You’ve probably heard a lot of things about The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. You’ve been waiting for it a long time, and you loved the Lord Of The Rings trilogy. You’re a big nerd with the J.R.R. Tolkien books and you can’t wait to harp on the ways the movie differs. Maybe you even speak Elvish.
Well I’m not here for any of that. I loved the LOTR movies, absolutely, and I read the books, but there’s a lot of stuff you can get past me. I don’t remember character names, or locations, or what order stuff should come in. I’m that annoying girl who had to lean over to her friend at the screening and ask, “Are these orcs or goblins?” I’m that bitch. But here’s what I do know, and what I’m qualified to discuss: Peter Jackson has a lot of money. A lot. More than you’d ever think. And from the moment this movie starts, he’s throwing it at you. It’s such a money-show that minor characters are fanning themselves with invisible stacks of it, like geishas with money-fans. Every costume is elaborate. Every color is saturated. Every set is absurdly detailed. Any scene where CGI could possibly, conceivably be added, it’s been added. There’s a whole scene at the beginning where the dwarves clean up by kicking and juggling dishes around Bilbo’s house while he loudly panics around them. Was it cool? I mean maybe, but it was also completely unnecessary, and it took time away from me getting to know the characters. That’s the main difference between this movie and the LOTR movies — I couldn’t make myself get invested. I cared so much more about Samwise and Frodo and even Gandalf in the earlier films, but for The Hobbit, I was like, “I wish these dwarves would stop throwing their money at me and moving around so fast and just tell me some things about themselves.” These are all good actors — in particular Ian McKellen as Gandalf, Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins, and Hugo Weaving as Elrond, but they never got time to do anything close to character development. They were always too busy running around fighting new piles of money at the speed of light.And that’s another thing. FAST. MOVING. THINGS. Because the movie was filmed at 48 frames a second instead of the traditional 20-something and we saw it in 3-D, I walked out of there actually exhausted. My eyes and my brain aren’t used to working that hard while I’m sitting down and not behind the wheel of a car. Everything was so fast and bright and money-filled that I left with a little champagne headache, right behind my eyes. You know what it honestly felt like? It felt like a really elaborate video game that I was either watching a prodigy beat, or was really good at myself. There were all these complicated scenes where things had to happen in a perfect way and miraculously they did, without discussion, because it’s a movie and that’s how it goes. But I found myself thinking, “Ooh, be careful, you should’ve planned that out. You almost died there, and I don’t know how many lives you have left!” almost as a reflex. At one point they’re fighting goblins (SPOILER ALERT: they fight goblins!), running along this broken bridge, and out of nowhere they produce a ladder, which without speaking they know to jam down over the goblins’ heads so they’re stuck in the rungs. Then they keep running and jusssssst as they come to the broken part in the middle of the bridge, they let the ladder drop smoothly down to bridge the gap and they all run over it to safety as the goblins drop harmlessly out the bottom.
…do you know how many tries that would take in a video game, Peter Jackson? Because I do — many. You can’t just go risking your lives that late in the game after you’ve already beaten a few bosses. Are you crazy? I don’t mean to say that this isn’t a good movie, or it doesn’t have some substance to it, because neither of those things are true. But when I honestly think back on the movie, my brain recalls the bright green grass of the Shire, the slight nausea induced by watching thousands of extras scrambling together, and a vague exhaustion just imagining the production process for a film of this caliber. By the time it was over, I was expecting it to be about 11:00, since the movie had started a little after 7:00. That’s how tired I was. Instead, it was before 10:00 — one of those rare cases with Peter Jackson where the movie is less than three hours and feels like four.
Bottom line? Enjoyable, elaborate, impressive, overwhelming…and utterly unnecessary.