Eleven years ago Peter Jackson brought to life J.R.R Tolkien’s timeless novel about adventure, magic and other kinds of wonders that you’d say only a child’s imagination could conjure up. The Lord of The Rings trilogy became a worldwide phenomenon that grossed close to $3 billion dollars.
So it’s only natural that after years of rumors, bickering, committing, quitting and committing again, Peter Jackson finally breathes life into TLOR prequel, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and tries to duplicate the success he found more than a full clip ago.
My thing is, why? Why, Peter Jackson? Why did you have to take on a project that everyone pretty much knows is going to be inferior to The Lord of The Rings? Why did you have to film the movie at an unnecessary 48 frames per second (double the norm) and fasten it to 3-D effects that when combined, belittle the special effects, makes the makeup and noses on characters seem as fake as Heidi Montag’s entire body, and really just took away from what was obviously incredibly beautiful landscapes and backgrounds? Why at times did the movie seem to drag as bad as John Leguizamo in To Wong Foo? Why was 196 minutes necessary? Why isn’t there any hot hobbit cleavage in The Shire? And why’d Halle have to let a white man pop her to get an Oscar? Why Denzel have to be crooked before he took it?
What made it worse was the obvious potential for greatness that seemed to get lost in the 48 frames per seconds translation. An old Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm) pens the story of his first adventure for Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) and narrates the story of how his younger self (Martin Freeman) was basically browbeaten by Gandalf the Grey into joining a group of dwarves led by “King” Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage). Their plan is to set out and reclaim their own personal El Dorado kingdom of gold, from a dangerous fire-breathing dragon with a girl tattoo, that kicked them out of their home and took up residency in the legendary castle years earlier.
Even though they all risk death just by confronting the almighty dragon, the journey proved to be a gauntlet run all by itself. Giant trolls with a taste for anything with a heartbeat, wolves the size of Hummers hunting down the group with extreme prejudice and enough orcs on their ass to make the odds against King Leonidas and his 300 soldiers seem favorable. It’s in these moments where the movie finds life and excels at it. The scene where the group is stuck between a rock and a hard place – literally – while the rocky mountains they’re climbing come to life and come to blows with each other alone was almost enough to justify using 48 FPS and 3-D. Almost.
While watching the dwarf king’s archenemy, the Pale Orc, behead Thorin’s father and witnessing Gandalf save the team’s collective asses more times than Eli Manning, in the end it was Gollum (Andy “The Manimal” Serkis) who stole the show. Looking like a young Steve Buscemi, Gollum’s interaction and guessing game with Bilbo Baggins made the movie memorable. It’s in this part of the film that Bilbo discovers the infamous ring that leads to one of the greatest trilogies of all-time. Creeping and crawling around an isolated cave located under an orc city, Gollum shines as he tries to win the battle of wits against Bilbo in hopes of feasting on Hobbit flesh once he wins.
Ultimately An Unexpected Journey was a good film, but not Fellowship of The Ring great. And that’s the bar that Peter Jackson set for himself. He can’t deliver anything substandard and not expect people (like myself) to call him out on it. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed The Hobbit thanks to the superb acting, glorious landscapes, and CGI orc kings, but it still felt like it was just another job for Peter Jackson rather than the passion project that was The Lord of The Rings. I’m sorry Mr. Jackson. I am for real and you don’t need 48 frames per second coupled with 3-D to see that.