Normally this sort of thing would come under the heading of a Broadcast Signal Intrusion, but in this case I think the Hobbit film is enmeshed with the hobby thanks to GW's involvement. I can't think why anyone would play the games and not see this film and the LotR trilogy. That said I will be keeping my thoughts on how the film and game fit together for another post.
I saw the Hobbit in 3D HFR, and that has really influenced this review. I will hopefully be catching it again in standard 2D some time soon, so we'll see what that changes. Why is this important?
3D HRF, while being championed by Peter Jackson as the next shiny thing for films, doesn't make for a pleasurable viewing experience. I'm not talking about the heacaches etc, that some people have reported, but the far more tangible look of the movie on the screen.
Everything feels subtly off, and its a question of visual feel. Watching the Hobbit, seems far more like watching behind the scenes footage (or something like BBC's Merlin) than the big screen epic that it should be. The foreground, background and characters don't quite seem to gel, and it's a massive barrier to getting involved with the movie, as rather than jump into the story your brain is trying to come to terms with the image. It's like a very bad magician, doing sleight of hand, but directing your attention to look how he's doing the trick, rather than enjoying it. If you get the option to see the film in standard 2D, I really would urge you to take it.
Right, much like Christmas, enough with the wrapping onto the content.
Before seeing the film I'd avoided most of the trailers and promotion etc, so went in fairly cold. The expectation I had was for LotR, but with more Dwarves, and I don't think that was what I got.
Despite sharing the same PG-13 rating as the LotR trilogy, the film felt aimed at a younger audience, and went for laughs a bit too much. The original trilogy had laughs, but not at the expense of the scene, let alone the larger story. There are enough in UE (lets start talking about them as different films now, rather than get confused in a years time) that it steals some of the epic sweep.
With which onto Radagast...
Radagast and his bloody rabbit sledge.He doesn't feel like an necessary character; he fills a roll, and I'll always have a Doctor Who related soft spot for Sylvester McCoy, but there's too much of him, and he diverts the tone by his very presence, turning a chase sequence from a terrifying flight into something laughable.
The Trolls also suffer badly from this tone shift, with the fear that the Cave Troll in LotR evoked totally lost in favour of humour, including a snot covered Bilbo. That it is written as such in the books is not a good excuse, as there're plenty of other things that have changed.
The other stand-out feature of LotR that hasn't survived into UE is the feel of the fights and battle sequences. LotR's engagements take place on a range of scales, from the scrap at Weathertop, all the way to the Battle of the Black Gate, and each one is shown in engaging detail. UE takes a different style, and it is the worse for it. This is most notable during the escape from goblin town, where the fight, while violent (to the point I wondered how it got its PG certificate (lack of blood I suppose)), lacked any flow, as it was cut into so many individual shots to the point of confusion.
For all my above complaints there was still much of the magic of the first trilogy still in the bones of the film. Middle Earth/New Zealand looks as gorgeous as ever, and Rivendell in particular looking stunning.
Time to talk characters, starting with the Dwarves. LotR took the nine members of the Fellowship and over the course of the first film took the time to make each a character in their own right (even if they didn't make it all the way through the film). The Dwarves don't get this sort of treatment, being brutally honest of the thirteen members of Thorin's company, there are only six that really stick out; Thorin, because he's the leader, and the driving force behind the quest; Kili, for being a dwarf without a beard (really?); Bofur, for being James Nesbitt, Irish, and talking lots; Dwalin, for being the first Dwarf we meet and exuding a biker vibe; and Balin, for spouting exposition and advice at the drop of a hat. Oh, and Ori, for being annoying. So that's six Dwarves, with only one really having a positive reason to be memorable. The look of the Dwarves is also at odds with the aesthetics of LotR, where the few that were seen were fairly homogeneous. While it's made clear that Thorin leads a disparate band forced into exile by Smaug, and long on the road, they seem far too deliberately odd.
Bilbo is played by Martin Freeman, not that I need to mention that, as for the most part it feels like we're just watching Martin Freeman. He might be a good Bilbo (and I loved him in Sherlock) but it was too hard to get past him to get to the character. The size difference between characters is handled very well for the most part, although the HFR doesn't help this. Certainly there aren't as many glaring perspective tricks as in the Fellowship.
Gandalf survives the transition to the past very well, and is as brilliant as ever.
Christopher Lee looks surprisingly young as Saruman, Cate Blanchett remains utterly perfect as Galadriel, and Hugo Weaving is imperious as ever as Elrond. The White Council scene is one of the highlights of the film.
The Goblin King is an oddity. Played by Barry Humphries (or Dame Edna Everidge, if you prefer) he's surprisingly eloquent, which is at odds with his appearance, its jarring and really throws the feel of the Goblins off somehow. I'd expected more from the character, and was a bit disappointed.
Smaug is teased
which works well at the end, but is taking the piss in the opening
The Orcs are surprisingly good and brutal (especially the hand spike), with their Wargs being particularly nasty.
And I think with that, I've said my piece. It's not a bad film (as evidenced by the fact I'm seeing it a second time), but it falls short in a number of ways. I'd be interested to know what everyone else thinks, especially about the 3D HFR, and if you've seen it in 2D. Has it changed anyone's opinion on getting/regretting the boxed game?