Saturday, December 22, 2012
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (High Frame Rate 3D)
I probably graded that score of "awesome" on a bit of a curve if only because the reviews of this film have been so overwhelmingly harsh and negative that I wanted to counter them if I could, and also because they had me going in with such low expectations. I probably put off seeing this movie during its first week in the theaters because the reviews were so abysmal, but I decided to check it out anyway because everybody I know who actually saw it loved it and raved about it.
And now I saw it and I loved it, so I guess I'll rave about it. It's awesome. If you liked the Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy adaptations, go see this because you'll love it. And if you didn't like those films, go see this anyway because it's way better. For real. In my opinion, this is the best Tolkien film of all time, possessing the visual splendor and action of the earlier films, but without gutting the story, changing the characters, or just plain getting the story wrong. This is a better adaptation and just a better film.
But, yeah, it's also really long... and I'd even go so far as to say it's probably too long, since I was more than ready for it to be over maybe twenty minutes before the credits began to role. I wasn't bored by the film or unengaged by the story, I just had to pee and I was hungry. This is one of those movies that's so long you literally have plan your entire day around it, so you end up either having lunch really early or dinner really late, and lord knows you can't bring a soda in or you'll either have to pee your pants or miss part of the movie when you get up to use the bathroom. Let's hope Peter Jackson never films an adaptation of War and Peace or I'll have to have a catheter installed.
And, frankly, I was also getting antsy for the film to end because I knew it was just the first part of a trilogy, all based on one book. I've heard a lot of criticism about this decision because people feel it's just a greedy attempt to make more money by the studios, but I don't think that's why the film was split into a trilogy.
Honestly, I think the film was split up because Peter Jackson is out of his god damned mind, man.
I believe that Peter Jackson would split every film up into a trilogy if he had his druthers, and he seems incapable of making a film that isn't a bloated, three hour epic. I mean, this is the guy who's remake of King Kong spent more time just getting to the island than the original film ran from start to finish, and I'm not making that up! And I've never really understood why Jackson remade King Kong anyway. He said it was his all time favorite movie so his dream ever since he was a child was to make his own version, which is also proof that he's insane. Don't most people consider their favorite films to be sacred and scoff at the idea of anybody remaking them? But in Peter Jackson's world, when you love something, you need to remake it, only change everything for the worse, either because you think the original got it all wrong or because you simply didn't understand what it was all about at all.
Anyway, that's what he did with King Kong and that's what he did with the Lord of the Rings films, giving us a story that only kind of resembled what Tolkien originally envisioned and characters who are generally the same as his only in name only, with dialogue randomly reassigned, motivations changed, and entire concepts so radically different it could only be assigned to a total misreading of the original text.
But luckily very little of that happens here, and aside from too much action and violence -- which I don't mind, to be sure -- this felt very much like a faithful adaptation of the works of Tolkien. If anything, this film maybe suffers not because so much is changed or left out, but that too much is forced in, with just about everything from the novel taking place, as well as stuff from the appendices of the Lord of the Rings and other stuff from The Silmarillion.
Why did this film open with Bilbo talking to Frodo? Other than to bring back Ian Holm and Elijah Wood, I can't think of a single reason why this was needed. Same goes with the appearances of Saruman and Galadriel. It was nice to see Christopher Lee and Cate Blanchett -- especially Cate Blanchett who seems to just get more gorgeous as she gets older -- but their scene was completely pointless and overlong. And why was Radagast in this movie? And why was the interpretation of his character so strange? Again, he served no purpose and should've been left out, but at least he was a lot of fun so I didn't mind.
The cast of characters that actually appear in the book was big enough, I'm not sure why they had to add in all those people who didn't appear, but I guess I shouldn't complain because they were all so good. When I find myself complaining about an unnecessary appearance by Christopher Lee, I need to just realize how cool it is to see Christopher Lee in anything so I'll just shut up and enjoy it. Honestly, Christopher Lee should show up as Saruman in every movie. Why not?
Martin Freeman was perfectly cast as the young Bilbo Baggins, and I think he actually did a better job in the role than Ian Holm in the original trilogy. But then again, it's not really a fair comparison because Freeman was given so much more to do, being the star of the film instead of just a bit character who gets the plot going and then disappears. Anyway, Freeman has always been good in everything I've ever seen him in, and he has the brilliant ability to be funny and dramatic from scene to scene, and even from second to second. Hopefully this is the film that will finally make Freeman into a movie star, at least over here in America.
Ian McKellen returns as Gandalf the Grey, and he's as good and dependable as you'd expect. This isn't really a role that requires much in the way of acting other than appearing imposing at times and reading the occasional line with a certain amount of gravitas, but as film actors go, there's nobody more noble and regal than Ian McKellen.
Richard Armitage plays Thorin Oakenshield, the leader of this band of Dwarves, and he's amazing. I don't know who this actor is and for his first few scenes I thought he was Gerard Butler. This may be the best character from any Tolkien film adaptation, and I thought he knocked his performance out of the park, putting Viggo Mortenson to shame as another would be king leading a fellowship on a quest to restore honor to his people.
Then there were, like, a thousand other characters, a few hundred of them being Dwarves that were hard to tell apart, but the filmmakers really tried to give them different beard styles and each got at least once nice little moment here and there. I never really understood why they all looked so different from one another. Most of them looked like good luck troll dolls while one of them looked just like a young Rick Springfield, but whatever. I liked them all and can't remember if there was a single bad performance in the entire movie.
About the plot I guess I haven't said to much because, to be honest, nothing really happened, despite the film's three hour running time. Here's the plot in brief: A century or so ago a dragon named Smaug took over the Dwarven kingdom of Erebor, stealing their gold and forcing them out of their homeland. A young Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf join Thorin and a band of Dwarves as they attempt to finally drive off the dragon and reclaim their home.
But all that really happens in this movie is that they convince Bilbo to join them and go for a walk, where they keep getting into battles every fifteen minutes or so until the film just kind of ends randomly with them only slightly closer to the end of their quest than they were before they started. I guess this is one of the big complaints I've heard about the film, and it's certainly a major one. It's sort of like if somebody adapted A Christmas Carol and split it into a trilogy, with each film being about a different spirit, but even then the first hour of the first film would be devoted to a young Scrooge getting his MBA and then starting his own business. That would be awful.
Well... The Hobbit, somehow, isn't awful. In fact, it's awesome... but... yeah, not much happens in the way of story or plot. However, the film was so well done and so much fun that I never really minded and I'm already committed to seeing the next couple films when they come out. Honestly, a meandering film about a group taking a walk through Middle Earth is still more fun than almost any other movie with a deep script or intricate plot.
And before I go I guess I should talk about the version I saw, which was in 3D and shown in 48 frames per second. As if we needed another option when choosing how to see a film, we now have to choose between seeing it normally, in 3D, in Imax 3D, and now in 3D with a high frame rate. Enough already!
Anyway, I guess Peter Jackson decided to film this trilogy in 48 frames per second, which is double the 24 frames per second that has been used for every other film ever made. I respect Jackson for taking a chance and attempting to enhance the film-going experience with this new technology. But on the other hand, it totally sucks. It's just... weird, and so off-putting -- even after you get used to it -- that led me to wonder if anybody actually watched any test footage before giving 48 fps the go ahead.
When the characters aren't moving, or just when they are moving very slowly, the added frame rate is astounding and gives the film a clarity and detail that is, quite frankly, more beautiful and crisp than anything I have ever seen in the cinema, but then the characters start to move and it seems like one of those bits on Benny Hill where everybody is in fast motion. Even little movements feel jerky and out of whack with how people actually move, not just on film but in real life. Also, the added clarity actually makes everything look more fact and surreal, since the backgrounds look like backgrounds and the characters pop way more than they should. Everything sort of looks like a videogame cut scene.
So I say see this film in 24 frames, but then sneak into a showing afterward to check out a few seconds of the 48 frames just so you can see how awful an experience it really is. I'm glad I saw it so I can safely never see another film like this ever again.
And that's that.