So let’s jump right in: Is Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” a gaseous and self-indulgent disaster, a “Phantom Menace”-scale overinflated blimp of a movie that casts retroactive shadows across Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy? Counsel is leading the witness, as they used to say on “Law & Order,” but those were among the thoughts I had after leaving a screening of the first installment of Jackson’s prequel trilogy, especially as seen in the eerie and distracting 48 frames per second 3-D format. (The best single description of which came in a tweet from Salon contributor Bob Calhoun: It “looks like Jehovah’s Witness art.”)
1. This is very bad news. I’ve been really looking forward to this film, and am reading “The Hobbit” to my two younger children now, to prepare them for it. Now I don’t know that I want to ruin it for them with this crap (plus, it sounds too violent).
2. This is Schadenfreudishly good news. Peter Jackson’s decision to pad out Tolkien’s slim children’s book into three features was grotesquely cynical. Re-reading “The Hobbit” now with the movie in mind has made me wonder how in the world they were going to get three movies out of a narrative so slight. Now we know: great gobs of empty calories. After the unqualified triumph of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, Jackson appears to have delivered his own hubristic comeuppance. Of course, he’ll get even more fantastically rich from this, but if O’Hehir’s take is true, Jackson will go down as the guy who Jar-Jar Binks’d the Tolkien film franchise. There’s no living that down.