Friday, December 14, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey 3D HFR

Hobitti: odottamaton matka / Hobbit: en oväntad resa. US/NZ © 2012 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. (US, Canada & New Line Foreign Territories). © 2012 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. (All Other Territories). PC: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures and New Line Cinema present a WingNut Films production. P: Peter Jackson, Carolynne Cunningham, Zane Weiner, Fran Walsh. D: Peter Jackson. SC: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro - based on the novel The Hobbit, or There and Back Again (1937) by J.R.R. Tolkien. DP: Andrew Lesnie - filmed in 3D using Red Epic cameras & 3ality stereo rigs - shot in 3D 48 fps - released in HFR (High Frame Rate) 3D, other 2D and 3D formats, and IMAX. PD: Dan Hennah. Conceptual designers: Alan Lee, John Howe. Cost: Ann Maskrey, Richard Taylor, Bob Buck. Makeup and hair designer: Peter Swords King. Armour, weapons, creatures, and special makeup: Weta Workshop / Richard Taylor. VFX: Weta Digital / Joe Letteri. VFX supervisor: Eric Saindon. AN supervisor: David Clayton. M: Howard Shore. "Song Of The Lonely Mountain" perf. Neil Finn. ED: Jabez Olssen. C: Ian McKellen (Gandalf the Grey), Martin Freeman (Bilbo Baggins), Richard Armitage (Thorin Oakenshield), James Nesbitt (Bofur), Ken Stott (Balin), Sylvester McCoy (Radagast), Barry Humphries (Great Goblin), Cate Blanchett (Galadriel), Ian Holm (Old Bilbo), Christopher Lee (Saruman), Hugo Weaving (Elrond), Elijah Wood (Frodo), Andy Serkis (Gollum / second unit director), Aidan Turner (Kili), Dean O'Gorman (Fili), Graham McTavish (Dwalin), Adam Brown (Ori), Peter Hambleton (Gloin / William Troll), John Callen (Oin), Mark Hadlow (Dori / Bert Troll), Jed Brophy (Nori), William Kircher (Bifur / Tom Troll), Stephen Hunter (Bombur). Loc: New Zealand, studios: Miramar, Wellington. Post-production: Park Road Post Production (Wellington). Released by FS Film with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Eeva Heikkonen / Emilia Nilsson. 2K DCP in 3D HFR in Dolby 3D viewed at Tennispalatsi 1, Helsinki, 14 Dec 2012 (week of premiere, the first 3D HFR movie).

Technical specs from the IMDb: - Camera: Red Epic, Zeiss Ultra Prime and Angenieux Optimo Lenses - Film length: 4647 m (9 reels) - Film negative format: Redcode RAW - Cinematographic process: Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format), Redcode RAW (5K) (dual-strip 3-D) (source format) - Printed film format: 35 mm (anamorphic) (Kodak Vision 2383), 70 mm (horizontal) (IMAX DMR blow-up) (also dual-strip 3-D) (Kodak Vision 2383), D-Cinema (also 3-D version). - Aspect ratio: 2.35 : 1.

The official synopsis: "From Academy Award-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson comes “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” the first of a trilogy of films adapting the enduringly popular masterpiece The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien.

"The three films tell a continuous story set in Middle-earth 60 years before “The Lord of the Rings,” which Jackson and his filmmaking team brought to the big screen in the blockbuster trilogy that culminated with the Oscar-winning “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.”"

"The adventure follows the journey of title character Bilbo Baggins, who is swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome Dragon Smaug.  Approached out of the blue by the Wizard Gandalf the Grey, Bilbo finds himself joining a company of 13 Dwarves led by the legendary warrior Thorin Oakenshield.  Their journey will take them into the Wild, through treacherous lands swarming with Goblins, Orcs and deadly Wargs, as well as a mysterious and sinister figure known only as the Necromancer."

"Although their goal lies to the East and the wastelands of the Lonely Mountain, first they must escape the Goblin tunnels, where Bilbo meets the creature that will change his life forever…Gollum."

"Here, alone with Gollum, on the shores of an underground lake, the unassuming Bilbo Baggins not only discovers depths of ingenuity and courage that surprise even him, he also gains possession of Gollum’s “precious” ring that holds unexpected and useful qualities... A simple, gold ring that is tied to the fate of all Middle-earth in ways Bilbo cannot begin to know."

I'm jotting down these comments on 4 January 2013, three weeks after seeing the film. The Hobbit continues its phenomenally successful run. Already when I saw the movie I was familiar with the mostly unkind reviews it has been getting.

I am not a Tolkienist and have not even read his books (when I became aware of them I found myself outside the magic circle and could not even find anymore the back door in the wardrobe leading to Narnia). But I belong to the admirers of Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy: it is the greatest achievement in the current golden age of fantasy cinema, a vastly better film than the Chronicles of Narnia series (judging by the first Narnia episode: I have not seen the rest). I selected Ian McKellen as Gandalf as the cover image to my book MMM Elokuvaopas (MMM Film Guide) of the 1100 best films of cinema history.

I have seen the The Lord of the Rings movies only in the cinema. We the fans were happy that Peter Jackson had pulled it off. He had made his lifelong dream come true. But the cinema version of The Lord of the Rings was not flawless. There were aspects in the chopped narrative that made us sense that the true, full version to be released on dvd would be definitive. The visual world was too dark and bleak on the screen, perhaps to cover up problems in the design.

Now critics complain that The Hobbit is too long, deliberate, and thorough. But I feel that this is the rhythm and the approach that Peter Jackson has wanted all along, even for the The Lord of the Rings trilogy. In The Hobbit he was able to spread his wings as he wanted.

Of the visual world the complaint has been that it looks unnatural, plastic, and artificial. I agree, but this is my general view of the entire digital cinema. Perhaps these qualities are enhanced in The Hobbit, but fundamentally I don't find it worse.

Memorable features: - The battle of the stone giants. - The invisibility effect of the ring. - The butterfly messenger. - The cones as fireballs. - The tree on the edge of the abyss. - The life-saving eagles. - The score is magnificent. - I like the sense of humour in the dialogue. - I like the Bildungsroman aspect: how the little Bilbo grows up to become a hero. - I like also the turning-point where Bilbo refuses to kill Gollum.

The visual quality: I sat on the first row on the huge Tennispalatsi 1, and for the first time in that cinema 3D looked bright and clear, more so with the glasses on than without. But I cannot review the HFR effect because there were other changes in the presentation, as well. Instead of XpanD the Tennispalatsi 1 was now equipped with Dolby 3D. I suspect there were also other changes to make the image look brighter (lamps, windows, etc.). Anyway, even the magnificent landscape panoramas looked bright and clear with the detail, and the 3D impression was flawless. Unnatural and uncanny, yes, but not more than has been habitual in digital cinema.

Worth reading: Kristin Thompson's blog article, 16 January 2013
And J. Hoberman in The New York Review of Books, 19 December 2012 http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2012/dec/19/tolkien-vs-technology/ 

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