Leading up to The Hobbit, I sort of got lost in talk of high frame rates, overlong storytelling, and unfavorable comparisons to the other three movies. Then I actually went into the film and was quickly reminded that I was back in the Lord of the Rings universe, and it’s a place that I love visiting.
The Hobbit as a whole, is a bit of a mixed bag. But not a half and half mix. It’s more like an Asian stir fry. With mostly delicious ingredients that I love, but I have to pick off a few water chestnuts to get only what I want. I hate water chestnuts. They have no flavor! They are just there for a crunchy texture change. I always throw them away. Sorry to turn this into an anti water chestnut agenda so early in the review, but I’m hungry and want some stir fry right now. And it seemed like an appropriate metaphor. So, The Hobbit is awesome, except for a few water chestnuts.
To keep this reaching stir fry theme going, for whatever reason, this movie has a lot of delicious ingredients. Starting with the rice, the bottom layer of the stir fry, the stuff you get in every bite. That would be the exceptional as usual adventure that comes with any Lord of the Rings film from Peter Jackson. This was one of the more entertaining action films of the year. Peter Jackson has always done a good job paying close attention to detail, and… wait… if detail is layered into every shot of the movie, then the rice would be detail, not the adventure. The adventure is more like the Thai ginger sauce that covers the whole thing. I never said this stir fry thing was a good idea.
The meat, I prefer chicken and steak so I’m going to give two examples, would be the incredible action set pieces and the Gollum scene. I particularly liked all the action that involved the lair of the Goblin King. That was a very fun elaborate set piece; one of several in the film. That could be the chicken, savory and delicious. The steak, however (the better of the two meats), was the Gollum scene. Which in my opinion, was the best scene in the entire movie. A great exchange between two actors doing their best work possible; with great suspense and good pacing. And it once again made me feel terrible for the tragic figure that is Gollum.
The roasted peppers would be the visual effects. Delicious morsels that I’d like to have in every bite, but there aren’t quite enough of them on the plate so I have to pick and choose when I can. I loved most of the effects. There was one however that I would point out as a big meeehhh: the Orc leader Azog. I felt that in a movie of great visuals, he just felt a little unpolished. A smooth white mass of grunting whatever. He looked like he was one level of polishing below the rest of the CGI characters. Put him next to the Goblin King for a good example of that. I also thought some of the backgrounds didn’t match the beauty of the foreground elements. But the Azog’s white warg was pretty cool and scary, though. And as short as the scene was, the rock giants were really, really cool.
The high frame rate 3D was the baby corn. I like the baby corn, but at the same time, I always find a few baby corns on the bottom of the plate when I’m done. The high frame rate was actually a little jarring at first, with the characters moving seemingly way faster than they should have been. It looked… crappy. But then my eyes adjusted and I stopped thinking about it, and it looked normal. Then in the less action packed scenes I would think about the HFR again, and the movements would look weird. I also didn’t see how it made the 3D look any better, as it still looked like every other 3D movie I’ve ever seen. Sure, it may have been in the better part of the 3D spectrum, but it was still less than impressive as a form of filmmaking. Much like baby corn, I liked it a little bit but could have done without it. But I wouldn’t mind more baby corn in the future. OK, now I feel like I’m losing people.
The water chestnuts to me, were the scenes that felt like they were thrown in for the sake of being thrown in. The brown wizard scene was the only legitimately terrible scene in the entire movie, but I suppose it’s there just to set up the Necromancer as a major villain in the next two movies. Other water chestnuts were the scene involving the wizards and high elves having an expository discussion, and the opening scene with old Bilbo and Frodo. Let me try to put it this way… the LOTR trilogy was made with burning passion and unparalleled dedication. It was a constant uphill battle because everyone involved wanted the Lord of the Rings movie to be made AND be the greatest thing ever. No film project had ever had the amount of brilliant scale that they did. Sleepless nights were had and brand new innovations were constantly being developed during those films’ productions. The Hobbit, however, was just kind of made in addition to the previous films. As if LOTR was a film trilogy that “really wanted to be made“, and The Hobbit is a film trilogy that is more like “OK, I guess we’ll make it…“. Those scenes, and a couple of others, really punched that sentiment into my head. As if I wasn’t watching a labor of love as much as I was watching a reminder of what was once a labor of love.
In an ideal situation in my mind, this film would have only been two hours long, and been only about the main journey from the book. And then the next film also only be two hours and also be pretty straightforward in plot. A lot of scenes felt like they belonged in the inevitable extended cut for a richer, more hardcore experience; and not so much in the first viewing theatrical cut. So it kind of felt bloated. Like the stir fry was spilling off of my plate and into my lap. Sigh. Sorry.
I know some people have been complaining of how it was an incomplete movie experience because it’s just part of a journey. I agree and disagree. Obviously, literally, it is just part of a journey. But at the same time I thought it covered a lot of the backstory and set up some greatness for the future. I thought the final scene with the bird and Smaug was a brilliant set up. As good a cliff hanging scene as you could have in a three hour movie. I’m looking forward to the next two movies for sure. I mean, they are Peter Jackson/LOTR movies.
The Hobbit is a very different story than The Lord of the Rings, both in style and in a simple approach. At times, it seemed like Peter Jackson was trying to turn this simple story with amusing confrontations into huge LOTR-type epicness. I’m not sure that’s entirely necessary to make this a great film series. But regardless of a few less-than-stellar ingredients, this was a very satisfying meal. A stir fry definitely worth eating. And it won’t give you diarrhea afterwards either. Which is a rarity after most trips to Stir Crazy. I don’t like that place much. And so ends the worst metaphor I’ve ever done in a film review.
8.5 out of 10