Why Critics Will Come to Regret Their Relentless Savaging of the New Film (I mean, probably not, but w/e)
Despite tentatively positive reviews from The Wall Street Journal, Rolling Stone, National Public Radio, The New Yorker, Entertainment Weekly, and several smaller urban newspapers, if you've heard much about the first entry in Peter Jackson's much-hyped Hobbit trilogy, it's probably that, well, it isn't very good. Right now the nearly three-hour demi-epic, controversially shot at double the frame-rate of most Hollywood features, is sporting a dispiriting 42% on Rotten Tomatoes, the movie-review aggregator that certifies movies as "fresh" or, as in the case of Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, rotten. (But it's at 65%, unless I'm missing something...?)
What's odd about the naysayers is not their opinions--movie-reviewing, like movie-making, is an artform rife with necessary subjectivities--but how they've gone about substantiating them. If there's one biographical fact avid moviegoers have considered sacrosanct these past few years, it's that Peter Jackson was and is a nerd-king of historic dimensions whose genuine love for all things Tolkien was and is the animating principle behind the Lord of the Rings trilogy and its now-three-part Hobbit companion. Not so, say those scions of the movie-reviewing circuit who've heaped calumny upon The Hobbit; in fact, Jackson's decision to bloat the 310-page children's book into a trilogy on par, in length and cinematic scope, to Tolkien's 1,500-page (in manuscript form, 9,250-page) Lord of the Rings trilogy was entirely a "mercenary" one, according to CNN.
What these critics don't know, and what Jackson most certainly does, is the history of The Hobbit as a text, and of Middle Earth as a holistic construction. While knowledge of the literature behind the film doesn't necessarily imbue the film with automatic cinematic bona fides, it does suggest that, in the long run, critics of The Hobbit will be made to feel rather foolish for their circumspection and (in many instances) their open hostility toward both Jackson and his creation. If there's a reason most critics panning the film don't also encourage moviegoers to avoid it, it's likely that they sense--as they ought to--that future generations will view the effort considerably more kindly, and that therefore The Hobbit is worth seeing now, whatever its infelicities.
( More behind the cut - WARNING: after the timeline there's a huge spoiler about Thorin's story arcCollapse )