The highly anticipated "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" opened around the globe this weekend to record breaking ticket sales and lukewarm reviews.
The Peter Jackson-directed Lord of the Rings prequel raked in $84.8 million in the U.S. and beat out all previous December film releases including the previous record holder "I Am Legend," Will Smith's 2007 end-of-world thriller. ("I Am Legend" still holds the No. 1 December opening record when adjusting for inflation).
Fans came out in full force this weekend but critics were less enthralled by the production. On Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregating website, the film has a 65% critic rating and an 81% audience rating.
According to The New York Times film critic A.O. Scott, "The Hobbit rises to weary, belated mediocrity." Scott Meslow of The Week outlined five ways in which "The Hobbit" was a failure and declared that Peter Jackson had succumbed to "George Lucas disease."
The three-hour film cost a reported $400 million to make and market and is the first of a trilogy based on J.R.R. Tolkien's 1937 eponymous novel.
Thom Geier, senior editor for Entertainment Weekly, sat down with The Daily Ticker to explain the divergence between the movie's exorbitant box office numbers and unremarkable reviews.
"J.R.R. Tolkien has had this huge following among fans of fantasy and fiction for such a long time," says Geier. "'The Lord of the Rings' were gigantic business, you had to expect that this prequel which is probably even more beloved than 'The Rings' trilogy would draw an audience."
Geier says Tolkien fans are not pleased with Jackson's decision to stretch the 350-page book over three films and describes the first movie as "a little bloated."
Another issue critics raise about the film is its frame rate. The film is shot at 48 frames-per-second while the typical film is shot 28 frames-per-second; this makes the film look "hyper-realistic" according to Geier. The film can also appear slightly distorted and flat to viewers in theaters that are not equipped to play the high-tech film.
"Overall, I think this film will do perfectly fine," Geier says. "MGM and Warner Brothers are going to make their money back but I don't think it's going to be the huge cultural phenomenon we saw with 'The Lord of the Rings'."
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