December 21, 2012

While we did no Trilogy Tuesday this time ‘round, last week Jose and I hit up the theatre to see the Hobbit.  Anticipation was high, what with the fact that if we were willing to sit for Trilogy Tuesday we must have thought the LotR movies were pretty good.  So, would Jackson rule them all?

So, yeah, hmm.  As a Tolkien and D&D and fantasy fan, I’m happy to see the Hobbit on the big screen.  Cinematically, however, I found the movie awful.  Sigh.  I fear Jackson may have Lucased himself here.  What happened?  Well, here’s my rundown:

The movie seemed to be comprised of three things only:  melodramatic looks, horribly expositionary text (the next time someone shouted “that was our only way out!” I was going to scream) and over-the-top CG action sequences.  To say they didn’t meld well together would be an accurate statement.

The super overdone and super obvious CG sequences were a serious disappointment.  Actually, to start, this film I think relied on WAY more CG than the LotR films, rather surprising given Jackson’s insistence on using miniatures, bigatures and building impressive, full-scale sets (like Edoras!).  Vigo Morgenstern once commented that stepping out of Edoras you couldn’t help but ACT and BE in Edoras, as you were in frikken Edoras!  Not so on the green screen here, and the acting suffered as part of it, I think.

And then these CG sequences with crazy spinning cameras and too much suspension of disbelief required as physics and character durability take a back seat.  I mean, I love dwarves (played many of them in WoW and D&D) and I know they’re tough, but some of the things they endure just makes the mind go “er, no.”  This is where sequelitis really set in, I think, unfortunately – the strange need to make a next film BIGGER, BADDER, MORE MORE MORE! To the point where it doesn’t work, especially after the twelfth one.

As with previous films, there are some things that were altered or added that I liked – such as Bilbo being the one to stall for time with the trolls until daybreak – and others that I didn’t like as much (the extra thick loathing Thorin has for the elves).  And then there was the by now very well known additions to make this one short book into a trilogy, stuff supposedly mostly gleaned from the appendices of the LotR books.  A lot of it is inserted very ham handedly, very obviously a breakaway filler and when the two cross paths (quite literally) it feels very forced.

Not to mention the pacing issues.  I love it when films take time to let things build up, to wend their way somewhere, with a nice, deliberate pace.  Mmm.  The keywords there, however, are somewhere and deliberate.  Stretching things out without a discernible buildup to something is just dead space.  During the last action scene atop the trees both Jose and I began to squirm as if to say “just get on with it!”  So long and so much tried to be put in there to make it, I dunno, tension epic somethingorotherforcedclimax that it lost everything and just became lame.  (Plus the number of times they just recycled scenes from the first trilogy:  no really guys, we get it, this is part of the same story, you don’t need to keep telling us, and please get new ideas.)

Now, my biggest niggle is something very interesting that I wonder if it is a real niggle or if it was because we saw this in the new 48fps format.  I found the film to be very disjointed, with no flow whatsoever.  I really noticed it during the dwarves visit to Bilbo’s home culminating in the trailerific “I cannot guarantee his safety” and “You do promise me I will come back, right?”  I had just re-read that part of the book, and somehow the film didn’t capture any narrative flow for me leading to that point.  HOWEVER, big caveat here, is that my mind took a long time to adjust to the 48p super sharp image film.  I don’t know why, and I even went in knowing that it would likely take a while (it’s amazing how much our accustomedness to the regular film type and frame rate influences how we view, well, films).  So my mind may have kept being disrupted by the imagery (and the odd lack of sound or music in places) and so that disjointedness made the film seem disjointed.  So really I’m going to de-niggle this here and simply state that it would have been better to see it in 24p FIRST to enjoy it, and then see it in 48p to enjoy the technical mastery of it (and, given the other flaws in the film it really would likely have been only for the technical mastery of it).

And the new film format is quite something, the clarity and the depth of field and the 3D purity is really quite amazing.  If they upped a bit more motion blur, wow.   Perhaps getting used to the format over time will let this really shine for future movies.  (or maybe go with 36fps middle ground?)

The best part of the film?  The short scenes with Gollum.  Serkis has it down pat by now, and it came a good way close to matching the book for the uncertainty and anxiety for the scene.

All in all, it was a disappointment from what we knew was possible, given the LotR movies.  Poor, Poor, Poor.  I don’t know what Jackson will (or can) do to pull things more on track in the second and third films… but I hope he does.  (And it is funny to compare LotR/Hobbit to Star Wars/Prequels cinematically in terms of so many ways – dialogue, monsters, CG, action sequences, acting, missing the boat, repeats, etc)  I saw the film and was happy to see the film because, hey, it’s the Hobbit!  I’m not rushing or even moseying out to see it again.


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