Mamo #281: One Does Not Simply Mamo Into Mordor

The Lord of the Rings! Peter Jackson’s fantasy trilogy changed the face of Hollywood forever, thrusting Gollum, Weta, and New Zealand into the filmmaking forefront. With The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey mere weeks away, we take a trip in the time machine back to the project that started it all, and analyze the broad swath of impact that the One Ring has had on moviegoing.

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Matt Brown
Matt Brown co-hosts the Mamo!, Super Zero, Get Your Cast To Mars, and My So-Cast Life podcasts, and has a weekly column at Screen Anarchy called Destroy All Monsters. Imagine Thor crossed with a 12-year-old girl.


  1. Geek note: At about minute 32 of the podcast a Split Enz song (I don’t know why I get frightened) is playing in the background… Split Enz were founded by Neil and Tim Finn (Crowded House). Neil and Tim Finn are from Te Awamutu. Te Awamutu is 25 minutes drive from Mata Mata. Mata Mata is where Hobbiton is, and filmed…

    Hobbiton is 35 minutes from Paeroa. Paeroa is where my Mum and Dad live. Paeroa is 40 minutes from Catherdral Cove. Cathedral Cove is Narnia. Fuck Narnia!

    • We planned for the song. We actually plan for everything. Mamo’s rough-shod appearance is all a sham; even our voices are a sham. Mamo is actually a computer program that’s been running since 1996. Sometimes it gets it in its head to be “funny,” hence the Split Enz song.

    • I’m actually expecting to enjoy the movie despite NOT being much of a fan of the bloated LOTR movies. Reason being: I just finished reading The Hobbit and found it incredibly boring. However, it reads almost like a screenplay and I think the visuals on screen will actually be better than the visuals in my head since I had no idea what Tolkien was trying to describe.

    • I think a lot of people know what to expect considering that the Lord of the Rings & the Hobbit are 2 (or 4 if you consider each volume of the Lord of the Rings separately) of the best selling books of all time. I know not everyone has read the book, but it is just so many people have.

      Tonally it is a bit different because it’s a group on an adventure rather than the weight of the world being in balance of the actions of a few people. Even the style that Tolkien writes the book is more kid friendly with a lot more songs & poems. There is a reason it was adapted into a singing animated movie. However, a big part of that is the style of writing which could easily be lost in an adaption. That said, I’m expecting Peter Jackson’s take on it to be a bit more mature.

      Although some of the dwarfs do look a lot less serious and more like comic relief, but I still expect more of a mature tone than the book. Especially with Jackson adding all that additional material with the White Counsel & rise of Sauron.

      Either way, I would be surprised if there is a negative reaction to this movie (unless it’s too the HFR).

      • Yeah the Dwarves are a problem. While reading the book, I found I couldn’t care less about the Dwarves. There are too many of them and they are indistinguishable from one another (the movie posters are the same way). Except for the main guy – and we don’t even care/know much about him until towards the end. It’s Bilbo’s journey and his story. But aside from a moment here and a moment there, I found myself really wanting to put the book down and move on to something else. I finished it half-heartedly.

        Gandalf is almost nowhere to be found through 90% of the book.

        • I first read the Hobbit when I was around 10 years old and absolutely loved it. I’ve re-read it a few times, perhaps a year or two back most recently with an annotated version providing back story on things that influenced Tolkien. It’s a book that opened up a whole world of fantasy novels for me as a teen, so it’s hard to look at that book objectively and what I would have thought just reading it as an adult.

          One of the things I’ve disliked a bit is the designs of the Dwarves and how many of them don’t look very Dwarvish. However, I realize that if they all looked the same that it would have been an absolute mess and that making them so different and unique, even if they look a bit goofy is needed in a movie adaption. Even as a fan I can’t remember half of their names.

      • Well, IMHO if The Hobbit is tonally as serious as The Lord of the Rings they’ve made a mistake. I’m fully expecting a lighter, more Raiders of the Lost Ark-ish adventure, at least for the first two installments. The dwarf stuff in the trailers seems like mainline Jackson, which I have no problem with.

        I’m interested to see how the HFR is going to play. Jackson & Co. have done a lot to downplay the HFR in the last few months… and then advance tickets go on sale and the exhibitors are pushing HFR to the ceiling. (2-D tickets aren’t even on sale yet in most markets!) So I wonder if a lot of unsuspecting buyers are grabbing advance tickets for The Hobbit in what they expect is regular 3-D and will instead be sitting through a trippy HFR experience…

        Gonna be tons of fun to unpack the reaction on Mamo on December 15. 😉 Looking forward to it.

        • I was actually planning on getting an IMAX ticket for The Hobbit, but the Sociabank Theatre IMAX wasn’t part of the initial presale (it is now – AFTER I decided to get an HFR ticket instead).

          It kind of sucks that I will not get to see that extended Star Trek prologue.

          • We are advertising it as HFR and our staff should be explaining it to people as well when they purchase tickets at the box office.

        • Not quite as serious as Lord of the Rings, but the Hobbit with a lot of singing and dancing could easily be adapted into a Disney-like musical, as it was with the previous animated trailer. I expect the tone to be a bit more serious than than, more mature but still more fun than Lord of the Rings. As mentioned this is more of an adventure rather than the weight of the world in balance.

        • I’m still disappointed there’s no 2D HFR version. I’m really curious (though dubious) about the HFR, but I really don’t want to put up with the headache 3D will give me. We’ll probably do the 2D first just to be able to concentrate on the film and the story, and then go back for the 3D HFR later out of pure technical curiosity.

        • The Colbert Report just had a Hobbit week with an cast members on the show each day for a week. It ended up with Peter Jackson on the show and Colbert revealed a fact that I wasn’t aware of. That in 1960, J.R.R. Tolkien decided to re-write the Hobbit in the tone of Lord of the Rings. That the original version of the Hobbit came out as more of a kids book in just the way the story was told and written, but that other characters from the story when recording history might have it in a more Lord of the Rings style. Tolkien apparently got as far as the group arriving in Rivendell before he decided against it and abandoned it.

          That said, what Tolkien had written along with many other notes was published back in 2007. Having read and enjoyed the Annotated Hobbit, I find this curious, but at 960 pages split up among 2 books, I think this History of the Hobbit might be too long even for me.

          Now getting back to the movie, it seems Peter Jackson wasn’t aware that this existed. Which surprises me since I would have figured during the writing of the script, he would be wanting to dig up this kind of thing. Especially when it was Tolkien himself who was responsible for this re-write.

  2. I never viewed The Lord of the Rings as adaptations, since I’ve never read the books. My only association of LOTR prior to the films was the 1978 animated film, which I watched a few times on TV, of which my only real memory were the Nazgûl.

    Even though I don’t typically read books before seeing film adaptations (I read too slow), I DID read Stephen King’s DREAMCATCHER (in record time I might add) in the weeks leading up to the film in 2003.

    As such, I was able gauge the differences between the film and the book:
    1st Act: Closest to Book (including a spot-on recreation of the bathroom scene – scariest sequence in BOTH book and film)
    2nd Act: Some changes, though the important aspects remained.
    3rd Act: Biggest changes, including a changed ending.

  3. I also think the LOTR movies are pretty bloated and consequently boring.

    I don’t see how one stretches the plot of the Hobbit out into three movies without bloating it. In my head its broken up like this:

    ***Hobbit Story Spoilers***

    1. Intro to Escape from the Goblins of the Misty Mountains
    2. Mirkwood and Smaug
    3. The Battle of Five Armies

    I don’t know where the Gandalf journey fits in, that is obviously in there somewhere. A movie centered around the battle of five armies, sounds pretty terrible to me. Its has to be an extended battle with embellishment like Helm’s Deep. Which honestly didn’t do much for me.

    Worries about a bloated film aside, I am looking forward to this movie. The Hobbit was one of my favorite books as a Kid. My mom bought me the book illustrated by Michael Hague. I must have read that book 10 times. And looked at the pictures 100 times. It will be fun to see it envisioned as a live action film. (I also think the 70s cartoon is really good.)

  4. I will also watch The Hobbit in 48, although to be fair, I am more interesting in the format than the actual film (I am on LOTR is bloated camp). I need to witness whether the format is as bad as think it might be, and whether I should be worry for its possible future adoption in film-making.

  5. Re MAMO being a video podcast, since the iphone has a HD video recording function built in the question is why would you not record it with video too?

    • Nice find. My local cinema is getting it, which is a surprise. I remember reading an article a few months back saying that not many cinemas would be able to screen in 48fps. They were obviously talking out of their arse.

      From someone that gets a headache in 3D films, I’m hoping the higher frame rate might help this problem.

  6. If the tables in your eatery are too small to get both of you sitting on the same side of the table, sitting at an angle (at the corners of the table?) where you can see each other and the camera, and audio only is an aesthetic choice then fair enough.

    If I’m honest it was the restaurant I really wanted to see in the background, as the sounds of the background make it seem like it would be an interesting backdrop.

    Plus I realise that some podcasters may feel they have radio faces. (tongue firmly in cheek here)

      • I don’t think the 3-D makes much of a change (in terms of spatial differences), but in terms of image quality it is a huge step up. It is amazingly crisp and clear. 4K to 48 fps is probably similar to the difference between DVD to Blu-ray. Possibly even greater, and most digital theatres project at 2K, making an even more dramatic difference.

        • Hey Matt Gamble, was the 48 footage that you tested for The Hobbit? Almost every single report/review declares that watching the film in 48 is an awful experience.

          • I don’t see THE HOBBIT until it opens next week, but I have a feeling much of this criticism is very reactionary (i.e. it’s different than what I’m used to, so that means it’s terrible).

          • That’s what I’m inclined to believe as well. But if it’s anything like auto-motion plus (on LG televisions), I will never go to another movie shot that way again. Ever.

          • A few articles that I saw quoted audience members who said that HFR gave them a headache or made them sick to their stomach. So these weren’t people who felt it was different, but that it made them physically sick.

            That said a small number of people react this way to most 3D movies. I imagine it wouldn’t be that hard to get quotes from a few audience members and build an sensational article around this, even if the majority loved it.

          • Motion sickness comes from it being 3-D, the HFR really should have little impact on that portion.

            Headaches in theory should lessen, as the image quality is clearer and movement smoother, so your brain should be workking less to process the image.

            But none of this has ever been quantified to begin with, so any complaints about them have no previous data to be compared with to see if there is an increase or a decrease in the rate of incidence.

          • I don’t imagine it will be quite as bad as the LG auto-motion plus thing, just because that actually interpolates frames that aren’t there, right, to make something shot in 24fps have 30fps. For this, there actually are 48fps, it’s not “making them up.”

            Still, I’m not totally convinced, but I think Sean is probably right, some of it is just resistance-to-change stubbornness. Another friend linked me to this example page from RED. The real kicker for me was the example a couple down, of the 24fps vs 48fps pan across a logo. The 24fps judders, the 48fps is smooth, and yeah, I can see that, but to me the 24fps looks like it was shot in a real place with a physical wall, and the 48fps looks like it’s entirely digitally created. But maybe that’s just a psychological interpretation of judder=real and smooth=fake that will go away after time. I don’t know.

          • I saw The Hobbit and some stock footage. The HFR will seem odd initially because they have eliminated all the jitter, so everything moves smoother, and it can look like they are moving faster than normal. Your eyes and brain will typically adjust to this fairly quickly. This is what people are complaining about.

            In terms of image quality, it is freaking magnificent. The clarity really is leaps and bounds better than anything I’ve ever seen.

          • One other way I can put it, is for any quick movements it can seem like some of the movement is speed ramped, and I think that is more just due to our brains and eyes playing tricks on us, because the more you watch the more it begins to revert to “normal”.

    • Not the first time, no. I am honestly not very interested in this technology and don’t enjoy 3-D much. I saw three LORD OF THE RINGS films on traditional film and didn’t feel I was missing any element of the experience.

      I will catch the HFR presentation on my second viewing, though, since we will need to discuss it in some detail on Mamo.


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