The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – Review
January 2, 2013 1 Comment
Film Review by FilmFellaJames - 3d 48fps – 1/10 / 2d version – 9/10.
I set off to watch Peter Jacksons’ long awaited Hobbit movie with all of the giddy school boy enthusiasm one could expect if you knew that the school boy in question was a massive fan of Tolkien and the previous three Jackson Lord of the Rings movies. My head was awash with delight as I sat down and placed my 3d specs on ready for a revisit to Middle Earth. The Hobbit was one of my favourite books as a child and knowing that they were going to make three movies about it filled my heart with joy… but, then something altogether unexpected happened. The version that I chose to watch was in 3d. It was 48 fps. I figured, sure, what’s the worst that could happen, so it looks more real, nothing dodgy about that surely? WRONG.
The story follows the adventure that Bilbo Baggins gets involved with as he joins a band of homeless dwarves led by Thorin, once prince of Erebor, a kingdom besieged by a dragon named Smaug who ran all of Thorins’ peeps out of their home so he could bask in the golden treasures that made the great kingdom of Erebor famous throughout Middle Earth. They were heading off to vanquish the beast and reclaim their land. It’s a bit like the Fellowship of the Ring in as much as Gandalf, Bilbo and the Dwarves gang together on a journey of epic proportions. However, how it began to unfold became increasingly disturbing, not because the journey would be perilous and fraught with Orcs, Wargs and Trolls but because an altogether different villain was in the mix. 48 fps. What an absolute utter disaster.
The opening scenes of Bilbo and Frodo in the Shire looked brighter than the sun and when the camera was fixed on the characters it looked so real that it felt like I was watching The Hobbit on stage. I stayed with it though, hoping that as the movie progressed perhaps this new quirky uber real look would somehow dissolve into the majesty of the writing or special effects or whatever element one could look out for in order to salvage such an unsettling intro, but, it got worse. When they were outside it looked so vivid and bright that I for a moment, thought my big gulp and been tainted with LSD. It was Middle Earth on acid. No mood, no atmosphere, no emotion, just an assault on realism. The movie then began to suffer as a result. I could not believe it.
The acting felt forced, the lines seemed contrived and whenever a special effect popped up, it looked as fake as fuck. None of the grandeur that was present in the first venture – Lord of the Rings trilogy – was present here. It felt wholly unacceptable and after about an hour and a half I could be heard groaning in discontent. I felt mugged. The price for this version was ridiculous and I started to doubt what was my long awaited Christmas winner. The Hobbit was beginning to falter.
The unrepentant realism of the piece was punctuated with action set pieces that felt entirely out of place. In fact, most of the drama of the movie felt like padding. A technique used by less than brilliant film makers to stretch out the viewing time so as to appear credible. The Hobbit, was shit in this version, so shit that even the scene with our old favourites, Gandalf, Galadriel, Saruman and Elrond, failed to vanquish the ill feeling that was gathering momentum in my heart towards Peter Jackson. The scene with the Trolls seemed contrived and dopey because of the way that they looked in comparison to the high definition Bilbo that sneaked amongst them. In fact, everything in this version looked fucking awful. The images were so clear that you could see the joins in prosthetic noses, costumes and even hair. It looked too real to be believable and the realism utterly and totally smashed the shit out of any of the good that one carried into this version of the film.
Gollum though, was excellent.
I became frustrated with the film, so much so that at one point, I considered leaving the cinema. However, since I re-mortgaged my house to watch this version, I stayed put. During this time, I lost interest completely. It was as if I was watching a Lord of the Rings soap opera. Bloody awful. All was not lost however, for when I returned home, my girlfriend Laura suggested that I watch it again in 2d. The normal version. After all, the three Lord of the Rings films weren’t in 3d and certainly not shot in 48fps. Christmas then arrived, I was sad. Fuck you Jackson, you sell-out douche.
This morning I awoke. I felt more than slightly dubious about leaving my family to venture to the kak-hole cinema alone to watch a film I had written off but because of my love for the previous films, I tried again. I was going to watch it in 2d, the normal version.
I sat down to watch the Hobbit again and immediately, things felt different. Suddenly out of nowhere the first hour of the film was over, I hadn’t grumbled once. In fact as the gang left the Shire I was feeling very optimistic, so much so that I couldn’t understand why I was starting to feel the hair on my neck standing up. Then it hit me. Films such as this deserve to be told in a way that doesn’t alienate those who adored the previous versions by unnecessarily sprucing up something that was so refined, to spruce it up at all would be blatant overkill. Jackson needs a great big bloody slap in the face for releasing the film in 3d at all let alone in the rape format of 48fps. What a wanker, purely commercially driven and trying, and failing, to compete in a marketplace of numerous unnecessary 3d films. In fact, unless you are James Cameron, take your 3d ideas and fuck off. 3d ain’t all that for gods sake. It’s just visual. It is nothing more than an effect designed to tantalise the simpletons that require more from a film to help them better understand the subject matter, or worse still, help them overcome the subject matter altogether and instead be wowed by some crap flying out at them so they can recoil into their seats giggling nervously. If you enjoyed this film in 48fps and proclaim to be a fan, you’re a cunt and a liar. The 2d version flowed effortlessly and joyously. It was fantasy once more. I felt wrapped up in a warm elvish blanket that conjured all of the best sentiment of what I dreamed about when I was a boy. Say what you will, three films is a bit much, but, I love these films, the padding seemed less so in the normal cut and could be forgiven. In 2d, one can enjoy the frames as they pass your eye. One can relax at ease in the knowledge that while you are watching this, elsewhere lesser shit is being made and will have audiences fawning and gushing all over the place – Twilight for example (side note: Thank fuck that misery is over).
The adventure felt familiar once more. Martin Freeman as Bilbo was absolutely superb as was Ian McKellan reprising his role as Gandalf. The scene with the Trolls looked great, the scene on the mountain pass felt thunderous and the finale of the piece had me feeling giddy once more and gagging for the next instalment. Has Jackson fleshed out the story to milk it at the box office? Yes. However, after being so critical of the 3d 48fps version I believed that I could never embrace the film in 2d anyway, but to my surprise not only did I embrace it, but I delighted in it. From Howard Shore’s original music sprang new life as the compliment of the visuals together with the familiar Middle Earth dialogue and padded storyline became more than reminiscent of the life experiences that were the three Lord of the Rings films. I grew happier by the minute as the film drew to a close. I felt reassured and hopeful. I then made a promise to myself to never again watch a film at the cinema in 48fps. I go to the cinema to be taken away from reality, not assaulted by it. There is no place for 3d in middle earth.
Heading into the new year I can safely say that in 2012, I went on a very different journey in cinematic terms. I was gutted and went through fan hell, but at the end of it I came away with hope, joy and wonderment and for this particular Filmfella, that was indeed a very Unexpected Journey.