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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has initially received lukewarm reaction from film critics, who attack it on two main fronts: the new 48 frames per second technology with which the film was shot, and its length (2 hours 49 minutes).
The first beef takes some explanation. The film is the first ever to be shot in a new way that digitally captures 48 frames per second, whereas films are usually shot in 24 frames per second. Director Peter Jackson has said that this is the future of film, and that the realism and dynamism of 48fps film is far superior to the older technology we are all used to. That’s the thing though, we’re used to it. The new visuals produced by the 48fps film can be startling at first. Imagine the first time you watched something in HD. It looked real, but maybe too real. The landscapes can look fake, the set is too much like a stage play, and the imperfections of make-up and sets are exaggerated. These are real concerns, and the technology may need years of tweaking before it becomes seamless. But honestly, the high-frame-rate 3D was a non-issue after a few disorienting minutes. As for the movie’s length, sure there are some parts that could have been tightened up, but ask yourself this: did you think the Return of the King Extended Edition was too long? If you did, then The Hobbit wasn’t made for you. If you didn’t, then you are going to think this is the most awesome movie ever.
Jackson looks to be setting up The Hobbit Trilogy in mirror-image to his Lord of the Rings Trilogy. An Unexpected Journey matches up with The Fellowship of The Ring in many respects. First, the back story is laid down in epic detail, ancient battles of old, orcs, etc. Then the gang is introduced, this time 13 dwarves, the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), and Gandalf, (Ian McKellan reprising his LOTR role). The quest that will take them three movies to complete is finally embarked upon. This time the gang travels to reclaim the Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the evil dragon Smaug.
For a LOTR fan, this movie is pure candy. Andy Serkis’ turn as Gollum is even creepier and more nuanced than his work in LOTR. Gandalf is Gandalf. Freeman’s Bilbo is incredibly portrayed as the reluctant civilian caught-up in an adventure, and out-of-his depth. The Dwarves are a light-hearted, but fearsome lot. Their leader, and the heir to Erebor’s throne, is Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage). He is this Trilogy’s Aragorn, and he gives Viggo Mortensen a run for his money as the most bad-ass character in Middle Earth.
This movie has it all. It has laughs, it has heart, it has unbelievable action sequences, epic landscapes, and lovable, complex characters. There are some goofy moments, but if you pooh-pooh goofiness then you shouldn’t be at a movie about dwarves, elves, and lost gold in the first place. Jackson’s comfort working in Middle Earth helps him achieve a rare feat in creating a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but is also serious. Whether your a fan of LOTR or not, this is an epic journey that despite its running time and newfangled filming should be enjoyed by young and old.
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