I am groggy from staying up last night to see the midnight showing of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Part of me feels like I am still stuck in that uncomfortable theater seat slogging away with 13 dwarfs, a wizard and a hobbit.
I remember the first time I saw Fellowship of the Ring. I remember leaving the theater with my jaw scraping the ground. The visuals, the casting, the sets, the costumes, the effects, the music, the direction, the cinematography…it all came together into something that really affected and moved me.
Not so with anything in this first part of The Hobbit. Well, with one exception, and that’s Martin Freeman as Bilbo. He fits perfectly and is great in the role. But the remainder of this entry into Tolkien’s world is…well…curiously uninvolving and flat. And long. Did I mention long? The film is something like 2 hours and 50 minutes, and friend, let me tell you that your butt will feel every single, solitary minute of it. You could bring the actual book to this movie and read the story in less time than it takes Jackson to get moving.
It takes 45 minutes just to get out of the Shire. Another hour to really pick things up, but by then I was disengaged. Everything seems to drag. The dwarfs are ridiculous and we never get to know any of them, really. Set pieces are played for comedy, so there’s really no sense of danger in the film, no sense of foreboding or foreshadowing what’s coming in the greater LOTR.
Jackson spends an inordinate amount of time setting everything up. And also spends huge amounts of time on side stories, like the movie’s horrible rendition of Radagast the Brown he chooses to spend time with. The sequences with this character are horrible, truly horrible. He’s played as a weird, eccentric forest hermit with bird shit running down the side of his head. Really. He moves comically fast, which becomes a weird plot point, and every time he was on screen, I kept expecting Howard Shore’s score to start playing “Yakety Sax.” Yes, it was that bad. Jackson, the same man who (perhaps wisely) cut the whole Tom Bombadil section from Fellowship, left this character and his digressions in, to the detriment of the film. And that’s just the tip of a very bad iceberg.
We didn’t see it in the controversial 48 fps format, but the whole thing seemed too tightly focused, with camera movements and cuts that were too fast to really see anything. The whole thing looked muddy and murky and hard to follow. Even Shore’s music, such a high point with the first trilogy, seems recut and pasted into this, with no real new stirring themes or cuts.
On the whole, the group I went with was extremely disappointed. The Hobbit is a short children’s book, and splitting it into three full-length (and loooonnnnggg) movies seems to have been a gigantic miscalculation. There is simply not enough story there to stretch over what will likely be nearly 9 hours of movies. Jackson’s padding to reach feature movie length seems like just that…padding.
It was nice to be back in Middle Earth, but who’d have thought that a Jackson/Tolkien movie would ever make you glad to be back in reality in the end. I am sadly not looking forward to the next two movies.
Oh well…the Star Trek Into Darkness trailer was cool.