'The Hobbit' Reviews: What Are Critics Saying About the Film and 48 fps?
Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will hold its press junket in New York City this week, meaning that the director and his cast will be seen on various media outlets talking up the first chapter in the planned Hobbit trilogy.
It also means that Warner has begun screening the film in earnest for journalists who are covering the press days, and reactions to the fantasy thriller started hitting the Web Tuesday morning. Critics weighed in on the film itself, as well as the 3D and the experimental 49 frames-per-second presentation. Here’s what critics have had to say so far:
On the film
Matt Patches of Hollywood.com says, “A fresh, free-spirited form of fantasy, Jackson's latest provides a younger generation with a stepping stone to his later films while serving the adult's who want more.”
Todd Gilchrist of Celebuzz adds, “A briskly engaging adventure shrouded in superfluous detail, though also, yes, admittedly, technical virtuosity, it's an accomplished if unexciting first chapter in the preamble to his Oscar-winning film series.”
Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter was less impressed, writing, “There are elements in this new film that are as spectacular as much of the Rings trilogy was, but there is much that is flat-footed and tedious as well, especially in the early going.”
Ed Douglas of ComingSoon.net leads the negative reactors by saying, “An Unexpected Journey may as well be The Phantom Menace and God help us all if the next two movies aren't better than this one.”
On the 48fps
As expected, many of the initial Hobbit reviews carved out space to address the revolutionary 48fps presentation. Most weren’t kind.
"Throughout the entire film, there was a strange Benny Hill quality to sequences, with things that appeared to be sped up. It happened in both dialogue and action sequences, and the overall effect was like watching the most beautifully mastered Blu-ray ever played at 1.5x speed. It doesn't make any sense to me that this process, which is supposedly all about clarity and resolution, would create that hyper-speedy quality unless they were doing something wrong in the projection of it,” wrote Drew McWeeny of HitFix.
CinemaBlend's Katey Rich summarized, "I never adjusted to the look, which makes everything feel more real and closer to you, an effect that's utterly bizarre when seeing giant trolls or goblins or even a band of tiny dwarves. The technological experimentation may have helped Peter Jackson get excited about a smaller-scale return to Middle Earth, but its effect on the movie is harder to gauge; it's fascinating seeing familiar characters like Gollum move with an unbelievable realness, but also nearly impossible to feel as swept away by this journey to an imaginary world."
Germain Lussier of Slashfilm calls it, "a bit of a mixed bag. At times, the film looks immaculate. Regular landscapes and normal shots with static digital effects look so beautiful, it’s almost as if you could press pause and step through the screen. However, when there are a lot of effects on screen, or they move quickly (as when animals are present, for example) they look overly digital and obviously inserted. Fortunately, even with this problem, the look of the film never took me out of the story. I left feeling that HFR is a technology with a promising future, but it’s not quite there yet."
Jen Yamato at Movieline, however, is already done with 48fps, saying, “I'm not in the minority on the frame rate issue. 48 fps may be D.O.A. even before The Hobbit opens in wide release on December 14. Maybe that's a good thing; save your dollars and see it in regular ol' 24 fps."
Definitive. We’ll continue to track the reactions to The Hobbit as we get closer to the film’s release.
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Sean O'ConnellFandango Bloggers
Sean is a film reviewer for The Washington Post and daily contributor to Fandango.