Rants tag

Rants, ruminations, and rambling reports from the front lines* of the Massively Multiplayer Multiverse.

Monday, December 31, 2012

An Unexpected Half-Assed Review: The Hobbit

So I went to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey this weekend and—unsurprisingly—loved it. I should think that if you enjoyed the Peter Jackson-helmed Lord of the Rings trilogy, you'll like The Hobbit. There has been some criticism of the length (and "padding") of the film, as well as the choice to film it at 48 frames per second (the current film standard being 24 fps). I didn't see the film in 3D, and the 2D format is not being presented at 48 fps, so I didn't experience the effects those people are complaining about, but more on that later.
I could go into detailed analysis about the parts of the movie or maybe how Jackson diverged from the original text, but that's really pointless. Suffice it to say that, while The Hobbit was a children's book written years before the LOTR trilogy, the film is neither strictly for children (rated PG-13, in fact) and it must tie in more closely to the LOTR films both in its atmosphere and in the lore it presents.

I wanted to get my review of Cloud Atlas the book to go with my review of Cloud Atlas the film before the end of the year, but I am not quite done with the book yet. Books are better in many ways, but I've learned that we often do book-based movies a disservice by comparing them so meticulously to their source material. We all imagine the stories of books in the theater of our mind, to which a film can never match up. Films are not books; they have different requirements for maintaining drama and inserting comic relief. It's a different medium with different rhythms and vocabulary. So it is with The Hobbit.
For those that feel the "extra stuff is just padding," I would say they haven't read the book (or at least not recently) nor do they understand how Jackson is trying to tie this trilogy in with the prior one. This is not simply an action movie, it is more like a historical drama (though more lighthearted in some respects.) This isn't Die Hard in Middle-earth. It's not simply about the action. I found the songs sung by the Dwarves, for instance, to be both powerful  dramatically and a glimpse into their "culture."

Martin Freeman is perfect as the in-slightly-over-his-head Bilbo Baggins, and Ian McKellan is always great as Gandalf. With such a huge ensemble, many of the Dwarves faded into the background a bit. But there were some stand-out performances from Ken Stott as the world weary adviser, Balin, James Nesbitt as the cheerfully morbid and suddenly wise Bofur, and of course Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield, a worthy successor to Viggo Mortensen's epic hero Aragorn.
The score helps tie the movie to the other trilogy as well, and hit just the right emotional notes, I think. Howard Shore has done another amazing job. WETA's special effects are seamless, at least at 24 fps, with highlights being the CGI Goblin King and ever more realistic Gollum. I would comment further, but I don't want to have even minor spoiler in this review.

24 FPS vs. HFR

This article discusses the issues with the higher frame rate (HFR). I find it particularly interesting, because we got a new LCD HD TV, and the first thing I noticed was the seemingly harsh lighting of every live action production we watch on it, a result of the 60 fps standard of high definition. Tim J. Smith, of Birkbeck University in London, was quoted in the article: "That's why people are calling it the soap opera effect or bad TV movie effect. Because that's what it looks like, what it reminds us of." That's exactly how I feel about HDTV, I equate that look with the low production values of soap operas and older BBC productions. My conclusion is that it's just something I'll have to get used to. We'll probably all get used to HFR in a way that many will never get used to pre-hologram 3D.

This 124th post of 2012 marks another minor milestone: double the number of IHTtS blog posts from 2011, slightly more than a post every three days on average. I also reached 10,000 hits in a 30-day window as of last Friday afternoon (28 Dec), though that number is lower now.

11 comments:

  1. My wife and I liked the film. We're rereading the book, and I'm sure we'll find things we'd have done differently, but it's a fun ride of a show, even if it felt a bit overlong. I did like the infusion of the "extra" elements from the larger Middle Earth library, though, since it does lend nicely to the scope of the mythology. Oh, and as a smaller thing, I was amused to see the credit to Benedict Cumberbatch for the necromancer part. Sherlock and Watson, inseparable... sorta.

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    1. It's my understanding that Cumberbatch is also the voice of Smaug, though we didn't hear him in this chapter of the trilogy. Between that and his role as the villain in Star Trek Into Darkness, Sherlock is becoming quite the bad guy.

      RE "Overlong": I had to excuse myself perhaps slightly past midway through the film. That didn't happen to me during the even-longer Cloud Atlas.

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    2. Cumberbatch and Freeman.. awesome actors. I totally love how Freeman does Bilbo, he's a genious. :)

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  2. Saw it the day it was released about 2 weeks ago and greatly loved it. I enjoy the story and the music that put you right there into the film. Yeah i really agree as well when the Dwarfs were singing their song, you could feel it and the weight of their struggle come right through the screen and felt it. It's the little things that helps me to love and appreciate a movie and throughly enjoyed it. Unfortunately have to wait for the next movie chapter to be released.

    Great movie.

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    1. Agreed. I forgot to mention the music, which does really tie it in well with the other trilogy, and carried me along through the movie.

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  3. I *loved* The Hobbit as well! Saw it in 3D, but thought it looked goo there as well. Didn't have any problems with effects. The only complaint I heard people have was that it went too 'slow'. I disagree with that myself, I just think that overload of fast action movies makes movies look all the same. Imagine The Hobbit but at the pace of the newest Star Trek movie... no thanks.

    I also like how there are girls in the "Thorin" and the "Fili" camp, fighting over which of the two is the best hunk. Great source of amusement. I myself am of course in the Thorin camp! ;)

    I was so positively surprised with The Hobbit, and I was so disappointed when it was over. Can't wait until the end of 2013!

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    1. If I had to choose, I guess I'd say Thorin, as well. :) I didn't mind the pacing at all. While I did love Star Trek 2009, That pace wouldn't have worked here.

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  4. I was under the impression Andy Serkis was voicing Smaug...looks like I was fed some misinformation.

    With respect to tying this film in with the LOTR trilogy, it's not just Jackson's doing. Having recently re-read "The Fellowship of the Ring", Tolkein goes to great lengths describing the events that transpire in the Hobbit, many of said descriptions were omitted from the Jackson-helmed film version. Admittedly, the tie-ins aren't as clear when reading The Hobbit if one hasn't already read (or seen) the LOTR story, so Jackson had to punch-up the Hobbit screenplay to that end. I struggle to think if he could have done something differently to make the connections as clear (or clearer). The addition of Radagast to this telling worked wonders, and was (IMO) the biggest departure from the book.

    I'm looking forward to the next installment, to be sure!

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    1. Radagast was quite a change, but I think the inclusion of the Orcs, the albino one in particular, was a bigger change. Unless that was part of some appendix somewhere. If someone is only a fan of the movies, without having read the books, the movies blend together really well, IMHO.

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    2. Azog was mentioned in The Hobbit, but he was supposed to have died earlier, by the hand of Dáin. He was obviously kept alive in the movie to have some sort of villain at hand. I don't really mind it too much, although I thought "huh?" when I saw it. At least it feels natural with the story on the screen, which cannot be said of a group of armed Elves that marched into a certain stronghold in a certain other P. Jackson movie... ;)

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    3. Heh, I should re-read The Hobbit, myself. No comment on the Elves at Helm's Deep.

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