Ten years after he swept the Oscars with The Return of the King, it looks like the Eye of Sauron is fixed on filmmaker Peter Jackson. Early reviews for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey have been brutal, with pretty much everybody questioning Jackson’s decision to shoot the film at double the standard frame rate.
Dana Stevens of Slate hated “the eye-grating quality of its visual surface,” comparing the look of The Hobbit to daytime soaps and Teletubbies. “It’s hard to overstate the degree to which the 48fps format interfered with my ability to get lost in this movie’s story,” she writes. Over at New York Magazine, David Edelstein crows, “It must be seen to be disbelieved,” adding, “the fakeness of the sets and makeup [is] an endless distraction.” Finally, Edelstein concludes that the next two films “are sure to be less exciting than discussions of pixel resolution, scan lines, and refresh rates.”
There’s a double edge to the statement by Scott Foundas in the Village Voice that the film is “reverential to a fault.” Jackson’s unseemly decision to turn the (relatively) slender book into three attenuated, effects-bloated epics is too obviously motivated by profit for even the fans to ignore, or forgive. In the end, this appears to be the biggest beef with the film. The Guardian’s Robbie Collin gets downright emotional about it, declaring that Bela Tarr’s The Turin Horse “feels nippy in comparison,” while lamenting, “As a lover of cinema, Jackson’s film bored me rigid; as a lover of Tolkien, it broke my heart.”
That said, Collin also adds, “Thank heavens for Andy Serkis, whose riddling return as Gollum steals the entire film.” Indeed, all of the Hobbit’s detractors agree that the film is elevated yet again by Serkis. And too be fair, the reviews aren’t uniformly bad—just mostly. Find out what our own Janet Smith made of the film in December 13’s issue of the Straight.