I think I should preface this review with the following statement: I am not a Tolkien, LOTR, or The Hobbit fan. I was forced to read The Hobbit for my year seven English class while living in Texas, and I hated it. True, this may have been because I had to read it for school rather than choosing to read it for fun, and I am a contrary one, but I have since tried reading The Lord of the Rings and had no luck either. Peter Jackson’s critically acclaimed trilogy made me rely heavily on the fast forward button, but I still felt I’d wasted a good chunk of my life.
So… let’s get to the newest addition to this cash cow franchise…
(Warning: slight spoiler alert, but if you don’t already know the gist of the story, where have you been all your life?!)
If you haven’t been living under a rock, you have read some other reviews of this film, or heard what people have been saying, and they’re right: It… is… soooo… long. Far too long. I understand why it was as long as it was, it finished in the most logical place from a storytelling perspective, but it was still far too long. When they were leaving Rivendell I sighed with relief, it felt like I had been in the cinema long enough that this should be the end – and yet, nothing had really happened yet. The film continued on, and my patience wore thin.
On the whole, the film was enjoyable. Light-hearted fantasy with fun scenes, including some great moments with the dwarves, and songs that were definitely for children – setting itself very much apart from LOTR in tone. But it lacked momentum. Everything seemed to be stalling. Perhaps this was my preconception, going into a film that I know has been stretched out from one small novel into three long films, but it just didn’t feel right.
Let’s shift focus to something else everyone has been talking about… the frame rate. Most films are filmed at 24 frames per second, this film was filmed at 48 frames per second. This is supposed to make the action appear more realistic, but much of the criticism has suggested it looks ‘more like TV’. I didn’t see the film at the high frame rate, as it was only being shown in the high frame rate in 3D and I hate seeing films in 3D. However, I do understand the issue when it came to the CG graphics. They looked like CG on a TV budget – they have increased the clarity of the picture, but forgotten this means we can more easily see what is real and what isn’t. I would have liked to see more costumes and less CG – and better CG at that.
Martin Freeman was perfect as Bilbo. He surprised me, but he did extraordinarily well, giving Bilbo all the right personality foibles that fans love. Ian McKellan, as always, I found a joy to watch. It was nice to see others reprise their roles (especially the Aussies! – did anyone notice Barry Humphries as the Great Goblin?!), and as I had read little about the film before I saw it, I was pleasantly surprised to see Elijah Wood and Ian Holm as well. Casting in general worked; I particularly liked seeing my favourite Kiwi (Bret McKenzie). The only one that didn’t really work, was James Nesbitt: I didn’t feel like I was watching a character, but instead, it was just James Nesbitt in a silly hat.
As I said, I am not a big Tolkien fan, and I have not read The Hobbit since I was eleven years old. It was my partner (a fan) who explained that the plot of the film was made up of some of the unfinished tales, The Simarillion, and The Hobbit – that the entire ‘chase’ plot of Azog, which made up a good bulk of the film, was not in the novel. It was an interesting choice – I’m sure that fans were pleased, but for someone like me, I was a little annoyed to find that not only did they stretch one book into three films, they put in stories from all over the place to fill it out (AND IT WAS TOO DAMN LONG!).
The character development, tension between Bilbo and Thorin, and the hopeless foreshadowing with Saruman, all felt forced. Different parts of the film felt too disjointed (quite possibly a result of not coming from the same source!) and the film didn’t flow or fit together as an entire piece. The was… ok. If you want to see it, go for it. If you aren’t a massive Tolkien fan though, you might want to wait for the blu-ray so that you pause it and stretch your legs part-way through.