The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Cinema Review

'Rivendell, once a welcome respite of calm beauty, is now a gigantic bore of elven/dwarf relations and portentous Elrond speeches.'

On Saturday night, I turned off The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King and left Middle Earth. On Sunday evening, I was back.

Various clichés would have it that sitting down to watch The Hobbit: A Unexpected Journey is like sitting down in your favourite comfy chair after a long walk, presumably with pipe and Hobbit-feet slippers. The reality is much less comforting.

Part of the reason for that is the 48-frames-per-second frame rate which, as reported, does give your eyes a problem, at least initially. The first shot, of Old Bilbo (Ian Holm) walking down his hallway, looks like someone has pressed fast-forward by mistake. It's comical and strangely amateurish, early shots of Dale, the market town below The Lonely Mountain, looking decidedly twee.

But then - let's labour a point here - your comfy chair starts to take effect and you do slip back in to J. R. R. Tolkien's world, Peter Jackson the helmsman, plotting a course through orcs and goblins and other familiar, less angry, races.

Sections work extremely well. The trip to The Great Goblin's (Barry Humphries) underground lair is a triumph of character and set design and it culminates in the film's best action piece, a varied downhill chase, not dissimilar to The Adventures Of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn's Morocco segment. The early meeting in Bilbo's house, swarmed upon by dwarves, should work well for fans of the book, choosing as it does to include two of the terrifically child-friendly songs.

Elsewhere though, something else starts to happen. Sticking with the chair cliché (we've come this far with it, if it's not broke...), it's as if your comfortable piece of upholstery has become too soft in its old age, sucking you in, smothering you with goose feather and memory foam. Rivendell, once a welcome respite of calm beauty, is now a gigantic bore of elven/dwarf relations and portentous Elrond (Hugo Weaving) speeches. Side-steps to following Radagast (Sylvester McCoy) aren't unpleasant, but they don't help the wavering tone, McCoy, complete with literal bird's nest hair and rabbit-drawn sled, rather feeling like an Animals Of Farthing Wood fan gone native.

The whole thing feels far too episodic, a collection of tones and styles that one minute is Narnia, talking trolls and tame rabbits and the next is head-slicing orcs and Return Of The King's more bloodthirsty elements. The twelve dwarves are a nightmare to keep up with and Jackson doesn't even bother to characterise two or three of them. Bomber (Stephen Hunter) doesn't even speak.

The final judgement must be that this is a mixed bag, a film fast, child-friendly and book-loyal one minute and advanced, deliberate and patient the next. Martin Freeman and Ian McKellen are welcome at the head of all this but Richard Armitage's Thorin feels, for too long, like an angry interjector; one of many broken springs starting to creep in through the bottom of your armchair.

This The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey screening was presented in Imax 3D at the Higher Frame Rate (HFR) of 48FPS.


  1. I have been kind of surprised my the movie reviews for this one. But I think that is more just the movie being over hyped than anything.

  2. Wow, thanks for the heads up!