A funny thing happened to Peter Jackson, besides the weight loss program, that is. Somewhere between 1996 and 2001 the right people noticed his weird and kinetic cinema. Despite a disappointing release of The Frighteners, the film did demonstrate an ability to merge his b-movie aesthetic with a more classical Hollywood style with bona fide movie stars. Perhaps this is what landed him on the epic production of The Lord of the Rings. This monumental film, even with its share of the usual trilogy problems, was a great success, both financially and critically. Within the span of one epic film, Peter Jackson was launched into the upper stratosphere of Hollywood filmmakers. Like Sam Raimi, an entire fanbase was created that had no idea of the outlandish early movies.
|The Lonely Mountain is a long ways away.|
|"No Ewoks! No Jar-Jar! What could go wrong?"|
|"Forget Winter. Oakenshield is coming."|
I enjoyed The Hobbit, for what it was, and I would say it is good. This doesn't mean it is a great film, or even rivals The Lord of the Rings, but it is a good film which is still heads above many other entertainment options. This might be damning with faint praise, but I think the interesting parts of the film far outweigh the weaknesses. After leaving the theater I tried to square my naked reaction with the many hits Bilbo was taking in the press and word of mouth.
|"Mr. Jackson, I found another hour of the script!"|
Like these stories, The Hobbit takes a long view of the story. Unlike Lord of the Rings' forward moving narrative, The Hobbit takes time to track other elements connected to, but not obviously related to the story. In an unexpected way, The Hobbit has a larger scope than Lord of the Rings did. I can understand why cinema-goers would be out off by this, as this kind of narrative is not really a part of the pacing we are used to as movie fans.
I'm among the many that laugh at the day long marathon of Lord of the Rings that you see every now and then at local cinemas. On the other hand, I've spent more than nine hours plowing through Breaking Bad in one sitting. Maybe a marathon like this would be the best way to watch the long scope of The Hobbit, but then, how many of us read a full novel in one sitting? A novel, like an episodic, is best experienced in portions at a time. This mental marination is a key part of the experience, it creates the feeling of returning to a world you know and understand over the course of a short period of time.
|He's like an old friend, isn't he?|
The convergence of these forces has given us The Hobbit as it is. Whether by strategy, pressure or appreciation, it's clear to me that Peter Jackson's The Hobbit is reaching towards work like Game of Thrones and away from Lord of the Rings or King Kong. Unfortunately, it is a feature film and it will be seen in three pieces over the course of several years. Appropriately, Peter Jackson has crafted a piece of mutant media. Not quite cable episodic, not quite blockbuster feature film, and not easily recognizable as either. Whether it is a clumsy example of evolution in progress or a benign tumor will not be known until Hollywood finds its footing amidst competing media.
While three hours may be too long to watch one-third of a movie, it is barely the first act of a season of Game of Thrones. There are many strengths and pleasures to be seen in The Hobbit, but the success of the film may be weakened by the ironic fact that is not nearly long enough.
Article first published as Movie Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on Blogcritics.