But the many battles with orcs and trolls and goblins seem redundant after the ten or so hours of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. They don’t have nearly the impact of the war scenes in the earlier films, particularly the magnificent ones in the final installment. And in The Hobbit, the many episodes of comic relief (such as a lengthy scene in which trolls threaten to eat our heroes but are easily defeated by a blast of sunlight) are awful, and there are even a couple of musical numbers that could have been cut without anyone protesting. It’s hard not to get the sense that director Peter Jackson is milking the clock in order to sucker the public into spending another $3 billion or so on what was originally a modest little children’s story that Tolkien didn’t even intend to publish. Only the first six chapters of Tolkien’s 19-chapter book are covered in this film.
Worse, for technical reasons Jackson chose to make the 3-D movie at 48 frames per second rather than the usual 24, which is supposed to allow him to speed things up but leads to oddly jerky character movements. Some early viewers have reported being nauseated by this new technique (though the 2-D version is being shown in 24 frames per second). Moreover, Jackson has overcompensated for the sometimes dim nature of 3-D film by over-lighting everything, and the expensively-wrought images may remind you of a modestly-budgeted TV production — a look that is more I Claudius than Game of Thrones. To say the least, this is a disappointing detail in a movie for which you may be paying as much as $20 a ticket.
Mainly The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey seems aimed at obsessives who (without cracking a book) want to know exactly how Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), Saruman (Christopher Lee) and Elrond (Hugo Weaving) first enter the story, but then again, how many people do you know who came out of The Return of the King demanding answers to these questions? The Hobbit should have been subtitled, An Unexpected Chore.
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