Let me first admit that The Lord of the Rings is probably my favorite movie. Consequently, this makes it hard for me to walk the line between being too generous on my review because I love Middle Earth and being too harsh because I want the standards set by the original trilogy. http://youtu.be/G0k3kHtyoqc
Rarely are expectations higher for a film than what audiences have programmed their minds to believe The Hobbit should be.
Earlier this year, we saw a prime example of a movie riding on the critically-acclaimed coattails of its predecessor in The Dark Knight Rises. And so it is with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, where for many fans like myself, The Lord of the Rings was more than a trilogy of movies. It was something we lived and breathed with those characters. And if a personal connection wasn't enough, the series finale took home 11 Oscars, including Best Picture of the Year. All that to say, I think expectation plays a large role in any critic's lens. Acknowledging all of the above, I went into the movie expecting a superior film, given that Peter Jackson was still the man in charge. Where The Hobbit and Rings differ is in scope and intent. Hobbit is a prequel, an intro. Rings is a sprawling three-part saga. Hobbit focuses on the retention of the Dwarves' home of Erebor. Rings is a battle for all of Middle Earth. The Hobbit is framed as a lighter children' story; Rings as a dark adult drama. It is important to know what to expect. After seeing film one, it almost feels like Jackson himself was to ambitious in his expectations. Here's what I mean:
The two big complaints from critics have been the length and the frame rate change.
I was definitely worried upon learning of Jackson's intent to do three movies from one fairly short book.
Although he loves and is typically true to the source material, this seemed like a stretch and more of a money maneuver. The movie did not seem to drag for me, but I was disappointed with the added material that wasn't even from the appendices. Having not read the book in ten years, it was difficult for me to discern everything that was and was not in the book itself. Several liberties were taken to basically extend the running length of the film that were much better suited for DVD extras. Jackson seemed intent on trying to recreate another trilogy of 3 hour movies, which just is not necessary. I have no idea what they'll do to make the second movie, titled The Desolation of Smaug, nearly 3 hours long. In regards to the frame rate, I am not tech-y enough to know much about this, but apparently when shot at a higher frame-per-second a movie is given a more defined picture. This doesn't sound bad until that clarity makes all your props and special effects look cheesy. I saw the movie in a slower, standard rate, and I was still disappointed in some of the CG. Being over a decade after Rings was filmed, I would have expected advancements. Now there were several scenes that were fantastic; particularly the entire “unexpected party” scene and Gollum's “riddles in the dark.” They really captured Tolkien's text and the intent of the story. Martin Freeman did a superb job as a young Bilbo; casting was spot-on there. Howard Shore's magnificent score always reinforces each scene, with a new Misty Mountains theme being the most memorable tune in the movie. I wish all of it could have felt that way, but the movie as a whole definitely lacked a charm and magnetic factor that its sequel nailed dead-on. I'll probably watch the movie again to pick up more that I missed, but reading the book is now a top priority for critiquing the other films to come.
The bottom line is that I enjoyed the movie. I liked it, but I did not love it. It was pretty good, but it was not really good.
I would definitely recommend seeing the film. The price of admission is always worth it for a trip to Middle Earth to see Tolkien's masterpiece come alive. I genuinely look forward to seeing what they do with the rest of the series. It was a promising start.