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Wayhomer Review #138: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey 3D

By Widge - posted 12.15.12 @ 3:25 am

Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins, holding Sting, from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Episode #138 for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey 3D, in which our protagonist laments watching what could have been a good movie go down the tubes due to "technical progress." He's amazed that two good scenes were still able to shine through, and wonders what the hell Kratos is doing riding that direwolf.

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Special thanks to PhantomV48 for the closing animation.

Previous episode here.

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Widgett Walls is Need Coffee's Chief Cook and Bottle Washer. He is the author of the novel Mystics on the Road to Vanishing Point, and two collections of short stories, Magnificent Desolation and Something Else: The Complete First Season. He is also co-author of the children's book There's a Zombie in My Treehouse! All of those books are available in paperback or for the Kindle from Amazon. He is also the narrator and publisher of the first unabridged recording of Seneca's letters, available here. He is active on both Twitter and Facebook. (If you befriend him on Facebook, do say you came via Need Coffee.) He lives and works in Atlanta, Georgia. He hardly ever sleeps.

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A Mob Numbering 29
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    1. 

    Regarding your Hobbit review, I must say that it paralleled my reaction (including my thoughts before seeing the movie) almost perfectly. The funniest comment you made was when you suggested the movie made you lose your will to live. That's exactly how I feel today, probably because I had invested so much anticipation in this "film." Now I have to find a way back to the joys of the primary world, since PJ's version of the Secondary World went so astray. My main comment that sums it all up: If misstepping were an aerobic exercise, Peter Jackson would be in excellent shape.

    Comment by Ron Waite — December 15, 2012 @ 10:21 am

    2. 

    I will watch the way homer after. I am in the theatre now. I got 4 free posters. Points thus far.

    Comment by Rox of Spazhouse — December 15, 2012 @ 10:23 am

    3. 

    I am going with 2.5 cups. It is no Fellowship. But the hobbit is a lighter story.

    Comment by Rox of Spazhouse — December 15, 2012 @ 1:54 pm

    4. 

    I did not invest my life into this film. I can go on to live another day. I need to sneak into the Met's opera Aida now.

    Comment by Rox of Spazhouse — December 15, 2012 @ 1:57 pm

    5. 

    Our new ongoing series: ROX's SNEAKY REVIEWS.

    Comment by Widge — December 15, 2012 @ 4:09 pm

    6. 

    "If misstepping were an aerobic exercise, Peter Jackson would be in excellent shape."

    Well played, sir. Well freaking played.

    Comment by Widge — December 15, 2012 @ 4:10 pm

    7. 

    I didn't see the HFR version, or even the 3d version, so I got to see the movie objectively (such as it could be) and I don't think you're missing anything.

    Not as bad as I thought it would be. I'm always pleasantly surprised when that happens. The last time it happened was with Sweeney Todd, which I actually quite liked.
    I didn't really like this one, because it had, as I suspected it would, all sorts of things it didn't need. There were long conversations, a few action sequences, and some general tomfoolery by the Dwarves that could have been easily excised to make room for more of the actual story of the Hobbit, and then keep it to two movies, as I wished they had done.
    There's a whole subplot that takes up about 45 minutes of the movie that isn't in the book at all that is pointless filler, and a lot of the scenes that I remember and that I was looking forward to have been changed so they happen differently, when it was completely unnecessary so to do.
    All that being said, though, Martin Freeman is awesome as he is in everything, it's good to see Sylvester McCoy on screen, and the Escape-From-The-Goblins sequence at the end is actually pretty cool, even if the Goblins themselves (and the Goblin King especially) are ridiculous and stupid.
    The CGI is, at least in my opinion, really bad. There are scenes where it's so glaringly obvious that you can't help but focus on it. I mean, there are some movies where the CGI is pretty good (say what you want about Lucas, and God knows there's plenty to say, but the man could do CGI), and there are movies where it's just plain bad (Bird-demic, I'm looking at you), and while The Hobbit isn't Bird-demic level bad, it's not up to what it can and should be.
    Lastly, the Hobbit is a lighthearted fantasy, with only a few hints at darkness here and there. Gollum's rage at Bilbo, and the shadow in Mirkwood are about it, but this movie is a lot darker than it has any right to be, and I think that's to its detriment.
    All in all, I give it maybe 5/10 Stars. It's not as bad as I thought it would be, but it's certainly not great, and the only thing I can personally say about it is that I didn't have to pay to see it. Those money grubbing bastards aren't getting one cent off of me for their asshole plan.

    Comment by EditorMikeC — December 15, 2012 @ 5:32 pm

    8. 

    EMC: Thanks for the comment. I think I would probably at least given it the rating you did if I had seen it normally. And I'm sort of startled to hear the CG was bad even in the normal version, because like I said: the first trilogy was freaking amazing from a CG level. And I didn't double check this, but I'm assuming this is WETA...and WETA's the go-to place for awesome. So that is very disturbing. Anyway, thanks again, chief.

    Comment by Widge — December 15, 2012 @ 6:24 pm

    9. 

    We have seen entire panels of "Make the Bad Men Stop" where you don't get this angry. Thank you for taking the bullet. We were ready to go throw up to see good cinema. Now we won't.

    Comment by Carmel — December 15, 2012 @ 8:25 pm

    10. 

    Carmel: Thanks...what makes me angry is when good work is obscured by silly stuff, whether it's bad fight editing or a director's insane insistence on frame rate. Because I know I'd be pissed if I saw my work on screen looking like arse.

    Comment by Widge — December 15, 2012 @ 9:21 pm

    11. 

    I was taken back by this review, and I'm assuming it is primarily due to the HFR version? I saw it in IMAX 3D (non digital, so no Star Trek preview) and I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. There were some scenes with the dwarves (dishwashing) that could have been removed due to being a bit over the top, but I thought the pacing was quite good. Never felt like it was dragging. Even though we caught glimpses of the original bilbo/gollum meeting in The Lord of the Rings, seeing the scene unfold in the Hobbit was an all around amazing scene. I really didn't catch anything with the CGI being awful, to me it felt like watching Fellowship of the Rings again. I'm actually planning on seeing the HFR to experience it myself, but now I'm nervous about it... The version I saw (IMAX non-digital 3D) had me feeling a solid 8/10.

    note: I've read the Lord of the Rings trilogy years ago, but never read the Hobbit. So I was watching this material for the first time, and I don't really know what was added from side-works, etc.

    Comment by Gn0x — December 15, 2012 @ 10:19 pm

    12. 

    To be fair, when I talk about the CGI, I'm not talking about the backgrounds or the scenery. I'm talking about some of the stuff in motion that you couldn't achieve in real life. Like Radagast's mode of transportation. Several times it just wasn't working right, at least for me.
    Also, the eagles just didn't look right, and there was one scene, I don't remember where in the movie, where you see Gandalf from a distance climbing off of something and it looked like claymation. Like you, I remember the CGI in LotR to be pretty amazing, and nothing jumped out at me as poorly done or sloppily rendered. So, to see that in this movie is quite surprising.
    -M

    Comment by EditorMikeC — December 15, 2012 @ 10:50 pm

    13. 

    Gn0x: You're correct...the main problem I had was the HFR. And when you're busy watching wargs that look like refugees from Altered Beast and a primary antagonist who I swear to FSM was Kratos' cousin (not helped by the fact Kratos was in a commercial before the film), it's sort of hard to pay attention to anything else. Like I said, the Freeman/Serkis scene is dynamite and the McKellen/Weaving/Blanchett/Lee scene was great just to see those four on screen together. But the focus in those scenes was on the actors and characters and there wasn't a lot you could screw up. So.

    Would love to hear your take on the HFR after seeing it normally. Please report back if you get a second.

    Comment by Widge — December 15, 2012 @ 11:55 pm

    14. 

    I certainly enjoyed this movie, and will watch it at least one more time in the theatre. Even more so than in LotR, though, Jackson seems to have annoyed me with his choices and silly gags. Azog was a mess: why wasn't he undead, re-incarnated by the necromancer? did he HAVE to be a cheesy CGI Voldemort? Radagast defied all geography to drop into the movie, and then disappeared into the void. Why have the dwarves surrender to the trolls rather than have them go down fighting? Why emphasize, rather than try to mitigate, the Deus-ex-Gandalf that appears too often in this portion of the story. And please, no more utterly childish and not very funny bodily function jokes.

    That being said, I really liked the opening sequence in Erebor, as well as most of the Shire, Rivendell, and Goblin-town portions. The Gollum sequence was excellent and the best part of the film. The battle outside of Moria, however, was disappointing. In fact, anything with Azog was.

    Overall, I am certainly happy this was made and I had a chance to see it. I'll take 75% of what I want over zero percent.

    Comment by Chad — December 16, 2012 @ 9:20 am

    15. 

    Chad: Agreed with the notion of percentage and acceptance. For my part, the example you made me think of was the Watchmen movie, which was, IMO anyway, the best feature film version we could hope for. (Especially since, in that instance, it would be best served as a television maxi-series on HBO or Showtime.)

    While I am glad I saw the HFR version so I could warn the populace and because, well, seems like every other critic was seeing it that way...I'm sorry I didn't get to see the version everybody else saw. Because it sounds like a decent enough flick once you can actually, you know, watch it.

    Comment by Widge — December 16, 2012 @ 10:43 am

    16. 

    So, a lot of my friends have televisions with too high of frame rate and they make regular shows like It's Always Sunny look like it was filmed with Mexican soap opera style camera/lighting. Is the HFR like that kind of? I plan on seeing it, but 24-30 fps is just fine for me :) (and death to 3d)

    Comment by Josh Beerchief — December 17, 2012 @ 4:01 am

    17. 

    Wow. I haven't seen the film yet, but after watching the Wayhomer and reading the comments, I think I'll hang on to my copy of the Ranking & Bass cartoon (made--for TV--in 1977).

    Comment by Ted Henkle — December 17, 2012 @ 8:00 am

    18. 

    *hands Widge a beer*

    *man-hug*

    Comment by Aaron — December 17, 2012 @ 7:48 pm

    19. 

    Josh: A) I need to get more friends who have money. 2) Yes.

    Comment by Widge — December 17, 2012 @ 10:29 pm

    20. 

    Saw the film twice. Imax 3D & so called "2-D". I saw LOTR on HD television. It looked horrible, just like a soap opera. So- I opted out of the high frame rate. HD is not better, higher frame rate is NOT better. Film stock & a 24 frame rate gives weight & depth to a film. It creates a more 'realistic illusion'. I dont need to see every pore in a characters face, & high frame rate ruins it. Nobody has to tell me to avoid that kind of movie. With that said- I did enjoy the film, it was more light hearted than The LOTR trilogy. The animation looked realistic, fantastic,seamless & appear more dimensional.Occasionally, there were shots of cities, like Rivendell that did look like a flat mural. But there were also shots of city interiors where you can look around the corners of buildings. So- technically, it was a mixed bag. I don't know why they would spend good money for one shot & not allocate the same funds for other, similar shots. Some of it looked good, some of it looked bad. The movie was also too long. About 30 minutes or so. The remaining story could easily be told in one more film & still be fasntastic. We don't need a trilogy. I recommend it in spite of the technical flaws & over extended running time. Not as great as LOTR, But not even close to the abyssmal failure that is the Star Wars prequels. Widge- see the film in a regular format, it's better than you think. You are right about many aspects of the film, including the vengful orc- it does look like a video game. And after Avatar. Shameful.

    Comment by joseph blackburn — December 17, 2012 @ 10:40 pm

    21. 

    Joseph: True enough but forget Avatar, just having the FX go downhill after the first trilogy--how does that work? Compare the cave troll to what we have here--there's no comparison. Just shocking. Thanks for the comment.

    Comment by Widge — December 17, 2012 @ 11:44 pm

    22. 

    Saw in 2D. Film was OK (3 Cups perhaps)- still feel like Fellowship is the most complete "film" of the LOTR flicks (in other words-Fellowship was it's own film and not a bookend).

    I know this was filmed digitally for HFR, and then downscaled for the variants- so wouldn't the CG work have to then be tweaked for each of the variant versions (2D, 3D, IMAX, etc.)? I would suspect that's what didn't happen here.

    Comment by jm tuffley — December 20, 2012 @ 3:05 pm

    23. 

    Agreed on Fellowship. That's the problem is all the other films just sort of plug into the series instead of being standalone.

    Did they film it for HFR? I ask because, well, the CG looked like shit in HFR, and that blows my theory out of the water than the CG wasn't upscaled to HFR. No clue now.

    Comment by Widge — December 21, 2012 @ 10:31 am

    24. 

    I have some thoughts. Not sure if anyone cares, but here they are:

    I really liked The Hobbit. I avoided the HFR version and opted for the good ol' 2D, which I feel is the best way to see any film (with the possible exception of, yes, Avatar). I'm not sure what people are looking at to judge the CG work in this versus the original trilogy, but I felt that it was just as strong (the goblin cave fight) if not stronger (the mo-cap animation on Gollum's face) than it was in those films. I mean, did you SEE Gollum's facial expressions during the riddle bit? Wow.

    I also enjoyed the more leisurely pace, but I'm not sure why. Maybe I'm just a sucker for these movies and I would actually live in the Shire, given the chance. There were pacing problems, yes, but I don't find that it came as a result of the group spending too much time at the Baggins home in the first hour.

    Finally, with regard to tone, a lot of critics are calling this more of a "LotR Lite" or "kid's" version of LotR, which I don't find to be the case. I think any small child would probably have nightmares after viewing this. And speaking to the "bodily functions" complaints, were there not about a dozen of those in each of the original films, what with the hobbits and dwarves constantly drinking and eating?

    Anyway, I don't know what the HFR version looks like, but I can certainly imagine it looking cheap and plasticine. Watching Avatar on my television with the frame-rate smoothing mode on just looks so...wrong.

    Comment by B.Smith — December 26, 2012 @ 9:45 am

    25. 

    Got around to catching this in the cinema yesterday, and welll... It was almost okay, but really not.
    My problem with this film has to be Peter Jackson and his bad taste, I guess. He's the new Lucas, with a penchant for drawn out, slo-mo, catholic prayer-book imagery and kindergarten jokes. The first time we see Thorin arrive at the door (that was marked by a supernatural being to guide the travellers at night) I just had to call out 'Jesus', as he looked so much like those super-realistic religious illustrations most of the time. Add to that his 13 (top that apostles) bumbling acolytes and presto, passion of the dwarves.

    Another slightly bigger problem is Jackson's fondness of fan service, but instead of Tokien fans, he prefers teenage gamer action-fan types, which is understandable, but too prevalent in his work. About half the action scene time could've been cut or re-distributed to serve character development, and it would still have been a ride, and while I'm at it, add some blood into those battles, the goblin massacre looked crap without it (as did the C-section in the R rated Prometheus) and goblin blood doesn't even have to look realistic. Kids probly won't be too upset, boys watch horror films if they can get away with it.
    Also the first couple of minutes had jumpy/jittery panning shots (projector issues perhaps) and it was very distracting. I'm interested in the story, well Cumberbatch and Freeman mostly, but I'm already prepared for future disappointments in PJ's particular taste.

    Comment by Montag — December 27, 2012 @ 2:37 pm

    26. 

    Montag: Worse than that re: Lucas, as we discussed on the podcast, he's in a position where he has nobody who can take him aside and try to talk sense to him. Which is lethal.

    Brady: Well, of course we care. I think for my part the difference in dwarves between Gimli and the goofy members of the dwarf party in his film underscores it for me. I think we went over that on one of the podcasts as well. Gimli was bloody brilliant as a character, whereas most of these dwarves are either screwball or eminently forgettable. I realize most of that is the fact you've got a huge ensemble to deal with, but the humor in this film feels more childish than in the LOTR trilogy. I don't know if I expect that because of the books or the Rankin Bass-animated kiddie Hobbit vs. the Bakshi-animated LOTR feature (hell, as a kid, I dug the SHIT out of that rotoscoping--call me insane, but...) and their different tones--or some combo of both. Again, I point to the HFR as the source of all my issues.

    Oh, one last thing: the CG. Literally, the difference between the CG wargs and CG Gollum is like an Atari 2600 and an Xbox. No shit. The wargs looked ridiculous. That may have been solely HFR, as I've heard varying reports, but there you go.

    Comment by Widge — December 28, 2012 @ 2:56 am

    27. 

    Yes, that is why I've a bitter taste in my mouth about his future work...

    CG issues: The warg CGI in the daylight chase scene was slightly weightless, and the whole WETA let's turn all evil beings into Mr. Potato Head style deformed skewed proportional monsters gets real tired real quick. Predictability is a major turn-off, and this was very by-the-numbers Jackson in that respect.
    Also there was some weird noise effect applied only to the face of McKellen in some of the daylight close up shots too, which I didn't see on other actors. Poor de-aging masked with noise, replaced take after the fact? The pristine image was also highlighting the copious amounts of make-up on all the actors who were supposed to be younger than in the first series. A bit distracting, especially on Christopher Lee and Elijah Wood. And Hesus Oakenshield...

    P.S. @ Widge: I sent 2 pm-s on FB a couple of days ago, please check when you have the time and willpower. Cheers and in case you don't get around to that, a Happy New Year! M.

    Comment by Montag — December 28, 2012 @ 7:18 am

    28. 

    Montag: Don't seem to have those private messages either on my FB or the site's page. Did I eat them during a fugue state? No idea. Use info at this site as an addy and send me email--that's the best way to get to me.

    Comment by Widge — December 28, 2012 @ 5:35 pm

    29. 

    It was maybe two weeks ago to your JWR FB page (which of course you might not use at all with all other web things going on), but I'll resend it to the "loonies" address. Thanks for checking though.

    Comment by Montag — December 29, 2012 @ 6:31 am

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