After a decade of waiting…yes, I’m one of those…I got to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey last night. I’ll try and refrain from spoilers, (and I think I succeeded) but I do want to record some of my impressions while they are fresh.
Let’s start with the controversial bit. I went into the theater so excited to experience the HFR 3D. From the reviews I’ve read the prevalent attitude is that you either love or hate the format. That wasn’t the case for me. There were moments, when I truly believed the hype that this will be the future of cinema. The sweeping panoramic shots were magnificent. Small details were so very clear. And my biggest issue with 3D was eliminated completely. At no point during the nearly three hour film did I have to rest my eyes because of eye strain.
However, I can now relate to the critics who said they never adjusted to the new format. The immersive experience that I so enjoy when going to the movie theater was missing because I was fully aware through the entire film that I was watching a film. This was especially apparent to me after having watched the LOTRs trilogy last weekend at the same theater. There were moments that the screen was too bright–which if I understand correctly is a byproduct of filming in 3D. And movements on screen, that would normally be tempered by the slower frame rate, were extra clear and in your face, which distracted me, keeping me firmly in the real world. This seemed to be particularly noticeable with Bilbo.
Even with my reservations, I’m not ready to write HFR 3D off. This being the first feature film ever made with the new format, it would be crazy to expect perfection. So, this time it didn’t quite do it for me, but I could see glimmers of how spectacular the experience can be. There are more details that need to be taken into consideration with the added frames and I feel certain that film makers who use the format will continue to work out the kinks.
When I read the criticism about pacing, I wanted to reserve judgement until I had seen the film for myself. Now, I can agree with some of the complaints. The inclusion of Frodo, while understandable just dragged on for me. I think it was only a few minutes, but all I could think was, “Come on, let’s get to the story!” Likewise, the introduction of the various dwarves could have been more condensed than it was. I suspect that the dwarf arrivals were drawn out to give us time to get to know each of the dwarves, however, it felt like an excuse to fill time. (Yeah, harsh I know.)
Once the company hit the road, the pacing issues disappeared. In fact, the film was so jam packed–Trolls, Elves, Goblins, Riddles in the Dark, Orcs and Eagles–I would have felt cheated if anything passed the Bag End scenes had been shortened.
I loved seeing Sir Ian McKellan back as Gandalf. It really would have been a travesty for anyone else to play the role. Martin Freeman was a perfect Bilbo. He manages to balance the dramatic and comedic to perfection, as well as the inner conflict between the comfort loving Baggins and the adventure seeking Took. Richard Armitage truly was magificent as Thorin, his ablility to convey anger, vengance, fear, pride, and even gratitude were unhampered by the prosthetics. Plus, it was nice to see him wielding a sword again…this time with the adept skill of a hardened warrior!
I had intentionally avoided spoilers that gave away the ending to the film, as I wanted to be surprised by where Peter Jackson and company chose to split the story. So I won’t spoil that for any of you who haven’t seen the film yet, But I have to say, it felt like an appropriate ending, and left me with a great sense of anticipation for the next film. Do we really have to wait another year?
On a side note for those who haven’t seen the film–if you are ever even slightly inclined to squee in public you must prepare yourselves. The below image is just a blip of a totally engrossing scene.