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A Creature of Hobbit
The whole world knows it was because of the effect the original 1933 Fay Wray King Kong had on him as a child that Peter Jackson became a filmmaker.
Many people have seen Jackson on YouTube talking about his captivation by the dinosaurs and the great ape; but few have actually seen the original Fay Wray King Kong; one imagines this is why they complain that Jackson’s most recent film, the Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, is too long.
At 169 minutes, only 11 short of three hours, the Hobbit is clearly no walk in the park (unless your park is the prairies of Western Canada), but it’s actually shortish, by Jackson standards, which reach almost four-and-a-half hours in the extended version of the Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King; Jackson’s Hobbit is actually almost three-quarters-of-an-hour shorter than his King Kong!
But most people enter the Hobbit with preconceptions formed from the 140-character “reviews” on Twitter: before the titles come up, then, they’re already yawning, and themselves tweeting that they expect the future special director’s cut to be half the length, and twice as good, as a result; it’s a pity.
Seen without any prejudice, the Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey may not be the video equivalent of a literary worth (but, then, neither was its source novel), but it passes the most important test of cinema: it keeps the viewer enthralled for all of its runtime.
Yes, the battle scenes go on a bit—but the dinosaurs of both 1933 and 2005 also battled far longer than they “needed” to.
Yes, there are whole characters and sub-plots created for the film that did not exist at all in what was actually a rather slim JRR Tolkien source book, such as the wizard Radagast the Brown and his problems in his neck of the enchanted woods.
Yes, characters from the Lord of the Rings movies are artificially brought “back” into the prequel.
Yes, for the people who wanted to see the book faithfully adhered to, there is an undeniable feeling of proceedings being deliberately staged, such as what would be treated as an “unnecessary” conference between elf and wizard leadership.
But, really, what does all of that matter, if the film itself is actually good, as film?
For the three hours or so that you are in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit world, you forget entirely there might be another world at all, far less one in which your significant other may be horning you and your motorbike desperately needs new tyres.
There are films you see that change your life; this isn’t one of them: but it does not set out to be, and it is unfair to dismiss it for merely entertaining instead of educating. Of course the heroism contemplated by the film could not remotely be expected of human beings at any time—but how much can one expect of a film that is classified as fantasy?
You might as well slam musicals for having a bit of singing in them.
There is face value validity to the criticism that Jackson has taken a relatively small book and turned it into three huge films (parts II and III, The Desolation of Smaug and There and Back Again, will be released in December 2013 and 2014 respectively), but that criticism disappears when measured by the only important yardstick of value for money.
An Unexpected Journey is an exceedingly well-made film that, judged within its own parameters, is a complete success.
It may seem very familiar to Lord of the Rings—but it’s supposed to!
Additionally, unlike, say, Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, the 3D version is not distracting from the narrative, The Hobbit is the first film shot at 48 frames per second, twice the industry standard, which translates into a far more comfortable 3D viewing experience, even with cheap cinema 3D glasses—at least on a digital screen.
It is easy to imagine the Hobbit doing for 3D video what Apocalypse Now, the first film shot in 5.1 surround, did for audio: set, and become, the standard.
On the Digicel Imax screen, the Hobbit would be a mind-blowing experience and any real or imagined shortcomings of the movie itself would be more than compensated for by image size and what would be a genuinely awesome three-dimensional experience.
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