‘The Hobbit’: How Much Do Critics Like the ‘Lord of the Rings’ Prequel?

Peter Jackson returns to Middle Earth and to his homeland of New Zealand – a country that appears one parliamentary vote away from calling itself TolkienLand – for the often exciting, if equally silly, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

The first in a three-film adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien’s precursor to Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit presents a sizeable risk for the famed director. Not only is the epic adventure filmed in 48 frames-per-second – a technique that lends the film a bizarrely sped-up, BBC, telenovela appearance – it begs immediate comparison to Jackson’s first masterpiece go-around with Frodo and the Fellowship.

Critics have already begun to weigh in on this enjoyable, yet decidedly uneven, journey, and in the end, after nearly twenty cinematic hours spent in Middle Earth, Jackson might very well borrow the title of Bilbo Baggins’ biography for his own: “There and Back Again.” But critics and audiences alike will provide the subtitle: “Was it worth it?”

Let’s find out…

Todd Gilchrist, Celebuzz

“A briskly engaging adventure shrouded in superfluous detail, an unhurried pace though also, yes, admittedly, technical virtuosity, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is an accomplished if unexciting first chapter in the preamble to his Oscar-winning film series.”

Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter

“Spending nearly three hours of screen time to visually represent every comma, period and semicolon in the first six chapters of the perennially popular 19-chapter book, Jackson and his colleagues have created a purist’s delight…In pure movie terms, however, it’s also a bit of a slog, with an inordinate amount of exposition and lack of strong forward movement.”

Shawn Adler, Movieline

“Like Bilbo reflecting on his long path from The Shire and what it means to fight for a place to call your own, however, returning to Middle Earth feels right. And if it doesn’t quite soar as high in transformative joy or ecstasy as we thought it might… it’s still home.

Devin Faraci, Badass Digest

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is an enormously frustrating film. At times it’s absolutely wonderful and delightful and magical, bringing in a sense of whimsy and wonder missing from the original Lord of the Rings trilogy. But it’s also oddly paced and way too long; it takes the film almost 45 minutes to get going, and once it does it keeps stopping for scenes that feel like blueprints for theme park rides and video games.”

Peter Debruge, Variety

The Hobbit alternately rewards and abuses auds’ appetite for all things Middle-earth. While Peter Jackson’s prequel to The Lord of the Rings delivers more of what made his earlier trilogy so compelling — colorful characters on an epic quest amid stunning New Zealand scenery — it doesn’t offer nearly enough novelty to justify the three-film, nine-hour treatment, at least on the basis of this overlong first installment.”

Rodrigo Perez, IndieWire

“The last two acts of The Hobbit are simply a non-stop action-adventure rollercoaster that is just as engaging and winning as anything in the director’s previous trilogy. As epic, grandiose, and emotionally appealing as the previous pictures, The Hobbit doesn’t move far from the mold, but it’s a thrilling ride that’s one of the most enjoyable, exciting and engaging tentpoles of the year.”

Jordan Hoffman, ScreenCrush

“We may not be able to fully analyze ‘The Hobbit’ until all three chapters are in. Nevertheless here we are and An Unexpected Journey does, indeed, have a lot going for it. It is also saddled with tangents, jabberjaw scenes that never end and far too many beats whose sole function is to remind you how much you love the original Lord of the Rings films.”

Will you see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey when it opens in theaters? Sound off in the comments, and to tide you over, watch the film’s trailer on Celebuzz!

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