Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. 3D. HFR

SYNOPSIS: Once again we journey to Middle Earth, starting at the very beginning with Bilbo Baggins reluctantly joining a ragtag bunch of dwarves who are setting out to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor, conquered by the dragon Smaug many moons ago. Little does he know just where this epic adventure will lead to...

We're on a road to nowhere...

One of the things about a movie like this is, that it is pretty much 'critic proof' which kinda makes any further words I write almost redundant. I said almost! But, the kernel of truth is unavoidable, no matter what we write, people are still going to see it regardless. They either won't care - or completely avoid reading reviews of this most popular film. The audience for this film was guaranteed from more than likely, the very first Lord of the Rings movie back in 2001. Once a filmmaker creates a world that is entrancing enough, then, like most addicts, you long to drink from that well - again and again.

So what if The Hobbit is being called overlong by a few? Who cares! I for one, just love that detail. The fact that a slim book is going to be made into a 3 part movie/series/franchise? Bring it on! You have to be living under a rock in this information age if you have no idea about the intended running time beforehand. No-one has the proverbial to your head - demanding that you have to see it. Attendance is not compulsory, but gratefully accepted. If a talented filmmaker devotes years, money and imagination to recreating a make-believe world where you can lose yourself for a few hours, then why on earth would you begrudge his decision to luxuriate in that tantalising fantasy world? After all, its only a film. A pleasant diversion from the confining straitjacket of everyday life. What's not to like?

I know you're dying to ask this rather pertinent question... whats all this fuss about HFR? (High Frame Rate Since you asked)... here's my take on it. It is a technological breakthrough for the industry, but much like the over hyped 3D (Here to stay. Like it or not - it ain't disappearing anytime soon!), this fledgling new approach will take some time, money and films under its belt before it gains any degree of mass acceptance. Even then, that's not a given. after all, if it don't make too many dimes, then it will be a case of NEXT! Most films since, ooh, the beginning, have run at a leisurely 24 frames per second. All well and good for the longest time, but then as movies have become increasingly more complex, especially in the visual sense, the strain on our poor old tortured eyeballs have quite frankly made them scream ENOUGH! Upping the rate to 48 frames, director Peter Jackson was striving to create a more natural experience, unencumbered by the limitations of the past. Early tests encouraged both him and the studio footing the bills (Worried? Them? Never!) that he was heading down the right track with this innovation. Alas, many have complained about this new-fangled visual style, citing such comparisons as cheap home movies/video games/HDTV to name a few. So, having seen this film, what do I think about HDR? Converted is one word to describe it. It certainly is noticeably different enough to identify that it isn't your normal 3D movie. I can sorta see why some might feel the look is glossy, but ya know, in the context of a fantasy film about dwarves, goblins, hobbits, elves and dragons, it enriches the visual pleasures onscreen. On the plus side, my eyes didn't hurt either! Still an entertaining movie in 2D and 'normal' 3D (24 frames) by the way.

As per 'usual' Peter Jackson & his amazingly skilled workers have created another worthy addition to the Tolkienverse. The sets, costumes, props, scenery, characters are brilliantly realised, as only he could. It would have been very interesting had not conflicting schedules prevented Guillermo Del Toro from taking the reigns on this project, what unique worlds he might have conjured up? We can but fantasize about that dream opportunity forever lost I suppose. 

All the various actors are great in their respective roles but I have to single out two for special attention. Firstly, Andy Serkis is GOLLUM/SMEAGOL. Absolutely riveting. And then some. His scene with Bilbo in the cave was epic. One of the scenes of the year. Any year if I'm being honest with myself. Stunning. The CGI is evolving rapidly, the line between what looks real - and what looks fake almost becoming invisible to the naked eye. Come the end of this decade, it will be nigh on impossible to tell the difference from one to the other. The other special mention goes to Martin Freeman's perfect embodiment of Bilbo Baggins. Perfect casting Mr Jackson. It is, as always, super-critical to the success of a movie. My guess is other directors would have definitely looked hard at him as well, if they were in Jackson's shoes.

The Hobbit at this time of writing has already made $886M, just passing Fellowship on $871M. Could it gain entry to the now 'magical' club of $1B? Wouldn't bet against it at this point, but still, little ways to go precious. Longs journeys must you travel.

I leave with the most appropriate quote that I think sums up my feelings nicely. From that esteemed Tolkien scholar, Mr Robert Anthony Plant...

"Leaves are falling all around, It's time I was on my way.
Thanks to you, I'm much obliged for such a pleasant stay.
But now it's time for me to go. The autumn moon lights my way.
For now I smell the rain, and with it pain, and it's headed my way.
Sometimes I grow so tired, but I know I've got one thing I got to do...

Ramble On, And now's the time, the time is now, to sing my song".

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