Year: 2012 Director: Peter Jackson Cast: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage Run Time: 2 hours, 49 minutes MPAA Rating: PG-13
Sorry I haven’t been posting a lot recently, I’ve been super busy with finals and extremely important Netflix commitments. Not that you can complain, this is free and I don’t owe you nothing.
(The first thing they teach you in Blogging 101 is to alienate your audience within the first paragraph. Let’s see how this goes.)
However, now that I am on winter break, the boredom of no longer living in the city has led me to spend more time on two pursuits: namely, watching movies, and using the computer. Both of which are conducive to writing blog posts.
Now it’s time to tackle what is undoubtedly the pillar movie of this holiday season, The Hobbit. And don’t question me on that. I work at a movie theater and I’ve cleaned up enough BP-level popcorn spills in Hobbit theaters to prove that beyond all reasonable doubt.
Contrary to popular belief, that’s a broom in his hand.
For those of you unversed in cinematography, it is worth pointing out that Jackson (and select theaters near you) has made the choice to film the movie at a rate of 48 frames per second. The standard in modern cinema is 24 frames per second because, quite frankly, that’s pretty much all the eye can handle. The Hobbit holds the distinction for being the first movie to ever use this new and improved frame rate. It’s all part of Jackson’s innovative filmmaking experimentation (see: gimmickry).
The effect of exposing the eye to twice as many frames at a time creates a sort of hyperreality in which characters seem to be moving on fast forward while at the same time carrying on at a normal pace. It is about as disconcerting to watch as it is to write. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to get used to, and it is to tell the truth an incredible thing to watch.
In addition, the high frame rate has the effect of making the actors and sets seem much more immediate and real, in essence converting the film to have somewhat of the feel of a stage play, with the actors right there in the room with the audience. It is an absolutely intriguing technique but it out and out has no place in The Hobbit.
The Middle-earth of Jackson’s Lord of the Rings is all about spectacle, epic wonder, and the sheer scope of the land. However, the hyperrealism of the high frame rate allows a make-up spot here, a visible contact lens there, and some thoroughly unconvincing CGI everywhere to take the audience out of the fantasy.
Look at that. Just embarrassing, isn’t it?
On to the plot, insofar as it exists.
The film follows Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), a homebody hobbit from Bag End who is reluctantly dragged on an adventure across Middle-earth by the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) to help some dwarves reclaim their captured kingdom.
That’s it. They don’t even make it. That’s for the next movie to cover.
With so little real meat to work with, the grotesquely bloated run time seeks to compensate for lack of material with an overabundance of antagonists. Two of which, the Necromancer, and the dragon Smaug are only briefly touched upon due to their commitments to the sequels. Even with those threats to deal with, our intrepid gang still has quite a task on their hands. Among the ranks of their enemies include a Goblin King and his army, the Pale Orc and his minions, a horde of trolls, massive rock giants, and the inimitable Gollum.
With such a group to face, the plot follows a “meet-defeat-on to the next one” pattern that is more suited for a video game than an actual narrative.
So, yes, this film has its flaws. But what Jackson Lord of the Rings film doesn’t?
The Hobbit offers enough action-packed sequences and canned movie wisdom to keep the audience entertained and enough knowledge of the Middle-earth universe to appease the hardcore Tolkien fans.
It also features a cameo appearance by Lee Pace, one of my favorite people ever, as the elf king Thranduil. The sight of his unsurpassable eyebrows appeased me, as did his comically over-the-top elf wig.
Also worth mentioning is Bilbo Baggins’ encounter with Gollum, by far the most entertaining, suspenseful, and well-composed scene of the film and that which makes the entire price of the ticket worthwhile. Is it bad that I think Gollum’s adorable?
Look at those big ‘ol eyes.
Andy Serkis surpasses himself with a pitch perfect rendition of one of the most beloved scenes in the novel. The man can do no wrong. Please, even if you are asleep until his scene and leave right after, at least come see the film for him.
TL;DR The Hobbit is overlong, bloated, and features some unbelievably tacky CGI effects, but is redeemed by some strong actiony moments and Andy Serkis’s superb reprisal of the role of Gollum.
Should I spend money on this? Yes, if only for the novel experience of the 48 fps and having Gollum blow you away. Did I mention Gollum?