The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - reviews

The first reviews of Peter Jackson's fantasy epic are beginning to emerge from Middle-earth (and beyond) ... so, is it any good?

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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - reviews
Written By
Tom Cole

The first reviews of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey have started to appear online and the verdict so far is...well, rather mixed.

While some critics love the film’s charming characters and gorgeous New Zealand setting, about as many again have taken issue with its pacing and length.

Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes suggests that The Hobbit's average raging thus far is 6.6/10, though as the film still isn’t out for another nine days that’s bound to change for the better before long.

Anyway, here’s what the critics have had to say so far:

Collider gave the film a warm reception, calling it a "classic adventure quest" saying: “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a classic adventure quest in the making; packed with colorful characters, gorgeous settings and plenty of action, the only setbacks are technical ones.

“While The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is destined to be a stand-alone adventure classic in the vein of The Neverending Story, Willow and Legend, it is surely strongest when viewed as a satisfactory part of a greater whole.”

However, Variety criticised the film's length and overambitious cinematography in its review, which read:  “While Peter Jackson's prequel to "The Lord of the Rings" delivers more of what made his earlier trilogy so compelling -- colorful characters on an epic quest amid stunning New Zealand scenery -- it doesn't offer nearly enough novelty to justify the three-film, nine-hour treatment, at least on the basis of this overlong first instalment...

“More disconcerting is the introduction of the film's 48-frames-per-second digital cinematography, which solves the inherent stuttering effect of celluloid that occurs whenever a camera pans or horizontal movement crosses the frame -- but at too great a cost.

“Consequently, everything takes on an overblown, artificial quality in which the phoniness of the sets and costumes becomes obvious, while well-lit areas bleed into their surroundings, like watching a high-end homemovie.”

Similarly, The Hollywood Reporter took issue with the length of the film, saying that it'll be treat for fans of Tolkien's novel but a "bit of a slog" for the general viewer.

It said: “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… In Jackson's academically fastidious telling, it's as if The Wizard of Oz had taken nearly an hour just to get out of Kansas.”

Tolkien fan site The One Ring offered up a concise review, which picked up on some "confusing" elements in the film's plot.

Its reviewer wrote: “To be honest, yes there are bits that are a bit confusing and may feel misplaced, but I will want to watch it a second time before I pass final judgement on this film. I loved the ending, it is rather awesome.”

The Playlist, on the other hand, said that the film was a "grand achievement" for its director and suggested that fans of The Hobbit are in for a "thrilling ride".

It said:"While it will be too formulaic and familiar to some (and certainly non-fans won’t be won over), 'The Hobbit' is another grand achievement from director Peter Jackson. 

"As epic, grandiose, and emotionally appealing as the previous pictures, 'The Hobbit' doesn’t stray far from the mold, but it’s a thrilling ride that’s one of the most enjoyable, exciting and engaging tentpoles of the year." 

While Cinema Blend joined the chorus of voices crticising the film's length, the site also praised Peter Jackson's knack for storytelling: “The Hobbit feels in its first half very much like a brief story stretched far too thin, it eventually settles into its own enjoyable rhythm, a comic adventure that's a good enough excuse to make a return visit to Middle Earth.

“An Unexpected Journey is proof that Jackson still has a knack for stories in this world, and that he may have more surprises in store as the rest of this new, unexpected trilogy unfolds.“

New Zealand-based news site Stuff.co.nz gave the film a rave write-up and praised Peter Jackson for being "back at his game". It said: “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has enough similarities to LOTR that it will appeal to fans of the trilogy, but at the same time it carries its own feel and aesthetic - to be a beautiful beast in its own right.

“Great cast, great special effects and great entertainment.  Yes, Peter Jackson is back at his game, and I can't wait to see if he keeps it up in what's to come.”

And The New Zealand Herald also gave the film a tip-top appraisal, calling it looser, funnier and scarier than Lord of the Rings. The paper's write-up said: “Phew. After all that, it's a movie. A ripper of a film it is too… It's also a film which feels looser, funnier and often outright scarier than Jackson's last venture into this territory.

“While it's arguable that it's a better film than the previous Tolkien epic starter, The Fellowship of the Ring, it's surely a better theme park ride."

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