The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey ★★★

It's difficult to assess just why "An Unexpected Journey" registers as a disappointment even as it easily qualifies as a decent time at the movies. The 48fps experience is jarring, to say the least, but that's not quite it. In retrospect, I think my ideal version of "The Hobbit" would have been a single film's length and played out with a much lighter touch, aiming for the same young audience as the book.

The issue with this version of "The Hobbit" is that Peter Jackson really does direct it like it's merely an appendices to the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. Perhaps Jackson is still stinging from the lukewarm reception to "King Kong" and "The Lovely Bones" and decided to play it safe. Either way, "An Unexpected Journey" feels like a slightly altered retelling of "Fellowship of the Ring" - complete with humble beginnings in the Shire, an exposition-heavy detour into Rivendale, and a steroid-pumped orc on our heros' tails.

Many fans have mentioned how comfortable it feels to be back in Middle Earth - yes, but this is a bit too comfortable, and I think it's a mistake to try and make "The Hobbit" as epic in scope and as too-intense-for-kids as the main trilogy.

48fps has a lot to recommend, particularly the way it manages to stabilize the 3D format and make human actors and CG elements interact seamlessly. At the same time, there's something so inherently un-cinematic about the look of it that I can't see the format ever truly catching on, unless it's applied to films that are almost entirely computer-generated - perhaps an "Avatar 2." The first hour of "The Hobbit" consists mostly of live-action material and it takes about that long for the eye to adjust to this strange new look.

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