Peter Jackson responded to criticism of his preview of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" at CinemaCon this week, saying that audiences will eventually "settle into" the hyper-realistic look of the film shot at a higher frame rate.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the director acknowledged that some did not care for the look of the film at the rate of 48 frames per second, rather than the standard 24.
"I can't say anything, just like I can't say anything to someone who doesn't like fish," he said. "You can't explain why fish tastes great and why they should enjoy it."
“A couple of the more negative commenters from CinemaCon said that in the Gollum and Bilbo scene they didn't mind it and got used to that," Jackson said. "That was the same 48 frames the rest of the reel was. I just wonder if it they were getting into the dialogue, the characters and the story. That's what happens in the movie. You settle into it.”
A New Line executive told TheWrap that there had been debate at the studio about whether or not to screen the high frame rate footage in its unfinished form, but Jackson had pushed for the preview and prevailed. The individual said that any problems will likely be fixed once the color is corrected and the special effects are finalized.
Jackson opted to shoot the prequel to his "Lord of the Rings" trilogy at 48 frames per second rather than the standard 24 frames, because he claims it will improve the film's 3D imagery and better immerse audiences in the action.
But the 10-minute extended look at the fantasy was easily the most divisive event at the exhibitor trade show, with many theater owners and members of the media complaining that the effect was similar to a telenovela or a filmed stage play.
An individual close to Jackson told TheWrap that the director has taken note of the criticism and acknowledges that the technology needs work. This individual noted that the landscapes were effective, particularly an opening aerial shot of a mountain range, but agreed that the problems seemed to arise whenever an actor appeared.
The higher definition may reduce the blurriness associated with 3D imagery, but it has the added effect of heightening actors' facial blemishes and robbing the film of its painterly quality.
Both individuals were confident that the technical problems will be smoothed out before "The Hobbit" premieres on Dec. 14. The film will also be available at the standard rate of 24 frames per second.
Though the reaction to the technology was mixed, the film itself got strong buzz. As TheWrap noted, the scenes that screened at CinemaCon showed Jackson firmly in command of his storytelling powers. An encounter between Bilbo Baggins and Gollum, in which the hobbit has to answer riddles in exchange for his life, was both chilling and absorbing.
Jackson told the magazine that the blowback was not going to prevent filmmakers from experimenting with higher frame rates.
“Nobody is going to stop,” he said. “This technology is going to keep evolving.”
If his intention was to get theater owners on his side, that might be more problematic. Though most of the major chains will likely update their projectors so they can screen the film at 48 frames, smaller exhibitors may balk at the added expense.
One theater owner told TheWrap that he was unimpressed by the high frame rate footage and unsure if it was worth the investment. He noted that he had already made a substantial investment to convert his theaters from film to digital in recent years, spending roughly $150,000 per screen. He said that he estimated updating his projectors would cost $8,000 apiece.
- Peter Jackson