First off, the Man of Steel trailer looked absolutely spectacular on the big screen!! All the chills and excitement I felt watching it online were magnified tenfold seeing it in a theater. I still have lots of reservations about Nolaning up Superman and having Zack Snyder direct it, but the trailer was amazing.
Second, I saw the 48 fps version so let’s talk about that now and deal with the movie on its own after. Peter Jackson shot The Hobbit at 48 frames per second instead of the standard 24, which gives you way more detail and a realistic feel. It was… odd. I don’t think it worked. Yeah, a lot of the scenes looked as real as I’ve ever seen a movie look, but that wasn’t exactly a good thing. It sometimes just looked like a guy standing outside in a wizard costume, and lacked the ambience and depth and feel that I was used to from the original trilogy. Plus, a lot of the movements felt jerky or sped up. There were occasional scenes where the detail was amazing and cool, and it’s certainly technology with a ton of potential, but it just didn’t work for me here. A lot of scenes just didn’t FEEL like being at the movies.
Now, the movie itself!! I liked it, but I didn’t love it. I’m a HUGE fan of the original trilogy, like ridiculously so. I’ve got nearly all of the action figures, I’ve seen the movies probably 30 or 40 times each, and when Fellowship of the Ring came out I ate untold numbers of Burger King kid’s meals to get all the toys. I love the books and I love the movies, and I was over the moon excited for The Hobbit. I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t great.
I think the main problem was that it wasn’t sure what it wanted to be. It was sort of like two movies jammed together. At times, it was broad and funny, but it also got pretty dark and violent too, with no real happy medium. For example, the dwarves were either being goofy and cartoonish or they were SUPER somber and decapitating goblins. There was so middle ground.
It felt like a conflict between design and execution. Some of the dwarves were clearly designed to look comical, and there were elaborate bits meant to be funny, like a weird dish stacking song number near the beginning. But then maybe they thought they were being too broad with it, so the fight scenes became more violent and everyone turned very moody. It’s like they set out to make something tonally different from Lord of the Rings but chickened out halfway through and decided to try to capture the original formula for success, and they over-corrected.
Lord of the Rings was very condensed while The Hobbit is stretched out, and the former worked much better than the latter. In trying to turn The Hobbit into a trilogy and seemingly trying to capture the vibe of the first trilogy, they lost what’s unique about The Hobbit. The stakes are so much lower and it’s mostly just a fun adventure, but the movie tries to make the dwarves quest to reclaim the Lonely Mountain as epic as the quest to destroy the ring of power. It’s just not. They played up the Sauron/Necromancer thing with mixed results. It could lead to something cool in later movies, but things felt a little muddled and inconsistent in this first one.
However, there was a lot that was great. Martin Freeman is PERFECT as Bilbo, and really made the movie. He saved some dodgy scenes, especially in the beginning, and I really missed him later on when he and the dwarves were separated. His scene with Gollum, who looked fantastic, was one of the highlights of the film, and his general fish out of water bewilderment was enjoyable the whole way through.
It was great to have Ian McKellen back as Gandalf again, and to see Elrond and Galadriel too. Elrond was more light-hearted this time, which was fun. The dwarves were well cast as well, but it’s hard to keep them all straight. Several of them got good character moments, though, and I think they were handled as well as 13 characters could be.
The style of the film picks up where the Lord of the Rings left off, and Jackson’s version of Middle Earth looks as amazing as ever. The costumes, locations, and sets were all gorgeous. And the score!! One of my absolute favourite things about the original trilogy is how each region and/or race has their own musical theme, and The Hobbit’s new dwarf theme fits in seamlessly with the existing musical style.
There were also lots of little moments that I loved. The absolute coolest moment in the movie was at the beginning when Smaug has taken over the Lonely Mountain and Thranduil stares down the dwarves, turns around, and leaves without helping WHILE RIDING AN ELK!! Elf on an elk!! It was so much fun. I can’t wait for more Thranduil in the next movie. Lee Pace was an inspired choice. Other great bits included:
- Bret McKenzie of Flight of the Conchords back as an elf, but with lines this time.
- Gandalf busting the dwarves out of the goblin town. It’s always fun when Gandalf throws it down.
- It was a change from the book, but I liked Thorin doubting Bilbo and Bilbo proving himself. It gave the movie an arc that it needed.
- The goblin king was weird and gross and fun.
- I think they upped the role of the mountain giants from the book, but it looked pretty awesome. I enjoyed the massive rock giants’ battle immensely.
- That one dwarf who’s super into chamomile tea. He was amusing.
All in all, I liked The Hobbit. While it had its problems and it wasn’t the mind-blowing opening that Fellowship of the Ring was, that’s a high bar to match. Sure, they could have cut a half hour and sorted out a more consistent tone and vision, but how can you not enjoy Martin Freeman tromping his way through Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth? The world he’s created is astounding, and it’s so much fun to see Bilbo Baggins explore it. Plus, elf on an elk!! I really hope he rides it in the Battle of Five Armies. So yeah, it was good but not great. I enjoyed it, and I’m definitely going to see it again.