Last night, I went to a Cinepolis deluxe theater for the first time to see The Hobbit. My wife and I had been meaning to see it for some time and I was really excited.
It was also my first time to a deluxe theater, and we were a little apprehensive about the cost. “Would it be worth the extra couple bucks?” I have to say, after sitting through a 2 and 1/2 hour movie, the answer is yes. What cinched it was the fact that my wife, who has arthritis, was actually able to sit through the whole movie without being in terrible pain. We’ll be seeing all our movies there from now on (Skyfall is next on our list…having kids means you see movies late, if at all).
As for The Hobbit, much has been said about its novel use of higher framerates to achieve a different look. To many people, 48 frames per second (movies are normally 24), made the film look like “video” or too “real life” and felt it detracted from some aesthetic qualities of film. I have to agree…at least at first to anyone not used to the effect.
You see, Imee and I have been watching all our movies and TV at home, on our 240hz Sony TVs. These TV’s interpolate motion to create higher framerates. And, like The Hobbit, it can be jarring at first. But we’ve been watching movies on our TV like this for a year now, and we’ve grown not just accustomed to it, but actually prefer it. Yes, there are some terrible panning artifacts and we initially felt everything looked like “cheap video”, but now when we try and go back to regular framerates, things now look incredibly soft and blurry to us.
I think it might be a case of not realizing something has improved and just focusing on what is different. Just like how you never notice how much sharper Blu-Ray is until you go back to your old DVDs. So, being accustomed to it, we didn’t notice anything strange when we saw The Hobbit in 48 frames per second. No cheap video feeling, no “fake” feeling…just awesomeness. And it was awesome. Sharp, crisp images, beautiful landscapes and fantastic, more life-like 3D. I think it will be hard for us, personally, to go back to 24 fps movies.
So how about the movie itself? Hmmm. I liked it, but did not love it. For one, I felt it was too long, and that taking a short novel like The Hobbit and stretching it into 3 movies was a mistake. The entire first hour I alternated between muttering “I can’t believe how boring this is” to “this is like a long, tedious version of Time Bandits.” I was not entertained in the first half of the movie, with its plodding pace and odd segways into material not found in the original novel.
The second half was very entertaining and epic, but I could not shake the feeling of “I’ve seen this all before” as scene after scene just reminded me of something similar in the Lord of The Rings movies (which I had just started watching again). What bothered me even more was how fantastical some of the action situations and escapes were. Some of the highest action moments reminded me of how Indiana Jones and The Crystal Skull broke my immersion with the whole “hide from a nuke in a fridge” stunt.
Some of the CG work didn’t feel consistent either. Gollum was incredible! But Gollum’s amazing level of CG and animation work just highlighted how poor I thought “the Pale Orc” badguy was rendered. His level of detail paled in comparison and his expressions were wooden and game-like compared to Gollum. At least his Warg was extremely well done.
Finally, I really hated all the sequences with Radagast the Brown, who does not make any appearance in the actual novel. For me, this was almost to The Hobbit what Jar Jar Binks was to Star Wars. Why they had to make such an important wizard such a bumbling, confused and laughable character is beyond me. One wonders if Peter Jackson, in taking so many liberties with The Hobbit, now feels he is the official writer and re-writer for all things Tolkien and can do as he pleases…even when the results never match the brilliance and themes of Tolkien’s incredible world.
In the end, It was a very well done film…that was in no means bad and in many ways great, but left me feeling a little sad and empty.