Of course, The Lord of the Rings was far from subtle, too. Like most fantasy epics, it didn’t need to be. Jackson’s brilliance, however, was making that first trilogy accessible. Sure, he alluded to many of Tolkien’s elaborate details with a bevy of visual cues, but he never did it at the expense of the story his movies told. Infamously, for example, he even cut a beloved character named Tom Bombadil from The Fellowship of the Ring. (Not that I’m still sore about it or anything. Jerk.) That sort of sensible exposition is difficult to spot in The Hobbit. Characters, new and old alike, appear for reasons unknown, only to drop additional elements into an untidy plot. The sheer amount of detail Jackson crams into 169 minutes borders on the gratuitous. To put it another way, this adaptation loves its source material too much.
Against difficult odds, Jackson made an admirable movie that adds a pleasant chapter to his Middle-earth catalog. Despite a cloying palette of vivid pastel colors, it manages to look downright gorgeous. Jackson’s much-maligned decision to film The Hobbit at 48 frames per second, double the Hollywood standard, produces ultra-clear images that don’t look too “real.” In fact, 48p’s crisp appearance makes it an ideal complement to today’s oft-muddled 3D filming techniques. Unfortunately, an uncanny smoothness undermines that revolutionary definition during the movie’s bright action sequences.
The bottom line? If you’re a fan of Tolkien’s fantasy, you’ll enjoy The Hobbit. And if you’re not, remember this: There’s only two more of these damned things left.