‘The Hobbit’ Hobbled? US Critics Unconvinced By Jackson’s Middle-Earth Return

‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ has had a troubled journey to the screen, with fires on set, strikes, legal action form J.R.R Tolkein’s family and accusations of poor animal welfare dogging the production.

The bad news doesn’t seem to have stopped now that the movie’s reached screens, with reports that the film’s unique 48 frames per second (the industry norm is 28) format is making cinema goers dizzy circulating, and now a decidedly cold response from US critics.

David Germain of the Associate Press called the film “bloated”, writing: “Remember the interminable false endings of “The Return of the King,” the Academy Award-winning finale of Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings”? “An Unexpected Journey” has a similar bloat throughout its nearly three hours, in which Tolkien’s brisk story of intrepid little hobbit Bilbo Baggins is drawn out and diluted by dispensable trimmings better left for DVD extras.”

While Edward Douglas of ComingSoon.net, a self confessed lover of the original ‘Lord of The Rings’ trilogy wrote of the movie that it was,

“Offering very little we haven’t already seen and a horrible decision to use a frame rate that makes much of it unwatchable, this is less a faithful adaptation of Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” as much as Jackson trying to recapture the magic of the “Lord of the Rings” movies and failing miserably. In other words ‘An Unexpected Journey’ may as well be ‘The Phantom Menace’ and God help us all if the next two movies aren’t better than this one”.

Something most critics acknowledge though is that none of the negatives will matter hugely to Jackson and Middle-Earth devotees, and there was a more positive response from some critics, with Matthew Leyland of Total Film writing: “Charming, spectacular, technically audacious… in short, everything you expect from a Peter Jackson movie. A feeling of familiarity does take hold in places, but this is an epically entertaining first course.”

However the movie’s reception has been far from the universal acclaim that greeted Jackson’s game changing ‘Lord of The Rings’ movies, praise which combined with their huge audiences resulted in 11 Oscars for the trilogy’s finale ‘The Return of the King’.

Perhaps that was inevitable, after all Jackson’s original trilogy stunned with the ability to turn a fantasy story, a genre much sniffed at at the time into blockbusting gold dust, but this time around a combination of a challenging format and increased expectations seem to be tempering love for the long-awaited return to Middle-Earth.