Word of Mouth—The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Is Getting Decent, But Not Great Early Reviews

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Since it’s been a pretty light few weeks at the movie theaters since Thanksgiving, be glad that next week we’ll finally have a movie worth talking about in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings prequel, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  One of the most anticipated films of the entire year, The Hobbit is a much riskier venture than you might have assumed at first glance.  It will be shepherding in a new technology with shooting done at 48 frames per second, almost double the normal FPS.  In addition, An Unexpected Journey has to prove that splitting the book into three parts will actually benefit the film, and isn’t just a shameless cash grab.  And if recent early reviews are any indication, the film might have actually succeeded in this task—but just barely.

Here’s the first review, courtesy of Jim Vejovoda at IGN:

“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey almost attains greatness yet despite so many moments of epic fun, greatness remains just out of its reach. This is a very good and entertaining movie even if it never quite recaptures the wonder or mystique of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Flaws and all, though, it was just nice to be back in Middle-earth again. It’s a minor miracle The Hobbit even exists after such a storied and arduous journey to the big screen, so we’re thankful for The Hobbit and eagerly await seeing the next two installments in the trilogy.”

Matt Patches, Hollywood.com:

“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey sports a lighter tone than its predecessors — comedic routines and a brighter palette making Middle Earth palatable to the youngsters — but the film doesn’t lose any of the adventure or danger necessary for J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy.  An Unexpected Journey doesn’t have the looming danger or live-or-die stakes one hopes of a Middle Earth journey, making the film’s epic nature — the movie clocks in at two hours and 50 minutes — feel meandering by the second. Thankfully, Jackson’s expert direction and production value keeps attention hooked.”

Germain Lussier, Slashfilm:

“Overall The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a lot of fun. Fans of Jackson, Tolkien and theLord of the Rings films will enjoy it. However, it’s long and uneven, which keeps it from reaching the heights of Jackson’s first three Middle-Earth films. It’s obvious why and how the director added what he did, but whether or not it’ll all work out is probably a question we can’t answer for two more years.”

Devin Faraci, Badass Digest:

“The best moments of the movie aren’t as good as you’d hope for them to be – especially when weighed against the shocking bloat throughout. This isn’t King Kong, but it has the same pacing and padding issues. Even in its greatest moments,The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the 4th best film in the series. It ends on a very high note, one that promises we’re over the initial hump, that the heavy expositionary lifting has been done, and that from here on out it’s going to be fun. But then you remember there’s six more hours, and realize you’re not even quite sure how Jackson made what happened in this movie last three hours.  The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is fine. That’s much better than I feared, but maybe not quite as good as it needed to be to truly allay concerns about the next two films.”

Drew McWeeney, Hitfix:

“Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey” is an above-average fantasy film, a dense piece of entertainment that packs more visual wonder into its two-and-three-quarter hour run than seems possible.  It is a very good movie.  I say that upfront because any discussion about what does or doesn’t work about the movie is going make some people very angry since they’ve been waiting to see it since 2003.  Lord Of The Rings fans are going to feel like this is a welcome return to Middle Earth. But there are enough uneven qualities this time around that I find myself astonished by the letter grade I’m assigning the film. My hope is that the three films taken together will work better than this one does on its own, and that the pacing issues are not going to be ongoing as the series continues.”

Dave Trumbore, Collider:

“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has set a high bar for the next two installments, but if the Lord of the Rings trilogy is any indication, I fully believe that bar will be surpassed. Moving forward, I’d like to see the films become a bit more serious, especially since Bilbo is now in possession of a certain ring and all the grave consequences that portends. It would also be a more gradual transition into the Lord of the Rings trilogy and would allow new fans to mature along with the entire six-film arc, much like the Harry Potter films so expertly achieved. While The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is destined to be a stand-alone adventure classic in the vein of The Neverending Story, Willow and Legend, it is surely strongest when viewed as a satisfactory part of a greater whole.”

And that’s what the film critics have to think about The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey so far.  Overall verdict?  It’s good, not great.  Of course for the internet, that probably translates to “critics think this is the worst movie of all time, they are the worst people to ever exist!”  Personally, I think being “good”, well a tad bit underwhelming, is still better than what we could have got.  So just be happy it’s good before you complain that it’s not amazing.

You can see for yourself is The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is worth your money when the film opens next Friday.

Word of Mouth is a column written by the Geek Binge staff focused on early buzz regarding any individual game, movie, or TV show. To read past editions of Word of Mouth, click here.