While the Lord of the Rings trilogy was received with enthusiasm by both the audience and the critics, it seems that the first part of the Hobbit trilogy, while still comparatively successful at the box office, have met with a very different response. While average audience reviews were positive, most critics seemed all too happy to point out the slow pacing, to mention that the movie was too long and especially to ridicule the new 48 framed per second technology with which the film was shot.
Those of you that have been following the press releases about the hobbit may have noticed that the negative buzz started even before the premiere. Why such hostility? I think the answer has to do more with the nature of film criticism than the movie itself.
Categorizing Makes the Critic’s Job Easier
In our day and age, 9 times out of ten movie critics know exactly what to expect when they go out to review a new film; the movie industry makes it easier for them by dividing the market into sub genres such as action, comedy, drama, historical romance and so on. A fantasy movie is supposed to be light weight, or action bases and definitely not too heavy on the literary sauce.
Along comes Peter Jackson and created a trilogy of movies that are almost impossible to categorize according to standard genre definitions, it combines a serious script based on a literary masterpiece, fantasy, horror motifs and fine acting. At least when the Lord of the Rings trilogy came out, they could rely on the fact that it was based on three thick, adult oriented volumes. But what can they make of the Hobbit? It is a children’s book, yet it belongs to the same universe. It was shot as three movies and combines elements from Tolkien’s other literary works. Not only that, it was short in an entirely new technology, which may or may not change the way we watch movies.
Is Jackson Being Punished Simply for Being Innovative?
Perhaps the real anger here is not about the new 48 frames per second technology or the packing, but about the fact that someone dared to take so seriously a genre that many critics don’t truly appreciate. I think Jackson did a spectacular, almost impossibly good job, but even if he failed with the Hobbit he should be saluted for his courage. I find it utterly hilarious to hear the claims that he chose the project and stretched it over three movies because of money. If he truly cared only about the money do you truly think he would film a movie that stars a company of dwarves and a Hobbit and invest it with literary references that only well read people will recognize? I honestly don’t think so. I think it is safer to assume that Jackson was attacked mostly because the Hobbit movies are even more difficult to categorize than the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Doron Heifetz is a jeweler and creative arts expert, owner of a silver monogram necklace website and a film and literature buff.