The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (NZ/USA, 2012)

Seen on Peter Jackson’s pet Embassy screen, with all mod cons: high frame rate, 3D, super surround sound speakers, etc.

It was groovy. Slower than it needed to be, but not so much as I’d feared. After the first half hour, it felt to me *very* similar in pacing to the LotR films. I’d give it 3.5 or 4 stars, against the 4.5 or 5 I’d throw down for the Lord of the Rings flicks.

It felt less like a coherent whole than any of the Rings films – the digressions (basically anything with no dwarves or hobbitses) really felt like digressions. This didn’t bother me in the least, though.

The big setpiece action sequence, dwarves vs goblins through mad tunnels and across wooden bridges, was too cartoony to feel of a piece with the more grittily choreographed LotR films – as if Legolas riding the shield was the default tone and not an unusual moment – but it was a fun romp and fully enjoyable to watch. (It also directly echoed, and far exceeded, the similar chase sequence in Tintin which was that film’s only memorable sequence.)

I liked it. What ya gonna do.

The HFR was *cool*. I really, really liked it. I can see why people don’t, of course, it’s definitely a different way of reading the screen, but it totally worked for me (and the 3D didn’t make my eyes tired, too, so I think it helped with that). I certainly don’t think it’s right for every film, there’s an effect of the “distance” of the traditional lower frame rate, but I can see myself looking forward to more films using HFR. I reckon Prometheus would’ve been more fun for me in HFR, for example.

Roll on part two.

7 thoughts on “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (NZ/USA, 2012)”

  1. It *should* be more of a romp and far less gritty than Lord of the Rings. They are totally different sorts of story, despite being tied together by plot.

    This was my main concern from the trailer: that it might try to replicate the epic scope of the LotR movies instead of being truer to The Hobbit’s lighter tone. After all, there’s a huge difference between “We must save the world, or all is doomed!” and “Come and help me get loot, and then you can have some!”

  2. I think, tonally, it splits the difference in a smart way. Jackson’s project here is obviously to present the events of The Hobbit in terms of his existing account of Middle-earth. I think this is a totally legitimate approach to take, but it requires something of a meta-reading of the text – as has been stressed, this isn’t just The Hobbit, this is The Hobbit + Appendices + Other Material. An adaptation of the story-of-itself would tend to a much lighter rendering than Jackson has given it; but the irreducible nature of The Hobbit has kept its tone much broader and easier than LotR.

  3. Re: the frame-rate, you might be interested in this from Glenn Erickson (aka DVD Savant) who has some experience projecting films with a higher frame-rate:

    “The must-see factor is enhanced by Peter Jackson’s technical ‘giant step’. We were of course curious to see what the frame rate difference is like — I was briefly a projectionist for Doug Trumbull’s Showscan (70mm/60fps) film experiment back just a little while (cough) ago. The first half hour of Hobbit was difficult getting used to, as the accelerated frame rate made the widescreen picture look like a live TV image. As soon as they got away from sunny exteriors the effect started to sink in and became very comfortable. A bright image without film grain but also without the character of film. With twice as much visual information being imparted action is a bit smoother. The excellent 3D doesn’t push stuff in one’s face and is often almost subliminal. The added clarity puts a real strain on the special effects — character CGI is fine but some matte paintings now look altogether too artificial. I’d definitely say try to catch an enhanced screening.”

    This is the best comment I’ve seen:

    “I was a bit frustrated by the lack of wagon wheels, though: apparently at a higher frame rate they not longer seem to turn backwards, as they do at 24fps. Jackson cruelly robbed me of the chance to finally see correct spin.”

  4. I’m taking the boys on Sunday… With 3 lovely young folk from work in case I have to take one of them out in the troll scene 😉

  5. oh yeah, it’ll come. I seem to be skipping most of January though. have been collecting links!

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