I hope those who were excited about seeing The Hobbit are
still so, after all the hype and negative publicity.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Director: Sir Peter Jackson
Cast: Martin Freeman, Sir Ian McKellen, Richard
Armitage, James Nesbitt, Elijah Wood, Hugo Weaving, Cate
Blanchett, Christopher Lee, Andy Serkis, Barry Humphries,
Rating: M +
Four and a half stars (out of five)
Given that omnipresent build-up (some might say hard sell),
however, it will be hard for most to go to the film without
some pre-conceptions, and it's likely many will travel to the
first instalment curious about how Sir Peter Jackson will
turn a 300-page novel into three films with a combined
running length of nearly nine hours - this first instalment
clocks in at a whopping 2 hours 45 minutes.
So is he pulling it off so far?
That's an unreserved yes from me. This film, although not
without fault, is a remarkable achievement.
Shot at 48 frames per second, twice as fast as usual, The
Hobbit is ground-breaking in the same way Avatar
Explaining 48fps is difficult. The action on screen (and
there's plenty) does not look like it is moving twice as fast
as normal, it is just somehow brighter, more clear cut and
It is a visual feast. It is like watching high definition
television for the first time, or a particularly lifelike
Yes, it is disconcerting at first while your brain tries to
figure out what is going on, and whether this looks sort of
basic or really awesome, but once you just roll with it
(after about 10 minutes for me), it is a whole new level of
The film is a giant leap in special effects, with what were
sometimes, for me, rough CGI battles in the LOTR
films, now smooth and real.
Academy, you may as well pack the award for special effects
in some bubble wrap and send it out to New Zealand now.
The Hobbit, as a children's book, is very light on
character development and action sequences, so to turn a 300
page children's novel into a blockbuster perhaps required
I am sure fans of the book will enjoy seeing characters and
action fleshed out a bit more, but almost an hour spent
introducing the dwarf company at Bilbo Baggins' (Martin
Freeman) house dragged - in the book it is two short chapters
before the journey begins.
Once the adventure is under way, the viewer is back in the
very familiar territory of wider Middle-earth.
And, my, how beautiful it is.
The scenery, particularly from the South Island, has to be
one of the big winners in this film. It is absolutely
stunning, made all the more impressive in 48fps.
One of the first major action scenes of the film is an
extended chase across landscape near Middlemarch, and what a
backdrop it makes - the drive to Hyde may never be the same.
Middlemarch, Wanaka, Fiordland and Twizel all feature
extensively in the film.
One has to worry a little that so much CGI in some scenes
might lead international viewers to question what scenery is
real, but then again, the CGI eagles soaring over the
Southern Alps and a thunderous mountain battle between rock
giants are some of the movie's highlights.
The chamber of riddles beside the underground lake, where
Bilbo Baggins meets Gollum (Andy Serkis) for the first time
and gains possession of the ring, is an extraordinary
sequence made even more so because it was the first scene
shot in the film, and surely oscar-worthy for Serkis.
As good a piece of cinema as The Hobbit is, it is hard
to see how the films are going to win new fans.
While the amazing acting, much of it from excellent New
Zealand actors alongside the brilliance of Sir Ian McKellen
(Gandalf the Grey) brings a film lighter in tone and funnier,
it still has a similar feel to the LOTR films.
For LOTR fans it will be a very welcome return to
Middle-earth, to non-fans they may still wonder what all the
fuss is about.
Yes, Sir Peter, you have given us a reason to go back to the
I recommend seeing it the way the director intended (in
48fps) on the biggest screen possible. It cannot yet be
replicated in your home cinema, no matter how good it is.