Film Capsule: The Hobbit

Choose your battles wisely. This is sage advice for show runners and politicians alike. And it certainly would have served Peter Jackson well when deciding what footage to fight for in order to justify The Hobbit‘s sprawling two-hour and 49-minute running time – the first hour of which is completely hunkered down with unnecessary details and back story and set up and speeches and singing and intros and drinking of mead.

Part of this is due to Jackson’s semi-admirable attempt to remain true to J.R.R. Tolkien’s original source material. While The Hobbit is easily the most charming and lovable of Tolkien’s novels, Jackson’s film sacrifices a considerable amount of gusto by not making more of an effort to simply speed matters along.

During its second hour, The Hobbit falls into a recurring pattern of brief action sequences, sandwiched between much longer monologues, each one of them accompanied by the very same ominous music and tone … so repetitively, in fact, that about midway through the cycle almost becomes laughable.

In terms of scale, The Hobbit is both majestic and sweeping, much like every previous installment from The Lord of the Rings franchise. And yet, this prequel doesn’t feel nearly as potent or well-oiled as those other films did. While it certainly made sense to break The Hobbit down into three separate parts, Peter Jackson could’ve served his audience – and Tolkien’s story – more constructively by paring this first film down into a much tighter 2-hour and 10-minute spectacle.

(The Hobbit opens in theaters nationwide today.)