The Hobbit - quite good fun

01:10, Dec 18 2012

I don't understand why The Hobbit has inspired such strong negative reactions. It's quite good fun.

I'm assuming most of us will have seen The Hobbit by now. But, in case some of you haven't, there won't be any spoilers below.

I went to see it on Monday night in a surprisingly full auditorium.

I didn't feel particularly compelled or excited about the film - I set off with a shrug and a ''Oh well, better go and see what all the fuss is about.'' Before the screening, going to see The Hobbit felt more like a duty or homework.

As I blogged the other week, the film itself felt crowded out by all the nationalist nonsense and leveraged marketing.


Critics outside of New Zealand have not been kind to The Hobbit, which also coloured my expectations. I was told the new 48 frames per second technology made everything look stagey, I was told the film was excessively ponderous and I was concerned by comparisons to The Phantom Menace. Shudder.

But, when the lights went down and the Howard Shore music started to rise, I felt myself relax.

I'm pleased to report that The Hobbit is quite good fun. It's a bit overblown and could lose thirty minutes off the running time, but it's fun.

Comparisons to the Star Wars prequel are grossly unfair. The Phantom Menace was dull, lifeless and very badly plotted. The Hobbit has a bit of a messy plot, but it's full of life. For all its flaws, The Hobbit has a fun glint in its eye that sees us through. There is more life affirming joy in just five minutes of The Hobbit than in the whole Star Wars prequel trilogy.

Sure, just like all of Peter Jackson's work since Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit is a little bloated.

I was reminded of British columnist Charlie Brooker's summation of King Kong as being rather overblown:

"If there'd been a scene in which Kong went to the toilet, it would've run like this: 1) Kong unfurls his 10km penis and piddles into an erupting volcano for 45 minutes; 2) Kong turns around and passes a stool the size of a blue whale, in slow motion, to the strains of a 20,000-strong choir, while Naomi Watts stares at him, her eyes brimming with love; 3) his bowels emptied, Kong plucks the planet Jupiter out of the sky and swallows it for no reason, while fighting 15 giant crocodiles. And a robot. And a pig."

The Hobbit is nowhere near as overblown as Kong, but there are sequences where a touch of brevity would have really helped. In fact, The Hobbit is rather patchy. There are some sequences that work incredibly well and are joy to watch, while there are others that feel a bit too rambunctious for their own good.

But there are some nice surprises. There's a lot in this film that you won't have seen in the plentiful promotional material. In this age of online featurettes, multiple trailers and blanket promotion, it's always nice to be surprised by a film.

I was also impressed by the new 48 frames per second technology. The image is detailed, lush and sumptuous. You feel like you can linger on the image and wallow in the depth and texture. The Hobbit is a very beautiful film.

The other advantage of 48fps is it means Peter Jackson can really make his camera move. The camera can soar and whip across the rooftops of Middle Earth with no blur or stutter at all. It's impressive.It doesn't feel like a jarring technological leap, it feels like a natural progression. Time will tell if it catches on. I would like to see more 48fps movies before I make a final judgement.

But, let us be clear, 48fps is not the saviour of 3D. Sure, the 3D image is clearer, a little brighter and perhaps a bit more colourful than 24fps, but the inherent problems with 3D are stil present. There is the same miniaturisation problem, the same alienation and pretty much the same loss of light. The higher frame rate helps out 3D, but it won't save it.

So, in conclusion, The Hobbit is only a movie after all. It's a fun adventure movie with plenty of humour and a touch of darkness. I look forward to the rest of the trilogy as pre-Christmas treats over the next two years.

What did you think? Did you like The Hobbit? Am I being too kind? Did the running time put you off? What about 48fps? So much to discuss. Post below.

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