Early ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ Reviews Are Mixed

Published 1 year ago by , Updated March 3rd, 2014 at 11:58 am,

hobbit unexpected journey reviews Early The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Reviews Are Mixed

Peter Jackson is a geek-friendly filmmaker who graduated to blockbuster maestro status when he adapted J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy more than a decade ago, earning multiple Academy Awards and billions of dollars. He returns to Middle-earth with this month’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which has inspired much in the way of both anticipation and trepidation.

The first wave of professional critic reviews for An Unexpected Journey have hit the ‘Net – but do they confirm everyone’s best hopes, worst fears, or some mix of the two? Scroll on down to find out.

We’ve included informative excerpts from several reviews for the first installment in Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, which you can peruse through below (note: the film was screened in its native high frame rate 3D format for these journalists and reviewers):

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 HitFix

There are several returning artists on the film, like Ian McKellen and Howard Shore and Andrew Lesnie, whose work is every bit as good as it was before, and I think for the most part, “Lord Of The Rings” fans are going to feel like this is a welcome return to Middle Earth. But there are enough uneven qualities this time around that i find myself astonished by the letter grade (B) I’m assigning the film. My hope is that the three films taken together will work better than this one does on its own, and that the pacing issues are not going to be ongoing as the series continues.

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/Film

“Again and again” is also the film’s biggest issue. On a consistent basis, it’s almost as if Jackson forgets he has two more films to release and is forced to pump the brakes. Tangents pop out of nowhere, dialogue scenes are stretched into infinity, and a familiar structure of capture followed by rousing escape, is consistently repeated… Overall The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a lot of fun. Fans of Jackson, Tolkien and the Lord of the Rings films will enjoy it. However, it’s long and uneven, which keeps it from reaching the heights of Jackson’s first three Middle-Earth films.

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The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey Bilbos Sword Stinger 570x328 Early The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Reviews Are Mixed

The Playlist

While it will be too formulaic and familiar to some (and certainly non-fans won’t be won over), ‘The Hobbit’ is another grand achievement from director Peter Jackson. While this distended picture threatens to buckle under the weight of its own self-importantance, Peter Jackson clearly believes he’s earned the right to preamble and make nearly three hour long tent poles each time out of the gate. And the last two acts of ‘The Hobbit’ are simply a non-stop action-adventure rollercoaster that is just as engaging and winning as anything in the director’s previous trilogy.

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THR

It takes Jackson a long time to build up a head of steam, but he delivers the goods in this final stretch, which is paralleled by the hitherto ineffectual Bilbo beginning to come into his own as a character. One of Tolkien’s shrewdest strategies in writing The Hobbit and designing it to appeal to both youngsters and adults over the decades was making Bilbo a childlike grown-up who matures and assumes responsibilities he initially perceives are beyond him. Freeman, who at first seems bland in the role, similarly grows into the part, giving hope that the character will continue to blossom in the two forthcoming installments.

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The Hobbit Third Film New Title and Release Date Early The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Reviews Are Mixed

 Boxoffice Magazine

What the 48 frame-per-second projection actually means is flat lighting, a plastic-y look, and, worst of all, a strange sped-up effect that makes perfectly normal actions—say, Martin Freeman’s Bilbo Baggins placing a napkin on his lap—look like meth-head hallucinations… That’s not the only challenge faced by The Hobbit [as] the expectations and filmmaking itself have matured but the storytelling is more juvenile. And where the Rings trilogy had weight, The Hobbit is all wigs and slapstick and head-lopping violence unsuitable for children—who are the only audience who won’t be bored to tears.

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Coming Soon

[The] decision to film at a higher frame rate really ruins the movie. You do adjust to it eventually, but almost every scene requires some sort of adjustment and the human brain can’t do that and escape into a fantasy world at the same time… For the most part, the writing and storytelling are there, but the visual decisions make it hard to appreciate any of it especially during the action sequences… It’s almost as if no one involved with making the movie put it up on a screen to see how anything might look, because that’s the only reason why so much of the movie could look so very, very bad.

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The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey On the Cliffs 570x296 Early The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Reviews Are Mixed

Collider

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has set a high bar for the next two installments, but if the Lord of the Rings trilogy is any indication, I fully believe that bar will be surpassed. Moving forward, I’d like to see the films become a bit more serious, especially since Bilbo is now in possession of a certain ring and all the grave consequences that portends. It would also be a more gradual transition into the Lord of the Rings trilogy and would allow new fans to mature along with the entire six-film arc, much like the Harry Potter films so expertly achieved.

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IGN

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey almost attains greatness yet despite so many moments of epic fun, greatness remains just out of its reach. This is a very good and entertaining movie even if it never quite recaptures the wonder or mystique of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Flaws and all, though, it was just nice to be back in Middle-earth again.

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hobbit unexpected journey posters Early The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Reviews Are Mixed
So, in summation:

  • The 48 frames per second (fps) projection is jarring and distracting.
  • Jackson’s sense of cinematic storytelling has matured on a technical level.
  • Excess dialogue, story tangents and foundation-laying for future installments weaken the first act.
  • Things pick up significantly after the heavy-lifting of the first hour, giving rise to action-packed and thrilling fantasy adventure.

Overall, it sounds as though The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey does indeed suffer from being stretched out to serve as the first chapter in a new trilogy. Nonetheless, it’s good enough to suggest that future installments will improve in terms of pacing and structure – though, that’s not guaranteed, seeing how both the second and third movies could have even more story padding.

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Look for Screen Rant‘s official review of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey when the film opens next week on December 14th.

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TAGS: lord of the rings, the hobbit

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  1. I knew they would be, but I don’t believe them. Critics rarely like sequels (especially prequels). The Hobbit has a more light hearted tone than the Lord of the Rings. Just because it’s not the same experience doesn’t mean that it won’t be just as fulfilling for fans. I’ll have to see about the “48 frames” business, but I doubt it’s as bad as they make it seem.

    Anyway, I think it will still be great.

    • looks like we wrote the same thing at the same time haha

    • Regarding 48fps, another reviewer said:

      “The movie offers technological wizardry, thanks to a 48 frames-per-second format, twice the industry standard. Critics who saw a trailer earlier this year were unimpressed, but after a minute or two of adjusting, the higher resolution is eye-popping, similar to discovering HD television for the first time.”

      So some critics actually like the increased frame rate. I guess it’s one of those “judge for yourself” kind of things, but I’m excited about seeing it in 48fps.

      Needless to say there will be those that go on internet forums to rant and rave about 48fps ruining the movie, but luckily they will still have the 24fps version, and luckily those that like it will also have the 48fps version.

      • One type of person doesn’t like a higher framerate: an old one.

  2. The only thing that bothers me is when reviewers complain that this story is not as “heavy” as Lord of the Rings. Tolkein wrote it that way. It is supposed to be a lighter, more fun story compared to the end of the world scenario that Lord of the Rings was. I am very excited for this movie still.

    • What makes this even more funny is, Jackson intentionally made the Dwarves much more serious than in the books. Imagine if he had stuck with the Dwarves as written?

    • Ya what got me was one reviewer said “and a familiar structure of capture followed by rousing escape, is consistently repeated…” Apparently he never read the book. The whole story finds them getting into a situation to only get out of that and into another situation.

  3. I’ll be there for the MOS trailer lol

    • Hey, me too!

  4. The truth is, the book wasn’t very exciting. Not much happened. It also wasn’t very long. Stretching it out into 3 movies was a bizarre choice- it made padding inevitable. I think that’s one thing that ruined the Star Wars prequels- too much nothing going on. They should have been compressed into one move, two max.

    Similarly, The Hobbit should have been one movie, two max. But of course, the greedy studio execs have dollar signs in their eyes, and wanted to milk it for all it was worth, meaning three movies earning half a billion dollars each. There’s only so thin you can stretch a story before the holes start to show.

    • I think that’s a wildly inaccurate statement, i adored the LOTR books, but i found the Hobbit story more exciting, i found some of the events a little more epic and compelling. I also don’t think they could of done one film, i think they should at least done 2, but 3 is a stretch, but i have faith in Peter Jackson that you won’t feel that way after seeing them in their entirety.

  5. From Underhill to Overkill.

  6. 48 frame is “plastic-y” and the lighting is “flat”? The frame rate has nothing to do with lighting and 48 frames per second filming only makes the image more true to life, whoever thinks this probably doesn’t like that newfangled high def TV either! Every time there is a significant advance in technology there are a certain number of people who just can’t handle it and want to live in the past!

    • Actually, it can appear just as the writer described because I’ve seen it. There is such a thing as too clear and at 48 fps, you can see the small flaws much better. That means the parts that were filmed on set meant to duplicate say nature will look more visibly fake.

  7. The movie’s 2 hours isn’t it? How is that LONG for a Middle Earth movie?

    • 2 45…

  8. Here’s what I am seeing from the fans that went to the screening:

    1. The 48 fps does take some time to get used to. One person said it was the same experience from Avatar that the overall scenery is soo massive that it takes your eyes a minute or two to get used to it
    2. The pacing of the story is slow at the beginning but does pick up especially towards the middle and end.
    3. The story does stay pretty true to the book somewhat.
    4. Fans of the LOTR trilogy will most likely love the movie(99% sure as the same concept is used)
    5. Like Avatar, word of mouth based on the 3D experience will bring people into the theatres.
    6. The 3D is spectacular. There are some parts, like Avatar, that people will be able to tell that is special effects but overall it’s the best experience since Avatar

    Overall it sounds like fans of the LOTR will enjoy the movie and the 48 fps does take some adjustment time. I guess it’s a person’s overall preference on the 3D

  9. I’M still going to see it. Both Hobbit and lord of the rings are completely 2 different books. Of course you’re going to have people comparing it. The only thing I will agree on, is it should have been left at 2 movies and not three. They could’ve always done a spinoff of the different characters. Elves…ect. Tolkein has a big universe.
    Movies can be made beyond the books…even a sequel to Lord of The rings can be made featuring the decendents of some of the characters.

  10. Here’s what I heard:

    The movie is more of the same (formulaic) plot. Capture, escape, capture, escape, action packed cliff-hanger ending.

    I expect Bilbo to be somewhat child-like, since he’s a young halfling, and they’re not the adventurous type to begin with.

    I take most issue with the ‘nearly 3 hour long’ movie. That’s surely what drags the extended dialog out. It’s bad enough they’re turning one short book into a 3 movie deal; you’d think the least they could do was make them manageable in length. How about reduce some of the boring dialog and keep it down to 2 hours Peter? You’ll still end up with 6 hours of movie based on a book that was only 310 pages.

    • For me the long running time is what I was looking most forward to !
      Over all I just worry about those 48 fps,the rest is for sure a good movie !
      Can’t wait !

  11. I had a lot of hope for this film but to be honest I knew it would fall a bit short because at the end of the day the Hobbit story is just not as compelling as the LOR story. Furthermore, breaking up this story into two films is one thing but three is just pushing it. Not enough content there imo and it is clear that they are comprising the story and quality of the film just for the extra paycheck.

    No matter what, these films will fall short of the original LOR series. Nevertheless, I will still be there to see it and will have my fingers crossed hoping for the best

  12. i would like to see the 48 fps but i dont think any theaters are capable in my area. so i guess i will just have to stick with the BigD experience. Its the closest thing we have to the IMAX experience.

  13. For all those people saying that it’s being stretched into 3 movies: The last I heard (as reported on this very site) was that Jackson said that the third movie was going to be based on 125 pages of additional notes, so it’s not like they’re stretching the book into 3 movies.

    Either everyone is getting their facts wrong and is hating for no reason, or something happened that I don’t know about. Either way I’d be interested in finding out.

    • All the additional footage not found strictly in the book will be based off of the appendices which include things like the Quest of Erebor.

      • Right, so it’s like I had said, that he’s not stretching the novel into 3 movies.

        He’s only able to expand it to a trilogy because of the 125 pages of additional notes (which should be enough to make almost a full movie).

        • except that it’s more than simply “notes”.

          I guess my point was that Tolkien wrote complete stories to fill in the background information.

          • Oh I see. Yeah, that’s just what Jackson called it.

    • I believe you’re right. I’ve also read this. The third film will be the ending of the actual book, and those additional notes which will kind of ‘link’ it to the LOTR trilogy.

      Having that said, I don’t think people should worry about the 48fps. Who knows, in a couple of years there might be a 96fps. Those things will always develop further.

      Also, the beginning of the Hobbit is very light. Bilbo is stumbling through his adventure, all kinds of strange things happen, like the spiders, from which they escape, the elves from which they escape, the trolls from which they escape, the orc cave from which they escape. It’s true that the get captured and then escape a lot, but if that’s a point the critics keep coming up with, they should read the book. Because that’s exactly what happens.

      I think Peter Jackson knows exactly what he’s doing, and that the Hobbit will turn out great. Don’t expect a second LOTR, but prepare for middle earth. I for one can’t wait!

      • Actually, it won’t be 96fps. There’s no point. It will be at most 60, as that is all the human eye can register.

        • As a Compressionist, I disagree with this statement. Think about this… In the 90s and early 2000′s, were we not told to up our CRT refreshes above 60 hz to avoid eye strain? Why are LCD’s being sold with 240hz? Have you seen on a Panasonic plasma the 48, 60, and 96hz settings for film refresh rates (try it…96 is your friend)?

          These are all reasons why we may see, want, or need higher framerates in the near future as we discover more about what our eyes can truly handle.

          CJ.

        • not sure how 48 is “almost” 60 but there is a point of diminishing returns and why, when movies were first put on reel, 24 fps was decided upon because that was where the eye couldn’t perceive the jump from frame to frame.

          There is a small difference between 24 and 36 fps but between 36 and 48fps the difference is negligible. Beyond that it’s really just a complete waste of money.

          @Cjplay……I hate to break the news to ya but with CRT’s you did decrease eye strain above 60Hz. I had mine set at 120Hz and had no problems. Newer LCD displays however work on an entirely different technology and 60Hz is fine. So I do agree that something as high as 24Hz is a worthless inclusion and nothing more than techno-crap to make it sound better.

  14. if there is one thing I learned about the movies that have been made and are going to be made, is to not listen to the critics and judge the movie for yourself. from what I see thats where the biggest problem is, its the critics. only because when a movie turns out really well, the critics seem to put it down, so people would listen to them and not watch it. yes I believe there has been plenty bad films, but there has also been plenty of good films. so I will see this movie regardless of what the critics say.

  15. Hope I’m wrong but it seems like Jackson might have fumbled with this one

  16. Well as i expected early reviews point to it being what i didnt want. I was hoping for something new and sounds like its the same as the others. I was swayed away once del toro backed out. I wanted something diffrent. But ill check it out anyways.

  17. It’s not the same as LoTR!? Duh, the book was lighthearted and absolutely incredible. The world wasn’t ending during Bilbo’s adventure. The critics are idiots and probably never took the time and effort to read the books. I’m excited for the movie, and I believe Peter Jackson will do a good job.

    I’m excited to see the Goblins.

    • The funny thing is i thoight critics reviewed movies…. not books. They dont review films based on the notions of a book. They judge pacing characterization and film elements. I read the hobbit cause my gf insisted and ill go into the movie treating it like a film.

  18. Disappointing to hear negative comments so quickly (early reactions by critics are almost always universally positive), but I’ll take this news with a grain of salt.

    Can’t wait to see this next Wednesday!! 12 December can’t get here soon enough…

  19. I think Guillermo Del Toro leaving was the biggest downfall and also the decision to turn one book into 3 films. Now I know it’s for the money, and why is Jackson obsessed with making long films? The Hobbit (if based on the full novel) can last 3 hours, why does he think The Hobbit can last 9 hours like The Lord of the Rings did?

    • Jackson is the most long winded director in the business. I mean king kong was terriblely long.

    • The Hobbit is only two movies – unless you can show otherwise. See my note above.

  20. I only read reviews now posted on movie sites like this one, /Film and Filmjunk. I tend to trust them more than the so-called professional “critics”. Regardless, I think the biggest challenge for Jackson is simply to be able to balance the story between the three films. I suspect that the second film will finish with what is the end of the Hobbit with the Five Armies battle. I don’t see him being able to stretch the events of the Hobbit into the third film as he has to leave enough room to tell whatever the additional stuff is that he’s going to tell.

    • Five Armies will be the third. The second one deals with finding Smaug.

      • Also I believe the second movie will break off from the main party to find out what Gandalf was up to when he left them in Mirkwood.

  21. In all fairness, most are wanting this to be just like the LOTR and it shouldn’t be. The Hobbit book so very different from the LOTR books. Just as this was made at a different time in Jackson’s career, The book was also written in a different time of J.R.R.T.’s.

    • Absolutey they did, just for the people who werent overly fond of the trilogy we wanted something fresh.

      • If you weren’t overly fond of the LoTR trilogy then anything to do with High Fantasy probably just isn’t for you.

        • Im very fond of fantasy just not the cliches that tolkien created.

          • Soooo, your beef doesn’t really lie with Tolkien, but instead, all the people who were inspired by (read: copied) his work and made it into fantasy-cliche?

            … sure, seems like a fair and reasonable reason to not like Tolkien’s books ;)

            • LOL

  22. The thing about ‘the Hobbit’ from now on will forever be that ‘The Lord of The Rings’ was produced first. And to clarify that a little I’m talking from a more modern day movie perspective. Since “The Hobbit” was Tolkien’s earlier effort into this particular world the feel is going to be different than the more mature feel that “Lord of The Rings” had and that inevitably will carry over into the movie series. That personally doesn’t effect the decision whether or not to see it in the theater but whether or not to see it first in LieMax 3-D or 48fps. Do we have a choice to see it in just a normal theater sans the 3-D I wonder?

  23. The Hobbit Unexpected Journey = THE Movie Event of 2012/2013.
    The whole 48fps thing is being overblown by some of the critics considering there is like maybe a thousand theaters worldwide that will show it at 48fps. Most Everyone will see it in standard 3D/2D. As far as the Hobbit being lighter in tone and having more comedy, well if u have read the book that is how the story starts out. Unexpected Journey being the first of the Trilogy will have the lighter tone, more comedic moments, but still have many moments of suspense, terror etc as it builds toward “Desolation of Smaug” Yes there are similarities between Fellowship of the Ring and Unexpected Journey, yes they are similar, but different. The Transition to an overall more serious tone will take place with Desolation of Smaug and There and Back Again as the entire plot,characters and story are fleshed out and take shape. These films will be an outstanding addition to the LOTR Trilogy.

    • I agree. The chatter online and on Youtube from people in NZ who saw the movie are pointing to a similar instance with Avatar. Critics said the 3D was too much, caused headaches, revealed too many flaws in what was special effects and what wasn’t but yet the movie ended up being a huge hit. One person on youtube said it is a lighter toned movie compared to the LOTR trilogies but that the movie itself is outstanding. Another guy on youtube said that he was concerned with the high frame rate but after 10 minutes of seeing the movie he was impressed. He compared it to when HDTV true 1080p first came out and how flawless the screen looked compared to SDTV. At first some things on screen will look like they don’t belong but after watching it 2 or 3 times you see you were gibber jabbering about nothing. LOL

  24. My worst fear seems to be confirmed that this film is too self important and “epic.” The Hobbit is not “epic” it is a fun fantasy story and the book is shorter than any of the other LOTR books. I feel like this would have been served best as one film, possibly two, but definitely not three. REGARDLESS I will be seeing this in theaters, partially for the previews, but also because I enjoy a really well done piece of high quality production cinema.

    • The reason it is three films is that Jackson is including things that were from Tolkien’s notes and not just the Hobbit text.

  25. This movie like every prequel or sequel is facing the same problems in that it has impossible expectations to live up to. People need to realize that The Hobbit is completley different from Lord of the Rings. It makes complete sense to split the Hobbit into two films. The third film is a bridge film so its kind of sort of not the Hobbit. Besides if you go back and look they could of easily split each Lord of the Rings film into two parts due to so much material left out. People need to stop complaining and nitpicking here because this is the last trip to Middle-Earth we’ll have on the big screen.

  26. Well the bit about the first hour is not completely surprising who cares If its a little slow burn well Its not like the fellowship of thing was completely exciting from the get go it was a very slow burn movie so suck it critics I had a feeling about the 48 fps thing

  27. I am waiting to see it myself before I render judgement. Nonetheless I will spew my thoughts: The Hobbit was a simple rollicking adventure written for a young audience. The Lord of the Rings was an EPIC with deep meaningful and portentous events. Luckily, ROTK had aplenty of appendices filled with goings on contemporaneous to the time frame of the Hobbit. So, while 13 mighty dwarfs and one small hobbit were adventuring away in an attempt to regain lost treasure and their homeland, Gandalf and the rest of the White Council (the grown ups) were dealing with the re-emergence of evil throughout Middle Earth. The essence of your average hobbit is somewhat of a naive rustic who doesn’t care for excitement or adventure. Adventuring is completely out of Bilbo’s scope of knowledge. Of course he is callow and probably a little dull and stodgy. The Hobbit is all about his maturing. So, two films or three. I am there! Five years from now when it is released in BluRay, I am there.

  28. Jackson is an old school film maker at heart. His films are “long” the same way masterpieces back in the day were long. Standard action films today are short and crappy (battleship, redtails, underworld) so when an artist like Jackson gets to make a true film the way he sees fit, I say we shut up and watch. Besides only Tolkien loyalists have a right to complain as to whether this film did The Hobbit justice or not. And the 48p framing or whatever, being hard to adjust to…means your brain is old and slow and you need to eat more blueberries. Can’t wait to see this!

    • Its diffrent cause the films of our past used that long runtime to add character development and things that advance the plot. Jacksons lotr characters are stock fantasy with no development. And uses sub stories to add to the runtime. Imo i would have liked to see another director takle it. Beautifully scenic running and walking doesnt carry a film.

    • How long was Battleship? Im not disagreeing with anything your saying its just when I was watching Battleship it felt like the longest-movie-ever. I thought it would never end. Can’t wait to see this though-already have my tickets!

  29. The problem with these so-called “professional” critics is that the negative reviews generate more visits to their website than the positive ones do. Look at Rotten Tomatoes. The negatively reviewed movies have the most comments on them (even if they are calling the “critic” names unfit for publication). These visits to those sites generate money for those websites. No matter how good the movie is, it pays to trash it because it brings more money. Thankfully, this doesn’t occur at ScreenRant!

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