Date Posted: 2013-01-09
Tolkien Fan Level: 6
Film Format Seen? 3D 48 fps
Will view again in a different format? Yes
I found the film disappointing. It was always going to be a tough job to interpret the book into a cinematic prequel to the Lord of the Rings, but this film felt unsure as whether it wanted to be a charming children's story (like the book) or an epic saga (like LOTR) - ultimately it was a hotch-potch of both, which didn't work for me.
The higher frame rate did not work well. Whilst it gave greater depth to the beautiful New Zealand landscapes, it also gave awful clarity to the seams between on-set foregrounds and green-screen backgrounds. I had constant feeling of watching a badly rendered version of the film, which distracted from the drama. The prologue to the film was poorly conceived. It is unfortunate that Ian Holm is now noticably different from LOTR but in any case the scenes between Biblo and Frodo felt uncomfortable and actually do a disservice to the opening of FOTR. Biblo's monologue over the scenes of the destruction of Erebor was poor and didn't set the right tone for what we were seeing. I wonder whether it would have made more sense to incorporate these scenes as flashbacks later in the film as young Biblo comes to understand why Erebor is so important to Thorin. In general the film could have been shorter without any loss. I was surprised about how Peter Jackson let many scenes playout over several minutes, when similar scenes in LOTR would have been over in half the time. If the film had been sensibly paced then there would have been no need to spread the films over a trilogy ("like butter scraped over too much bread"). The film ended without any real climax and so the film itself had little by way of arc. I was particularly disappointed by Radaghast. It seemed strange to play him as comic-relief, in a film that was already quite light. This also detracted from the threat of the Necromancer. Whilst it was nice to see Galadrial and Saruman again, the White Council scene had no real place in the story has it had no impact on Gandalf's actions or on the quest for Erebor. The inclusion of Azog felt tacked on and was poorly integrated with the journey of the dwarves. Ultimately Azog/Bolg may prove useful in explaining why there is a battle of Five Armies, but in this film Azog felt like token bad guy. I did like the exploration of Bilbo's motivation for going on the quest, but he is the only character who is given an arc. This is particularly noticable with Gandalf, who is worried about the Dragon because of the Necromancer (though he doesn't find out about the Necromancer until the quest has begun). Would it not have been better to show us the flashback of Gandalf discovering Thorin's father in Dol Guldur - this would link Thorin's quest with the Necromancer in Gandalf's mind. Lastly, I felt much of the dialogue was very poor, often requiring characters to state the obvious to explain the plot. This contrasts with the dialogue of LOTR. In summary, I felt this film was overly long, disjointed and ill-conceived. There were some good moments, which implies the second and third films maybe more promising. If so, then perhaps Peter Jackson was wrong to split this story over three films.
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