‘The Hobbit’: An Unexpected Backlash

Michele May 1, 2012 0
‘The Hobbit’: An Unexpected Backlash

While at CinemaCon, lucky fans of The Hobbit were treated to 10 minutes of the unfinished film for their viewing pleasure. I would have given an arm and a leg (and some hairy Hobbit feet), to have been sitting in a chair while that was playing on the screen. But after hearing the many comments about the footage, it may have been a good thing that I have to wait until December for the completed movie.

For those of you who haven’t heard, Peter Jackson has been shooting The Hobbit in a new format. Instead of the usual 24 frames per second, the daring director is filming at 48 frames per second. Apparently the higher frame rate will make for a better picture in 2D, but the real difference is in the 3D format. In Jackson’s words (via E! news) the new footage is “much more gentle on the eyes, without the strobing or as much flicker, and much less eye strain.” But not everyone is convinced that the higher frame rate is the way to go.

Many of the comments from viewers of the early screening say that the experience is not all it’s cracked up to be. The comments are mostly about how jarring the experience of watching 48 frames is. Scenes didn’t look cinematic enough, instead appearing more realistic. When you have a lifetime of  watching films a certain way, any change is going to be a little weird at first. Most people claimed that it looked more like high definition television than a movie in a theater. According to one fan (Rebecca Murray of About.com), “it’s literally like being on the set next to the actors as they’re performing.” I can see the downside of this realism- it might mean that it is harder to get into the cinematic experience. The whole point of a movie is to feel like you’ve drifted into another world. If the world looks too much like our own normal television screens, it can be hard to disappear into the experience.

Peter Jackson has responded to the haters by reminding them that they haven’t really seen enough of the higher frame rate to get used to it. According to him “at first it’s unusual… but you know, that doesn’t last the entire experience of the film.” He also lets everyone know that the 10 minutes that were shown was unfinished, lacking the extensive digital grading that will complete the project. Jackson assures us that, “we’ll… make it consistent and give it the feeling of other worldliness – to get the mood, the tone, the feel of the different scenes.”

I have to agree that 10 minutes is not really enough time to get used to something as new as this 48 frames per second stuff. And though everyone is talking about how weird it looked - I haven’t heard anyone mentioning being disappointed in the storyline of the footage. And that’s what I really care about. More than likely my local theater will have several different options for viewing the movie. I mean, now there’s going to be IMAX 3D, 48 frames per second 3D, 24 fps 3D, 48 fps 2D, and just plain old 2 dimensions. With this being one of my favorite franchises, I’m sure that I will be shelling out the extra money to see it in several different ways. But I’m hoping that Peter Jackson is right about the faster frame rate, because making movies look better than ever is an exciting thing. Hopefully it doesn’t turn into some crappy money making ploy (cough… 3D… cough), and is instead used to truly make a more immersive film-going experience.

What do you guys think? Is everyone overreacting about the 48 frames per second stuff or do they have a valid point? Will this affect your decision to go see the movie?