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.
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.)
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.)
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.