The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (12/21/12)

The HobbitMovie Two Hundred Ninety One

A young hobbit accompanies a group of dwarves to reclaim their mountain home from a dragon in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

On his 111th birthday, Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm) decides to write his memoirs for his young nephew, Frodo (Elijah Wood). He describes how the dwarves lost their home in Lonely Mountain to a fearsome dragon named Smaug. A younger Bilbo (Martin Freeman) is tricked by wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) to hosting dinner for thirteen dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage). Bilbo is enlisted for his role as the ‘thief’ although he has never stolen anything in his life. After a change in heart, Bilbo decides to make the journey to help the dwarves and the group sets out for Lonely Mountain.

There are a few things that I need to get out of the way about The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – the 3D 48 frames per second treatment, the need for three movies, and how it compares to Lord of the Rings.

First, the native 3D 48 frames per second filming of The Hobbit is a first in the industry. Doubling the rate of a standard film at 24 fps, the initial reaction to The Hobbit is a bit jarring of an effect. I suspect that a few of the scenes were not actually shot in 48 fps and were sped up to this speed. I say this because early on, there are some camera pans that seem incredibly, almost comically, fast. A few of Ian Holm’s movements seem jagged and weird too. I’m not sure if my reaction is simply because I hadn’t adjusted to the speed or if I’m correct and they were artificially increase in post-production, but I will say that I was quite pleased with 48 fps about 90% of the time and it is likely the future of cinema. The use of 3D is absolutely splendid as well.

Since Peter Jackson is interjecting backstory from other Tolkien works, apparently namely from The Silmarillion, in The Hobbit. While this doesn’t bog down the story for An Unexpected Journey, it does beg the question why The Hobbit, a relatively short book, needs three movies. In my opinion so far, it doesn’t. There are a few parts that slow down the pacing and there are some scenes that seem entirely superfluous. Yes, the extensive Tolkien mythology is bolstered, but keep that stuff in special features on a blu-ray set or something. This first film alone is close to three hours long and knowing there are two more, likely equally long films coming is kind of off-putting.

The obvious comparisons to Jackson’s epic Lord of the Rings trilogy are not entirely appropriate since The Hobbit is a much different source material than its successors. However, in practice, The Hobbit on film feels far too close to Lord of the Rings for its own good. The Hobbit is serious but it does have a bit of a sense of humor to it, which may rub some folks the wrong way. It’s a shame The Hobbit film(s) weren’t made first because it would set the stage for Lord of the Rings without relying on it instead of the other way around.

In the end, I quite liked The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. It’s far from a perfect film on its own and I always struggle to judge a film like this as a part or as a whole. Technically, this is 1/3 of a single film and it remains to be seen if the whole thing is worthy of your time. For now, I’d recommend The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey to be seen in 3D and 48 frames per second, but be warned that it’s no Lord of the Rings.

I give it 4 animated Hobbits out of 5.


Rotten Tomatoes


36 responses to “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (12/21/12)

  1. Got into detailed discussion about this movie with my husband and sister, questions were raised, which led to actually doing research to discover the answers. Because I am not a rabid fan, I didn’t know all the backstory or details, and I found it kind of fun that the movie sparked the discussion it did and resulting research. I was not a fan of the Hobbit in book version, I could not connect to it, and it felt tedious to get through, but the movie (which I have only seen in regular theaters, will go back for 3D IMAX soon though) fit very well with the LOTR movies. Is it film perfection? No, there are silly parts or little things I think I would have changed, but overall, I loved the scenery, I loved the actors, and I can’t wait to see the next one.

    • See, I didn’t mind the book version but I actually quite liked the old animated version which tells the story in a sleek manner.

      I’m still looking forward to the next two movies but I just wish they held back a bit on the length.

      • The Bakshi cartoon? Yeah I couldn’t get into that either. Ideally it probably would have been best if Jackson HAD filmed the Hobbit first, in one film, then gone on to LOTR, but I’ll take it anyway.

        • I got into the cartoon when I was really young, but I haven’t seen it in ages…so I’m basing that almost entirely off nostalgia 😉

          I’ll take LOTR then Hobbit too, but it sets unfair expectations, if nothing else

          • I loved that cartoon as a kid, but I haven’t seen it either in decades… Wonder what I’d think now. This one seems like something to see if only to check out the 3D 48fps.

  2. I have to say I was prepared for The Hobbit Part I to be a disappointment – misconceived, overblown and a desperate bid by Jackson to recapture the LotR magic which totally failed, crashed and burned. I was so immensely relieved it was NONE of these things, I may have watched it without judging the finer points too closely, but I thought it was a pretty amazing job. I loved Martin Freeman as Bilbo, even though I’d been sort of “meh” when I read he was going to be in it. PJ seems to have a genius for picking out non-obvious casting that finally works beyond expectation. Viggo as Aragorn being another example. I loved Radogast and his insane rabbit-sled, the trolls , but the best scene by far was Gollum and the riddles. The pathos/horror/humor of this tragic little creature were done even better than in LotR,and so was the CGI. Amazing. I’m sure on a second viewing I’ll pick up on some reservations, but first time through – I was just happy and kind of awed and can’t wait for parts 2 and 3.

    • I quite liked Martin Freeman too, despite my initial indifference. I loved the Gollum scene but by that point in the movie I was kind of getting restless so I thought it dragged on a bit longer than necessary. I was happy by the end and eagerly awaiting parts 2 and 3 as well, though I’m still not sure how exciting 3 will be.

  3. I think you hit the nail on the head at the end there. In some ways it isn’t exactly fair to judge this movie until all three sections are released and we can all judge it as a whole. I quite enjoyed it but I think I’ll enjoy it more when I have the whole thing in front of me. Good review!

  4. Good review as always Andy. You are spot on about it really being a third of a movie. It is a shame that a director like Jackson has essentially bowed to money making forces that be and made it a trilogy when the results of this first one seem to show that three films are definitely not needed. Perhaps I’m being overly cynical, the version of the story I have heard is that it was Jackson and his partners decision to make it three. But I dunno.

    Maybe I am just being overly cynical because I saw this today and thought it was utterly dire. Just could not get into it in the slightest bit. 48fps really didn’t do it for me and I think that it really effected the film. Am sure I will be writing about it more soon, so will be able to expand on these initial thoughts.

    • I’m still trying to be optimistic about it because I used to love The Hobbit and I’d like to think that the rest of the film will wrap things up better. I just hope the decision to do 3 films was based on running time rather than anything else. I’d much rather not sit through two 4 1/2 hour movies.

      I’m also curious to see how the film holds up at 24 fps. It’ll be interesting to see if I miss 48 fps.

  5. Nice review and an interesting point you make about some scenes which might not have been shot at 48FPS. I didn’t like the effect in the beginning either because it didn’t seem natural, but later it was ok…

    • Exactly – I’m not sure if that’s just getting used to the movements or if something else was at play but the times I really noticed it were during camera pans at the beginning. They just seemed too fast.

  6. Do you think The Hobbit would’ve still been as popular or accepted had it come out BEFORE LOTR?

    I got to interview a lot of the fans at the premiere. They seemed to have the same opinion that it was great…not perfect…and some had reservations about 2 more films at roughly 3hrs each.

    • I think if it had come out before LOTR it wouldn’t be as bloated as it is now, which I think may be a mostly good thing. It’s hard to tell, though.

      I’ll check out the video now, very cool!

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  8. I’ve seen The Hobbit twice, not particularly coz I liked it but out of necessity really. First time was 3D, 24fps – but the projector hadn’t been focussed properly and there was a blurring effect around the lower edge of the screen. I would’ve walked and got me money back but my mate just shrugged it off. So that bothered me for a few days, so much so that I then went to an IMAX showing, 3D 48fps…

    I thought the film was okay but as other folk have said, too long. You nail it by saying have this long version on the blu-ray (and whatever else Jacko wants to add); 120 mins is long enough. The 3D passed me by, I barely noticed it. Dunno whether that’s good or bad. The 48fps looks odd. If there’s some truth to your ‘sped up’ theory, I would say only the last third of the film is ‘native’ – hasten to say I have no idea what I’m on about regarding the format. I only know that there’s a whip-pan halfway through the film that looks ludicrous; if that’s the future of cinema I’m gonna be watching a lot of old films and not many new ones. But fair enough, it’s early days with HFR, there’s probably a way to ‘smooth’ things out a bit.

    Jury’s still out.

    Nice one, Andy.

    • I’m glad you agree with me about the runtime and HFR looking very forced in some of the pans. I’m still not against the idea of HFR but there has to be a better way to get it to actually look natural with some of that stuff. There’s no way the camera would really pan like that.

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