Date Posted: 2013-01-09
Tolkien Fan Level: 2
Film Format Seen? Imax 3D 48 fps
Will view again in a different format? Yes
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a welcome return to Middle-earth, though it feels much like an extended version offering overstretched scenes and extra trimmings that critics and non-Ringers alike won't have the patience for. I firmly believe that a two-film adaptation would have achieved the perfect balance between character development and plot, but three films is pushing it. In satisfying three films, the less-than-welcome presence of Radagast the Brown and the dreadful addition of Azog, a CGI monstrosity were warranted. Though they are each mentioned only once or twice in the book, the blessed appendices in The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King elaborate on their affairs, which Peter Jackson is more than happy to incorporate into his movie, if only in a less cringe-worthy fashion. Azog is a bland, videogame-ish villain (who not to mention bears a striking resemblance to Kratos, the character from the God of War series) that the screenwriters saw fit to resurrect despite him being dead in the book. He along with all the 'orcs' in this film do not speak English and are all computer-generated as opposed to actors in make-up like we are used to in Jackson's Oscar-winning Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Doing away with 'bigatures' and other good old fashioned filmmaking tricks that served the Rings films so well consequently yields a less gritty movie. PJ's overhaul on the viewing canvas through which audiences are used to seeing Middle-Earth (as well as most other films) leaping from 24fps 35mm film in 2D to hyper-real 48fps 5K digital in 3D is an abrupt shift, which renders The Hobbit in such clarity that one can see everything that's fake about it, from painted sets to prosthetic noses. 5K digital coupled with 48 fps is very unforgiving and so blending the many computer-generated characters with their hyper-rendered surroundings calls for a more meticulous attention to detail for animators. Sadly not all of the CG characters meet this elevated standard. Gollum, however, is the one CG character that works beautifully thanks to the masterful Andy Serkis who ought to at least receive an Oscar nomination for his performance capture work. Though Gollum steals this film, performances all around were excellent, particularly those of Martin Freeman, Ian McKellan, and Richard Armitage which were a trifecta of perfection. While recycling many familiar themes, Howard Shore delivers an impressive score that complements the film wonderfully. Overall I give this movie a B-, and recommend you all see it in IMAX. I'm now interested to see how Peter Jackson takes the criticism of this film and applies it to The Desolation of Smaug which, despite the rough start to this journey, I'm now eagerly anticipating.
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