THE last decade saw the Lord of the Rings trilogy epically lord it over its rivals in sheer scale, substance and sorcery. All three films are mighty impressive even if you have only caught glimpses.
But the decade has changed and so has the game of film-making. Peter Jackson is no longer up against the affable but whimsical Captain Jack Sparrow at the box offices. Instead we inhibit the post-Wikileaks box office world of the Dark Knight fallen hero and shadows of Skyfall.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the prequel to the Rings trilogy and is the first part of its own trilogy.
It promises much but unfortunately falls short on delivery. The most glaring thing you notice is the picture clarity. As film buffs, professionals and critics alike debate the best technical ways to advance the medium, Jackson takes the bold step of upping the frame rate.
Unfortunately it turns out to be a misstep as the film displays flickering on the harder lines on screen.
To 3D or not to 3D is a big question in the cinematic world at this present time. It is fair to say that 3D has won many fans in the past few years, but not this film-goer. And The Hobbit is firmly camped in with the 3D troupe.
Something that is quite obvious when you look at the number of 3D showings in comparison to the 2D showings. The 3D tomfoolery makes the film a pain to watch in 2D though, as action set pieces feel muddled and leave you disorientated.
Christopher Nolan and Same Mendes (with the aid of cinematographer Roger Deakins) have managed stunning visuals whilst giving the 3D medium a wide berth. You get the feeling that The Hobbit may have been better doing the same.
Jackson does deliver some stunning visuals especially when the fantastical elements are not in play. The brilliant vistas of middle earth provide an escapist element all on their own.
But the wide panorama shots interwoven amongst the action sequences become a bit too frequent, leaving it feeling just as a another stock shot to be clunked in between the testosterone fuelled sorcery.
The plot is captivating enough, but it feels like Peter Jackson is slavishly trying to stick to J.R.R Tolkein’s source material, something which manifests the strenuous length of 169 minutes.
Scenes such as the introduction of the dwarves could have easily been halved given the lack of follow up on character development of the individual dwarves. And the riddles in the cave with Gollum could have been shortened as well.
Casting of the film is its strong suit. Martin Freeman is great as Bilbo, the reluctant self-effacing hero, whilst providing a great foil for the full blooded Thorin played by Richard Armitage. The blend of old returning cast from the original Rings trilogy and new cast members is also done well.
On the whole The Hobbit feels like having a bite out of a really nice sandwich but when taking the second bite you find there’s no filling in the rest of the sandwich.