The Hobbit in HD – An Unexpected CG

I did not catch The Hobbit while it was showing in theatres. Thanks to the magic of iTunes,  I purchased the HD edition and began feasting my eyes on…PS 3 video game footage?

I’ve never seen a Blu-ray edition of the Lord of the Rings, so it is hard for me to compare, but the photography seems off somehow. Clearly, the Hobbit was made by incredibly talented artists, but for some reason I am unable to let myself get sucked into the story as I did for the LOTR. The image quality is surreal, too crisp, and what may well be carefully-crafted creature masks look like CG. Perhaps they are CG, which may explain that aspect. Nonetheless, I find my suspension of disbelief challenged at every scene. The villains don’t quite seem to be physically present, but rather appear as uncanny apparitions on screen, unlike the masked orks, goblins, and uruks of the LOTR. Herein lies the rub for FX-heavy movies, and with television technology pushing towards ever-higher resolutions the effort needed to seamlessly blend live action and CG will become ever more difficult. Entirely CG films also run the risk of looking like elaborate cut scenes from video games rather than feature length blockbusters.

As much as I loved Peter Jackson’s efforts to bring to life LOTR, wondrously lifting the images my imagination had built years before and displaying them in the flesh, I am not so certain it works as well for the Hobbit. A few observations:

1. The Hobbit takes place in a more innocent time than LOTR, and this is reflected in the tone both the book and the film set, but I am not quite so sure that singing dwarves translates from paper very well.

2. Azog looks like a computer game character pasted onto most scenes. Though my recollection of the book’s version is clouded by the decades since I read it, don’t recall him having that prominent a role. A useful tool to stretch the film out into a trilogy, I suppose.

The Uncanny Azog

3. Have I mentioned the paradox of fancy graphics vs. physical effects yet? Just checking. There’s CG here. Lots of it.

4. It’s still a fun movie, and it fits into the LOTR, so I’ll probably end up watching it again a few times, regardless. The true curse of the Ring!

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