Review Roundup (12/13): Peter Jackson's THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY
Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter: If The Hobbit had been filmed shortly after the book's publication in 1937 (it's a wonder that it wasn't), one easily could imagine a lively affair full of great character actors and cleverly goofy special effects that would have moved the story along in smart style in under two hours. In Jackson's academically fastidious telling, however, it's as if The Wizard of Oz had taken nearly an hour just to get out of Kansas. There are elements in this new film that are as spectacular as much of the Rings trilogy was, but there is much that is flat-footed and tedious as well, especially in the early going.
Peter Debruge, Vanity Fair: Jackson and his team seem compelled to flesh out the world of their earlier trilogy in scenes that would be better left to extended-edition DVDs (or omitted entirely), all but failing to set up a compelling reason for fans to return for the second installment. The film hints at a looming run-in with Smaug, but makes clear that this mission serves more to win back the dwarves' lost kingdom than to protect the fate of Middle-earth. Bilbo's arc, therefore, consists of proving his value to a mission that doesn't concern him personally.
Edward Douglas, Coming Soon: The movie's biggest hurdle and the one that's hardest to get past is the decision to shoot the movie in 3D at a higher frame rate of 48 frames per second, twice the normal speed. It's an interesting experiment that makes everything look crisp and clear and in some ways it makes everything look real and present, which would generally help the 3D. This cinematography greatly enhances the picturesque New Zealand landscapes that played such a large part in the scale of the earlier trilogy, but at the same time, the characters walking across those landscapes look like bad CG.
Drew McWeenie, Hit Fix: But by its very nature, "The Hobbit" is more episodic, and in addition to that dinner sequence at the start of the film, there is a detour to Rivendell that features some great moments (Christopher Lee is marvelous and seems to savor every word he delivers), but that also seems to go on and on and on. Pacing is an issue in this film in a way that it never struck me as a problem in any of the three "Lord Of The Rings" movies, and I think part of it is that we just don't end up getting to know these characters as well.
Jen Yamato, Movieline: Part of the problem is there's too much detail in every frame that the magical filter of cinema that makes most 24 fps film so pleasing to the eye is gone; every prop on a set too clear, and even a performance by someone like the very fine Ian McKellen looks embarrassingly, unnaturally theatrical. Moving images, especially walking Hobbits and dwarves - not as much the CG creatures, for what it's worth - flit at odd speeds that just never look right.
Todd Gilchrist, Celeb Buzz: In particular, the early scenes in the film drag, a conspicuous indicator that the appendices - or bonus footage to be added to Extended Editions later - offer little to anyone but hardcore fans. As if attempting to outdo the 45-minute wedding sequence in The Deer Hunter, Jackson stages a banquet with the dwarves at Bilbo's house that is absurdly long without offering anything significant in terms of story - at least not that couldn't have been accomplished in less than half the same time.