When writing a review of The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey, where does one begin? With Peter Jackson at the helm after many years of back and forth, uncertainty, fan anguish, and jubilation, you are guaranteed a fantastic film and representation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic. I could mention how Elijah Wood managed to not age in the past 10 years, or how, even more enviable, neither did Cate Blanchett. I watched one of the limited runs in high-frame rate 3D, and if there was so much as a wrinkle out of place, I would have noticed. More on the HFR 3D in a bit.
This chapter flowed naturally with the LOTR trilogy. That’s certainly a benefit of having the same director on board. (For an example of when it would benefit a series to not have the same guy involved, see Star Wars episodes 1-3.) What you get with The Hobbit is a wonderful cast, solid story, and outstanding cinematography. There is nothing bad I can say about any of that. Surprisingly to no one, this is a long movie – 2 hours and 40 mins long. It doesn’t feel it, other than the occasional butt numbness. There is a lot of character narrative in this first film. We get to see our hero (one Bilbo Baggins) become the *hero* type as the story progresses, through encounters with trolls, goblins, orcs, and, of course, Gollum. (Peanut asked me if Gollum was in this one. I misinterpreted that to mean he liked the Gollum character. In actuality, Gollum freaks him out. And he gets a good amount of screen time. Peanut survived.)
Speaking of cast, I totally had moment of glee when realizing that Flight of the Conchords Bret McKenzie was getting screen time as an elf. He actually was in Lord of the Rings: Return of the King as an elf; no doubt the same elf as in The Hobbit since it was 60+ years earlier. Elves don’t age either. It’s magic. I almost didn’t recognize Bret since the beard was gone, but the eyes gave it away. Does that make me sound like a creeper? For you Sherlock fans, Benedict Cumberbatch also has a part. Granted, he’s in the movie for 2 seconds, but that’s okay…he has a much bigger role in the next two films.
Now…onto the HFR 3D. For starters, I haven’t been much of a fan of the 3D movement. Gulliver’s Travels gave me a splitting headache when I saw it in 3D. Granted, it was probably the steaming pile of dog doody that was Gulliver’s Travels than the 3D that gave me a headache rather than the technology, but who’s to say? That movie did not need to be in 3D. I didn’t need to see it in 3D or 2D. Also, my youngest sometimes has really bad taste in movies. I’m just saying. Silent Hill 2, in 3D, did not bother my eyes, mainly because SEAN BEAN WAS IN 3D.
You know what? I am a horrible judge of 3D movies. I’m just putting that out there.
Ah, but The Hobbit. Now that has “see me in 3D” written all over it. The 3D was stunning. It didn’t take away from the film at all but really enhanced the experience. The HFR, on the other hand, takes some getting used to. You know how sometimes on the History Channel or Discovery Channel they film these elaborate reenactments? And you can tell that it’s digital and not film because it is just too sharp? That’s kind of how HFR is. It’s ridiculously sharp, almost to the point of being jarring and cartoonish. Everything looks real, shockingly real, as if you’re sitting there looking at 30 foot tall people hanging out in front of you. Film adds a certain softness to the picture that enhances the illusion. HFR would be fantastic in a National Geographic film. But in Middle Earth? It’s a little off-putting. Those first several minutes were the adjustment period. I found myself able to slip back into the film as the story progressed, and every once in a while I would notice it again. Then I would try to not notice it. Then I would notice that I was trying to not notice and it was just a vicious cycle. I couldn’t help but think if this is the way of the future, I ought to get used to it. That’s not to say it was completely wrong for this film. Any CGI that was used seamlessly blended in. I am not a fan of CGI at all, but with the HFR it worked well. I’m still debating on the weird dog CGI. I think I may need to see it in non-HFR 3D to compare/contrast.