terms of an actual film reel and film projector, it would be like 48 frames on the reel passing through and being projected on the screen for each second. Normally it’s only 24 frames per second, so with the rate being doubled the idea is that the picture would be clearer. When stuff is happening on the screen, like a lot of action, there won’t be as much blur and it shouldn’t strain your eyes as much.

To an extent…that sort of worked. But the downside is that every single moment that there isn’t something action-packed going on the screen – say it’s Bilbo just talking to Gandalf in the Shire, or Galadriel talking to Gandalf at Rivendell – stuff like that when its movements are more normal paced? It looks FAR too realistic, especially in 3D.

The opening scene of the film is an older Bilbo walking around his house, and it IMMEDIATELY looks like he’s walking on a set. You feel like you’re there on the set with him. Like you said to me during the movie, it looks like you’re watching a play instead of a movie because it looks like you’re able to clearly see the set. And it kinda looks like the actors are RIGHT THERE.

S: Which is kind of cool, to be fair. It’s kind of neat.

A: But it felt incredibly fake.

S: Here’s what high frame rate did: it stripped away ALL of the movie magic.

A: Absolutely!

S: The reason we go to the movies? To feel like we’ve escaped the real world for a bit and can immerse ourselves in a fictional place? It took that away, and it kind of broke my heart a little bit. It was almost like seeing a Disney character at a theme park with his head off.

A: It has a total glass-shattering effect.

S: Totally.

A: Before the movie started, the theatre manager tried to explain to the crowd what HFR stood for and what they could expect to see on the screen, and one of the things he said was that he kind of looks like a documentary. And when there are those big, sweeping landscape shots? Those epic shots of mountains and stuff? He’s absolutely right.

S: It felt like we were watching National Geographic or something.

A: Now don’t get me wrong, those types of shots look GREAT…

S: They’re beautiful!

A: But it doesn’t feel like a movie. It feels like a documentary and it just doesn’t feel right when you have those kinds of shots that include the dwarves and company running across the land. Then it totally feels weird and out of place. There’s one shot in particular where Thorin Oakenshield is standing on the top of a peak, he’s carrying his sword or something, the camera is moving around him…and the exact thought that popped in my head was, “That looks like a man standing on a mountain while wearing a ridiculous costume.”

It doesn’t look like a movie character. More than anything it looked like I was looking at a really realistic shot of Richard Armitage (Captain America: The First Avenger) playing dress-up. You’re absolutely right, things like that ruined the magic. Even the action scenes don’t look like a movie, they look like a combination of a real guy being there with a lot of CGI around him.

This particular scene was a great example of how the 48 frames per second presentation made it far too easy to see what was real and what was CGI. It looks great here, though, so maybe seeing it in regular 24 fps will help.

And then the slower moving scenes, like a shot of Galadriel touching Gandalf’s hand? If you’ve ever seen a television that has TrueMotion turned on to reduce the normal blur you see on TV, and that TrueMotion is turned all the way up? That’s what those kinds of scenes look like.

S: I like to think of those scenes as looking like a BBC show. But yeah, TrueMotion is exactly what it looked like.

A: And I HATE looking at a TV with TrueMotion on!

S: Oh I know you do! We both hate it because it doesn’t look right. If we go over to a friend’s house and they have TrueMotion turned on and they don’t notice, we say something! Like, “You know the TrueMotion is on, right?”

A: And that’s what HFR looks like. It doesn’t look natural. I hope for the sake of movie history and filmmaking that most people reject HFR. People might go and see this in HFR because they’re intrigued by it, and then hopefully they go, “That sucks.” Hopefully no one does this ever again.

S: Here’s the thing: I’m a little concerned. I don’t like the 3D phenomenon…

A: I don’t like it either, but it does work in some cases.

S: It works in some cases, but I really don’t like it. Yet it still took and everyone was like, “Oh we need to make our movies 3D! That will be the next big thing in movies!” I’m worried that’s what will happen with high frame rate movies.

A: 3D took hold in movies because studios and theatres could charge more money for them and make more money, not because they truly thought post-converted 3D looked amazing.

S: You’re right.

A: Now, stuff that is SHOT in 3D like Prometheus, Avatar, ParaNorman

S: Those are good.

A: 3D works beautifully for those. But post-converted things like Transformers: Dark of the Moon or Clash of the Titans, stuff like that? 3D doesn’t work.

S: But this movie was shot in 3D, right?

A: Yes, but in the high frame rate. That said, the 3D works, you see the depth of field…

S: So there is the option to see this movie in a normal frame rate, right?

A: Yes. You can go see The Hobbit in normal frame rate, yes. And we suggest that you do that, readers.

S: We highly encourage that you not see this movie in HFR. Actually, I think that…can you see this movie in the normal frame rate in 3D?

A: Of course, we’re doing that on Friday when we see it in IMAX.

S: Okay, because this movie has the good 3D, the kind that falls back. It’s correctly done that way.

A: And we assume that seeing this in a version that’s not HFR will make it look like a movie should.

S: I’m hoping.

A: Because one of the best things about the original films was that they had a certain look and feel to them. This didn’t have that. It looked far too real, far too bright, there were too many times that you could tell a dwarf was wearing a fake beard, you could see Ian McKellen’s contact lenses…

S: Oh, see I missed all that. I think that’s because I was looking around the screen for anything that didn’t look fake.

A: Then scenes like when they’re at Rivendell or a forest somewhere, you can tell where the real parts of the set are and where the CGI stuff starts. It just doesn’t look good. I want to know why Peter Jackson did this, looked at it and then went, “Yes! This is exactly what I wanted! This looks great!” That’s what I want to know. Again, I know WHY he did it, but I want to know why it thought it looked awesome. Because it’s not.

If this is the future of movies? Things are in trouble, but that’s a totally different column we could talk about later.

S: And that would break my heart.

A: The high frame rate looked great in the Gollum scene, but that’s because not a whole lot of action is going on. It still looks like TrueMotion, but then it goes back to an action scene and it looks like crap.

S: It bothered me that they shoehorned things in but left out other things…like the end bothered me. They put all of this information in, you get introduced to a character in the movie who doesn’t even come in to play until the climax of the book…

A: Who’s that?

S: Azog. He doesn’t come in to the book until the Battle of Five Armies. He’s a big deal in the Battle of Five Armies, but they wanted to set up some malice between him and Thorin in the movie. I understand that they wanted to add more action scenes, but I think that’s crap.

A: And the action scenes they have are way too long!

S: It’s all crap. It’s awful.

A: The fighting while the company escapes from the Misty Mountains? That’s far too long.

S: And they butchered the scene with the wargs, because the wargs aren’t just some stupid animal. They’re an intelligent creature, but that’s not how they’re portrayed here. And then in the books when the Eagles save the group, they take them to the Carrock, and that doesn’t happen in the film at all. All I wanted to say is, “You’re trying to stretch these out into three movies, why cut out that scene??? You could’ve added ten minutes!” I don’t understand why they throw all this other crap in there and then leave out a part that actually happens in the book.

A: Another thing they added in that I didn’t like? I sort of like that they’re trying to bring in some darkness to the edge of the film to sort of set up what happens in The Lord of the Rings, with Radagast the Brown and the Necromancer, but it’s still not necessary.

S: And I’ll tell you, I don’t know if you noticed the White Council talking about it, but Radagast lives in the Green Wood. And he says it’s becoming diseased, and the council starts to refer to it as Mirkwood. Ok? Well Mirkwood is where the company is headed! In the book, Mirkwood has BEEN Mirkwood for hundreds of years! It’s not turning into the Mirkwood we see in the original films as this group is walking there, it’s been Mirkwood and it’s been dark and evil for a looong time. I hate that they’re trying to make it seem like the forest is turning as this adventure goes along.

A: Again, they’re trying to shoehorn in The Lord of the Rings.

S: They are! Don’t do that!

A: This might work for a casual fan or movie-goer, but for a die-hard fan like you? Obviously it’s bugging you, and I’m sure it will bug a bunch of other people, too. And it sort of bugged me because I just didn’t find it necessary!

S: No! I don’t…

A: And if you’ve never read the book it’s still not necessary because then you have no idea who Radagast is and probably have no investment in him. You don’t know who the Necromancer is…

S: Yup! There is ONE connection between “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings.” And that is the ring. Okay? In The Lord of the Rings, the ring is the bad guy. In The Hobbit, it’s more of a useful tool. So it’s a very thin connector between the two stories, and Jackson is trying to turn that thin string into a steel chain. They are completely different stories and the filmmakers have taken my beloved novel and decided to just treat it like a prologue. It kills me, because The Hobbit isn’t supposed to just be a prologue to The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I’m extremely disappointed.

A: I can tell. And let’s be honest, there’s no need for this to be three movies. There just isn’t.

S: It should have been two.

A: They could have trimmed up a bunch of stuff like the dinner, they could have gotten rid of the council and Radagast, just stick to the actual novel. All we need is what happens in the novel.

Ok, let’s get to our final thoughts.

S: I’m extremely disappointed. You know, if you’re a fan of the book or this series, you should definitely see it in theatres. If you’re curious about seeing it in 48 frames per second, you might as well satisfy that curiosity so you know not to go to another one that comes out later on.

But I was extremely disappointed…in the story, and really how it was all executed. I hate that. I really hate that.

A: Will we be seeing the other two?

S: Of course, but with very tempered expectations.

A: And we are NOT going to see it in HFR.

S: Right now, the only reason I want to see the others is because of Benedict Cumberbatch as Smaug.

A: I think this is one to see in theatres, too. But I do not think this will get nearly the Oscar love that people might have expected. I was even let down by Howard Shore’s score, especially when they took the dwarves theme and kind of speed it up for battle scenes? I hated that. I don’t know…it just felt…

S: Disappointing.

A: Martin Freeman and Gollum are by far the best part to me. But Gollum’s not even going to be in the next two films, unless they shoehorn him in, too!

S: Right now, Beorn and Smaug are the only reasons I want to see the next one, which makes me really sad. For as much as I did enjoy about this movie, like taking some dialogue and voice-overs straight from the book, there’s far too much of it that irked me to ruin it. I know I’m sounding like a whiny fan-girl, but hopefully seeing it in IMAX 3D will make me like it a little bit more

FINAL VERDICT: A good way to kill a Saturday afternoon.

(Individual Scores - S: 2.5/5  A: 3/5)

Photo Courtesies: FilmoFiliaColliderMTVHitFixScreen Rant


  1. This makes me sad! I had high hopes. Although, after reading the book, I really was not sure how they were going to build it into 3 films.
    Still looking forward to seeing it!

  2. The whole way through I just felt like Jackson was taking me for a mug. The most cynical film exercise since The Phantom Menace in 3D. If the future of cinema means movies will look like Canadian soap operas it's a sad day.

    1. It absolutely feels like a cash grab at this point, especially now knowing how bloated the other two are going to be. And yes! It absolutely looks like a soap opera! That's another great way to describe the HFR!

  3. Good, lengthy review lol. I have to ask though, did you take points off because of the 48 FPS? Like, rewatching it at 24 FPS, will your scores change?

    1. We did mark it down because of the 48 FPS because that was the version Jackson intended the audience to see it. That's how he shot it, that's how he wanted it shown. So it needs to be marked down if it didn't work, and we found that it was a negative.

      We see it again tonight in 24 FPS, and if it looks better that way, then so be it. Maybe we'll add a little positive marks to it, but that still won't be the INTENDED version Jackson had.