Ten years ago (or so) when The Lord of the Rings trilogy came out, it was easy to say it was one of the most spectacular movie series I've ever seen. I imagine being a kid and seeing that was the same as seeing the first three Star Wars films was for me. Peter Jackson proved he was the perfect person to take that on because he was more than a fan of writer J.R.R. Tolkien; he was a fanatic. He was determined that his books got the respect and treatment they deserved. When New Line said they were going to make The Hobbit, Jackson said he wouldn't direct it, which made all us fans froth at the mouth. He eventually caved (no pun intended) and did direct it. But now I'm thinking that his fanaticism will be the undoing of his legacy.
The Hobbit, which is the prequel to The Lord of the Rings, is a book of only 330 pages. Out of those 330 pages, Jackson and New Line are making three, I repeat three, movies that each will be over two hours long. Not only is that called overkill, but it's backing up over the overkill to kill it again. When you see a movie that's based on a book it's normal to be a little disapointed that some scenes were taken out. The Hobbit is proof that the reason for that is because not every vowel and punctuation makes for a good film.
I understand that so far it sounds like I didn't enjoy the movie. Actually I liked it a lot. It didn't blow my knickers off like The Lord of the Rings did but it was good. The problem is that it moves at the pace of a jogging dwarf. It's slow, plodding and polluted with so many details that it tests the attention span of anyone who doesn't fall in the mega fan catagory. The one thing that kept my interest during some of the most snooze-inducing scenes is the 48 fps. That stands for 48 frames per second and it's the newest technology, never before used, in filmmaking. It moves faster so the picture is clearer...some might say too clear. It literally feels like you're watching a larg box with giants inside performing for you, especially because of the 3D. That alone is worth the price of a ticket (especially on IMAX) because it's the first time that a film in a movie theater is better than the best, top-of-the-line TV/blu-ray combination no matter what you have. You will not be able to reproduce that picture at home.
It is nice that Jackson is in control though, not only because he's a skilled director, but because he brings consistency to the franchise. Not a single stich is out of place when it comes to looking and feeling like The Lord of the Rings. The cast is fun as well with Ian McKellen returning as Gandelf and Martin Freeman (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, The Office) as young Bilbo. My favorite from the cast is Richard Armitage (Captain America) as the lead dwarf, Thorin. He's one of the only dwarves that feels like he's 7' tall and as mighty as a tree. The others are so comical in their appearance that it's hard to get around them surviving any of this adventure.
There's enough in the film to make the fanboys drool and they pull the plug right before the rest of us leave. It's fun, colorful, funny and exhilerating. The one thing it's not is short. I dread seeing the next two simply because, if memory serves me right, they took us to half the book in this first installment and I don't recall a whole of action in the last half. I hope I'm wrong and the unexpected journey we get is that it doesn't feel like blood squeezed from a stone. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: B