Mary Conti’s review published on Letterboxd:
Part of The December Project: Film #33
There are two groups of people that I suspect will enjoy The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey the most. Die hard Tolkien fans, and the kids this story was meant for. In that regard, this film really is for them, and for that I might be able to give it a slight pass.
However, I am pretty disappointed, but not to the degree some other films have given me this year (I'm looking at you The Dark Knight Rises). While I read the books as a teenager, and did quite enjoy them, I was never really that into the mythology of Middle Earth that other people seemed to be into. To me, the part that made the books so much fun was the sense of adventure, and how these characters grew to be heroes that came from the most unlikely sources. That's the kind of stuff I like. Pure fantasy storytelling.
The problem with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is that it doesn't focus enough on this and gets itself sidetracked too much. Like Bilbo says in The Fellowship of the Ring, it is like butter scraped over too much bread. All this side stuff just happens to bog down the film, and in fact distracts from the stuff in this film that's actually good.
The worst offence is that the film ends up treating Bilbo Baggins as a side character. Every time Bilbo is on screen, it feels like it has been ages since we last saw him. It makes him seem unimportant in the scheme of things, and this negatively affects what should a great arc for this singular film, and what would happen over the course of the trilogy (although it has yet to be seen what they do with this).
In the end, fixing this film would be just as easy as cutting out a whole bunch of unnecessary stuff. The thing is that we know Peter Jackson can edit out those unnecessary stuff. He knows what is important in a story, and what isn't. Sadly, it seems like the studio has forced Jackson to make the films longer just so they can make an extra buck.
It's not all for naught though. While the film does tend to drag, the film at least does its best to inject some humor into the proceedings. The cast is great, the scenery porn is great (I for one vote every film be made in New Zealand from now on), and the music is inspired. But most importantly, there are fleeting moments of greatness where there's a true sense of adventure and wonder, which is exactly what I came to the film for.
This is in the end a shame, because had Jackson stuck to his guns and just gone for merely 2 films, the first installment of The Hobbit might have proved to be the fun adventure film I was looking for. As it stands, I'm very wary of the next two potentially just as overlong films.