And when i say that headline, I mean it. I sat second row center at the Alamo Drafthouse theater 2 an hour into BUTT-NUMB-A-THON 14 when we started watching THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY.
Right before that, we saw the new STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS Trailer. Goose bumps. It's so much more than what we've seen thus far, classic teasers.
Then THE HOBBIT began. Now before I get into the movie itself, I want to bring up a few things that I take in with me to this NEW experience with watching 48 frames per second aka HIGH FRAME RATE or HFR & 3D. It looks real. Doesn't seem very film... except sometimes, just like in a movie the background will still be out of focus from time to time. There are still all the same kinds of shots and editing techniques... only it looks real. And I kinda know. When I was on the set of Minas Tirith, my memories of watching Gandalf riding around, pulling out an umbrella on set as it lightly rained. Except... Instead, all the effects are done - and where I had to use my imagination, creatures absolutely fantastic come to life.
I'd seen demos of 48 frames per second, but in every case, what I had seen, has been REAL FOOTAGE. Cameras mounted on Blue Angels' aerobatic wings. Grand Canyon with fisheye lens. That sort of thing. Now, the demos I saw were all in 2D. Watching MIDDLE EARTH come to life is amazing. Those Marble floors they laid. Well, you can see that's exactly what they are. And it's stunning.
Watching this in full 48 3D was absolutely breathtaking for me. Because all I did was behold the story I have most wanted to see on screen, in a crazy big awesome manner ever since I saw STAR WARS. I'd seen Rankin Bass' animated HOBBIT - and after I saw STAR WARS I would tell just about anyone that would hold still for a second or two and answered yes to the question, "Ya like movies?" Well, I'd tell them that George Lucas should've made HOBBIT. Then I saw WILLOW and revised that thought. When I saw images from Ridley Scott's LEGEND, I was positive that was the route to go. I'd flirted with the notion of John Boorman doing THE HOBBIT. Never wanted Spielberg to touch it. But after that trip to New Zealand that I went on... I'm firmly in line for Peter's Middle Earth.
The first thing I noticed was how sharp everything was. I just got the Epson Powerlite Home Cinema 5010 projector with the Shutter 3D Glasses - and with my glass bead screen, 3D is amazing, but even at its best - it doesn't even compare to the HFR 3D of THE HOBBIT. The smoothness of the motion in 3D is amazing. Watching Gollum slink around. The trolls around the fire. It's just amazing.
I think one of the problems that folks are having is that the "Look" of Middle Earth was so firmly established with the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, that watching this FUTURE TECH version, it makes some uncomfortable. NOT ME, NOT IN THE LEAST! I've always been an adopter of Film Tech as it continues to evolve - and I love innovation. Doesn't mean it is there for everything, but man... Having Middle Earth come alive like this... it has been a life long dream. The shire as Bilbo runs after the party is amazing. Rivendell... well I was on the original Rivendell set, well, the few pieces that were still up - and these scenes took me right back there. Only this time, all of the effects were there too.
Ultimately though - I found myself doing what I do with every movie... associating with the characters and allowing the story to be told.
As the film plays, my knowledge of the book served to get me giddy. Point of example. When the Dwarves & Bilbo get captured by the Goblins... and Bilbo breaks off.... from knowing the story, I knew... RIDDLES IN THE DARK is coming - and I started geeking out. As Thorin is being interrogated by the Goblin King... I knew, just knew that Glamdring & Gandalf would soon appear in a blinding light - and there it was! Like when the wargs chase the party up the pine trees... I was sitting there praying for Pine Cones.... If ya know, ya know... and ya know... WE GOT PINE CONES!
THE HOBBIT isn't LORD OF THE RINGS, it's a different tone. The world isn't filled with evil quite yet. There's far more whimsical magic. The colors are less muted, because the world is filled with life and vitality. It isn't dying and becoming a world for Men just yet. PETER perfectly captures the story. Watching Bilbo slow burn through the trauma of having his house unexpectedly overrun by Dwarves... It's been something I've always imagined. That the crashing plate song was done with such a great degree of wanton playfulness... while Bilbo looks on fretting about his mother's 100 year old dishes... Bliss.
NOW - what's the difference between me and some of the reviews you've read. It is simple. I want to go to Middle Earth again. I look at THE HOBBIT and while the book is short, the adventure is HUGE. Takes place over a longer period of time than LORD OF THE RINGS does, I believe. It's just not as detailed or serious. BUT a War of 5 Armies takes some time, unless it is a bullshit war with no strategies.
It looks like the next film will take us through Mirkwood, Laketown & Erebor... But where exactly it leaves off, we've no idea. This film takes us to the party's first glance of Lonely Mountain. They feel like they're almost there.
I keep seeing people talking about how the stakes are less vital this time out, BUT why does a film have to be about the fate of an entire world. For me, THE HOBBIT was always about the adventure that takes place by just leaving your home behind. It's a story that I've always compared to SERGEANT YORK - the film that I placed on THE FAKE LIST in THE HOBBIT's place. Just as with Gary Cooper in that film, our Bilbo Baggins is a simple kind of person. Happy with his place in the world and doesn't at all feel a desire to join these Dwarves & Wizard. The unexpected guests are noisy, they don't ask they take. Raiding his pantry for everything that can be consumed. Using every plate and ounce of cutlery. Wiping mud on antiques. And not only that, they have funeral plans for him.
Martin Freeman's BILBO is perfection. He is exactly a Hobbit. The kind of HOBBIT that existed in a pre-Frodo world. Frodo had heard about Bilbo's adventures. Bilbo has no real big adventure stories to follow. But Bilbo is listening to the stories. He finds them disconcerting, exciting and obviously something for these insane folks.
Amongst my favorite moments of the HOBBIT comes next. Bilbo wakes up alone. The house is empty. There's little to no sign that any guests had ever been there... other than the empty pantry. Bilbo walks around. Starts to feel the emptiness of the chamber. Sees the contract. You can feel him realizing that a real adventure, his only chance to see more than the Shire had left. He gathers his supplies and runs out the door to catch up.
It isn't the huge contemplative moment of SGT YORK with Gary Cooper out on a mountain trying to find communion with God... but Bilbo comes to a similar decision. Not just at that moment, but as the story continues.
This film gave me several things I've never dreamt of actually seeing, like those STONE GIANTS - so much more magnificent than I ever imagined. The scale and movement were truly awe-inspiring at a level unmatched by just about anything I've seen.
There was no audience for me, even the vaunted BNAT audience disappeared. I was completely and wholly present for Middle Earth.
Radagast The Brown? One of those characters that you would always assume would find the cutting room floor, is here... and wonderful. He's there to inform Gandalf of the disturbing changes that are taking place... the initial evidence of a growing evil. There's a Necromancer.
Deeply in love with the film.
Watching Thorin with his Oakenshield fighting the White Orc... HOLY SHIT, it feels legendary. It looks amazing.
Now my advice to you.
If you're worried about the 48fps HFR or the 3D.... See it in 2D the first time just to enjoy the story. However, if like me, you're someone that has had ZERO problems adjusting to 3D or Blu Ray clarity... Go whole hog and behold the HFR 3D and never ever look back. I'm so anxious to see this as many times as possible. I will check out the IMAX 3D just as a base of comparison... but I already know, it will look a tad antiquated. Watching the awesome GI JOE RETALIATION 3D afterwards... I loved the content - and they used the 3D to maximum potential... but it seemed a tad staggered after the HFR.
At the end of screening, it is still one helluva tale. I can see now how the story will play over 3 films - and as a fan of the story, to see a loving and luxuriant telling... it's exactly what I want. The notion of spending as much time as I possibly can in Middle Earth - is equaled only by the enthusiasm I have for spending more time in a galaxy far far away. This is why I wake up in the morning, to see things I've never seen before... and this is one experience that I can say authoratatively... I'VE NEVER SEEN ANYTHING THAT COMPARES WITH THIS! It's a brave new world, and this is our first trip! Definitely not my last!