The best part of The Hobbit—the battle of wills between Bilbo and Gollum—remains intact in this telling, and although it doesn’t arrive until the film’s final hour, it’s enough to inspire hope for the upcoming two films. Bilbo encounters Gollum, a pathetic creature preoccupied with a golden ring he calls "Precious," following a fit of self-doubt that causes him to separate himself from the larger group. The payoff is compelling. The Ring, as anyone who has seen or read The Lord of the Rings knows, has great power, and will end up with Bilbo—but not until a captivating dialogue between the two characters settles the issue of the ring's owner.

Filmed at 48 frames per second—twice the standard frames-per-second rate—The Hobbit has a hyper-real quality that works against expectations in a bad way. Rather than looking like something we’ve never seen before and giving the proceedings a greater sense of cinematic wonder, the higher frame rate accentuates a sense of artificiality about the film’s imagery. It’s closer to the look of a British TV production or even a soap opera at times, yet we’re supposed to embrace this new look as a great advance, a thing to be desired for all future films. If 48 frames per second has potential to redefine the viewing experience, The Hobbit doesn't point to obvious gains. It's simply another element that raises basic questions about the filmmakers' approach to the material.

The missteps of this first film do not bode well for the upcoming two segments of The Hobbit, but if Jackson and his cohorts can find a way to tone down the violence and kindle a gentler spirit in the subsequent chapters, they may yet salvage their adaptation. This movie is likely to leave Tolkien fans hesitant and uncertain about the upcoming films, while those new to The Hobbit will wonder why the story is so beloved. That's a long way from audience reaction to The Fellowship of the Ring, which left viewers eagerly anticipating what was to come.

CAUTIONS:

  • Language/Profanity: "bal-s;" Dwarf scum;" "elvish filth"
  • Alcohol/Smoking/Drugs: Pipe smoking; drinking
  • Sex/Nudity: None
  • Violence/Crime: A fire-breathing dragon; a head-butt greeting; an orc holds a human head, throws it; trolls steal horses and try to roast dwarves and hobbits over an open fire; trolls are killed; battles with orcs; an orc is thrown to his death, and others fall to their deaths; Gollum menaces Bilbo; a goblin cleaver; an explosion; Gandalf slays a goblin; kick to Gollum’s head
  • Religion: Fate cited as the reason for Bilbo’s journey; a character is said to have never forgiven, or forgotten, a wrong; a character says, "Fate is with you;" a belief that only great power can hold evil in check is contrasted with another view about how acts of love and everyday things can overcome darkness

Questions? Comments? Contact the writer at crosswalkchristian@hotmail.com.

Publication date: December 13, 2012

Editor's Note: For a different perspective on The Hobbit, watch the video below, in which we name the film Crosswalk.com's Movie of the Year for 2012:

CrosswalkMovies.com: Top 10 Movies of 2012 from crosswalkmovies on GodTube.