Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Hobbit - The Desolation of Smaug

Watched The Hobbit - The Desolation of Smaug last night on High-Frame-Rate and 3D.

High Frame Rate and 3D
Obviously HFR and 3D are meant to enhance the film experience. At what expense, though? Film is an optical illusionary device. It fools the viewer into believing unbelievable things, things that are illogical and fantastic. Yes, it was great to be able to see every freckle and contour on Gandalf's face and watch every strand of Legolas' hair dancing in the breeze - but the action sequences and the orcs look copy-pasted from a fantasy game like Warcraft. A certain sense of magic was lost because of Peter Jackson's obssessive pursuit for clarity of sight. Jean-Luc Godard would have schooled Peter Jackson on this with his quote, "There is no point in having sharp images when you've fuzzy ideas."

Now I would not go so far as saying PJ had fuzzy ideas. But he got some things really wrong, in my opinion. Here are some of the things that went wrong:

1. Love triangle!? I can't even write any more on this subject because I can't handle the prospect of a love triangle of the silliest kind happening in Middle Earth as The Hobbit 2 wants us to believe it happened. It is almost unforgiveable.

2. Cirque de Soleil? PJ has always been into circus antics and choreography in fight scenes. I can see why. It may add a sense of magic and fantasy into action sequences. Tintin, the film, had the sequences where things began to feel like a computer game. The Hobbit 1 had many scenes, especially in the underground scenes, like that. This film too has its share of circus and ridiculous antics. To be honest, I don't buy it. But I can sign that off as a 'style' of Peter Jackson. But I have to say I was expecting more of gritty action sequences and not a Super Mario meets Assasin's Creed meets Cirque de Soleil extravaganza.

Now what this film gets right are (in no particular order):

1. Radagast was a little less stupid and more convincing in this film. Maybe because you didn't see much of him at all (and none of his silly bunny chariot, thank God!)

2. Middle Earth felt a lot more like Middle Earth. I liked the way the camera would pan out to show you larger areas of the surrounding to remind you of the scale of the environment that the film was playing out in. Dol Goldur was pretty good. More like Minas Morgul than Tim Burton's made up universe. But in saying that, PJ can ease down a little bit on using green lights. I have never thought green surround lights to be scary. It reminds me of the Grinch.

3. No singing drinking songs around happy dinner tables! What was PJ thinking with The Hobbit 1 and Return of the King (or was it Two Towers?). Singing about eating and having a merry wee time is never ok. Yes, I am sure there was a lot of singing going on in Middle Earth, and yes I have read the books and yes there are a lot of songs in the books. But can we please not having dragging film sequences of Merry or Pippin or Thorin or whoever singing anymore please?

4. Less humour. I have never LOLed (ever!) in a Peter Jackson film. I don't think he has a great sense of humour (for a Kiwi). So when this film turns out to have less of direct humour and instead more of implied/indirect humour, it was great.

5. References to history and backgrounds of Middle Earth. It was awesome that there was a lot of references to history and background story of Middle Earth. It made the film belong to the larger story which the first installment failed to do miserably.

These are not exhaustive list of things I enjoyed in the movie. The film is definitely worth a watch. A great step back into Middle Earth.

I guess the thing however, is that by now, the whole Middle Earth is starting to feel like a massive chain of merchandise and not anymore the elusive fantastic imagined alternate reality that most fans loved it for. Middle Earth, by now is becoming synonymous with bright lights, CGI, characters with bad humour (yes what the heck what the heck what the heck is Stephen Fry, who felt more like Gilderoy Lockhart than whoever he is supposed to be, doing in Middle Earth?!) and circus antics.

I hope Peter Jackson grows up just a little bit for the third installment. I would love to see a little bit more maturity and seriousness, especially if it is (and I hope it is) going to be the final Middle Earth film for good. 

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