So, The Hobbit reviews are in. The embargo was lifted last night.
After so much talk about the nonsense swirling around The Hobbit, it's nice to finally get some reactions to the film itself.
The heavyweight US papers, with their AO Scotts and their Roger Eberts, have not yet published their reviews, but plenty were posted online last night.
The consensus seems to be that its a fun movie that drags at the start a bit, but gets a lot more fun in the second act. But the critics seem divided on the merits of the new technology employed by the film. As you know, The Hobbit is filmed in 3D and 48 frames per second, twice the normal frame rate. The higher frame rate is supposed to stop the blurring, stuttering effect that happens with 24 fps when the camera moves too quickly or objects move across the screen too fast.
So, let's start with the general feeling that the film is a bit slow and too long. I recently compared Peter Jackson to an indulgent jazz saxophonist who likes to go on long flights of fancy. Sadly, this comparison appears to hold.
"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,'' write Peter Debruge at Variety.
"In Jackson's academically fastidious telling, however, it's as if The Wizard of Oz had taken nearly an hour just to get out of Kansas,'' writes Todd McCarthy at the Hollywood Reporter.
But, once we get out of Kansas, most critics agree The Hobbit kicks into gear.
"After Bilbo finally accepts his calling 40 minutes into the picture ... Jackson draws audiences into his familiar world, particularly the troll-infested forest of Mirkwood and the film's darker, more expressionistic realms,'' writes Debruge.
But the new technology has divided critics.
James Croot from The Press newspaper said the new technology was "dazzling".
"It will take a couple of minutes to adjust - like seeing HD TV for the first time people will appear to do things too fast - but after that you'll be won over by the crispness and clarity of the action, which makes things look less like a moving viewmaster and more like the immersive experience cinemagoers have always dreamed of. "
Graeme Tuckett at the Dominion Post was impressed, but said it stopped him feeling fully immersed.
"The image on screen isn't just ''more real'', it is hyper-real. Everything is bright, and pin sharp ... But in two and three quarter hours, I didn't feel that old familiar joy of being immersed in a picture. I could only watch The Hobbit move across the screen, I was never caught up in the story in the way that I am with the films I love,'' he wrote.
Other critics, however, were less forgiving.
"Everything takes on an overblown, artificial quality in which the phoniness of the sets and costumes becomes obvious, while well-lit areas bleed into their surroundings, like watching a high-end homemovie,'' wrote Debruge.
McCarthy said the technology gave the film an "oddly theatrical look".
Mr Beaks at Ain't It Cool was the most damning.
"While the clarity can be awe-inspiring, it has a tendency to make the sets look cheap, the armor chintzy, and the makeup barely worthy of an Asylum production. AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY in high-frame-rate 3D is a deep, vicious pendulum swing between transporting and flat-out unwatchable - and it's impossible to fully adjust to the format because you never know when it's suddenly going to look like a demo reel.''
Well, colour me intrigued. Can't wait to see it next week.
What about you? Looking forward to The Hobbit? What do you think of the new technology? Interested in seeing what it looks like? What are your thoughts?
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