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New Release Review - The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Directed by: Peter Jackson
Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Ken Stott, James Nesbitt, Ian Holm, Elijah Wood, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch 

Adaptation of JRR Tolkien's fantasy tale.

There are many things which irritate me about modern Hollywood; CGI effects, expositional dialogue, ugly digital photography, 3D and bad pacing are the scourge of the modern blockbuster. Jackson's latest non-epic commits all the aforementioned ills and then some. Whatever you thought of his 'Lord of the Rings' adaptations, it has to be said they looked fantastic. 'The Hobbit: An Uneventful Journey' might be a great commercial for the New Zealand tourist board but it's a terrible advert for digital cinema, that great lie that's been sold to us by cretins like Jackson, Cameron and Lucas.
As if having 3D and digital projection shoved down our throats wasn't enough, now Jackson brings us HFR (Higher Frame Rate). For the past hundred plus years, film has been shot at 24 frames per second. It works fine and I don't recall audiences complaining about it but Jackson has decided it's not good enough. He's shot 'The Hobbit' in 48 frames per second, claiming it makes the image more realistic. This added "realism" is actually quite the opposite. 'The Hobbit' wasn't actually shot in some fantasy world, it was filmed on sets and in front of green-screens and that's exactly how it looks thanks to the higher frame rate. Ever watched one of those 'Making of' documentaries? Notice how fake everything looks compared to the finished film? That's because those documentaries aren't shot on film, they're shot on video. Film has a magical quality that can make a wooden set on a Hollywood sound-stage look convincingly like an alien world. Video, and digital, is far less forgiving, especially when utilizing this new method. The sets look, well, like sets. The make-up looks, well, like make-up. Scenes shot indoors look, well, you get the idea. It's particularly harsh where lighting is concerned, giving each actor a large white blotch where the light is reflecting off their forehead. People often say TV is becoming more like cinema. It's not. Cinema is becoming more like TV. Canadian TV. From 1986.
"But we don't care about any of your film snob cinematography obsessions" you say, "how was the damn film?" Well, take Jackson's 'LOTR' films, put them through a Disney blender and you've got 'The Hobbit'. Everything looks a lot cleaner and "cuter", even the orcs look somewhat adorable here with their big Bambi eyes. There's just as much, if not more, walking and talking as in Jackson's previous trilogy. The few action scenes are pretty underwhelming. If you've seen one orc-fight you've seen them all. There's one clever shot involving a snoring dwarf and a swarm of flies but otherwise it's far from memorable. 
Tolkien's source novel is a victim of it's own success, having influenced everything from Harryhausen's 'Sinbad' movies to 'Star Wars'. Bringing it to the screen this late means it's not presenting us with anything we haven't seen before and splitting it over three bloated movies inevitably makes it an endurance test for all but the most devoted Jacksonites. "At least the worst is behind us", a character remarks at the film's conclusion. I certainly hope so.
4/10
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) on IMDb 8.8/10

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