We’ll be spoilt for choice when The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey reaches cinemas in December. You’ll have the option of watching it in 3D, in an IMAX theatre, occasionally at 48 frames per second (which, if the early reports are to be believed, makes everything look more real), and also in a bog-standard, normal-sized cinema in the traditional two dimensions.
It doesn’t end there. The Extended Edition will be released next year, which is basically the same film only with more footage that the producers trimmed from the first release to keep the running time in check but to tease the hardcore fans. With me so far? Then The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (that’s part two of the trilogy, for the uninitiated) reaches cinemas. At which point everything starts all over again and we’re a step closer to Peter Jackson being declared Supreme Overlord of Mainstream Cinema.
Figuring out which version is The Right Version is tricky, especially as Jackson is unlikely to offer a recommendation. The surprise sound bite of the winter from Team Hobbit would be: “Wow, steer clear of the IMAX 3D edition, guys – it’s kinda pricey and a bit too big for comfort!”
As with much of Hollywood’s modern output, it seems to come down to how much you’re willing to spend, with filmmakers increasingly happy to offer a slightly different (as opposed to ‘better’) experience for each and every budget range. It’s left to Joe Cinema Goer to decide whether this is A Good Thing. Of course you could pay to watch each version of the same film and decide which one you like the most. Easy!
While Hollywood plays around with different viewing formats, it seems like tailoring film content for specific audiences could be the next logical step in appealing to people who might not otherwise be all that interested. The Studio Boss will hold a strategy meeting with a select group of executives and make a bold announcement:
“Welcome, my minions! So, we’ve got an enormous fantasy juggernaut that every cinema fan and adventure movie aficionado will be queuing up to see. That’s great. But I want the Reality TV audience!
“Here’s what we do. We shoot additional footage that re-casts the film with a Reality TV slant. I’m thinking Ryan Seacrest – yes, the guy from American Idol – as Bilbo. He’s good-looking, recognisable and he’ll look great in a crazy wig, short trousers and big, hairy feet. Simon Cowell will be Gandalf. He’s tall, authoritative and whatever he says goes. That’s very wizardy…
“As for the dwarves, I’m thinking about that wacky celebrity family from Keeping Up with the Kardashians. People seem to find them relatable and aspirational individuals. They’re all over the E! Entertainment channel and they’re, like, hot stuff! The ‘dwarves’ could definitely use a big dose of Sexy and the Reality crowd will adore the girls’ pluck as they bounce off each other with their feisty personalities and tackle the magical creatures of Middle Earth.
“I’m thinking we do in-movie interviews with the girls as they face-off against various fantasy beasties – those quickie sound bites are an essential part of engaging with the Reality audience and lightening the mood with some sass! Then Simon Cowell – dressed as Gandalf, remember – can vote off whoever’s failed to show courage under pressure and we move onto the next task! How does that sound? Awesome!
“The film will feature a guest appearance from Ozzy Osborne as the villainous dragon Smaug. It might even lead to a spin-off movie where a camera crew follows him around and he reveals the trials and tribulations of working as a performance-capture artist and being covered in golf balls all day long.
“Finally, Ant & Dec can make a guest appearance as Gollum so that we can visually represent the split-personality thing. Maybe they can make Ryan Seacrest – as Bilbo – perform crazy bush tucker trials to win The One Ring?
“Naturally the whole thing will end in a brutal battle but we’ll save money by portraying the bloody conflict with spinning tabloid headlines, which is how Reality stars tend to interact with each other anyway. Naturally it’ll all be screened in IMAX 3D!
“I’ve seen the future and it will be Reality!”