The books “The Hobbit” and “Life of Pi” are each about 300 pages long. So why, then, does “Pi” translate into a satisfying two-hour movie with a beginning, middle and end, while “Hobbit” requires three movies that’ll each come in around three hours long?
(“Life of Pi,” incidentally, is awesome.)
I kind of hated “The Hobbit” before I saw it. A great director in Guillermo Del Toro left the production because the studios were making him wait too long to get legal agreements in order before he could start filming. Then Peter Jackson, who was to produce the film only, stepped in to direct. Jackson helmed the “Lord of the Rings” films.
As cool as those three movies were, the last installment left a sour taste at the end. The whole story centered around destroying the ring, right? Yet once Gollum and his precious fall into the lava of Mount Doom, the movie keeps going for another hour. “Return of the King” didn’t need to be more than three hours long, but it chose to. That sucks.
So now we have the relatively short book “The Hobbit” being turned by Jackson into a trilogy. Everyone who read that book as a kid remembers the dragon Smaug. He appears in the new movie only as feet and a long tail. Jackson is making us wait for the second film (hopefully), to get a good look at him.
Again, that sucks. “The Hobbit” cartoon I loved so much when I was a kid ran 77 minutes. How come cartoonists can condense the book into something short and watchable but Peter Jackson can’t?
Thing is, this first “Hobbit” film is pretty great. Bilbo is a much cooler character than Frodo, and the story doesn’t lack for monsters. Azog the Defiler, for instance, is a total badass, with a freaky hook hand and scars that run all over his body like tribal tattoos. Jackson’s orcs got a lot scarier in the years between “Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit.” Many of these monsters are entirely digital (I think), but they look totally real. The sense of scale is incredible, as creatures are often towering over the main characters.
Much has been made of “The Hobbit” being shot at 48 frames per second, twice the speed of a normal film. I saw it on the XD screen in Albuquerque’s Century Rio 24 theater, which projects at that rate, and it looked amazing.
I see it like this: I’ll be back to watch the sequels in the theater, because they’re too amazing to skip. But Jackson cost himself a shot at a classic by stretching the story out. We all like sitting down to watch a normal-length movie at home, and we’ll never have that option with Jackson’s “Hobbit.” It’s kind of a shame.