Niagara Gazette

Night & Day

December 18, 2012

CALLERI: Peter Jackson returns to the shire in ‘The Hobbit’

Niagara Gazette — After watching director Peter Jackson’s visually engaging, but meandering “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” I wondered why a motion picture version of J. R. R. Tolkien’s novel had not been made before, especially during the so-called Golden Age of American moviemaking, which spanned the 1930s and 1940s.

In 1937, a couple of decades before the “Lord Of The Rings” trilogy was published, Tolkien created his charming fantasy, “The Hobbit,” and it’s obvious upon a reading of the relatively short book (310 pages) that it would have made a delightful film, something done perhaps by MGM or Warner Brothers, two studios that specialized in adaptations of novels. Cast a few popular stars, add some recognizable character actors, and take advantage of the vast soundstages and the ability to create a world within them, and you could have had an engaging adventure that would have told the story in perhaps a couple of hours. Both “Gone With The Wind” and “The Wizard Of Oz” were released in 1939.

Instead, Jackson, hoping to shake off the failures of his “King Kong” and “The Lovely Bones,” has returned to a familiar well and has seemingly decided to film every sentence in Tolkien’s work, creating not one, but three features, the next two parts arriving in 2013 and 2014. With “The Hobbit,” you’ve got about 100 pages of the book on screen and although devoted fans of Jackson, Tolkien, and Hobbits may relish the opportunity to revisit some favorite characters, the movie doesn’t quite have the sweep, scope and appeal of the three “Lord Of The Rings” movies.

The film is overwhelmed by exposition and a sense that it isn’t going anywhere. Well, it is and it isn’t, but clearly Jackson and his co-screenwriters Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Guillermo del Toro, have chosen to treat every sentence in the novel as sacrosanct rather than treat moviegoers to the rhythms of a smooth narrative. Del Toro was supposed to direct, but Jackson pushed him aside.

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