Well, Hobbit Day is finally upon us. Every studio with an ounce of sense has completely cleared out their release schedule, ceding the weekend to Peter Jackson and his furry-footed behemoth. I Am Legend‘s December opening record of $77 million is almost certain to be destroyed, and while the length might keep it from matching The Avengers‘ sprint from earlier this year, the thing is going to make serious bank. So really, there’s not much question of what to watch this weekend. The question is how to watch it.
You can check out the snazzy new high frame-rate version in 3D or IMAX 3D, stick with regular old 3D or IMAX 3D, crane your neck and spare your eyes on an IMAX screen, or risk getting yourself pegged as a Luddite and just watch it in good old-fashioned standard 2D. That’s six different viewing options, and knowing my luck, I’ll be stuck in line behind the guy who is only just now making up his mind which one to see. With five of the six options costing more than a regular ticket, it’s not hard to see why this is going to rake in the cash, but I do wonder if we’re reaching burnout levels when it comes to the choice of how we can see a film. We had enough trouble on two separate occasions with two different home video formats. Six probably would have thrown us all back to Super 8. So, it’ll be interesting to see the breakdown of just which format people opt for.
Granted, there’s nowhere near the number of high frame-rate screens as there are 3D and IMAX screens (especially if you lump in all the LIEMAX screens out there). And the buzz on the format has been decidedly mixed, ranging from providing an amazingly clear and crisp picture to looking like nothing so much as a mid-70s episode of Doctor Who. Personally, I don’t need my cinematic experience to be as exactingly life-like as possible. It’s not like when sound and color came to the movies. Those were missing elements from an incomplete recreation of moving life. What I want is a little hint of artifice there, the sense that we’re looking at something that has been preserved imperfectly, like a memory. I don’t want my movies to be like looking out a window at real life; I can do that for free, and there really isn’t all that much art to it. I’d rather all this time and effort be spent on what the film is telling us, and how it does so. Not at what resolution it’s doing it.
Besides, I already have enough reservations about the content of The Hobbit without compounding my first viewing with wrapping my head around a new visual format. I’m most likely going to opt for standard 2D, so that the story and the characters are the focus, not how good or bad the picture looks. Then, if I’m so moved, I’ll give the high frame-rate a shot, just to see what all the fuss is about. I just hope that second viewing is more because I genuinely loved the film and not because I’m trying to convince myself I did. I’ve already been burned by one filmmaker going back to a trilogy I loved with less than stellar results. I don’t need to go through it again.