The Hobbit Review: Standard Format

I went to see The Hobbit in standard format today and as I hoped, the movie is ten times better than the high-frame rate version. Most of the issues I had with the film on my initial viewing didn’t really turn out to be as significant as I thought, mainly because I could maintain my suspension of disbelief and stay in the movie instead of constantly being thrown out of it by scenes that just did not look right. It turns out the movie is really quite good. The pacing isn’t as bad as I thought and the “darker” elements that I thought Jackson was forcing into the story flowed naturally and didn’t detract from the film much at all. I laughed, I cheered, and I became emotionally invested in the story and characters instead of feeling an odd detachment from everything. The epic scenes actually feel epic in the standard format, instead of coming-off like a video game cutscene or worse, an SNL parody.

After seeing the standard version of the film I can see where the High Frame Rate has its advantages. It’s really good at eliminating motion blur during action scenes, plus the CGI looks far better than in a standard frame rate; however, this type of fidelity comes at the expense of live actors on a brightly-lit set. The hyper-realistic look has its place, but not in a live-action movie. If what I’m looking at appears to be a TV show filmed on video or even a live play, I’m expecting other cues that just aren’t there and I’m unable to maintain my suspension of disbelief. If I’m watching a play, I can hear the actors walking across the stage and listen to their voices echo in the theater. I can smell the sets and enjoy a direct connection to the play itself, but the atmosphere of a movie theater is so completely different that watching something with the fidelity of a play yet none of the other sensory cues just feels wrong. Even if I’m not consciously aware of it, my brain is.

I can see the format benefitting an intimate character drama, but until the lighting issues are fixed I’m dubious even that wouldn’t cross into Uncanny Valley territory; however, all animated movies should now be shown at the higher frame rate because I’m certain they would look amazing.

I am glad I gave the High Frame Rate version a chance, because at least I now know that much like 3D, I’m not missing out on anything.