So I screwed up my courage again this week and ventured to a film theater to see The Hobbit.
Theater experience was still horrible.
I wanted to see the film in the much discussed 48fps format. But it seemed theaters in my area only offered the 48 in 3D.
I hate 3D. 3D films make me dizzy, along with motion sickness and migraines. The last time I saw a 3D film was Burton's Alice film. It was a sickening experience for me. Anyway I decided to brave the 3D experience once more for this film.
I have to say that I had absolutely no trouble with this new format. In fact, I am excited about the possibilities of this new method of filming. And I must stress possibilities because it just isn't....I guess...professional enough yet. Although most claim it looks like video, I didn't find it so.
Let me break it down to the best and the worst, sometimes at once.
The clarity of 48fps is amazing. Especially when filmed in a natural environment. I mean so clear you can count the pinecones on Fir trees. So clear you can see and judge the quality of wind blowing through an actor's hair. The light is so luminous it makes you feel as if you are hallucinating. In fact when this film was in gorgeous nature settings my eyes practically bugged out of my skull. Which was amusing and disconcerting. I don't believe my brain, in particular, could process all that information. So it just left me slack-jawed, with my brain asking my eyes WTF they were watching.
However, the new format does reveal the tricks of the trade. Sets look like sets on a soundstage. "Stone" looks like what it really is...distressed styrofoam. You can actually see the forced perspective used to make sets look bigger and more expansive. So the proportions of buildings look wrong in relation to the actors. The lighting techniques for sound stages in 28fps look like high powered lighting for nighttime sporting events in 48fps. The makeup is revealed on the faces of the actors (fake noses are fake noses). This is not good. And if 48fps will be the new format, then there must be an evolution in all the filmmaking arts. Because what was good before looks horrible in 48fps.
48fps in relation to digital effects, for the most part, looks wonderful. However the clarity of the picture and the effects sometimes tips the experience into an Uncanny Valley experience. Which isn't good.
I don't like 3D. But I have to say it was bearable in this film. Because of the clarity of the new format and absolutely no film blur, it stopped the horrific motion sickness I always experience. I don't know why 3D is pushed on audiences. I know of noone clamoring for more 3D films. 3D does nothing to enhance the film. It just makes everything look flat with no true depth and the experience is akin to looking at a pop up storybook.
Jackson and cohorts did a good job. But I'm not sure if they really needed to stretch this into 3 films. The book it's based on is a slim novel written for children. The story is concerned about a young boy (Bilbo) growing up to take on more adult responsibilities and autonomy. The dwarves and their heroic quest is really background. Jackson has enlarged the scope of the film by including story information from the LOTR appendices.
So instead of Bilbo learning to be a grownup, we are really watching the rise of Sauron. This leads to a large amount of disconnects between the story threads. Bilbo's journey is relatively light hearted but the Sauron sub theme is extremely serious. Not to mention the fact that we are saddled with Thorin Oakenshield's tale of revenge. The tone of the film varies wildly.
The performances are all very good. I have no complaints about this at all. However I do feel that Martin Freeman's Bilbo was pushed to the background way too often. The film mostly felt like the Gandalf and Thorin show when it should have been the Bilbo show.
Now there has been a lot of talk about the inclusion of Radagast and he is somewhat of a...ahem...Jar Jar Binks experience. I have to say I enjoyed the character immensely. I loved everything about him from the bird poop on his hair, to his love of the animals, his shroomy demeanor and his rabbit powered sled. But he comes out of nowhere and then abruptly disappears. He seems more like a character in his own separate film rather than a part of this film's world.
All in all, I feel the film manages to overcome its setbacks both in story and technology. The real test is ahead. It remains to be seen if Jackson can keep the story on track and the technology from upstaging the story. We'll know next year, I suppose.