The Hobbit

I went to see The Hobbit the afternoon of Erev Christmas, expecting it to be crowded as the theatre had warned me to buy tickets well in advance…but it turned out to be 90% empty. Maybe it had something to do with the combinatorial explosion of choice of versions: 2D or 3D? IMAX or regular? High frame rate or regular frame rate? By my count that makes eight possible versions, although I don’t think all combinations were actually available.

At any rate, we chose 3D, high frame rate, non-IMAX. It was a great choice.

There have been a lot of negative opinions about this movie, but I don’t really understand any of them. Yes, it only gets a third of the way through the book — but it’s the first part of a trilogy of movies, after all. Yes, the 48-frames-per-second increases the realism — but I fail to see why that’s bad. Yes, some characters and scenes were introduced from other Tolkien writings, not just from The Hobbit — but that just makes for a richer experience. As my friend Mark Bernstein put it:

Despite all the criticism, this film does exactly what it sets out to do. It’s a re-imagination of The Hobbit as if it had been written by the author of The Lord of The Rings.

You may need to read that second sentence twice.

And maybe that’s the problem. The movie was designed as a prequel to The Lord of The Rings, which Peter Jackson probably assumes that we’ve already seen, even though it takes place many years late. But of course Tolkien didn’t write The Hobbit as a prequel; he wrote it much earlier, and he wrote it for children, whereas the mature Tolkien wrote The Lord of The Rings for adults.

Some miscellaneous comments: A few scenes did go on too long, but they made effective use of modern cinematographic technology. There were plenty of exciting scenes that were quite different from the book, but they worked. Also, I loved the expansion of Radagast from his minuscule role in the book version of The Hobbit, and he was consistent with Tolkien’s other writings. The role of Bilbo was particularly well acted. Scenery and sets were of course spectacular.

The real question that remains is the high frame rate. I am frankly mystified about critics’ objections to it. What do people mean by “too realistic”? I do have one hypothesis (which I suppose I could test by going to see a 2D HFR version): maybe the greater realism of 3D consumed the greater realism of the high frame rate, so we’ve changed two variables at once and can’t separate out the effects of one from the effects of the other. Maybe.



Categories: Movies & (occasionally) TV