Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Hobbit, a review


Ya'll know what the movie is about.

Dwarves, hobbits, wizards and a really angry dragon we only see in passing.

TECHNICAL

I saw the film in 3D and wasn't particularly blown away by it. It was by no means distracting, but I didn't notice much reason to opt for an additional couple bucks for a ticket. I've heard mixed to negative reactions about the 48 fps and didn't see any reason to jump into that. I've never really been a technical geek so I can't comment about whether or not it looks like a video game.

The sweeping scope is indeed sweeping, but frankly we've seen this before in the previous trilogy. The cinematography lacks any specific instances of cinematic pop, but the countryside exteriors are gorgeous, akin to Ridley Scott's Prometheus. Simply put, they are jaw-slappingly gorgeous. The best part of the film.

Barring none, the set design is perfection. The introduction of Radagast and the onslaught of the evil forces upon his home was a creepy sensory delight. However, the design of the White Orc reminded me so much of Kratos from God of War that all I imagined him doing was ripping out the eyes of the Hobbit and using them as a necklace.

NARRATIVE

This is where the film struggled the most for me. Beyond the opening dragon siege (a fun little sequence) the rest of the first half of the film is so poorly paced I half-slept through it against my will. Well, mostly.

The characters are for the most part unmemorable. The only characters I remember are Gandalf, Thorin and. . .Bilbo, I think. The lack of motivation was felt mostly in Thorin's quest to redeem his homeland and I thought this was compelling enough for him to be the main protagonist, seeing as how he was the only one with clear motivation.

Bilbo really has no motivation here. He's basically yanked out of his cozy little life and thrown into the fire of a bad situation by a wizard we only know because we read the spoilers (or watched the entire trilogy beforehand). This does not make for good storytelling nor does it endear us to the various characters Jackson and his screenwriter's want us to empathize with.

The final 45 minutes crackle only because we can finally see where the film is really going, and it doesn't do much with the climactic battle because the "trapped" aspect feels confined and the spectacle is belabored. Burning trees? Nearly falling over the edges yet again? Being saved by another dues ex machina? The battles lack common logic and do little to advance the story. They feel like padding, particularly a battle with giant rock robots.

However, the trolls were a nice little fantastic addition to the film. The near magic of the scenes is quiet compelling. The riddle sequence involving a certain mutated hobbit and the other hobbit was nicely written, but far too long.

THEMES

There isn't much going on here compared to the other trilogy. Fellowship had quite a bit going for it, but here the film just feels bloated and padded. The environment and the destruction of good things almost makes up for it, and the ideas of potential greed and prejudice get nods, but they are put aside for the sake of adding more unneeded battles and "extended edition" exposition.

CONCLUSION

Despite the magic of some scenes (any bit involving Radagast, the trolls and the ugly hobbit), the film is overall a poorly paced action picture with too much dialogue and not enough emotional resonance. The idea of environmental disaster is quite compelling, particularly in light of our current dilemma with potential global tension.

Not worth your time. 

2.5 out of 5.

--Nick

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