Underwhelmed. That was my opinion of the first Hobbit film released last Christmas. “Not as good as the worst of the Lord of the Rings trilogy,” was my mantra. So, it was with some trepidation that I decided to pay opening day prices and watch the second Hobbit installment in IMAX 3D – High Frame Rate.
Before getting to the meat of the subject, allow me to chat about the format first. High frame rate films are disturbingly clear. Standard films are shot in 24 frames a second and have a movie-like appearance which has been cultivated and blue-printed into society. Want something to look expense, high-end, which begs a high production value, look no further than 24 frames. So when something comes along and changes that paradigm, it is unsettling.
Such is my opinion of the format for this film. High frame rates bring startling clarity to the screen, but that clarity is too much. While watching The Hobbit, at times I felt as if I were watching a home movie, replete with poor cutscenes and a shabby sets. The feeling was especially disconcerting during any action scene. Things just didn’t seem… cohesive or film like. Rather, it pulled me from the experience and it isn’t a viewing format I’ll seek out a second time. Give me the traditional medium, thank you very much. But did the format distract and hurt my rating for The Hobbit? Not exactly.
Sure, I read the book when I was young — so long ago, I forget the major plot points — and clearly greed is the only reason this book was carved into three films but it goes deeper than that. The biggest problem I had with The Hobbit is scenes seemed obviously stretched out. A lengthy conversation in the Elvish prison. The unnaturally long fight scene while riding barrels down rapids. The chess game played between Smaug and Bilbo inside the mountain. All of these scenes (and more) dragged on and on beyond their seemingly natural ending. I found myself shaking my head or frowning at the screen trying to make sense of why everything was taking so long. Once more, the over-arching concept of greed answered that rhetorical question. Why make one film when you can make three at three times the price and (hopefully) three times the profit?!
I left the two hour and forty-minute viewing feeling as if it were slightly better than part one but still a long way short of any historical LOTR films. Worth paying full price? Not for me. Speaking of money, I will not own this film nor watch part three in the theater next year (unless someone else is paying or I catch an unlikely coupon). Much like the fourth and fifth Star Wars films, this franchise has died a slow public death. I rate this film a 6 of 10, and find it unworthy of ownership or recommendation.