After Peter Jackson's epic 'The Lord of the Rings' trilogy, there were high hopes for 'The Hobbit.' He and his team didn't disappoint the first three times, so how could they fail with a story as beloved as J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy novel?
This was familiar territory for him. I don't live inside Peter Jackson's head so I can't explain what exactly went wrong, but I can tell you -- don't go into 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' hoping for anything close to 'The Lord of the Rings.'
That's not to say you shouldn't see 'The Hobbit' -- you probably have your tickets already. It's a spectacle and a childhood favorite, and once Bilbo (Martin Freeman), Gandalf (Ian McKellan -- always good) and the dwarves are on their quest to reclaim the dwarves' home from the dragon Smaug, it's at least entertaining to watch.
If you got your tickets for the 3D version, though, you might want to swap those out for the regular, old-school 2D screening. For the first half hour of 'The Hobbit,' the 3D version looks a little bit like a chintzy BBC or Masterpiece Theatre movie. Everything is too crisp, sunny, and phony looking (imagine watching 'The Sound of Music's “The Hills Are Alive” scene on acid and you'll get the picture).
It all feels very cute at first, like Jiminy Cricket and Snow White might pop by Bilbo's house to say hello. You get a little cameo from Elijah Wood as Frodo, which only makes you miss 'The Lord of the Rings.'
Even so, there are some impressive battle scenes and action, for sure. The sequence in the Goblins' lair is fun to watch -- Andy Serkis as Gollum is amazing, as always. The scene where he's battling Bilbo with riddles almost feels like watching De Niro in 'Taxi Driver,' which sounds weird, but he's really mesmerizing. On the whole, though, it's probably best to head into 'The Hobbit' with low expectations.
Peter Jackson didn't even want to direct 'The Hobbit,' and Guillermo del Toro ('Pan's Labyrinth,' 'Hellboy') was attached for a few years until rights issues and scheduling caused him to drop out.
Someone must have made Jackson an offer he couldn't refuse, because it feels like he kind of phoned it in. No doubt del Toro's 'Hobbit' would have been a dark, twisted, beautiful tale, but we'll never know, unless he directs a sequel. Until then, we have the ho-hum Disney version of 'The Hobbit.' Leave the 3D glasses in the bin.