'The Hobbit' Is 'Solid' But Not 'Exceptional'

Director Peter Jackson takes his audience back to Middle-earth in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, set in a time before the Lord of the Rings films.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote "The Hobbit" before he wrote the "Lord of the Rings" series, which of course became a huge success as a film trilogy. So no surprise that that director Peter Jackson has turned "The Hobbit" into a movie too. Actually, he'll be making another trilogy based on that single book. The first one opens at midnight tonight. Kenneth Turan has this review of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey."

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: The story begins with the great wizard Gandalf announcing he's looking for someone to share an adventure.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY")

SIR IAN MCKELLAN: (as Gandalf) You asked me to find the 14th member of this company and I have chosen Mr. Baggins.

MARTIN FREEMAN: (as Bilbo Baggins) Me? No. No, no, no.

TURAN: Humble hobbit Bilbo Baggins wants no part of this. Adventures, he says, make you late for dinner. But before he knows what's happening, thirteen rowdy dwarves show up at his house and create all kinds of havoc.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY")

FREEMAN: (as Bilbo Baggins) No, no. There's nobody home. Go away and bother somebody else! There's far too many dwarves in my dining room as it is.

TURAN: That dwarf bacchanal goes on and on and on. It's the first evidence of the unwise decision to turn this slender novel into three films that will likely have a running time of close to nine hours. There's just not enough story here to prevent things from getting pokey. Once Bilbo signs on to join the dwarf expedition, much of what happens is a series of wearying battles that echo the "Lord of the Rings" carnage. And creepy Gollum returns as well.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY")

ANDY SERKIS: (as Gollum) What is a Bagginses, precious?

FREEMAN: (as Bilbo Baggins) I'm a hobbit from The Shire.

SERKIS: (as Gollum) Oh! We like goblinses, batses, and fishes but we hasn't tried hobbitses before. Is it soft? Is it juicy?

FREEMAN: (as Bilbo Baggins) Now, now.

TURAN: But in this film, without enough emotional material to balance the mayhem, the violence gets increasingly exhausting as all those minutes unfold. "The Hobbit" is solid and acceptable, not soaring and exceptional. Director Peter Jackson is touting a new 48-frames-per-second visual format as the best way to see "The Hobbit," but I have to disagree.

Forty-eight frames is off-putting. It creates an image that plays more like high definition television than a rich cinematic experience. If you are enough of a traditionalist to appreciate this story, you'll want to see it the old-fashioned way.

(SOUNDBITE OF THEME MUSIC)

MONTAGNE: The movie is "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey." Kenneth Turan reviews movies for Morning Edition and the Los Angeles Times.

(SOUNDBITE OF THEME MUSIC)

MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.