11 years after “The Lord of The Rings” trilogy, and Peter Jackson, a man of decreasing ability, returns to the well to revisit past glories. An example, if you will, of “Phantom Menace” syndrome, Jackson takes a film that didn't need to be made, and comes dangerously close to undoing the good work of his previous, ambitious and brilliant trilogy.
In short : The Hobbit is bloated and indulgent fanboy rubbish, stripped of the necessary distance to make a good film and instead creating a terribly long, boring, and bland film. Scenes are padded out beyond all reasonableness. The first half hour drags like a legless arthritic old lady trying to inch her way, finger by painful finger, out of a burning building.
Content aside, and we will come to that first, this films first, and most obvious, glaring error is the 48fps 3D presentation. Colours pop in oversaturated sheens. The grading and look is cheap : the nearest I can conceive of this is of cheap, Eighties, childrens television on BBC. Even an act as mundane as opening a drawer leaps off the screen with the false, over-exaggerated motion that you might find of a sports movie : in short it looks as if someone carried out the original act in slow motion, filmed it at twice the speed, then played it back at normal speed. It is jerky, blocky, and unnatural. Jackson films the act of making a dinner with all the misplaced drama of the assualt on the Death Star.
In some action sequences, it looks like a slight clarity to otherwise crowded and difficult scenes, Overall, though, it pulls me as a viewer out of the moment and into the world where I know I am watching a technical achievement and not experiencing a film. By reducing the frame-blur in half, it makes the film a stuttering jerky meal made of individual plates of action, like watching a very fast moving film strip and not a film. The human eye can, on average, see 10 frames a second, hence 24fps being the average film speed. 48 fps looks too precise.
Aside from that, the film is Phantom Menace Bad. I hope the next two redeem this film, but I suspect they won't. There are two musical numbers within the first 40 minutes that do nothing to progress the plot. It's 14, largely identical, dwarves with bad hair singing out of tune a bland tune about something. The rest of the film, which takes the linear 270 page novel, is padded out with unnecessary exposition, characters roles expanded beyond all reasonableness, and a whole bunch of stuff from the appendices of the original film. It hints at something that could turn out wonderfully, but I'm not convinced. Characters are invented, motives changed, and conflicts created to make drama where little existed : and there's an action sequence at a predictable 20 or so minutes.The film is padded out with beauty shots, each a few seconds too long, too much dialogue that barely progresses the story, as if Jackson knows this is the Last Throw Of The Dice, and if he doesn't get it this time, he will never be able to ever get it, and thus, there's a sense of almost joyless obligation in this.
The Trolls. The Stone Giants. Pointless and unnecessary. You could easily skip it and not miss anything at all in the progression of the film. Lovely to watch, but it does not progress the plot one iota. In fact, I lost count of the number of times that Gandalf just magically appeared to save the day, as if he were a portable grumpy emergency service : a walking Deus Ex Machina factory. Don't even get me started on The fucking Eagles that again, appear out of nowhere to save their ass.
The film does have some great moments : the appearance of Gollum, and the subsequent cave sequence, elevates the film and hints at something that was barely shown in the original films, making it feel as if it slots neatly – but unnecessarily – into the same story : in a respect, similar to the DS9 Episode “Trials and Tribble-ations.” It is a success, and a failure, a long, and often difficult slog to watch, an indulgence, and certainly the least successful of these films thus far in telling a story promptly and in a way that engages the audience. It is a film that may only make sense when viewed alongside the others, an incomplete picture, and thus, for now, The Hobbit may very well be ranked with “The Phantom Menace” in years to come as a flawed and unsuccessful experiment. Only time can be sure.