MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Photo By Warner Brothers
Directed by Peter Jackson. Starring Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman.
Eighteen years before The Lord of the Rings J.R.R. Tolkien wrote The Hobbit, a fantasy adventure for children and the prelude to the later fantasy trilogy. Writer-director Peter Jackson, who produced the immensely popular Lord of the Rings films, has taken this simple children’s book and turned it into three films. This is the first part and it is 2 hours and 45 minutes long.
Since The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey covers only the first six chapters of the book, you could call it a prelude to a prelude. In other words, most of the interesting conflicts and events in the story won’t take place until parts two and three (scheduled to be released in 2013 and 2014). This hasn’t stopped Peter Jackson from cramming in long battle scenes and spectacular vistas and dragging in familiar characters from his earlier movies, even if they didn’t make an appearance in the original book.
Bilbo Baggins (Freeman) is visited by the great wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) to join a company of dwarves on an adventure to defeat a dragon and restore peace to the land of Middle-Earth. The first part of the film is leisurely paced, including a flashback, a flash-forward, and a wild dinner party. Once the group is on the road, they will have to fight off orcs, trolls, and all sorts of fantastical animal creatures. And Bilbo will meet Gollum (Andy Serkis) for the first time (about two hours into the movie) which will set up one of the key plot points for The Lord of the Rings.
If you have never seen The Lord of the Rings and don’t care for fantasy, I am sure that you will not care for this film. While I am a big fan of the first three movies, I must admit that the first time I watched The Hobbit I was somewhat disappointed and felt that the endless battle scenes were repetitious and eye straining.
Then I decided to view the film for a second time in the new High Frame Rate 3D process, which was developed for this movie. Rather than shoot the film in a 24 frame per second speed (using digital cameras), Peter Jackson used a 48 fps process, which makes the entire movie look on screen more like videotape than film. There are only 11 screens in Ohio with projectors that can handle the new format, so I made a pilgrimage to a theater in Maumee to give it a try. I have never been so immersed in a film before and felt at times that I was no longer watching a movie but was right there in the middle with the characters.
This experience creates more of a sense of wonder as well as the patience to take time in enjoying the scenery. Colors are brighter and move vivid, and the depth of field is incredible. So a movie that I thought was boring in standard 3D I found exciting in the new HFR 3D format. I’m not sure that there’s much of a message in this first installment, but high-speed digital filmmaking is something to behold.
Three halos: A somewhat overblown and overlong fantasy prelude that is nevertheless impressive in the new HFR 3D version.
Two pitchforks: Lots of bloodless killing and decapitation of monsters, heavy dwarf drinking, stealing and deceit.
Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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