Movies

IMAX 3D MOVIE REVIEW: Home Is Where the Hobbit Is

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If you had your 3D glasses on, you see that I’m clearly holding something… what, I’m not quite sure myself.

 

BREAKING NEWS: I was not among the rabid Tolkien tribe that wet my pants upon hearing about the Hobbit’s eventual transition to the world of moving pictures.

 

I probably just committed nerd suicide with that revelation, but I believe in full disclose with the Geek Outlaw community, so I’m prepared for the eventual fallout.  To further ruin my street cred, I also wasn’t among those geeked up for the original Lord of the Rings trilogy when those films were first announced.

 

Galdriel
I could be mistaken, but I think this was the only female in the whole movie with about 45 seconds of screen time. Men, you’ve been warned…

 

Granted, I had a semi-reasonable excuse; I never read any of the books prior to the releases… nor have I read any of them yet.  That, of course, I will take full responsibility for.

 

Don’t get your wizard robes in a bunch though, as I did enjoy the ‘precious’ trilogy, and in my limited film-only based opinion, The Return of the King was the best of the bunch.  The Academy also thought so, but the last time I cared about who won an Oscar, Bob Hope was still hosting the show (which is a feat in itself considering that creates some sort of implausible time paradox.)

 

gandalf-elrond-hobbit
“Hey, weren’t you in the Matrix?””No, but weren’t you in X-Men?”

 

Nevertheless, even with my lack of literacy with Tolkien’s written word, I was still very much interested in seeing The Hobbit and learning about the events that took place prior to Frodo’s epic 15-hour Blu-ray journey.  I may not have read the books, but I was still smart enough – albeit barely – to have learned that The Hobbit revolves around the adventures of Bilbo Baggins pre-LOTR. (See, I can even use the acronym lingo.)

 

Funny Hobbit Prequel
Apparently if you enjoy life, don’t call The Hobbit a prequel in front of a Middle Earth loyalist.

 

Thus over my holiday break, I dragged my cousin Garrett – who happened to be visiting –  to see The Hobbit on the very big screen with the very nerd inspired 3D glasses.  Of note, my cousin loved the movie so much, he was willing to see it with me again in spite of the fact he went to go see The Hobbit in 2D the day before as well without inviting me… bygones.

 

Alas, the promise of putting him in the blog helped sway him into thinking of seeing an encore viewing with me.  When I told him I would treat for his ticket as well, we were at the next showing faster than you could say ‘my precious’.

 

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My cousin Garrett striking a more interesting, if not better pose than the Outlaw himself.

 

SPOILER ALERT:  While I don’t reveal any significant pieces of confidential information regarding this go around on Middle Earth, there may be a few minor details that are shared in my overview.  Alas, you have been warned and I’m no longer libel for you proceeding with this review.

 

 

 

THE STORY:

As I begrudgingly admitted above, I haven’t actually read The Hobbit, so the only in-depth story information I can share on the plot is whatever I could understand from the movie.  For fear of butchering the synopsis thoroughly for the die-hards, I’m going to keep the following summary overly simplistic.  On the other hand, for those like myself that are also unfamiliar with the detailed happenings of the novel, I’m going to keep the following summary overly simplistic.

 

13 Dwarves
13 might be more than 7, but also vastly less lucky.

 

Now that I’ve cleared that up, I can tell you that the root of The Hobbit revolves around a group of 13 (no, not 7) dwarves that have come together in hopes of winning back their Dwarf Kingdom from a deadly fire-breathing dragon that loves to bath himself in gold coins in a way that would make Scrooge McDuck blush.

 

Dragon Gold
Next on Oprah: What kind of birthday present do you buy for a dragon that can already afford to buy himself anything?

 

Rounded up by Gandalf (Ian McKellen) – the great and powerful wizard with a beard rivaling the length of Jay Leno’s driveway – the group’s first order of business becomes convincing the young stay-at-home-hobbit, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), to join the hairy short pack as their sly quick-footed thief.

 

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Toothbrush… check. Sweater… check. Pillow… check. Will and testament… ummm, quick question on #4…

 

In my own mind (so take it for what it’s worth) Ian McKellen steals the show as the extremely powerful wizard Gandalf, who displays quite the youthful goofball sense of humor for someone going on a couple thousand years old.  His portrayal of the wise, but mighty wizard comes across in a similar fashion to Richard Harris‘ portrayal of Dumbledore in the first two Harry Potter movies before passing on.

 

Gandalf 2
I would have taken Ian as the new Dumbledore any day of the wizard week.

 

After an unplanned surprise party organized by Gandalf at the hobbit’s home, Bilbo Baggins buckles to the peer pressure and decides his life could use a bit of adventure.  From that point on, the vacationing clan encounter one death defying obstacle after another, which includes but is not limited to: orcs, goblins, trolls, and any other god-awful ugly creature this side of a Hollywood plastic surgeon’s office.

 

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY
“Trolls, why’d it have to be trolls?!”

 

 

THE 3D, IMAX & EFFECTS

As mentioned above, one of the primary draws of the new Hobbit film for many – including myself – was for the purported use of the latest and greatest film technology called High Frame Rate (HFR) 3D.  Created by James Cameron for use on future sequels about blue aliens that mate with their ponytails, the new cameras up the frame rate to 48 frames per second from the standard 24 frames per second almost every film these days is currently shot at.

 

HobbitHFR3D
What if I want to read the ‘Book Later’ and then see it in 3D?

 

Supposedly, 48 frames per second is closer to what the human eye actually sees in ‘real life’.  However, if you personally think you can count the difference in frames you see per second between 24 and 48, then I have some rare used toilet water to sell you as well.

 

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One of these is not like the other… go ahead, I’ll give ya a few minutes…

 

Unfortunately, since none of my friendly neighborhood theaters have yet to implement the corresponding HFR projectors required to play the new format, I had to settle for the IMAX 3D version.  Darn.

 

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You know the times are a changin’ when one has to “settle” for IMAX 3D.

 

Having taken in more 3D movies over the past year or two, I can attest to the fact that the 3D element has matured quite a bit since its initial presentations.  With some minor exceptions, it’s no longer used for the hokey purpose of creating the visual of random things flying out at you from the screen (i.e. Katie Perry’s already three-dimensional assets).

 

Instead, many filmmakers have learned to use the third dimension to give a film multiple layers of perspective and depth.  Pretty deep stuff (pun intended).

 

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Next up for Ian… “Wizards of Anarchy”.

 

Despite not seeing The Hobbit in all 48 frames of HFR glory, the standard 3D version was still very well done with a few caveats.  My overall baseline for what I consider well implemented 3D consists of an experience where you notice the effect, but only to a point where it eventually blends seamlessly into the environment in such a way that it doesn’t take away from the rest of what’s happening on screen.

 

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Forget about the looks, you better be sure your neck can bench press three times your body weight before strapping these on for three-plus hours.

 

Word from the blogosphere pegged the HFR 3D version of The Hobbit as a mixed bag.  While many loved the perceived sense of realism and smoother motion, there were many whom disliked the somewhat unrealistic soap opera effect the extra frames created… even to the point of hurling their $25 worth of small popcorn servings back into the bag.

 

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This either shows a consensus of what Hobbit fans thought about the new HFR 3D, or their initial thoughts on seeing Gollum do a show tune in part 2.

 

While I obviously can’t comment on the cutting-edge version of the film, I will take an edumacated guess that I know where some of the negative feedback may be coming from.  During a few of the faster moving scenes, it felt as if the camera was on the rails of a roller coaster  Unfortunately, those segments looked more like a video game sequence from an Xbox than a scene from a big budget Peter Jackson epic.

 

hobbit_jackson_ camera
That HFR 3D camera is worth about 100 times more than what you make each year, and about a million times more than Peter Jackson’s wardrobe.

 

Outside of those scenes though, The Hobbit was a visually stunning picture.  As with the Rings trilogy, the incredibly beautiful landscapes of New Zealand never get old and most of the effects – computer and man-made – are top notch.

 

Gandalf in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
So gorgeous it looks fake (and no I’m not talking about Gandalf’s staff.)

 

As with Jackson’s other Tolkien adaptions, I enjoyed The Hobbit, maybe even more so in the sense that it had a much lighter more comedic tone to it than most of the Ring flicks.  Another highlight for me was the internal dilemma Bilbo was fighting through.  His personal struggle between the choice of continuing to enjoy the comforts of home versus an incredible, life-changing – and potentially life-threatening – journey, was something that hit home for me as I’m sure it does for many others.

 

Hobbit Funny shoes
I love this kind of humor because it reminds me of the jokes my dad tells… over, and over, and over, and over, and…

 

On that same note, as much as I enjoyed the flick it’s not a film I see myself watching again, let alone multiple times.  At three hours, The Hobbit did have me squirming a bit checking the time to see if my bladder could hold out for another 90 minutes.  Mind you this wasn’t even the extended cut.

 

Golum
So what your saying is, one train leaves Chicago at 3pm EST going 90 MPH, while another train leaves Los Angeles going…

 

Would I view it again if given the chance to see it in HFR 3D?  Tempting, but probably not.  I think I can hold out for part two of The Hobbit when my local theater installs the new HFS projectors… along with toilets built directly into the seats.

 

4 Spurs

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