by James Hansen
"...Jackson’s unwillingness to streamline anything leaves The Hobbit feeling more like a special-effect sledgehammer set to automatic and left to bludgeon its audience for an interminable running time."
It’s a little strange writing a review of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit because anyone who has seen his Lord of the Rings trilogy (which is pretty much everyone) already knows exactly how this movie is going to look and operate. Of course, Jackson is using newer technology here – his choice to shoot in 3D 48 fps has been much discussed – and there are new adventures and creatures, but, at the same time, the color pallette, the swooping landscape shots, the near-identical score are all present. Even more than Lord of the Rings, the technology permits Jackson’s supreme indulgence with effects, here building an almost completely animated world in which the characters walk around, eat, drink, walk, run away, fall through things, fight things, and triumph.
Bilbo’s heroes journey is extremely familiar, but, of course, this isn’t the point at all. The narrative is merely a cardboard cutout for Jackson’s technical wizardry. The Hobbit nearly abandons its narrative every 15 minutes or so to take us into the world of a new creature – glimpses of spiders and dragon, the already familiar home of elves, rock monsters, orc armies, etc. Jackson desperately wants to create an entire world here, but a world not established by space but rather by number of small things in it. Given the film’s epic scale, it does seem a bit strange that, aside from the aforementioned helicopter shots, there is little spatial orientation, often shooting in close ups to reveal the “naturalism” of the creatures rather than establishing the dimensions in which the story takes place.
Still, this isn’t to say there is no excitement – there are several spectacular sequences – but Jackson’s unwillingness to streamline anything leaves The Hobbit feeling more like a special-effect sledgehammer set to automatic and left to bludgeon its audience for an interminable running time. More so, perhaps a credit to the 48 fps, the motion and color of the creatures is so fascinating and vivid (good thing!) that the main characters seem almost entirely out of place (bad thing!) Undoubtedly, there remains a tension between the effects and the actors, the technology and the narrative. That is, as the creatures become more “realistic,” the actors look more and more artificial. Indeed, if The Hobbit shows us anything, it’s that this fantasy stars a bunch of dudes playing dress up.