Thanks to Pop Culture Happy Hour full-timers Stephen Thompson, Glen Weldon, and host Linda Holmes for inviting me back on the podcast this week to talk about The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and a subject closer to my heart than that one, Christmas music. Have I mentioned that I’m very interested in Christmas music?
Our dissection of that enervating Hobbit movie feeds into a discussion of second installments, and some of the ones that really work. If you haven’t seen Terminator 2: Judgment Day in a while, there’s no time like the present, Christmas T-minus five.
One element of our Hobbit talk that got cut for time was when I mentioned that I’d sought out a “High Frame Rate” presentation of this movie, because I’m interested in where action pictures might be headed. I remember James Cameron mentioning HFR as a potential new frontier in interviews from more than ten years ago, well before Avatar. (He has announced that Avatar‘s four sequels, coming in 2016, 2017, and 2018, will be released in HFR.)
I’ve read that director Peter Jackson messed with the color grading of the HFR version of Smaug in response to complaints that the prior Hobbit movie had a cheap, daytime-soap look. I love the irony that the newest, priciest filmmaking technology has the effect of making this megafranchise look like a shot-on-video-for-peanuts Dr. Who episode.
Anyway, whatever Jackson did seemed to my eyes to be for naught. Smaug has a distracting, video-gamey look that conspired with its pointlessly roaming camerawork to make everything in the frame feel weightless. I had a tougher time suspending my disbelief watching The Desolation of Smaug than I do watching the original 1933 King Kong, or a Ray Harryhausen joint. The illusion of weight, not size, is what makes impossible visions seem real.
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