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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Movie Discussion: The Hobbit:
The most unflattering review of the Extended Edition of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey you will read today (and why it's rubbish)
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Nov 9 2013, 9:05am

Post #1 of 32 (1566 views)
The most unflattering review of the Extended Edition of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey you will read today (and why it's rubbish) Can't Post

I'm certainly no poster child for the Peter Jackson fan club, but a hatchet job review of the Extended Edition by Fred Topel over at CraveOnline is full of such over-the-top hyperbole that I cannot let it pass. It reeks of clickbait. And, as someone who makes a living working in advertising, I know clickbait pretty well. Yet its headline, and conclusion, is so at odds with the calibre of the evidence in support that I simply cannot let it pass without comment.

(In the spirit of not rewarding clickbait, I'm not even linking the article here. I know that's a bit fraught, but if you do really want to read it, here's Google search. It's not hard to find.)

Let's take Toper's conclusion, and ultimate claim about the EE (and The Hobbit film trilogy as a whole):

"We are witnessing the dawn of a cinematic train wreck."

It's a big, bold claim. I think, if nothing else, we can all agree on that.

Carl Sagan famously said: "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." Sounds fair, right? If I'm going to slag your thing off as downright bloody awful, a real stinker, then I ought to have something compelling to back it up. Some argument that's virtually beyond dispute.

So let's examine the evidence presented.

1) 48fps is a fiasco

If 48fps were the only lens we could view The Hobbit through, this might have some legs. But it's not -- there's 3D, there's HFR 3D (aka 48fps), and there's plain old 24fps. You can choose a fancy topping, or just go plain. This is akin to saying the poor quality of a dub ruins an anime when, you know, we can switch to the subtitled version.

Sure, 48fps is a gamble. And it's a gutsy and unusual choice in an industry that is so ridiculously conservative that it, for example, can't seem to do any more than flirt with idea of a Wonder Woman film. Still, if the gamble doesn't work, if 48fps ultimately doesn't succeed, does that destroy the entire value of The Hobbit? Of course not.

2) Visual FX has regressed at WETA

"Weta can't make stuff look as real as it did 10 years ago." How do we judge this? Well, let's play the comparison game. Apples against apples. Ten (and 11) years ago, WETA was being acclaimed for its work putting together Smeagol/Gollum for The Return of the King and The Two Towers respectively. I'm not sure how anyone can convincingly argue that in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Gollum looks worse in the Riddles in the Dark sequence. But don't believe me, go judge for yourself.

And the wolf-wargs of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey outclass the poorly rendered hyena-creatures of The Two Towers by several orders of magnitude.

3) World-building is lacklustre for The Hobbit compared to LOTR

"Even Hobbiton looks like a cheap copy of the first film's Hobbiton." Again, go judge for yourselves -- Fellowship of the Ring Hobbiton versus the version from An Unexpected Journey. Cheap copy? Really?

I'm going to go out on a limb here: a lot of the issues that folks have with The Hobbit probably derive from nostalgia and a rosy view of the past. That's understandable -- we all do it. Memory is a very powerful thing. So, it can be easy to go "the old stuff is better than the new stuff". Madonna was the original, Lady Gaga is just an imitator. And I think this is, in part, what drives some people to feel The Lord of the Rings was the best thing since sliced bread, and that The Hobbit is (and will continue to be) as awful as Vegemite. But the reality is that it's a bit more complicated than that. Always is.

4) The lengthy party sequence

It does take a long time for the Company to move from Bag End into the wider world of Middle-earth. Judging from toting up the tracks on my Special Edition soundtrack, it's about 25 minutes, although that does includes the introductory sequences with Frodo and with Gandalf. Still, that's quite long and yes it might have been more tightly edited.

But if length alone can create boredom and a cinematic train wreck, I've got a contender of similar length from The Lord of the rings. It's the Battle for Helm's Deep sequence. It lasts 18 to 20 minutes (again, rough guess), but not counting the lead-up that includes the arrival of the (non-canonical) Galadhrim. And I find the whole shebang utterly mind-numbing. It's a tedious, drawn-out hack 'n slash with almost no dialogue. Just not my cup of tea (if it's yours, though, that's fine).

But you know what? I'm not going round calling The Two Towers a cinematic train wreck because of it. Maybe Toper just doesn't like dialogue. Hmmmm.

5) Peter Jackson's heart isn't in it

This point is simply a non-starter. Toper raises it as a suspicion, as a theory, then discards it when he reaches the point where he talks about the commentary tracks. He mentions that both Philippa Boyens and Peter Jackson extensively discuss technical and screenplay choices and that Jackson "sounds damn passionate". If there's something causing a cinematic train wreck, it can't be a lack of heart at the core of the production. Topel concedes that they aren't merely going through the motions.

As I mentioned at the beginning, I work in advertising. And advertisers know the value of a provocative, attention-grabbing headline. But they also know, that you must support your extravagant claims with a body of convincing evidence otherwise you simply won't make a sale.

Sorry Fred, on this occasion, I'm just not buying. And I don't believe that anyone else ought to, either.

Demosthenes has been an incredibly nerdy staff member at TheOneRing.net since 2001. The views in this article are his own, and do not necessarily represent those of the site, or of other TORn staff.

(This post was edited by entmaiden on Nov 10 2013, 3:24am)


Nov 9 2013, 2:57pm

Post #2 of 32 (787 views)
Just continuing the same old rubbish [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm not going to add much to what you've said, since you've encapsulated what I feel about such 'reviews'. If this man doesn't like the film, that's fine. However, a huge number of cinema goers, including my family and friends, disagree with him.

Someone on here recently asked what the critics' reaction to DoS will be Ė my thoughts are that they will continue with the 'bloated', HFR 'sucks', etc., ad nauseum. It's one of the reasons I'll ignore the critics this time around Ė I nearly didn't see the AUJ in HFR (my favourite format) because of the critics' response.

The statement that 'We are witnessing the dawn of a cinematic train wreck' alone makes me realise just how uninformed this individual is.

'The lengthy party sequence' is one of the best parts of the film Ė and that's according to most cinema goers who have seen AUJ.

And what is the nonsense about effects 'regressing since LOTR'? That is plainly not true, and looking at LOTR with rose-tinted glasses. There were many, many effects in those films that were far worse than those in The Hobbit.

What is 'CraveOnline', anyway? Never heard of them and certainly won't be referring to them in future.


Nov 9 2013, 2:59pm

Post #3 of 32 (765 views)
Toper gave Diana 5/10 [In reply to] Can't Post

That should tell you everything you need to know about his credibility


Nov 9 2013, 3:07pm

Post #4 of 32 (803 views)
IGN gave it a 9/10 [In reply to] Can't Post

As did a couple of other sites.

This guy here clearly has some personal qualm with either the movie or PJ to make such unfounded and bold accusations. I mean I'm fine with critics and some calling the movie an overlong journey or even bloated but a "cinematic train wreck"? That's pushing it isn't it?

And as for PJ's "heart not being in it" I can't agree. He clearly hasn't seen the appendices. The movie had issues yes but PJ was NOT one of them. It's his determination that got us this movie.

I read this article 4 days ago and never thought about it again till now. Utter garbage and hate-fueled jargon here.


Nov 9 2013, 3:31pm

Post #5 of 32 (700 views)
Not falling for the clickbait [In reply to] Can't Post

(1) 48FPS choice - good point
(2) WETA Visual FX - Gollum was better than ever. This was a time issue - it seems so clear.
(3) Worldbuilding - The story has only strayed outside of the map of LotR as far as Dol Guldor (for the most part) and the bits at the beginning showing the rampaging dragon and Erebor were far from lackluster. Yes, in the beginning it is the Shire and Rivendell and the lands in between all over again. That's what it is - but not exactly the same - at a different (and slightly less dark) time (which may make it less interesting to some at a time when the dark and dramatic is in fashion - but the response from the general audience suggests that light-hearted whimsy has a place to in todays artistic circles for at least some people).
(4) Party Sequence - A lot of people loved this part of the movie. However, for those looking for something to stand beside the action flicks winning awards last year, it is relatively less action-packed. This is character / comraderie building time in the movie rather than breathtaking action.
(5) Peter Jackson - I would be careful about accusing / judging someone like that. What is clear was that there were difficulties and he was very ill and he persevered anyway.


Nov 9 2013, 4:16pm

Post #6 of 32 (649 views)
Showing his hand of extreme laziness [In reply to] Can't Post

I liked his comment near the end concerning 48 fps:

Whatever is making 48fps look like sped up old timey silent films canít be fixed retroactively. I donít even mind that the image quality is different in 48fps. I donít understand why it would be, because if you shoot in 48 and play back in 48 it should look normal, right? Iím open to different image qualities but it has to look like real time footage, and so far it doesnít. Thatís not a matter of being used to 24fps footage. Iím comparing it to my real life vision. In real life, people move at normal speed, so in movies I expect them to move at normal speed too.

It takes only a few minutes' research to find out why some people have a harder time getting used to 48 fps (e.g. research on the brain interpreting blur as motion), and for those who can't adapt the movies are available in 24 fps as well. This research has been published and has been freely available online for several years.

Don't mess with my favorite female elf.


Nov 9 2013, 4:31pm

Post #7 of 32 (631 views)
An excellent point by point reply Demosthenes [In reply to] Can't Post

"Clickbait" is really the heart of the matter, isn't it? When a reviewer is clearly so far off base in a basic assumption - as Dweller pointed out, the reviewer not even bothering to include the data set for 48fps viewing - one can only assume it is not a review but a self-serving shot over the bow of a franchise that is perceived as being worth one-upping. In away it s a bit of a negative compliment really...one would not try to piggyback over a flop, as that wouldn't get you very far.

And despite whatever claims might be made on a cinematic field (not to be debated here), the absurd idea that SPJ's "heart wasn't in it" I simply find both insulting and an unneeded personal jab. In our Facebook/Twitter-age that does seem to be becoming the norm though, as if by reading a few sentences posted by an individual we have the right to second guess and to claim we 'know' them.

Thanks for writing this Demosthenes.Angelic

Is there a Tolkien topic that you have wanted to look into more deeply, and write about your thoughts on it? If so, we'd like to hear from you for the next TORn Amateur Symposium- coming in November. Happy writing!


Nov 9 2013, 5:07pm

Post #8 of 32 (605 views)
What a patently ignorant bigget this reviewer is..... [In reply to] Can't Post

That is all. While I have a few issues with Journey, it's still a solid 8/10 movie for me.


Nov 9 2013, 5:12pm

Post #9 of 32 (606 views)
Here is a "Funny"? [In reply to] Can't Post

"When you get up in the Morning?

You don't have to see
Fred Topel's FACE.

in the Mirror."

THAtDUDE will be sooo...

Bomby can't help it...

help singing
"Another CRITICBites the Dust.."


Nov 9 2013, 5:17pm

Post #10 of 32 (584 views)
How exactly is he a bigot? [In reply to] Can't Post

This being the definition of bigotry from Wikipedia: Bigotry is the state of mind of a bigot: someone who, as a result of their prejudices, treats or views other people with fear, distrust, hatred, contempt, or intolerance on the basis of a person's ethnicity, race, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, disability, socioeconomic status, or other characteristics.

I'm curious to hear your thoughts on this.


Nov 9 2013, 5:18pm

Post #11 of 32 (588 views)
Trying too hard = fail [In reply to] Can't Post

Don't read many DVD/BR reviews anyway - what's the point beyond finding out what's in the disks and if it was well-produced re sound, packaging. If I didn't like a film a lot, I wouldn't buy it.
This sounds like one of those "trash talking reviews" where someone can't even come up for air (there are ruder ways of putting that....). Also doesn't sound like he saw the same film as me.

Funny, all the times I've marveled at the details in Bag End, and now with the BR am so happy to have the market scene. The entire sequence from Bilbo on the bench to his running out the door is something I still giggle
at and am REALLY enjoying the slight extension of dwarves raiding the pantry - funny! and the scenes of Balin/Thorin, Gandalf/Bilbo, and Misty Mountains are some of the scenes I hit replay on the most, and often think how
perfect they are in every way - Misty Mountains to me is one of the most beautiful and perfectly done scenes ever put on film - the lighting, the pacing, all of it. Wonderful, perfect performances. How often have I been grateful
for Peter Jackson making all this [from the book] alive and so rich for me - I would change NOTHING re Bag End except for a few more song verses, perhaps.....

Also odd, for me, are all the times I've stared at the eagle sequence, the movement of the wings and claws, the breeze ruffling the downy feathers - this is bad FX? It's extraordinary. As is Gollum - and for me the wargs and Azog are too - I see some overly sharp edges from time to time on Radagast in the grasslands - and here and there elsewhere - and there are things with the goblins I would work on, but even there the imagination amazes me. I see new things every time I study the goblin tunnels - seems no end to the number of goblins climbing, the bridge spans, the details - so wonderfully complex.

Saying anyone's "isn't into it" instantly loses me - nobody knows what a director is thinking/feeling unless he states his inner thoughts, for one thing. And for another, that's an absolutely, and completely, illogical assessment in the face of Peter Jackson's own efforts and how he pushed forward through studio upheaval, illness, taking on a massive cast - that's no heart? Sounds like passion, to me.

That said, just the comments posted are exactly why I'm not reading any critical reviews and avoiding LOTR/Hobbit sites a week or so before DOS, so I can "enjoy it fresh" so to speak. Partly of course to avoid spoilers, but also to avoid the irritation I get with the critic group who seems to spend time trying to out-snark each other. There's a handful of good, thoughtful critics I read, but this guy isn't one of them.


Nov 9 2013, 6:26pm

Post #12 of 32 (478 views)
This made me laugh Bomby!!!!! // [In reply to] Can't Post

In Reply To
Bomby can't help it...

help singing
"Another CRITICBites the Dust.."

Is there a Tolkien topic that you have wanted to look into more deeply, and write about your thoughts on it? If so, we'd like to hear from you for the next TORn Amateur Symposium- coming in November. Happy writing!


Nov 9 2013, 8:00pm

Post #13 of 32 (478 views)
I detest criticism of the party sequence [In reply to] Can't Post

It is arguably the most Tolkien true part of any Middle Earth movie to date.

Besides anyone who thinks it too long has IMO a fast food mentality when it comes to filmic story telling.

Quite often utterly biased opinions are hardly worth considering, as they will at best jaundice any opposing view with no trace of objectivity.


Nov 9 2013, 10:02pm

Post #14 of 32 (407 views)
"As awful as Vegemite" [In reply to] Can't Post

... I love it and it gives yourself away as a Kiwi as Ausies love Vegemite and no-one else has heard of it!!! Your review (of the review) is spot on and agree with every word (love the bit where they say the sets are not as good as before, when they are exactly the same); and as for a cinematic train wreck at $1.1b now and that much plus more again in a month or two's time, and another dose of the same in a little over a year; then give us more such 'train wrecks'!!! I think there is a credibility bi-pass going on here.

Tol Eressea

Nov 9 2013, 10:42pm

Post #15 of 32 (365 views)
Vegemite [In reply to] Can't Post

I visited AU for the first time in 1993 and I loved Vegemite. It was definitely different at first but over the course of my 3 week stay I grew to love it very much and was disappointed I couldn't find it back here in the U.S. I order it off Amazon now. I think it's the best.

My family, not so much. LOL. They hated it then and don't like it now.

Thank you for your questions, now go sod off and do something useful - Martin Freeman Twitter chat 3/1/13


Nov 9 2013, 10:51pm

Post #16 of 32 (371 views)
As a Kiwi, I have done something unforgivable [In reply to] Can't Post

I grew up eating Marmite, but switched to Vegemite in my 30's, and never looked back. The shame!

Tol Eressea

Nov 9 2013, 11:00pm

Post #17 of 32 (346 views)
Is it that much different? [In reply to] Can't Post

I have never tried Marmite.

Thank you for your questions, now go sod off and do something useful - Martin Freeman Twitter chat 3/1/13


Nov 9 2013, 11:10pm

Post #18 of 32 (345 views)
Vastly different [In reply to] Can't Post

to Kiwis and Aussies, but maybe not so different to people who are not used to either spread.


Nov 9 2013, 11:31pm

Post #19 of 32 (322 views)
Marmite's good.... [In reply to] Can't Post

Yeast extract. Hard to describe, but good. Very savoury. Good on toast or bread, or in sandwiches with cress or cucumber. (Can't compare as I've never tried Vegimite!)


Nov 9 2013, 11:53pm

Post #20 of 32 (314 views)
There's a subtle difference [In reply to] Can't Post

Marmite looks a bit darker and the flavour is slightly different, but they're basically the same product - made from left over yeast from breweries. You can buy both in London, and people usually prefer whichever one they were brought up on!


Nov 10 2013, 1:09am

Post #21 of 32 (285 views)
Indeed a nice distraction to the topic [In reply to] Can't Post

 Vegemite versus Marmite!!! and on the subject of heresy as an Ausie I can't stand either; but back to that appaling review.....

Sr. Staff

Nov 10 2013, 2:29am

Post #22 of 32 (271 views)
not kiwi :) [In reply to] Can't Post

But really my nationality isn't much relevant.

I did consider the box-office argument, but I feel that is a bit of a lazy way to justify anything.

Because I think we can all agree that box office is not necessarily indicative of quality. Yes?

There are good (really good!) films that have not taken lots of money, and bad (really bad?) ones that have.

(You can pick and choose which of your personal faves fit where)

So commercially success =/= awesome film!
And the converse applies too.

And, ultimately, Toper is not making a commercial argument. So it's important to be fair (and smart) to engage the argument on its own terms. That's the only way to properly dispose of its fundamental weaknesses.

I've noted this in the comments below the piece a couple of times -- the real thrust of my piece is that hyperbole and exaggerated claims are really bad for thoughtful discussion.

I think it's something that both critics and fans ought to think about because I'd love to see more reasoned discussion (and less holding onto entrenched positions).



TheOneRing.net Senior Staff
IRC Admin and Hall of Fire moderator


Nov 10 2013, 4:51am

Post #23 of 32 (253 views)
I was just commenting on the conclusion you cited [In reply to] Can't Post

"We are witnessing the dawn of a cinematic train wreck", now that is hyperbole ('dawn of' spare us); and whatever we think of what box offices means or tells; one thing is that it does not point to is 'a cinematic train wreck', which I think the author means is a failure.


Nov 10 2013, 8:04am

Post #24 of 32 (228 views)
ABSOLUTELY! I couldn't agree with you more. The moment I see or hear a critic start by [In reply to] Can't Post

complaining about that part of the movie, I auto-instantaneously cease to put any credence in their conversation.

It is an essential scene for setting the tone of the movie and for properly lining up the adventure to come. You HAVE to get a feel for Bilbo's quiet, cozy life, a life the brings to mind the cozy moments of many of our own childhoods, if you are to properly appreciate the shift and change that takes place as the story transitions from that to the adventures and perils and even horrors that follow.

I HATE critics who praise films like Steel Magnolias (which I love) all day long, make light of sword and sorcery and other alternative genre films for being all action and little substance, and then turn around and blast said films the moment they take a page from drama and/or comedy, and actual add... wait for it, non-action related, character interaction scenes! ugh. lol

In Reply To
It is arguably the most Tolkien true part of any Middle Earth movie to date.

Besides anyone who thinks it too long has IMO a fast food mentality when it comes to filmic story telling.

Quite often utterly biased opinions are hardly worth considering, as they will at best jaundice any opposing view with no trace of objectivity.

"Hear me, hounds of Sauron, Gandalf is here! Fly if you value your foul skins, I will shrivel you from tail to snout if you step within this circle!"

"Do not be to eager to deal out death in judgement. Even the very wise cannot see all ends."


Nov 10 2013, 8:18am

Post #25 of 32 (235 views)
We had a Film Critic here in Denver for a Long time [In reply to] Can't Post

NOTHING was a pleasure for him to see..

He re-worded the plot through most of his review.
Then jus' before giving away the Ending..?
Whiped Out some Crappy remark?

Left you (the reader) with No Chioce
but to avoid that movie..

Bomby got TO...tell him OFF once.
He was sooo Shocked
since in HIS Mind
he was much

"Some people believe their
OWN Press Releases".

Bomby BADass

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