Monday, December 22, 2014

5 Armies

I'm pretty bummed about the last Hobbit movie. I can't really even say if it was good or not. I was distracted for the whole movie by what felt like everything moving slightly too fast. It felt like watching a colorized version of those old black and white films silent films where everyone movies unnaturally fast because the cameras of the day were hand cranked. Or, if you've ever streamed video and had it freeze for a second at the beginning and then everyone moves a little fast to catch up with the sound. Or, tap the forward button on your Blue Ray controller sometime and get a movie moving at 1.2x's speed. That's how the whole movie was.

I found myself during parts thinking it looked an awful lot like a video game. Which, don't get me wrong, I love video games, but you don't expect a movie that cost hundreds of millions of dollars to make to look like a $60 video game. It made it hard for me to get invested in the story. I missed whole sections because instead of immersing myself in the story and unfolding drama, I kept wondering why it was moving this way. Was there something wrong with the equipment? Was the theater thinking it was being slick and trying to get a slightly faster turn around on the movie. It was late, so did one of the employees speed it up slightly to get us out of the theater sooner? Was I the only noticing this? Was I getting sick and that's why it was moving like that? Because of this, I missed sections and scenes of the movie. Without giving away spoilers, there were points where I realized someone was back and I don't remember how they got there because my mind was so distracted by the visuals and subsequent musings it caused.

So, I don't say anything when I leave, and neither does anyone else. On the drive home, I'm thinking about the other two and how stunning they were. I saw 'Unexpected Journey' in 4K, 48FPS, 3D. It was beautiful. I saw 'Smaug' in 4K, 48FPS, IMAX 3D, and it was nothing short of revolutionary in vision. So... what the hell happened in 'Five Armies' that made it so hard to watch? Was it just the theater I was in. I saw Guardians of the Galaxy there and it was staggering how beautiful and rich in detail that movie was.

I get home and I start looking up 'what is wrong with 5 armies'. Turns out it's in 60FPS. Now, having seen the other two in 48FPS and loving it, I don't understand why 60FPS would be worse. That's what the human already sees in. It should be better theoretically. But it wasn't. Then, I started seeing the same complaints I had. Video game-ish, weirdly sped-up, unnatural. So, it wasn't just me then. I don't know why those 12FPS made such a radical difference, but for me it was a total distraction. The actors may have been good, performance of a lifetime, but I missed it for the most part because the visual quality took me out of the movie experience.

I'm not saying it's not the future of cinema. Maybe it is, but this early version didn't work for me. I'll repeat... for ME. It's just something I'm going to look out for in the future. I mean, I really, really loved 48FPS, 4K, IMAX 3D. It was stunning. And I'm not saying 60FPS isn't smooth... maybe it is. Maybe the format I saw it in; 60FPS, 4K, IMAX 3D was just too much. Maybe the format isn't ready for prime time yet and will be with a little more work. I hope people keep shooting in it because I would love it to work and be even more immersive in the future. That's why you go to movies, to get away from the world for a while. To get lost in a story. But, in this particular case, I couldn't stop wondering what was wrong. That kind of distraction in a movie defeats the point of going to the movie for me.

And, to clarify, I'm not some critic or movie snob. I have very rarely seen a movie I didn't like. I take every movie for what it is. I don't worry about adaptations or scale or messages or any of that. When I see a movie, I set aside any expectations and just enjoy it for what it is. People that know me always comment on how into movies I am, even movies they consider totally shitty I find things to love. Take Doom for example. I love that movie. Was a blockbuster? No. Is it gonna win awards. No. But can I sit down, grab some Reese's and a soda and have fun watching it, absolutely.

I feel like people have become too cynical about movies. It's become popular to be stuck up about what's out there instead of just loving that we live in a world where people get paid to do this purely for our entertainment and that we can do things with both practical and CGI effects that are utterly mind-blowing. It actually bums me out that this is the first time I've ever left a movie dissatisfied. I know, I know. #firstworldproblem. I get it. But I'm still bummed. I really want to see 5 Armies again, but I think... for the purposes of being able to immerse myself in it, I'm gonna have to see it in a different format. And I'll probably wait until it comes out at home. I don't see any point in throwing more money at it to potentially get let down again.

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