Tuesday, December 04, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Reviews

With the movie still a week out from release, multiple entertainment websites have started to post their reviews of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. All the reviewers saw the film in IMAX 3D at HFR (aka high frame rate or 48FPS), a decision that may have backfired as it seems many of the reviewers were unable to get past the flaws of the new technology. It is a shame because the reviews will give a worse impression of the film that will not necessarily align with the average movie goers visual experience.

Outside of all of them having problems with HFR, those that could seperate the tech from the rest of the movie experience provided mostly positive reviews. On the plus side is the film is gorgeous with great special effects, solid acting, entertaining story and of course fantastic music. The minuses (besides HFR) include Peter Jackson may have been too faithful to the novel to stretch the story to fit a trilogy, too long, and unevenness in tone with occasional bouts of silliness. The end result is the reviewers recommend the film but the enthusiasm is tampered by the flaws in story execution and the untested problems with 48FPS IMAX showing.

My overall take is see the film, just don't see it in IMAX 3D. See it The Lord of the Rings style at good old fashioned 24FPS and then if really loved the film, see it a second time at the more expensive formats so can make a proper judgement and comparison of the film without that enjoyment being hampered by flaws in new technology. Below are highlights from some of the posted reviews.

As the film sprints through its chaotic prologue, narrative coherence takes a backseat to high-definition visual wizardry; it's a bewildering barrage of footage that looks either spectacular or gallingly fake. But then Jackson's virtual camera plunges deep into the fully-digitized Lonely Mountain to reveal the discovery of the Arkenstone, and suddenly the alleged game-changing promise of AVATAR has finally been realized. ...AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY in high-frame-rate 3D is a deep, vicious pendulum swing between transporting and flat-out unwatchable - and it's impossible to fully adjust to the format because you never know when it's suddenly going to look like a demo reel. ...AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY is the work of a filmmaker who's up against nothing but his own judgment. He's the final-cut master of Middle Earth on film, so what he says goes - and what ensues is often akin to a paragraph-by-paragraph recreation of the book. The first colossal misstep is Jackson's baffling decision to film the dwarf dinner at Bag End in what feels like real time.
The Hollywood Reporter
Spending nearly three hours of screen time to visually represent every comma, period and semicolon in the first six chapters of the perennially popular 19-chapter book, Jackson and his colleagues have created a purist's delight, something the millions of die-hard fans of his Lord of the Rings trilogy will gorge upon. In pure movie terms, however, it's also a bit of a slog, with an inordinate amount of exposition and lack of strong forward movement. ...High Frame Rate 3D, while striking in some of the big spectacle scenes, predominantly looked like ultra-vivid television video, paradoxically lending the film a oddly theatrical look, especially in the cramped interior scenes in Bilbo Baggins' home. For its part, the 24 fps 3D version had a softer, noticeably more textured image quality. ...It takes Jackson a long time to build up a head of steam, but he delivers the goods in this final stretch, which is paralleled by the hitherto ineffectual Bilbo beginning to come into his own as a character.
Coming Soon (6/10)
It quickly becomes apparent how hard Jackson is trying to recreate the magic of "Fellowship of the Ring" by using many of the familiar elements and an identical story structure. Over the course of their journey, the group face more orcs and goblins and trolls we saw in the "Lord of the Rings" movies with many of the beats being almost identical. The only creatures that really stand as being original to this movie are a trio of mountain-sized storm giants, and over the course of two hours, Bilbo tends to fade into the background, lost in the mass of dwarves. ...[48FPS] an interesting experiment that makes everything look crisp and clear and in some ways it makes everything look real and present, which would generally help the 3D. This cinematography greatly enhances the picturesque New Zealand landscapes that played such a large part in the scale of the earlier trilogy, but at the same time, the characters walking across those landscapes look like bad CG. ...Offering very little we haven't already seen and a horrible decision to use a frame rate that makes much of it unwatchable, this is less a faithful adaptation of Tolkien's "The Hobbit" as much as Jackson trying to recapture the magic of the "Lord of the Rings" movies and failing miserably.
Collider (A-)
I think it’s safe to say that we’re in good hands, as far as story goes. ...While most of the Dwarves are window-dressing as far as character development goes, they do provide a good portion of levity within the film…perhaps to a fault. ...The humor of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is mostly on par with that of Lord of the Rings but there are moments clearly meant for kids in this more family-friendly installment (though it is rated PG-13 and there are a surprising number of decapitations…) ...I admire and support Jackson’s decision to use 48fps and 3D going forward, but there is still some work to do to make it seamless. ...there was no sense of real danger during most of the fight scenes, right up until the end. This is strange, because the flashback battles were, for the most part, epic and brutal and heavy, with real emotion tied in to the loss of believable warriors. On the plus side, the costume and make-up design for the flesh-and-blood characters and creatures was phenomenal, even managing to surpass the original Lord of the Rings trilogy. ...n Unexpected Journey manages to pay homage to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, while forging strong introductions to the themes that are explored in the chronologically later-occurring films, especially for first-time viewers. It’s evident that much care was given over to consideration of how to weave these two tapestries together and it’s brilliantly achieved.
Hit Fix (B)
There is also the difficult nature of the way it all opens, with a dinner sequence that introduces all 6000 dwarf characters and that seems to go on for a few hours. It is one of two major momentum killing sequences in the film, and taken together with the frantic, overwhelming nature of some of the action sequences, it makes for a very mixed experience. One thing is sure: very few filmmakers have ever created worlds with the intricate density of the Middle Earth that Jackson has brought to life in these films, and that continues in "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey." ...Pacing is an issue in this film in a way that it never struck me as a problem in any of the three "Lord Of The Rings" movies, and I think part of it is that we just don't end up getting to know these characters as well. While I think Martin Freeman is a tremendously talented comic actor, I am starting to suspect that casting him was perhaps too easy. He gives a very good Martin Freeman performance here, with all the awkward double takes and reaction shots that you'd want from him, but I don't know much more about Bilbo now than I did at the start of the three hours. Keeping track of the various dwarfs is impossible in the film, and that's a real issue. It's just too many character to dump on the audience all at once. Peter Jackson and his co-writers have decided to tell every single story there is to tell along the way, expanding in a way that most adaptations normally have to contract. ...some of the action here has been cranked up to such preposterous physic-defying levels that they actually become less exciting because of all the frenzy. ..."Lord Of The Rings" always made the victories seem hard-won, while "The Hobbit" unfortunately makes them feel more like save points. ...My hope is that the three films taken together will work better than this one does on its own, and that the pacing issues are not going to be ongoing as the series continues.

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