Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The Hobbit Movie Poster

Director: Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings trilogy, King Kong, Heavenly Creatures)
Screenplay: Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Guillermo del Toro
Producers: Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Zane Weiner, Carolynne Cunningham,
Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis, Richard Armitage, Ken Stott, James Nesbitt, Graham McTavish, Aidan Turner, Sylvester McCoy.
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 169 min.


Note: This review concerns the 3D version of the movie as well as the higher 48 frames per second.

Fewer follows ups have been more anticipated than The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first in a new trilogy of films set in the much beloved Middle Earth, previously seen in the hugely successful Lord of the Rings trilogy. After on-going behind-the-scenes troubles, previously attached director Guillermo del Toro left the project to pursue other things (though he still remains credited as one of the screenwriters), ultimately resulting in Peter Jackson stepping back in to take on the prequel to end all prequels, as some might call it.

Set 60 years prior to the beginning of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the film follows a young Bilbo Baggins (this time played by the ever likable Martin Freeman) who lives a happy and quiet life in the Shire. His life is disrupted one day when the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) turns up at his door practically demanding he go on an adventure with him and a band of proud and eccentric dwarves who are on a quest to take back the land, and their treasure, once taken from their ancestors by the fearful dragon Smaug. At first severely reluctant, Bilbo is ultimately convinced and joins the dwarves on their journey.

I think Jackson has to be commended for, quite bravely, deciding to jump in at the deep end once more by taking on yet another set of films, where the story is not so much saving the world but helping a band of warriors reclaim their home. What results is an understandably less epic film than any of the Lord of the Rings (even Fellowship) but one which repeatedly goes out of its way to try and capture the more light-hearted tone of this particular story. I’m not a massive Lord of the Rings fan anyway and as such The Hobbit is a welcome diversion from that style. Having said that, it’s sometimes jarring in tone as it flips back and forth between comical and perilous, with scenes of the dwarves spouting what are effectively one-liners to huge sequences involving falling rocks or ambitious battles atop a mountain. It feels a little like Jackson is caught between a rock and a hard place of trying to bring the book to life while at the same time emulating what he did with the LOTR trilogy.

At almost three hours long the film does feel overstretched, with a set-up period of at least 45 minutes which moves at a languorous pace as it doles out arguably unneeded exposition and character motivation. It reeks of padding the story just for the sake of making it long (lest we forget The Hobbit book is much shorter than any of the Rings books) and it suffers because of that tactic. It takes way longer than was necessary to finally pick up its feet and get going but once it does the last couple of hours zips along fine, with the last two thirds of the movie basically being made up of a sequence of big set-pieces which vary in effectiveness, some relying too much on CGI or being repetitive while others are unique and eye-catching in their own right. Again, there’s a certain sense that a few of them are simply there as filler to up the runtime to match the extended nature of the previous trilogy when it really doesn’t need it; a much tighter film would have been welcome.

Where The Hobbit succeeds best is in its casting. First off, Martin Freeman is a fantastic Bilbo, a well enough known actor so as to be a draw but not so famous that it’s difficult to buy him in the role, convincingly playing a young Ian Holm while still putting his own mark on the character. With his deadpan remarks, comic stubbornness and charming bewilderment, he is a joy to be in the company of as the film’s wary protagonist. It’s a real stroke of casting brilliance.

The all-important 13 dwarves, headed by Thorin Oakenshield, are brought to life with real verve by the likes of Richard Armitage, Ken Stott, James Nesbitt, Graham McTavish and Aidan Turner. Each of them bring their own distinct personalities to the table, so to speak, and provide a lot of the film’s comedic relief. Their comedy is, admittedly, rather hit-and-miss, ranging from welcome relief to being a bit too much on the slapstick side but it ultimately lends the film the more light-hearted nature it needs in comparison to the far more serious Lord of the Rings stories.

Crucially returning is Ian McKellen as the iconic Gandalf continuing his brilliant portrayal we all know and love, as well as Andy Serkis as Gollum. The latter, like in Lord of the Rings, is the best part of the movie as his signature scene where he and Bilbo “have a game of riddles” absolutely steals the show. The previously groundbreaking CGI effect is improved here (if that’s even possible), once again capturing the mannerisms and movements so well that he feels just as real as any of the actual actors. Other familiar faces turn up including Cate Blanchett as the elf Galadriel and Hugo Weaving as Elrond Lord of Rivendell, while Sylvester McCoy is a jovial addition to the proceedings as Radagast the Brown.

Peter Jackson decided to shoot his telling of The Hobbit in 48 frames per second (double the normal rate). It won’t be shown in most places in that format simply because there are few places equipped to do so but those thinking of making that extra effort should think again. The 48fps is horrible, lending the film a distracting ultra-realism effect resulting in such a fine level of detail that it ironically takes away from the cinematic quality of the picture. It’s too real in many ways, annoyingly mimicking a TV play or filmed pantomime which perpetually distracts from the otherwise impressive production design. And the 3D, on top of being pretty unnecessary as it usually is, doesn’t exactly help matters as it only adds to the disconcerting 48 frames effect. It becomes less of a problem when we enter into full blown CGI-laden action sequence territory where fire and orcs are being flung around the place or when we get far away shots of the sweeping landscapes. However, one still wonders why on (Middle) Earth Jackson chose to shoot his new trilogy in this way and not allow the detailed world to be shown off in all its cinematic glory instead of it being masked by this peculiar effect (of course this won’t matter in regular 24fps 2D).

It’s disappointing that The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey doesn’t fully deliver on what it promised. An uneven tone which tries to mix comedy with danger and some superfluous action (among other things) hinder the film from being the completely entertaining experience it had the potential to be. Nevertheless this sufficiently faithful adaptation should please most fans of the book, and is a promising start to the new trilogy when it rests on the shoulders of its strong cast by playing to their strengths and accentuating the once again stunning production design and Howard Shore’s damn near perfect score.

Click “play” to see the trailer:

This review was previously published at Thoughts On Film.





193 comments

  1. The film itself sounds like what I’ve been expecting ever since I heard it was to become three films and after the overly goofy last few trailers.

    As for the 48fps I’m hearing a lot of people agreeing with you in that it loses its cinematic qualities. I’m still intrigued though, so want to give it a try. Did it make you feel queasy though as some say? I’m not so keen if it’s going to make me feel uncomfortable through the whole experience. Looking bland I can live with, but I’m not paying £10 to throw up in my popcorn.

  2. Goddammit I knew it. I bet anything it’s that same look those auto-motion plus TVs use. I’m really hoping it isn’t what I think it is and I hope I will enjoy the new look. I’m REALLY hoping. Because if it looks like what you’re describing or even close to what I think it is, it will be a sad sad thing if this is the “future” of film making – mostly because I won’t go to the movies anymore. People have said, “don’t worry Andrew, it’s not the same thing and it isn’t the same type of technology,” but I’m really skeptical.

    I watched 30 minutes of The Princess Bride and a little bit of Desperado with the tech and everything looked like a BBC soap opera from the 70′s. Everything cinematic about the movies was removed.

    Luckily I have 100-year back catalog of thousands of titles I haven’t seen yet.

    • I literally just finished writing a blog post on HFR and I support it.

      Even though I have yet to see the images myself, I am fast coming to the realization that people are predisposing themselves to hate HFR and, surprise, that it was they end up thinking.

      24 fps is not the “normal” frame-rate, it is the “standard.” It was made the standard in the 1920s when sound was introduced (the previous standard being about 16 fps).

      It really saddens me that we live in a world that tries to kill innovation before it even happens.

      • If it was a Google brand Andrew would be licking HFR’s incredibly sharp looking and fast moving balls.

        • Nope. I don’t use their inferior products. Like their mobile browser and… well that’s about it. Everything else by them I proudly like the tea-bagging.

          • Matt Gamble

            So you are still somehow using Wave?

          • As far as I know, WAVE does not exist does it? If it did, I wouldn’t use it. Though it was a great idea, it was practically broken. But everything I do use made by Google is so well designed and integrated with each other. And that’s what I love. I like as much stuff as possible all in one place working in tangent with one another – my phone, gmail, drive, calendar, reader, YouTube, blogger, G+, maps, Chrome, bookmarks, search. They’re all great products and work seamlessly with one another.

            If you like using Bing and Yahoo mail and Facebook and flickr, that’s great.

            Shit, if only I lived in KC and used Google fiber, my life would be complete.

          • Riiight, and you don’t rip on Apple users for using that same excuse. Never ever.

          • Not sure what you mean by “excuse.” I like Google products. They work well together. Really well. I don’t understand how that’s an “excuse” for anything.

            Apple products are great. I’ve never said they aren’t. They just cost 4 times as much and are falling further and further behind in the innovation department. An iPhone for example is still the #1 rated phone on almost any consumer reports list – despite it stranding people in the middle of Australia with no food or water for 36 hours. Jokes aside, my biggest problem with it is the way people marvel at it like it’s a handheld device for talking to God, when it doesn’t do half the stuff I want my phone to be able to do.

          • Wave does actually still exists, but no longer as a Google product but as an open source Apache project:
            http://incubator.apache.org/wave/

            While I always thought that Wave had issues and never bought into the hype that a lot of the tech crowd made of Wave, it is nice to see the project continue on outside of Google for anyone who did find it useful (example teams working on projects together).

          • Agreed that Wave had some great ideas; and if it worked the way it was intended to, man it would be an awesome service for getting group projects off the ground when the people working on it are not in the same location.

            Actually, the way Google Drive (some still call it Google docs) works right now, is pretty similar, without quite as many features.

          • I am not trying to offend anyone, Sean Kelley. It is common (perhaps cliche) analogy. They constantly make the comparison in the TWIT podcast (which is where I first encounter the comparison). Traditionally, Apple is seen as being Catholic-like, while Microsoft (and currently Google) is seen is being Protestant-like.

          • To Matt’s point. What people rip on the cult of Apple is often the same reaction Andrew has with Google products. That is to say, you want products to work, to work well and be intuitive. Apple often does this. My analogy is that in the computer world, I generally want to make toast with 90% of apps. I just want to push the button and have them work. Google and Apple tend to do this well, particularly for people caught in the gulf between being a professional and being someone who is slightly beyond novice. (In the camera world the phrase would be “Pro-sumer”) – Apple and Google play well to the pro-sumer.

          • Exactly, and I think both make some great products, my issue is with sycophants of either brand, and I feel it is quite safe to say that in recent months Andrew has been creeping closer and closer to the edge.

            And I plan to push him over that edge, and enjoy myself while doing it.

          • Kurt Halfyard

            In the video Cinecast when you put up as your logo, Google+ suxors, I think you almost found the edge with that one, Matt.

          • As Google Communities would say, “+1″ Kurt.

          • Which is why I was compelled to sent the voice message to Andrew. I just wanted to point out that he was becoming a parody of a Google fanboy.

          • I guess one big difference between Google & Apple at least when dealing with the mobile devices is that Google is a lot more lenient with you fiddling with the settings and making things more custom.

            While Apple has a more my way or the highway attitude. There are so many things on iOS that are so incredibly frustrating to me (like the iOS keyboard) but because Apple locks them done, you really can’t do anything about it.

            However, I totally realize that I’m big into tech, I’m a developer and I want this customization and certain workflows. This is totally not the way everyone wants interact with their mobile device.

            I’m going to stop there, before descending too far into bigger raging Apple rant. Also while Apple pisses me off, I’ve made a lot of money in the past year developing sites & apps that at times specifically target their devices.

          • I have the opposite reaction to Matthew. I own an Android phone, and boy, if I had the money, I will move to an Iphone in a heart beat. I hate using my phone. For example, the podcast apps are awful.

            One of the biggest blunder that Apple has done is the way they roll out their map app. It did not feel like a complete product (unApple-like).

          • Hm. I love Podkicker as a Podcast app. Also, now you’re talking about third party developers. Not Google or Android.

          • I own an iPad 2, 3rd gen iPad and a 5th gen iPod Touch (so like an iPhone 5 without the phone part) all of which I got for work related purposes. I find them endlessly frustrating. Outside of work, I tend to only use the iPad 3 for reading tech text books, as their 4:3 screen ratio better fits pages. Code or diagrams split over 2 pages can look really off. However, even with iBooks app frustrates me, trying to pull up the hidden top navigation to get to my Library and getting the notifications instead. If iOS just had a menu button like Android this wouldn’t be a problem, but with iOS I rarely can get it on my first try despite using this app for a very long time.

            I have a Toshiba Thrive, which is a lot bigger, clunkier, heavier and slower than the iPads but I think it is so much nicer to use. Also my wife has a Nexus 7, which thanks to multiple-user logins, I can now use as my own device without messing up any of her apps or settings.

            I really hope the iPad mini doesn’t get too popular, otherwise I’m likely going to have to buy one of those as well for work.

          • Currently I have an iPod Touch, laptop PC, Droid phone and a Windows phone, while my girlfriend has an iPhone and a MacBook. I’ve owned Mac’s, PC’s and Linux comps over the years.

            So far I will pretty much always go with PC’s and Linux based software if I had my druthers, though I don’t go all in on Linux primarily due to needing Windows based apps for work.

            One thing about all the phones, I have been endlessly impressed with my Windows phone to date (only 2 mo of usage). It combines the best of elements from both my Droid and the iPhone, and so far has few of their hangups.

            I don’t have much brand loyalty, as I really just prefer programs that work well, and accomplish what I need, and that is far more important to me than filling the coffers of huge corporations.

          • OOh you have a Windows phone? You should come over for a podcast one of these night. I’d like to play with it a while. I haven’t put my hands on one yet.

            As far as Android goes, if people really knew how to use the OS to its potential (flashing roms, using different launchers, etc.) I don’t think they would be so quick to go to Apple. The amount of customization I can do on my phone staggers even me. If you can think it up (and have the know-how), literally, you can probably do it.

          • Well, I am talking about third party because I have no choice– Google does not really offer an podcast program/directory.

          • “if people really knew how to use the OS to its potential (flashing roms, using different launchers, etc.) I don’t think they would be so quick to go to Apple. The amount of customization I can do on my phone staggers even me. If you can think it up (and have the know-how), literally, you can probably do it.”

            I am Catholic, I want a more authoritarian approach when it comes to aesthetics and functionality. For the most part, this approach backfires (i.e., Sony). But when it done right, it work like gangbusters. In my opinion, for many things, Apple has achieve this feat.

            Let’s be honest, most people have a shit taste in style and functionality, which is way Facebook was seen as being more classy than Myspace.

          • The difference is, with something like Facebook/MySpace, everyone has to look at it. With my phone, I’m the only person that has to look at it / use it.

            Some of these are great, some are hideous:
            http://mycolorscreen.com/screen-of-the-day/

            But what matters (to me) is how customizable it all is. And it’s not hard to do; you don’t have to be a techie to achieve most of this stuff. You just need to think. Just the fact that I can get rid of the top bar on my phone or make the grid any size I want (that’s one thing I was laughing at about the iPhone5 launch “OOooh! it has FIVE rows for apps now!” – well I can have any x/y grid size I want from 2 to 10 with Go Launcher) is the right start. The dock can be there or not. Does the iPhone have double tap functionality? How about triple tap? Does it have endlessly customizable widgets?

            Not that anyone cares, but Matt got me started. This is my current home screen:

            Visually it’s what I want it to be (the wave thing slowly moves like the PS3 home screen), but what you can’t see is the functionality of this screen. I can access just about any feature or app on my phone from this screen with two or less taps or a certain gesture. You’ll never see an iPhone with a clean interface like this; or at least certainly not one with any functionality.

            PS – My precious

          • It’s pretty slick, Andrew. The Transit app alone makes it difficult for me to even consider anything else in the near future.

            I haven’t tweaked it out too much, but it has some flexibility (probably not as much as my Droid), but it also does better with music/podcasts than my Droid, and the gaming on it is already superior. It also helps that all my work stuff is Windows based, and integrating with that was a freaking breeze compared to my Droid.

            My biggest complaint so far is some of the apps are slow to integrate with Droid/Apple versions and are more like stand alone apps. So far I have preferred the Windows versions of these apps, but without being able to always connect to other users it kind of makes some of them sort of pointless. That has been changing, but its at a slower pace than I would have hoped.

          • This philosophical debate is similar to one explored in the Helvetica documentary. I am a modernist. Viva Helvetica!

          • iPhone has had triple tap since 2010, double tap pretty much since inception. You can also customize widgets, though I believe you need to jailbreak to do so.

            One of my big issues with the iPhone is the apps typically have an overreliance on double and triple tap, with no explination on when you’d need to use them. You just have to figure it out on your own, which is a huge pain in the ass.

          • The iPhone 5 supports widgets? Even jailbroken? Are you sure?

          • I know you can double tap the home button to bring up recent apps. And I know double tapping will zoom in and out, but you can’t program double tap to do whatever you want can you? I admit to not being as familiar with the iPhone, but I’m pretty sure double tap on the iPhone only has one (or two or three) specific functions, but it doesn’t do whatever you want.

            For example, if I double tap my home screen, my bus schedule app opens up. If I triple tap, up comes Spotify. If I swipe up, my dock appears. If I swipe down, my status bar appears. Of course I can tell swipe up or down to do do any number of functions. You can’t do this on the iPhone… or can you?

          • I’m about 90% sure, though Angela won’t let me experiment with her phone.

            Sometimes she is just so damn selfish.

          • antho42 – I made a comment a little while ago (in releation to Life of Pi) about not liking to talk about religion to avoid offending or being offended.

            Let’s just say your smart-ass comment about Catholicism (in relation to a fucking operating system) SERIOUSLY offended me.

            That’s all.

          • Looks like widgets on jailbroken iPhone is possible:
            http://www.idownloadblog.com/2012/05/06/dashboard-x/

            And this is one of those things that really annoys me about iOS. A lot of really cool things could be possible if Apple just opened up their system and allowed people to do it. Like the bloody horrible iOS keyboard! It could be so much better if they allowed 3rd party keyboards to do some cool things.

      • I am not predisposing myself to hating HFR, I went in with an open mind and the end result was awful. Completely distracting and takes away from the overall experience. I am all for innovation, and if they manage to make this particular format better then I’ll welcome it, but as it stands (from what I’ve seen) it’s a failure. If you get the chance check it out, please do – it’s very hard to grasp what it’s like unless you see it for yourself.

      • How can you support something that you have not seen? Most of the people critiquing the HFR have actually seen the footage.

        • For starters, 24 fps isn’t perfect to begin with. We blindly accept it as “normal,” because it is all that we’ve known.

          I’m sure filmmakers would have tried sooner to experiment with higher frame-rates if celluloid wasn’t so expensive. This is truly an innovation exclusive to the digital age.

          The way I see it, the introduction of HFR is an important moment in film history, whether or not people today respond positively to it.

          I hypothesize that many years from now, the reactions of future generations of filmgoers will be flipped. They will see HFR as “normal” and 24fps as terrible.

          • Actually, there were experiments with HFR celluloid. Maxi-Vision 48 was supposed to be visually AMAZING and was 48fps.

            Also some variants 70mm film is projected at 48fps (Disney’s “Soaring” Ride and some of the documentaries put out in the 1990s if I’m not mistaken and it also looks amazing, and certainly didn’t have anyone complaining. This isn’t a ‘boost in clarity that is startling, the way people describe it is a fundamentally different style of image (nothing wrong with that, but lets not confuse we are used to 24fps so we will be stubborn and hold on tightly to it!)

          • Brainstorm was to be 60fps 70mm, then Natalie Woods died and the studio wanted to shelve everything and collect a fat insurance check. Douglas Trumbull was a huge proponent of the format being the only proper way to watch a movie.

            Cost was a big part on why higher frame rates we’re not utilized, that and people as a whole are incredibly rigid and resistant to change.

            The big difference with nature docs at higher frame rates and the lack of complaints is the format does seem a bit more seamless with landscapes and true live-action. It is when you start using CGI that it gets wonky. The landscape shots in The Hobbit are mind-blowingly stunning, and are the times that 48fps is really shown off.

            But when you start using people digitally inserted in front of green screen backdrops, fighting CGI monsters and suddenly HFR shows it’s biggest issues. For me it is the movement is too fast at times, though the longer I watched it the less noticeable it becomes. Any complaints about everything looking too real or like a TV show set I flat out don’t see though. That seems more like people can’t describe why they don’t like something and are just using the pre-existing complaints.

            I’m still sold on it though. The highs of HFR are simply so far superior to anything I’ve ever seen on film I’m happy with some fast motion until everything else gets worked out.

          • We don’t “blindly” accept 24 fps as normal. Terrible choice of words given the context. It is precisely our eyesight that has caused the acceptance. We may have arrived at 24 fps by luck (the conflux of persistence of vision, sync sound transport, and cost) but, miraculously, the format produced a hundred years of audiences engaging with onscreen illusions that they know are not real, but are able to dreamily accept.

            New is not better just because it’s new, and old is not inferior just because it’s established. People should see the 48 fps version and make their own decisions, but the acceptance of 24 is not the result of ignorant groupthink. It works. Sometimes things are just that simple: it works, and that’s why we use it.

          • Yeah, “blindly” was probably the wrong choice of words.

            I was actually meaning that people have so gotten used to the 24 fps look (including motion blur and strobing), that it has become the “film” look

          • Yes that’s correct; 24 fps came in with the advent of sound if I recall. I don’t think you can record optical sound at the slower speed.

            Something that came up after the screening of 48 last night was the question of whether things like production design and acting style would have to adapt to the different format. I liked Aidan Turner’s performance quite a bit in the 24 version but in the 48 version I found him marginally over the top. That’s hardly scientific, but something to think about.

          • Matt Gamble

            You can do sound at 20 fps, which was the standard before 24 fps, except when the standard was 26 fps, or 15 fps or whatever people decided to run. It was kind of a mess back in the old days. But you are right that fps wasn’t standardized until sound became a fairly normal addition as human ears struggle more with changes in sound than they do with visuals. 24 fps was considered the acceptable level for sound, and thus a standard was born.

            FWIW, while 24 fps has been the standard for damn near 100 years, images per second have increased over the years.

      • Kurt Halfyard

        Innovation only survives if it is wanted or needed or desired. Innovation that is forced down peoples throats generally burns out and fades away.

        That being said many innovations are just a bit ahead of their time and the world has to catch up a bit before accepting it.

        I look forward to seeing this 48fps, but I understand Ross’s criticisms that it is distracting if you just want to ‘watch the movie’ and the novelty/aesthetics take you out of the spell of the story. I’ve felt that way about 3D since the format took hold again with The Polar Express.

        • I wouldn’t compare a change of frame-rate (something that’s only really happened once before in the whole history of cinema) to the reemergence of 3D (which came and went multiple times)

          • The comparison is based on the grounds that the format/technology is distracting to the storytelling. Eventually these things will merge in some fashion, but the initial experience of plane-polarized-light 3D (modern 3D) was all about people going Ooooh and Ahhh at the tech, rather than being involved in the story. I see the same thing happen here. Like Good editing or special effects, I don’t want to be thinking about that at the cost of immersion in the story!

          • Modern 3D is actually the same as the original format of 3D. Polarized light and silver screens.

            Biggest difference now is that it is far cheaper to produce and distribute Digital 3D, and the tech has the extra added benefit of a boost to the grosses.

          • That’s inevitable, though — new technology will always be distracting precisely because of its newness, and you could apply the same criticism to any medium at its emergence.

      • It’s hard to be excited and positive about something when you get reviews saying “annoyingly mimicking a TV play or filmed pantomime”. I’ve also seen reviews saying it gives a soap opera effect or that it’s like watching a live sporting event, or one review compared it to a Benny Hill sketch.

        This isn’t people being bent on hating it, it’s the result of a huge amount of negative buzz. There are some fans out there, but it seems that they are few and in between. Also even the fans say that it takes quite some time, like 30 minutes or so to adjust to it.

        Many like myself are still interested in seeing it for themselves, and like MAMO podcast pointed out many are seeing it in that format without actually knowing what it is, having just blindly bought tickets.

        • If I know anything about the internet, it’s that negative comments spread like wildfire and positive comments are all but ignored.

          I’m ignoring all this bad buzz until I see it for myself on Friday, though to be honest, I’m more excited than worried about HFR.

          • There’s no Rotten Tomatoes to judge what the balance of people who have seen HFR think. However, no matter what the balance, it seems like a good size chunk really hate it.

            I’m just excited about seeing the Hobbit in regular 24fps. I’m curious about HFR and will keep an open mind about it, but will probably wait until after Xmas when my schedule is not so hectic to check it out.

          • Kurt Halfyard

            Yea. I’m in the same camp, Matt. I’d rather just watch the film with my kids you know, for the story, and then worry about the ‘format/tech’ stuff perhaps in a second viewing. I’m in no rush to be an ‘early eye-ball adopter’ on this.

          • That’s probably the correct way to do things. And even though I’m in the wrong as a cinephile, I’m WAY more curious about the tech than the actual film (in this case).

            Like Gamble said, after 20 minutes or so I’ll probably just acclimate myself to the new look – or at the very least be able to ignore it.

          • From my rough dealings, it is about 50/50 in the hate/love camp. I know our two major critics are split on it.

  3. “I watched 30 minutes of The Princess Bride and a little bit of Desperado with the tech and everything looked like a BBC soap opera from the 70′s.”

    That’s exactly how I feel. It drives me INSANE. I saw X-Men 3 this way and wow… it was just so… unsettling. It felt like I was watching it on stage or something. So I hope that this is not like that also.

    • Kurt Halfyard

      That’s the upconverted TruMotion stuff. We watch E.T. that way and boy oh boy was it terrible.

      I reserve judgement on seeing 48fps as a natively shot, properly projected object.

      • That’s my hope too Kurt. But every review I’ve read describes it exactly how I would describe the up-converted (auto-motion plus on LG televisions) frame rate thing. So while I’m going in open-minded and even kind of excited, I grow more and more skeptical every day.

        • I hope it is not as bad as think it is — I do not want the future films too look like shit.

  4. And speaking of Google, Google docs is awful. The only great thing about it is that it is free and that lots of people use it (i.e, it has the Facebook affect).

    • Can you be more specific? Why is Google Docs awful? I don’t even use dropbox as much anymore because I have Google Docs Drive. And if you use Gmail, which pretty much everyone does now, all of their other services are right at the top of your screen and easy to use. They “talk” with one another so gracefully it’s amazing.

      PS – The Hobbit.

  5. Matt Gamble

    After watching HFR for my third time I have decided anyone who doesn’t like it is a cotton headed ninny mungus.

    “In my day we walked home up hill, both ways, dragging our cars behind us and we liked it! We loved it!”

    • Kurt Halfyard

      Like many things, acclimatization is the key. How many technologies have been introduced that we were simply ‘not ready’ for at the time.

      • It also has to do with aesthetics. If you do not like, you do not like it. It is one of the reasons why I tend not to read American comics, because I hate the glossy, computerized artwork. Awful looking.

        • Matt Gamble

          Yes, but the aesthetics of the film are part of the film, not from HFR. The “annoyingly mimicking a TV play or filmed pantomime ” aesthetic is just as present in the 2D version, because that is how Jackson shot the film. It is certainly easier to notice in HFR, due to the ridiculous level of clarity, but it isn’t caused by HFR. That’s just a lazy and uninformed argument.

          • Yeah I could sort of see that despite the terrible HFR thing, I could sort of tell the horrible, “fairy tale theater” look to the whole thing was just how the film looks.

            I don’t know what’s the worst thing about this format, but one of many problems is the attempt at slow motion. Rather than looking like slow motion, it looks like the actors are trying to act by moving slowly. It’s literally laughingly bad.

          • Nope I take it back. If I can find a free screening of the 2D version somewhere this weekend I will try. But just watching the trailer again is a VASTLY different experience.

            Anything in the forest in HFR is pure shit. I kept expecting Shelly Duvall to come waltzing in. Anything in a cave is pure shit. I kept expecting Tom Baker to come waltzing in.

            A couple of the deep backgrounds looked amazing and I did forget about the shittiness of the look during Gollum scenes. Everything else was made of plastic and horrible (appearing) compositing.

          • If you look for something wrong with HFR, you are going to find something wrong with HFR.

            Other than some jarring moments early on involving actions that looks too fast, I was completely fine with HFR and I let myself sit back and enjoy the film.

          • I was actually the opposite. I was trying really hard to find good things about it. I really was. And there are a few. But they are few. Very few. I didn’t find the problem with speed that many (like you Sean) are seeing. I just didn’t particularly like being “on set” with the actors. I go to the cinema for cinema. Not theater.

            There are going to be people that like this approach, and that’s totally fine. You like what you like. But for me it just doesn’t work on (nearly) any level. Jackson himself said in an interview I was listening to that it’s not going to be for everyone. If you’re more comfortable seeing it traditionally, by all means do so. THANK YOU PETER JACKSON FOR NOT BEING A DOUCHE LIKE JAMES CAMERON. I really respect Jackson for not claiming (at least in the interview I read and the one I listened to) this to be the future of cinema and anyone that doesn’t embrace it is an ass-hat – like the self-righteous James Cameron does.

            Even the audio seems somehow mismatched with the movie. It’s grand and loud and full of cinematic life. But listening to that while on a theater stage, it just feels weird.

            And I wasn’t kidding about my “Shelly Duvall” comment. The outdoor set design in this movie is atrocious. Atrocious. If it was intended to look like “Emmet Otter’s Jugband Christmas,” then congratulations. When Bilbo first gets on the horse (actually, pretty much any scene in which there is a close-up of anyone riding any sort moving obsject), it’s beyond terrible. It’s 1960′s level compositing. Which is maybe what Jackson was going for. The same thing happened in the dinosaur stampede in King Kong. But I argue that this is actually worse. If that’s what he wants, fine. But I hate it.

            Outside of Gollum and the far far background shots, I hated every single visual thing in this movie from start to finish. My God, Bag End looks like a fucking model train set when the camera pulls back. This is worse than I actually thought it was going to be.

          • “I kept expecting Tom Baker to come waltzing in.”

            LOL! While that is comment that was made against HFR, I have a soft spot for old Doctor Who. When I finally see the Hobbit in HFR and if I don’t like it, perhaps that is the mind frame I should take. Badly looking production with some great story telling like old Doctor Who. :-)

          • Matt Gamble

            “I go to the cinema for cinema. Not theater.”

            Says the guy who orgasmed over Anna Karenina.

          • Aha, but AK merely takes place in a theater. It is extremely cinematic. The Hobbit actually makes you feel like you’re there on set but forced to wear fucked-up glasses that makes everything around you artificial.

            Also, “orgasmed” is a bit strong. 4/5 sir.

          • This great article (by Corey Atad) shares similar views with Matt Gamble and Andrew James on 48 format in the Hobbit:
            http://justatad.wordpress.com/2012/12/15/lets-talk-48fps/

          • Matt Gamble

            Keira was in the film. I stand firmly behind your orgasm!

          • Speaking of James Cameron, I heard that he is actually planning at shooting the next AVATAR film at an even high frame rate (60 fps)

          • Here’s an article from when James Cameron was first pitching HFR (about a year and a half ago).

            http://www.firstshowing.net/2011/cinemacon-james-cameron-demos-the-future-of-cinema-at-60-fps/

      • Matt Gamble

        You’re never ready.

    • Well I guess I’m a cotton headed ninny mungus, whatever on earth that’s meant to mean.

      I’ve seen both versions of the film. Neither is without its drawbacks. The HFR version is great in detailed action sequences involving visual effects – the prologue and Goblin Town look particularly good – and is otherwise so haphazardly hit and miss from shot to shot to shot that I don’t think I was “in” the movie for more than eight seconds at a time for the entire two hours and forty-five minutes.

      And I realize that being baselessly personally confrontative is just Gamble’s “style” (if the term “style” can be applied in the absence of “class”) but really, you’re not helping your argument with this horseshit.

      • Matt Gamble

        I seem to have upset some hairs on your perfectly coifed visage. How exciting.

        I’m not really trying to make an argument, because some people have seemingly made up their mind that the medium used dictates the quality of the content. To me that is incredibly ridiculous and an absurd sense of entitlement as well as being horribly inflexible. It’s no different than Kurt bitching about concessions while slurping down Chow Mein in the theatre. Or Kurt bitching about Superhero Comic Book Action Movies being a dead genre that no one should watch. Or really anything Kurt bitches about. But if that is what makes people feel comfortable with telling themselves then so be it. Because to me, if a “film” looks like a TV show, or a play so fucking what? I don’t need someone to give me a visual look that I have seen before so I can feel comfortable. I don’t want that sort of spoon feeding, but apparently for many people they do. Great, and if that means Andrews never goes to another movie in the theatres ever again? Double bonus.

        Also, it’s Gary Mitchell.

        • “Perfectly”? Hardly. I’ll take adequately.

          I must be missing some element of your point here because it seemed to me that you said anyone who didn’t anyone who didn’t like HFR was somehow intellectually substandard. Now you’re railing about your podcasting partners. Maybe you’re suggesting that the content and the form are completely distinct? Which is, of course, patently ludicrous.

          • No worries Brown, that’s just how Gamble rolls. He can claim HFR is amazing and how great it is and it’s the future and blah blah blah. And that’s fine and ultimately its an opinion. His opinion. If you don’t agree with his opinion, according to him you’re stoopid. But if someone gives reasons why they don’t like it, basically he’ll just come up with more ways to say why you’re stupid.

            If I say I thought it looked “fake” and traditional speed techniques didn’t really work for me and the compositing looks like 1960′s cinema, then those are my opinions. If Gamble doens’t agree with those opinions (which is totally fine), he’ll just find condescending ways of telling you you’re wrong.

          • You missed a perfect opportunity to quote The Big Lebowski, Andrew.

          • I also support HFR, but I’m not one to call people’s opinions stupid. That is where me and Matt Gamble differ.

          • Matt Gamble

            No, I’m stating that people are attributing issues in the film to HFR that have really nothing to do with HFR. But HFR is the easy scapegoat, and thus that is what people latch onto. It’s a fallacy.

            I’ve seen bad compositing in almost every film I’ve seen this year, with the worst offender being Skyfall. Thus, by current reasoning, I could make the claim that bad compositing in Skyfall equates to 24 fps being an inferior medium, which is d-u-m. But yet that seems to be an argument that people think is ok to throw at 48 fps.

            Now, you can make the argument that HFR can more easily expose substandard work, I think that’s a very fair point. But shoddy work is the fault of that workmanship, not HFR. Bad compositing is bad compositing, and acting in front of a green screen is still going to look like acting in front of a green screen, whether it is The Hobbit or Transformers or a Star Wars prequel. The difference is people have something to focus their confusion at, whether or not it is to blame. And call me a sap, but I think that’s unfair.

            I also think people are tacking a pretty culturally superior stance in regards to 24 fps and “cinema” that I find pretty offensive. But that is a discussion for a well-reasoned and non-hijacked thread, of which this is not.

            Also, I thought I had quite clearly laid years of ground work proving that my position is that my podcasting partners are intellectually substandard. Pardon me if I have not made that clear up to this point.

          • Skyfall?
            Even when you trying not be hyperbolic, you still end up doing so (maybe it is part of your DNA, Matt Gamble). I have seen Skyfall twice, and in terms of composting, there is only one bad shot. It is a close up of Craig driving the motorcycle in Istanbul. The shot only last about 2 seconds. So for a 2 hr. + blockbuster that is quite an accomplishment.

          • Or there is that strange middle ground where you realize everything you have loved as cinema has been at one frame rate and until someone comes around to ‘innovate’ you had no reason to suspect there was anything wrong with the original format, because there was NOTHING wrong with it. I am fine with HFR existing, I just find it superfluous, and at worst a distraction. In the future I might see a film I love in that format, but I highly doubt it will be because of it, but maybe in spite of it. I like a crisp image if the film warrants it, but crispness, or seeing detail in a versimiltude way is not going to win me over. It is not a matter of further advancement of the moving image so much as being further enough so as to not detract from the intended experience, i.e. good enough to let the story be told. Everything else is to keep the industry running.

          • Matt Gamble

            Ok, I’ll play this game. I’ve watched the opening scene to Skyfall roughly 30 times (probably more, but hey, no need to rub your nose in it) and every single Dutch angle shot of anyone riding on a motorcycle is horrible composting, on top of the entire sequence in the tunnel being awful composting as well. I spotted all of it the first time I watched it, and every time since.

            Now, since Andrew’s argument is that bad composting is a direct result of the frame rate, it can only then be reasonably inferred that bad composting in Skyfall is because of the frame rate, thus 24 fps is a terrible, laughably bad medium.

            See, if someone makes an argument, the way to test it is to take it to its logical extreme, and in this instance, it shows that the argument really makes no sense. It might be easier to recognize bad composting the higher the frame rate (we don’t really know since we only have one subject to draw from and that is hardly a reliable sample size), but you can in no way blame bad composting on frame rates. It is, to use a term that will sufficiently grate Mr Brown, objectively false.

            Now, I also like how I am deemed hyperbolic, yet Andrew makes a statement claiming, “I used to love film. I fell deeply, profoundly in love with film. Had 300 films in my collection. I’d search the Internet for just the right ones. I had The Criterion Collection cut of The Rock on Laserdisc. I had a Japanese import of the uncut version of Deep Red. You name it. Then one day, I see HFR and I say ‘I renounce film!’ Fuck film. I will never set foot in a movie theatre again. That’s how much fuck film! I was 36 years old, and I haven’t so much as set a toe inside a theatre. And I love the movies.”

            But why, you might ask him?

            “Done with film.”

            Yet I’m the hyperbolic one.

          • Because the difference is Matt, I’m not pushing this on people and telling them what they see is horrible and they shouldn’t like it and if hey do they are stupid. I’m simply saying I’ve seen enough and I’m not a fan of this particular form of the art to continue paying for it when I have 1000s of samples of the art form I prefer.

            And yes, when I say I’ve seen enough I’ve seen more than just the Hobbit. The films I’ve seen on HDTV are the exact same and I hate it. If it’s your thing, hen more power to you.

            I’m not saying it can’t get better or that it’s possible it can be used to an advantage. I’m saying that from what I’ve seen, I’m not a fan.

          • Furthermore, compositing is close to the least of my complaints when it comes to The Hobbit.

            But yeah, considering how great most of WETA’s work is on the other stuff they do with Jackson, it’s fair to say that the HFR probably has something to do with making it look pretty bad in almost every single motion shot in Hobbit.

          • I am really looking forward for both upcoming Mamo”s and Cinecast”s episode.

          • If that true (the HFR has nothing to do with production quality – or the appearance of quality), then Peter Jackson just made one of the worst looking, big budget films I’ve seen in a long long time.

        • “some people have seemingly made up their mind that the medium used dictates the quality of the content.”

          I have yet to see the 2D version (tomorrow), but I’m willing to bet the farm that the tech used will most certainly change the quality of the content.

          I’m not saying HFR can’t be used for good in the future, but this was so literally laughably terrible that there really isn’t any other explanation.

          “I don’t need someone to give me a visual look that I have seen before so I can feel comfortable. I don’t want that sort of spoon feeding, but apparently for many people they do.”

          I don’t either. In fact, quite the contrary. I always go to the theater hoping for something new (especially visually). But sometimes it doesn’t work. This is one of those times.

          • Matt Gamble

            “I have yet to see the 2D version (tomorrow), but I’m willing to bet the farm that the tech used will most certainly change the quality of the content.”

            Thus proving that your mind is already made up, and my point.

            Thank you.

          • You’re welcome. I’ve seen the 2D trailer in HD and presumably it looks the same as the movie will. So yes, unless what I see tomorrow is quite a bit different than any other film I’ve ever seen in the format or a whole lot different than the trailer, hen you’re right. My mind is pretty much made up when it comes to this particular film.

  6. Kurt Halfyard

    More grist for the mill. (This time nothing to do with 48fps, and everything to do with storytelling foibles and concerns):

    http://badassdigest.com/2012/12/13/how-jrr-tolkien-pulled-a-george-lucas-on-the-hobbit/

  7. It amazes me on opening day of the Hobbit the amount of people who have no clue about what HFR is. I expected some not to know, but I continue to talk to some very geeky people, some who have tickets for the Hobbit this weekend and have not heard of HFR. Those with tickets don’t even have any idea if their tickets are for a HFR screening.

  8. I literally just got out of the film and I reaffirm my support of HFR. While it does take some getting used to, I’ve never seen a film look more gorgeous.

    The lack of motion blur really makes a difference. It even help make the 3D better and there was not an ounce of ghosting.

    • Matt Gamble

      Yup, the 3D really is more immersive and seamless. It’s incredibly impressive.

      • Okay,I am definitely going to watch this film in 48 this weekend. I dp have to drive more than 15 miles to do so, though }:

  9. Voncaster

    I just got back from the Hobbit in LFR 3D. I loved it. It is easily my favorite of the Jackson Tolkien adaptations.

    The Hobbit is a lot more colorful (with characters and the world), and propulsive. Even at three hours it felt like the story was moving along to me. LOTR really plodded in parts for me.

    Middle Earth felt alive in the Hobbit. Rivendell was serene. The Dwarven Kingdom in the Lonely Mountain introduction was breathtaking. The path through the Misty Mountains was perilous. Mirkwood being consumed by blight was eerie. Giant trolls, stone giants, vicious orcs, and eagles made middle earth feel terrifying and majestic at the same time. In contrast LOTR just felt gloomy to me the whole time, with none of the majesty of the Hobbit.

    Bilbo is great protagonist too. Instead of serious Frodo, and loyal Samwise Gamgee the story centers on Bilbo. Bilbo is funny at times and serious when the situation calls for it. Martin Freeman did a great job with the role. The dwarves and wizards also felt a lot more colorful and exciting than the stern fellowship.

    The highlight of the film, for me, was Radaghast’s investigation of Dol Guldur. When reading the Hobbit and LOTR, I never made the connection that the Necromancer was Sauron or that the Necromancer was all that important. It is very clear in the Hobbit movie that Dol Guldur is site of Sauron’s resurrection and that Gandalf has his pulse on the world. The importance of this scene and how Jackson films it are great.

    The Hobbit has rekindled my love of Tolkein’s Middle Earth. I’m going to go back and see the Hobbit in HFR. I plan on re-reading the Hobbit over Christmas break.

    **

    Was the White orc with the missing arm that fights Thorin a story element that Jackson made up? I don’t remember him at all from the book. If he wasn’t from the book, he could easily be cut.

    I like the Hobbit Part 1 a lot. I can’t wait for Part 2. Given the story beats that I think will occur in part 2 I’m sufficiently excited.

    I’m dreading Part 3. I’m thinking that Part 3 will be an extended Battle of Five Armies. I just don’t see myself getting excited for Helms Deep again (only longer).

    • Matt Gamble

      I’m thinking they don’t even get to Smaug by the end of Pt 2. They have a lot they still need to cover before even entering Lonely Mountain. My guess is the end of Pt is either their arrival at Lake Town or right after the Thrush knocks and the door is revealed.

      • Voncaster

        Two Smaug teases in two separate movies? I don’t know.

        I thought Smaug was coming up pretty fast plot wise. I guess there is Beorn, Mirkwood, Wood Elves and Lake Town before you get to Smaug.

        You could also have Bilbo and Smaug in part 2 and Smaug and the siege of Lake town in part 3.

        I really liked the Hobbit Part 1. I’m just leery of how Jackson intends on splitting up the remaining content.

        • Matt Gamble

          You’ve got the fall of Sauroman at some point as well, and Gandalf is supposed to have more content as it explains how he came to discover Sauron’s plans and why he is so terrified of Smaug joining forces with him.

          There is quite a bit of story to get through, though I must say one thing, Bilbo v Smaug is going to be one hell of a scene.

    • Matt Gamble

      “The highlight of the film, for me, was Radaghast’s investigation of Dol Guldur. When reading the Hobbit and LOTR, I never made the connection that the Necromancer was Sauron or that the Necromancer was all that important. It is very clear in the Hobbit movie that Dol Guldur is site of Sauron’s resurrection and that Gandalf has his pulse on the world. The importance of this scene and how Jackson films it are great.”

      This.

      It was truly ingenious storytelling on Jackson’s part. In a matter of a few minutes he completely transformed the way I had read those stories for 30 years, and made them far more interesting. Well done, Sir.

      • The Necromancer is like the new Gollum. Slight glimpse in this film, full reveal in later film.

        If you watch during the end credits, Benedict Cumberbatch still gets credit, even though you don’t really see him.

    • I have to agree about Freeman though. He’s just being Freeman, but I like that and it works well for Bilbo.

      I didn’t like the troll conclusion though. The book version was great (with Gandalf throwing his voice around). Here Jackson seemed like he just wanted to get it wrapped up as quickly as possible. Which is weird considering he’s turning a book that takes about 5 hours to read into a 9 hour movie.

  10. If it ain’t broke…

    There is all too much ‘innovation’ going on, not out of need for the benefit of the artform or the betterment of the experience but because the industry requires new platforms to monetize.

    I just realized recently that my second gen ipod is damn near perfect because it holds waaaaaay more than newer models, a newer model I bought because I thought I would need to see movies, or surf the web… And I don’t. Instead of fretting about icloud, storage space requiring me to pick and choose what goes on, I can have everything at once with the old one. Spent the week re-listening to the entire Ricky Gervais audiobook/ podcast collection.

    • The funny thing is, as I was reading up on frame rates, in preparation for The Hobbit, I started noticing the limitations of 24 fps a lot more.

      It’s one thing continuing to use a computer or iPod after the next model comes out, but 24 fps has been the standard of film for OVER 90 YEARS and has since become somewhat outdated, since all other forms of media use higher frame rate (TV uses 30, while some video games go as high as 60).

      I repeat that I believe this is a very important moment in this history of film. HFR will continue to develop over the next few years and there will probably come a time when people forget that films were shown at 24 fps.

      • I should also add that, while it’s fun it debate the pros and cons of HFR, the truth is that, whether or not it is something that continues to be used, is not something we can control.

        I predict that by the time the third Hobbit film comes out 2 years from now, it will not be the only film screening in HFR.

        Now that it’s out there, filmmakers are going to start experimenting with filming at the frame rate.

        Apparently, all it takes is a software update for existing digital cinemas to show HFR, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it quickly becomes the norm.

        • And it worked for 90 years, I don’t remember anyone complaining prior to this experiment about the frustratingly low fps. It is creating a deficiency to sell product, the industry requires it. Not saying the higher fps should not exist, just that it is not a requied innovation. There was no problem prior to this ‘solution’

          • Except that the 3D Evangelist are calling it the savior of 3D.

          • like I said the industry requires it.

          • No one clamored for the automobile either.

          • a mechanized way to move people and limit time, money and energy expended in transport… sure they did. There was a problem to solve. That is value-added innovation for people.

            What is the value added for people here with more fps that they could not get with the old format? It is not cheaper, it is not more efficient, it does not save us energy, nobody was complaining about how film or digital looked at the original fps, it does not improve the artistic value, because art is not something germane to the tools, but the application.

            Seven Samurai has badly aged on film, there are blotches everywhere, it is grainy, it looks like a piece of shit, and it has this lower fps. And it transcends all of its parts, to be something the human mind can fall in love with.

            There is a fairly low threshold for the imagination to jump on board, it doesn’t take much technically to entrance. Maybe modern audiences are wired differently and I find that sad. The imagination is the thing, not how close to verisimilitude you can achieve with the image.

            a book has no fps and it kicks every movie’s ass.

          • Fuck you for being able to explain things so much better than I can. Especially when I disagree with you – which is not the case this time.

          • Matt Gamble

            Can’t the same argument be applied to HFR? Just use a little imagination? Or is that something opponents aren’t capable of?

            Also, you’re rewriting history with the automobile. It took something like 250 years for the automobile to become entrenched as something truly useful and an obvious improvement, and ~200 years past then invention of the internal combustion engine and it wasn’t until the modernization of assembly that the automobile was actually able to gain that traction due to the cost being driven down so that they were affordable enough for people other than the super rich to purchase them. And even then it was ~40 after the creation of the modern automobile. That is hardly a time frame that denotes rapid acceptance of an obvious improvement in technology. Probably because to people at the time it wasn’t very obvious. It was expensive, required far more maintenance and upkeep, was limited in where it could travel and wasn’t a good traveling companion like a horse could be.

            But sure, you can claim it was a value-added innovation, as long as you ignore the fact that it wasn’t.

          • I was talking about modernization of assembly, hence the price incentive. And not saying the majority calmoring, but for some people (not tied to the industry) there was value-added innovation that grew alongside the development.

          • I don’t know who’s replying to whom here, but I’m guessing Rot’s first responding to me, Matt’s responding to Rot, Rot is then responding to Matt, and Andrew is awestruck by my pervading effulgence. ;)

            In any event, responding to Rot’s first response, as Gamble suggests, simply because you can’t see the opportunities HFR offers doesn’t mean they’re not there.

        • Matt Gamble

          It takes much more than a software update, FWIW.

  11. We’ll get into the film and the frame rate in this weekend’s Mamo, obvies, but in the meantime here’s my review on The Substream:

    http://www.thesubstream.com/html-the-hobbit-an-unexpected-journey-matts-review.html

    • Voncaster

      Nice review Matt. I disagree with a few parts:

      “The Hobbit will always be the tiny adventure that took place before the greater, graver Lord of the Rings.”

      Does the plot of the Hobbit have smaller world consequences than Lord of the Rings? Sure, but the events of the Hobbit are not trivial. If consequence is key, the Hobbit introduces Sauron, Gollum and the one ring.

      I also think Smaug is the greatest creature (maybe the Nazgul rival him) introduced in the four main books. He is hardly tiny, nor is the quest that the Dwarves and Bilbo embark on.

      Personally, I welcome the change in tone from the “graver” LOTR. Give me Bilbo, dwarves with personality, mistrustful elves, and colorful wizards over the boring pure Frodo and the stern and stoic men of LOTR.

      **

      “There are so many portents and call-forwards and direct duplications of items and events (and even the outright plot structure) from The Lord of the Rings trilogy that there’s very little sense of invention or discovery about The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey; it all connects to, or outright copies, events and images we’ve long since memorized.”

      On some level these are fantasy books that we are all familiar with, so there is very little surprises in the plot department. The journey is what matters. I think the journey in the Hobbit is mesmerizing and awesome: the majestic dwarven city under the Lonely Mountain, the investigation of Dol Golder and the flight from danger on the backs on Giant Eagles felt as fresh and as exciting as anything in the LOTR films. And there is Smaug waiting on the horizon.

      I’m looking forward to the surprises that are to come in Hobbit Part 2, much more than I feel like this is a tired retread of ground covered in LOTR.

  12. From what i hear, even the 24 version of the film is not normal 24– Jackson down-converted by artificially adding motion blur.

  13. Here’s a video from Ain’t It Cool News (didn’t know they have a YouTube channel now) about the pros and cons of 48 fps: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXol-xmcSqg

    I guess I’ll also link to this Q&A with Peter Jackson from Butt-Numb-A-Thon:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dUbm-8XAW8w

  14. Voncaster

    Do anyone know off hand where I can read the appendices describing Gandalf’s travels during the Hobbit?

    Is it part of the editions of the Hobbit or part of editions of the LOTR? I’d like to read that before the next movie comes out.

    In the case of the Hobbit I found reading the book really enhances the viewing. In some movies that is not the case.

    • Matt Gamble

      They are in the LOTR.

      • Voncaster

        Thanks. I’ll have to check my editions of LOTR and see if the appendices are in there.

    • While I haven’t personally read either J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion or Unfinished Tales, my understanding that Radagast who appears in the Hobbit movie is in both.

      In The Silmarillion there is a section called “Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age” and in Unfinished Tales “The Hunt for the Ring”, which seems to deal with the elements they might be exploring. However, it seems to be a bit of a grey area of whether Peter Jackson can use those story elements, since they don’t have the rights to them.

  15. I do find it hilarious how almost no one really talking about the actual film ( they are, but it just do not feel like it). Everybody is either talking about the frame rate and/or whether it was necessary to adapt it into three films.

    • I don’t think it’s because HFR is actually all that interesting, I think it’s because otherwise there’s not really all that new much to report. I think the movie is good. Not good enough to champion because again, we’ve talked LOTR to death, and it’s not bad enough for anyone to claim that it raped their childhood. A lot of the reviews are either mildly positive or just mildly negative.

    • The ironic thing is, when it is all said and done, HFR is only a small blip on the total radar.

      The Hobbit opened on 4,045 screens this weekend. Only about 450 are showing the film in HFR (i.e. about 11%).

      A lot of us were able to see it in HFR and it is fun to talk about. However, it’s safe to say that it is still in the experimental phases.

      • The problem is that Peter Jackson (and James Cameron) do not think that it is in its experimental phase. They actually think, in its current form, and the way it was presented in The Hobbit, it is far superior to the status quo that is 24 frames.

        And because these two guys are prominent power brokers in Hollywood, they have the power to make 48 the norm in the near future. Just look at what they have done with the spread of 3D.

        • James Cameron is actually pushing for 60 fps and I believe he plans to shoot the next AVATAR that way.

        • Matt Gamble

          I’m sorry, what exactly is the problem with two artists wanting to use a different medium for their art?

          • My problem is that these guys are powerful enough to compel the industry to force this format to other artists that are not so keen on it. For example, Guillermo Del Toro told the studio that he did not want Pacific Rim to be in 3D; nevertheless, Pacific Rim is being converted to 3D. And looking at the trailer, this might be a big mistake by the studio, since the films looks to have a very dark palette– an unfriendly look in 3D, if you ask me.

          • “With great power, comes great responsibility” –Uncle Ben

            I guess you get say that I do not completely trust Cameron, Jackson, Zemeckis, and Lucas.

          • No offense, but are you high?

          • Nat Amril, I am not the only one. This is a real issue on the macro level:
            http://badassdigest.com/2012/12/11/how-48fps-will-wall-off-cinema-history/

          • I would take any film commentary on a site called “Bad Ass Digest” with a grain of salt.

          • I do, Sean Kelley…it is a terrible name. I do not have a problem with 48 if it can coexist with 24. In other words, as Gamble points out, depending on the artist vision. But what I am afraid of is that the studios are going to force everything to be in 48… just like they are slowly doing with 3D.

            For example, try shooting a big budget, black and white film. Studio force Deakins to add color to 1984; the studios did not want The Mist to be shot on black and white. And you know what, when it is done well, black is white is a fucking amazing aesthetic!

          • Matt Gamble

            HFR is probably never going to be the standard, it’s costly to install and setup and most theatres are not going to have that many houses capable of it. Right now the estimate is ~750 houses will be able to show it. That’s a pretty miniscule percentage of the total number of screens. HFR will probably end up being the digital equivalent of 70mm.

            And once again, what is the big deal that HFR is available? Why is this such a terrible thing?

          • Matt Gamble

            Jesus Christ, are we getting our cinema news from Fox now? Alarmist much?

          • I hope your right, Matt Gamble. I hope you are right. Alarmist.. well, maybe. [:

          • @antho Fair enough, but the article you cite is just making exaggerations of GambWellian proportions. It doesn’t explain why, how, or if HFR will take over the industry; the author simply assumes it will.

            In any event, you’re presenting a false dichotomy; with 3D we still have the option of 2D, with the 48 Hobbit we still have the option of 24. And even with the studio push for 3D, the number of 3D films being made is a miniscule portion of the market.

          • “And even with the studio push for 3D, the number of 3D films being made is a miniscule portion of the market.”

            I saw Skyfall on 2D IMAX but Hobbit was in 3D on IMAX because it was available. I realized that coming out of the Hobbit that I don’t think I will see another 2D movie in IMAX, unless it is some sort of documentary. However, big budget films are just about all going to be 3D. I think Skyfall just got through before this became a requirement, but one example is GI Joe, where the studio is willing to lose millions just to make it available in 3D. Smaller movies will still be made in 2D, but it is very close to becoming a requirement for all major movies.

            Also audience members expect big movies to be in 3D. Skyfall there were several audience members asking for their glasses and then wondering out loud why it wasn’t in 3D that they should have gotten tickets elsewhere for a 3D showing, not understanding that it doesn’t exist.

          • You see, I am thinking about the macro implications in the film industry. This issue is bigger than an “artist vision”.

          • Again, nothing. If that’s what you want to film and that what you like, go for it. But I don’t have to watch.

          • Haven’t read whole thread but hoping no one is making the argument that this is like shifting to color or sound, both of those posed clear impediments to a kind of versimilutude cinema, but for ninety odd years we have accepted the sufficiency of the format without question. There is no impediment HFR is resolving. Seems more like they want to manufacture an impediment and if saturated with it, they may succeed. Hell enough saturation and people will buy pet rocks.

          • Once again, Rot, you are changing history to suit your argument. People have complained about frame rates since the inception of film. Thomas Edison thought nothing short of 46 fps was acceptable.

            Also, as stated previously, while fps has stayed relatively static, images per second has increased throughout the years. This has been to help combat the known issues of 24 fps and to help make watching films easier on the eyes. So no, the mythical 24 fps that Rot is alluding to does not actually exist, nor has existed in about 60 years.

            But why let facts get in the way of a good complaint?

          • Rot, I still don’t follow your logic — why is “necessity” even important? (Much less how do you define what’s necessary and what’s not?) An innovation’s origin has no bearing on its usefulness or the opportunities it offers. And you can’t predict its impact either, especially when you’re judging necessity in retrospect.

          • Gamble fuck what Thomas Edison might have said, holy shit man, the average filmgoer to the average film blogger, show me this barrage of complaints about frame rates, show me in the span of Row Three, and all the shit that has been parsed over in 100+ threads about everything film related or otherwise, where this great wealth of historical proof exists where people, the masses, film fans, have been complaining about film rates. That you are directly part of the industry YOU might have been obsessing over frame rates but try and separate your peculiar tech geekdom from actual audiences.

            @Nat If the end desire is to not interfere but aid storytelling I am saying pre-existing formats are sufficient, they were not causing any problems for our enjoyment or art experience. If the end desire is to innovate for sake of innovating because what the fuck, so be it. Wouldn’t be the first time. Economically it probably makes sense, keep jamming our lives with shit we don’t need with the future promise sometime it MAY. Well thank god for that. I am not judging it in retrospect, those presuming a meaningful future for it are. It is about selling us on this future moment when we are saturated and adjusted and some use has been discovered… I am talking about right now, what it is without hypotheticals.

          • Yeah I’ve never heard anywhere at any time ever in my existence complain about frame rates.

          • @Nat used to be necessity was the mother of invention, now it is more appeasing shareholder demand for greater earnings.

            This is my complaint.

          • @Rot Presuming that it cannot aid in storytelling is speculation. Similarly, if sufficient is good enough, why have any art at all? A cave, some ferns, and the nearest vagina is sufficient.

          • “but for ninety odd years we have accepted the sufficiency of the format without question. ”

            Rot, you made a declarative staement, that frame rates had been taken without question. I gave you a single easily identifiable example, thus refuting your incorrect assertion. You made a false supposition that was easily refuted. Deal with it.

            “Yeah I’ve never heard anywhere at any time ever in my existence complain about frame rates.”

            Total fucking lie. Jesus Christ does anyone besides Brown on the pro-24 fps side even have a shred of intellectual honesty?

            “A cave, some ferns, and the nearest vagina is sufficient.”

            Why do we need a cave and ferns?

          • No it’s not a lie. I honestly can’t think of a time where I’ve read or listened or had a discussion with anyone who has ever said that frame rates were a problem. Unless I’m misunderstanding the nuance of the phrase “frame rate problem.”

            I guess unless you count me bitching about HDTV and auto-motion plus. I’ve never heard anyone come out of a movie and say, “Wow. That would’ve been so much better at a higher frame rate.”

            I suppose I have heard people complain about blur or focus problems with 3D.

            Also, bringing into question my honesty is lame. Everything I’ve said has been an honest OPINION.

          • @Gamble… ‘We’ the audience, my whole position has been from the perspective of non-industry types, cinema as a product for a particular audience, buying tickets. Also depends on when Edison said that, was it senile in his old age? I said last 90 years. :)

            Let’s continue parsing the inane without acknowledging my fundamental point.

            @Nat. Sufficient according to whatever desired end… 48fps would seem to be desired to immerse the audience with some greater magnitude of versimilitude, so my point is 24fps has a sufficient degree of versimiltude.

            I rewatched All the President’s Men yesterday and tried to concentrate on how the frame rate affected my experience, even conscious I saw nothing bothersome and instead got immersed in an awesome, believable depiction of versimilitude at a newspaper.

          • @Andrew this seems like the most obvious fact I can’t believe we need to repeat over and over what a non-issue frames rates have been. For 99.9% of ticket buying audience members…

            Looking forward to a rounding up error being pointed out by Gamble.

          • @Gamble ” People have complained about frame rates since the inception of film. Thomas Edison thought nothing short of 46 fps was acceptable.”

            Not since… ‘at’

          • Necessity hasn’t been the mother of invention for a least 2,000 years and likely many more; everything else has been just polish, but the polish has been very, very good.

            @Gamble the ferns and caves are for stalking and hiding said vagina.

          • @Nat you are confusing necessity with ‘basic needs’… I am not saying satisfy basic needs and thats it, I mean ideally each new innovation should be resolving a pre-existing issue. Touch screen interfaces are not essential but there is a need for speed and efficiency that they accomodate. Necessity according to a desired end… Asceticism is just one of many desired ends.

          • You know, we should just all go to a field, split up into pro 24 fps and pro 48 fps sides, have a bloody battle to decide the winner and get it over with.

            Beats caves and ferns.

          • @Rot Okay, I think I see your point more clearly. But I still disagree.

            Here’s my interpretation of your argument: Innovation must resolve a pre-existing problem or inefficiency. Inefficiency does not exist in things that are sufficient. Therefore we should not innovate for things that are sufficient.

            My counter is that you can’t compare efficiencies if you don’t let people innovate in sufficient things.

            In that vein, I’m not writing off HFR; it’s a new tool, and I’m happy to sit back and let people experiment. It took a while for Scorsese, Lee, and, yes, Cameron to play with 3D, and I’m very pleased with the results.

            @Sean That is an awesome idea. I’ll bring an HFR camera.

          • Ask the average audience member what the problems and limitations are with 24 frames per second and I’m guessing the vast majority of people who have no response or just start guessing.

            As when talking to people about the Hobbit and HFR, the vast majority of people even some of the really geeky ones had no idea about HFR. That they didn’t even realize that movies were shot at 24 frames per second and most have to be explained the process. and how HRF is different.

            So this is definitely not something that the majority of the movie going audience has been asking for, this is something that Peter Jackson and others are pushing onto audiences.

          • @Nat
            paraphrasing my point:
            “Inefficiency does not exist in things that are sufficient. Therefore we should not innovate for things that are sufficient.”

            I would say you can always improve, refine, variegate but if something is sufficiently resolved at one or another point… and in the case of verisimilitude in cinema, or say picture clarity with blu-ray… there is this threshold where everything after seems superfluous. It is sufficient enough for the desired effect, so long as the desired effect is to enjoy the story unfolding onscreen and not to obsess over minute detail onscreen out of geek admiration for craft. The capitalist impulse is to forever innovate, because it requires it to keep alive. Like ever refining a hammer with innovation when all you need it to do is bang a nail down, some tools are sufficient, the tool of cinema for piquing imagination with believable worlds, is sufficient. Otherwise what have we been doing here, what is our top 100 films lists comprised of? conditionally great films? Best under the circumstances films? No, they are perfect, they do their job. No innovation is going to improve on Seven Samurai. Seems the innovation to make the experience more immersible is to attempt to lessen the strain for the imagination. Make it so it has to do no work at all, uplink the experience directly to neural pathways, there is an innovation, an innovation for the unimaginative.

            and what happens when the imagination is less and less provoked into action? What happens then to future innovation the more we try to sedate it with greater and greater ease? We need some friction in our lives, some filter to coax us out of ourselves.

        • Matthew Fabb, do not fall for the 3D myth:
          Hunger Games: 400 million dollars domestic
          Twilight (final film): 750 million dollars worldwide
          Skyfall: On the track to reache the billion dollar plateu.
          The Dark Knight Rises: The second highest box office for a commic book film.

          • Yes, but all of those movies left money on the table for not being in 3D. $400 million is great for the Hunger Games, but had it been in 3D it could have made somewhere around $500 million.

            I don’t like it but I can recognize from a pure business stand point that any studio would be stupid for a big blockbuster not to be 3D. Pay for the process, even after the fact and even if the 3D looks bad, a big movie will still bring in more money because the ticket prices for 3D are higher.

            We are at the tail end of big blockbuster 2D movies. Perhaps there are a few more to squeeze out, but I really do think that end of that era.

          • Okay, lets do the math. From what I gather, 3D adds around 20-30 million dollars for the budget of big productions. There is also only a limited number of 3D screens. Plus 3D films compete with other 3D films for screens. So maybe the 3D boost the box office of the Hunger Games to 440-460 million dollars.

          • “So maybe the 3D boost the box office of the Hunger Games to 440-460 million dollars.”

            I really don’t know enough about how many theatres and everything of 3D to make a realistic estimate, but doesn’t the typical $200 million movie make around $40-$60 from 3D? Wouldn’t a $400 million movie be closing in on around $100 million?

            Either way, it is money left on the table for any big budget movie.

          • I do not know, I think this is a question Gamble can answer. I do find it strange that you are arguing for 3D so that the studios can boost their profits. Nothing to do with the artist’s vision.

          • I dislike 3D and would rather it be used only a select few, or as you say the artist’s choice, but I can totally understand the business reasons behind it. That as a business they can tell Guillermo del Toro, who isn’t exactly a big name in Hollywood but still a name that Pacific Rim has to be in 3D, he doesn’t really have a choice in the matter. I don’t like it and I’m not arguing for one of my favorite directors to use a technology that I am not fond of, but I understand the logic behind it.

          • I do find it strange and sad that we have taking the extra fee for 3D for granted. So sad. So fucking sad. I am sure Gamble will defend the studios policies by saying. ” Antho42, you are an idiot, 3D projectors cost…”

            But then again, from what I gather, theaters are charging extra for Dolby Atmos, as well. Hey Gamble, how is the Atmos?

    • Because the film itself is, at best, a slightly better than average piece of entertainment. The HFR thing is divisive, even shocking. And if it’s truly “the future of cinema”, then that is something we’re all interested in discussing. Much more interesting than LOTR IV anyway.

  16. My opinion on HFR is pretty simple: When it came to this particular film, I didn’t want it, and they gave me an option to not have it, so I took it.

    It’s like when Simpsons season 6 came out on DVD. I had these other boxes, and then they changed the style of the box to this weird plastic thing. I didn’t want it. They offered me to get the old style boxes and I took it.

    I like the LOTR movies. I didn’t have high hopes for the Hobbit, but if I was gonna pay for it, I cared more about “the familiar box” than I did about possibly being distracted investigating the new tech. It doesn’t mean I’m not down for the tech in the future, but in this case, I don’t want it, and I’m happy with the alternative, more familiar, look.

    And in the end that’s not perfect either. There were scenes that looked blurred and choppy. And yet, I still don’t give a shit about being an early adopter. I can live without the potential Google Wave of movie tech if that is what it is, I can adjust if thats the way things go, and I can go see films with HFR if that’s the only option. Deciding “not now” when it comes to the Hobbit is not a BFD.

    • Matt Gamble

      I’d agree that To HFR or To Not HFR is a total First World Cinephile problem.

  17. I enjoyed the movie, but really wish the IMAX was in 2D not 3D. My glasses that I got had some smudge marks on them. Perhaps they got some butter from the popcorn on them? I kept trying to clean the glasses without much luck. Now again it wasn’t too heavy on the 3D I could watch the movie without the glasses. It’s too bad as I really enjoyed Skyfall in 2D and would have liked to have seen the Hobbit in 2D on IMAX. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if Skyfall is the last big blockbuster I see on 2D in IMAX. In that case, I doubt I will be seeing too many IMAX movies going forward.

    • I had that same problem as you Matthew Fabb. In fact, almost every single time I watch a 3D movies I get glasses that have smudge marks, and it is difficult to clean them with your clothes.

      I am not a anti-3D person, but the studios and theaters have done a poor job in adopting the technology.

      • At least regular 3D glasses are nicely wrapped in plastic (although probably not the most environmentally friendly) and it is easier to keep them clean until you start watching the movies. The IMAX 3D glasses are already open and handed to you by an usher out of a big plastic bin, so they are handling the glasses and then you are handling the glasses as you get to your seats and I think I handed them to my wife as I took off my coat. Perhaps they didn’t clean off the butter grease from the last person who wore them, but there is definitely plenty of opportunity for my glasses to get all smudged up on my own. Which even if that screening was 48 frames per second, it wouldn’t have helped much looking at it through smudged 3D glasses.

  18. Mamo weighs in on THE HOBBIT and High Frame Rate: join us and discuss!

    http://www.rowthree.com/2012/12/16/mamo-284-lets-get-into-it/

  19. So comparing this to the introduction of sound or color to film may or may not be fair. But let’s say that the comparison is “correct.” I can actually understand someone who did not want color or sound implemented into film.

    Black and white was the art form they were comfortable with and enjoyed. People were not necessarily looking for “reality.” Maybe some were, but others who complained (if there were any) had a valid a complaint in my opinion. Their art form as they knew it was being significantly altered forever. And I wouldn’t begrudge anyone who simply said, “this new version of the art is not for me. I’m going to go find something else to do with my spare time.”

  20. So I saw the 2D, LFR version of the film today. While I don’t think it’s by any means perfect, I definitely think it is much MUCH improved. The landscapes don’t look as fake and people riding on animals now looks proper.

    Radaghast riding his sleigh still looks pretty plastic and terrible, but at least I didn’t feel like I was in the middle of a Doctor Who episode while in the caves or on the set of Fairy Tale Theater while in the Shire or in the forest.

    Gollum is still amazing either way.

  21. Back to the actual film.

    Two things that are different from the book. The first that bugs me is the dispatching of the Trolls. In the book Gandalf uses his voice to confuse the trolls and they argue with each other. In the movie he just shows up and kills them immediately. I did NOT like that one bit.

    Also the giant rock monsters. I found it interesting (and a bit more fun – if totally implausible) that Jackson decided to put the dwarves and Bilbo actually on the monsters as they moved about. Made for a fairly exciting scene that looked really neat with the movement. Though again the physics behind the whole thing is ludicrous.

    • Despite the fantasy setting the giant rock monsters felt a bit out of place to me. They didn’t fit into the world of the Lord of the Rings or the Hobbit. Especially as things ramp up in the Hobbit to the Lord of the Rings and one of Gandalf’s motivations to take out Smaug, is because he could be the player if there is a new war (which there is). Wouldn’t giant rock monsters also be huge part in an upcoming battle?

      It’s a bit of a nitpick, but certainly I felt like they didn’t quite belong. I could have done with lots of rocks falling because of the monsters throwing the rocks down rather than being apart of the mountains themselves.

      *note* edited because I realized my final comment was off after I wrote about Tolkien visiting Switzerland and rocks falling down because of bad weather, almost killing him and his group. Only to realize it was separate from my main comment and complaint and deleting it all but messing up my final sentence.

      • Well they are in the book and since Jackson is taking a 300 page book and turning into nine hours, he probably shouldn’t remove anything.

        Which is kind of why the quick dispatching of the trolls really bothered me.

        • They are in the book, but they are throwing stones down at them. They are giants but not giants who are made out of the mountain themselves with the characters running across their legs.

  22. Also interesting is that while Cineplex advertises whether the movie is in HFR, the majority of other places that have movie listings, only include whether or not the movie is in 2D, 3D or IMAX.

    I’m curious, to those who have seen it, is there anything at the beginning of the movie advertising that it is in HFR? Like say the THX at the beginning of some movies? If so, is it just a logo, or does it mention what the initials stand for? Maybe even mention that it is 48 frames per second now? Or does it just jump right into the movie without any mention of HFR?

  23. To be honest, I do not think most of the public cares about the issue. It might be a sad realization, but it is probably the truth. Heck, lots of people love watching shitty bootlegs of films.

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