Hobbit: The Musical

Peter Jackson’s new movie, The Hobbit, certainly delivers value for your ticket price. The three hours you spend at the movie will feel like eight or nine! True value.

The film is a brilliant example of the film editing concept of pacing, with The Hobbit being the example of a film without. My overriding fear during the film was that there will be an even longer Director’s Cut, though, perhaps the Director’s Cut this time will be a shorter version that moves along at a good pace.

In The Hobbit, during many parts, but particularly early on in Bilbo’s house the editing was so noticeable it pulled me entirely out of the story. I found myself anticipating the sequence of edits and shots. Editing should not be noticeable. There was one cut-away that almost slapped me in the face it was so poorly chosen, an extreme closeup of Gandalf’s pipe–a shot that was not even 2 full seconds long, and badly misplaced. It was the wrong angle, wrong matching eye position so it was also a jump cut, and it wasn’t part of the character being focused upon in the surrounding shots. It was the sort of editing choice I’d expect in an amateur YouTube video, not a professional production.

Why is this review titled Hobbit: The Musical? Because the film is. A musical, that is. There weren’t a great many song and dance numbers, but there were too many. During the interminable beginning portion of the movie, the Dwarves begin to sing, and—worse—do a full reenactment of “Whistle While You Work” from Disney’s 1937 animated classic, Snow White  and the Seven Dwarfs. Mercy. Recall that horrifying moment toward the end of the third Lord of the Rings movie when Aragorn starts to sing in that awful nasally way? This was more harmonious, but many factors of intensity worse.

There’s been much said about the film technique used of 48 frames per second (as opposed to film standard 24 frames per second). People complained of headaches. Because of these complaints, we did not go to the 3-D version, and the theater in which we saw the 2-D version was not equipped for 48 fps. So, seeing the blandest, most “normal” version of the film available, I still had to look away from the screen during most action scenes, or scenes with a great deal of movement. There is great deal of bad, seasick-making CGI special effects being done now, but of those I’ve seen, this was the worst. Any movement on the screen blurred to the point where I couldn’t tell what was taking place, and there was a staccato effect that was at least a tenth of a second long. Dreadful.

The movie isn’t entirely bad. Were I at home where I could fast forward through the dull parts, and through the repetitious gory/fighting parts, and have a more comfortable seat and a pause button, I would enjoy many aspects more than I did in the theater. For one thing, they start the film the day the first Lord of the Rings movie started, with the same characters and actors in the same settings. It was a delightful connection they made with that.

Revisiting some of the settings and characters was pleasant, particularly the Elves in Rivendell. I always get great landscaping ideas from them. This time it was trying to work out how to have water flow all around a gazebo. I’d have liked a bit more time in the Shire with the Hobbits seeing happy stuff. New Zealand, again, beautifully plays the role of Middle Earth.

Influences showed throughout the film, backwards (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs) and forwards, in that I could see the influences in many parts of Harry Potter. Curiously, I also saw a great deal of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy in the early scenes with Bilbo. Bilbo in his dressing gown being very properly British in the face of bizarre, uncontrollable things happening all around him reminded me of no one so much as Arthur Dent.

So, in summation, when confronted by the question of whether we’ll go see the second movie in the theater, rather that waiting for it to be on tv, I did hesitate rather a long time, and wouldn’t commit. Maybe when the initial effect wears off I’ll be more enthused.