First reviews are in for The Hobbit

There’s been a lot riding on The Hobbit, and a lot of controversy around it as of late.

Indeed, we recently discussed how some viewers suffered motion sickness from watching the movie at 48 frames a second, and there’s been skepticism about this new technology from day one. Not to mention some critics have wondered why The Hobbit should be three movies long, because it’s a much shorter book that may not merit the big epic treatment the previous Lord of the Rings films did.

None of this should matter if The Hobbit delivers, and now the first reviews are in. The verdict? With the three reviews we’ve read already, the opinions are pretty uniform. The 48 frames per second doesn’t have the desired effect, and the movie’s too drawn out. (According to the Hollywood Reporter review, the running time is 174 minutes, while Variety clocks it in at 169 minutes). 

As Variety notes, “While Peter Jackson’s prequel to The Lord of the Rings delivers more of what made his earlier trilogy so compelling – it doesn’t offer nearly enough novelty to justify the three-film, nine-hour treatment, at least on the basis of this overlong first installment.” Reviewer Peter Debruge continues that the 48 frames per second technology “improves motion at the expense of visual elegance.”

In the Hollywood Reporter, Todd McCarthy writes, “Die-hard fans will gorge upon Peter Jackson’s adaptation from J.R.R. Tolkien’s book, although the movie itself is a bit of a slog, with an inordinate amount of exposition and lack of strong forward movement…In Jackson’s academically fastidious telling, it’s as if The Wizard of Oz had taken nearly an hour just to get out of Kansas.” 

As far as the 48 frames a second experiment, McCarthy writes, “While striking in some of the big spectacle scenes,” the High Frame Rate 3D “predominantly looked like ultra-vivid television video…For its part, the 24 frames per second 3D version had a softer, noticeably more textured image quality.” 

Perhaps the most critical review so far comes from Steve Pond at the Wrap, who writes, “I found the film and particularly its hyper-clarity courtesy of 48 frames-per-second projection a little disturbing and uncomfortable…In projecting and screening the film at 48fps, Jackson has taken a familiar and beloved land, and turned it into a disquieting and unfamiliar environment.” 

Then Pond wrote some “SECOND THOUGHTS: at the end of his review, and on second viewing, “not only did the movie strike me as better, but the format wasn’t as bothersome.” So will it indeed take some time to get used to 48 frames a second? And will the movie get better reviews at 24 frames per second? We’ll find out soon enough, and if die hard Tolkien fans love it, the critical reviews won’t mean much at all.