Before you begin sending me your hate mail, I want to preface this post by saying I absolutely loved The Hobbit. It is an amazing cinematic experience with, once again, amazing storytelling by director Peter Jackson and fantastic acting by all involved. It may not have had the same impact as first seeing Lord of the Rings did, but that’s a tough bill to follow. I’m not a massive Tolkien fan, although I have read The Hobbit a few times and managed to make it 2/3 of the way through The Two Towers.
This post is not meant to be a full review of The Hobbit, nor is it some rant against modern cinema and the merits of reading a book instead, it is just my cynical opinion of some interesting and depressing trends in Hollywood. And it’s about The Hobbit.
I saw the film on 20 December with my friend Nat (who is a massive Middle Earth fan) and we went big with the IMAX 3D version of the film. Pre-determined seating gave us a great view of the massive screen…through really big glasses. Apparently, here in Victoria, we have different 3D glasses for the IMAX screen (I think they were polarized also) and different glasses for adults and children, or child-sized heads as the ladies next to us showed.
I still haven’t fallen for the whole 3D thing. I’ve seen some great movies with the technology – Ice Age 3 being one of my favourites, Avatar being one of my least – but I’ve always found live-action films in 3D to be difficult to watch. The blurriness that comes along with panning in 3D drives me bonkers. In The Hobbit the best example of this distraction is right at the beginning, when the dwarfs perform their timeless wash-up routine. I couldn’t tell Gondor from Mordor with all the quick pans across the Hobbit’s hole. Even with the new frames per second, it didn’t seem to matter. Everything looked a bit more fake than previous CGI-laden films and I was still fighting a headache in certain scenes. The world of movie reviewers doesn’t seem to think the new high frame count is “all that” either, but I think it will be standard in a few years as animation catches up. The massively over-sized glasses didn’t help either, pushing into my temples and pushing out my ears, seeing the reflections of every movement behind me. I hope Hollywood comes up with a new idea someday. I think I’ll see it in 2D and compare.
Now that my whiny grandpa anti-tech routine is out of the way, let’s move on to the story itself. Peter Jackson is a visionary director, we all know that. I was absolutely floored by his interpretation of this Tolkien masterpiece, the visual effects and the casting all adding to the excellence. But why make the 227-page Hobbit into three three-hour movies?
The simple answer: Money. You all know it. Jackson is milking what is his biggest moment (which has come twice now) for all it’s worth. Lord of the Rings, all three films, ran to 558 minutes in regular release on an estimated budget of $281 million. The three films grossed $2.92 billion and won 17 of a possible 30 Academy Awards (setting a few records along the way).
If you’re interested, The Return of the King won all 11 Academy Awards (tying a record), is the sixth highest grossing film of all time (Two Towers is #21, Fellowship #30), and the entire Middle Earth franchise is the eight highest grossing franchise of all time.(via) If you think that’s impressive, MGM gave Jackson $500 million for The Hobbit (for two of the movies, apparently) beating the previous record by $300 million! (via)
Jackson wasn’t even supposed to direct the films in the first place. Guillermo del Toro was first chosen but, thankfully, Jackson was put back in place to keep things consistent. They are his movies, through and through, and he deserves to see them ‘there and back again.’ New Zealand owes him so much in tourism revenue alone they named him a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit! (See the video below as well) I don’t like how he split the story into three though, especially when he only gave one film to each LotR book.I love the idea of having the Hobbit three times, but it messes with the plot line. Now there are three adventures (allegedly able to be viewed independently) and we need to wait a year until the next “chapter.” It’s not supposed to be a trilogy, it’s supposed to be a single book. In the literary version each chapter or two is a separate episode within the book, relating an overarching story that was to be read to Christopher Tolkien at age 9. This works better in books, which are meant to be picked up and put down, but I fear it will be difficult in film. (This is all very well laid out in the Wikipedia page, and I’ll discuss it in part 2 as well)
Alas, my 2.5 hours of cinematic excellence has come to a close, but I’m only half-way finished our unexpected adventure! Please carry on in the sequel-to-the-prequel-review part 2. (Coming soon!)Check out this video of Hobbit director Peter Jackson making an appearance on a Hobbit-themed Air New Zealand safety video: