The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey [IMAX HFR 3D]

Amazing world-building! And in this case, world-expanding. This prequel to the LOTR really expanded on the realms of Middle Earth and although spotted throughout with familiar faces, this is a different Middle Earth from the one that we visited a few years back. The story started off slow, with an introductory first act followed by a deliberate second act that served to establish the roles of the main characters and elucidate their Hero-quest. The movie only got into an exciting and adrenaline-rushing roll in its final act. As the first chapter of a planned trilogy, it lacked the cinematic climax and is clearly building up to something bigger. Making a book into a trilogy obviously has its drawbacks: how to fill the time? My guess, from never having read "The Hobbit" is that Peter Jackson has clearly chosen to include almost every scene from the book and hence neglected cinematic pacing and narrative flow. This is good for the purists who want everything translated to the big screen, but for the casual movie-goer the pacing and extraneous scenes can be trying. Martin Freeman makes a fine Bilbo, and his comedic timings as well as knack for on-the-spot reaction shots and physical comedy makes him an unlikely hero to root for. We know he survive, but we are intrigue in the how: how did he survive and how has he changed. This differs from the overtly masochistic hero of Richard Armitage's Thorin Oakenshield who we slowly learn to care for and root for his victory. Although his characterisation needs more work as he is prone to outbursts that seemed to contradict his behavior. Lastly, Ian McKellen as Gandalf brings the same character back to our screen. He is still up to his old bag of tricks (which we now see he has been using for the past 60 years at least). McKellen infuses in Gandalf a potent mixture of childish mischief, angry parent, patient teacher and - strangely enough - shy admirer. The rest of the cast do not have much else to shine for, although it does take some time to get to know all the dwarves. In addition, it is always a pleasure to see Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving and Chistopher Lee back on the screen again reprising their roles, although a part of me was hoping for a cameo by Liv Tyler or even Orlando Bloom. Smeagol is always a delight, but I thought his scene was a bit too drawn out and lacked the necessary tension. Howard Shore had created an iconic theme in the LOTR trilogy and he now re-introduced us to a new theme that is strong, heroic and hopeful theme yet tinged with slight danger and darkness. The music throughout was spot on and really brings the audience into the world in the screen. 3D was excellent here as the movie itself was filmed in 3D so the shots were largely planned out to submerged the audience into Middle Earth. Now, about the big fat elephant in the theatre. I must say, I am a believer in this new theatrical format of 48fps. Everything thing is extremely clear and sharp, and this can be a double-edged sword. The details that pop out of the screen (and in this case literally with 3D) was gorgeous as were all the breathtaking sets that Peter Jackson and crew constructed. Panning shots and sweeping vistas (which Jackson has always shown he was very fond of to show off his home country) were clear and in focus unlike traditional 24fps where it was all a blur. One can really appreciate the grandeur and majesty of these large scenes/sets. However, with all the details stark clear, the CGI became more apparent. Viewing "The Hobbit" in 48fps is akin to watching television in HD; the initial reaction was the glaring starkness and artificiality of the actors and their environment. But as TV evolved with HD, we all got more and more used to watching our favourite shows in all their HD glory. The initial 15 minutes sure took me some time to get used to the higher frame rate, and admittedly it did get a bit nauseous. But after a while, the eyes and brain adjust and one can truly appreciate the wonder of that extra clarity. I believe this and 3D will be the way to go in the future for movies: James Cameron, Martin Scorcese and Ang Lee have all shown what 3D can do to enrich the movie-going experience, so here's hoping Jackson sets the trail ahead for 48fps!


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