Tom's Review of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Swanner: After 9 years Peter Jackson is back in Middle-earth to bring The Hobbit to life. This first installment follows title character Bilbo Baggins, who is swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor, which was long ago conquered by the dragon Smaug. Approached out of the blue by the wizard Gandalf the Grey, Bilbo finds himself joining a company of thirteen dwarves led by the legendary warrior Thorin Oakenshield. You can see much like the Lord of the Rings our hobbit and companions will travel across Middle-earth to fulfill their quest. Jackson has brought back all the actors from the LOTR including Ian McKellen, Ian Holm, Elijah Wood, Hugo Weaving and Christopher Lee but he also introduces us to a many new characters including a young Bilbo Baggins played by Martin Freeman.
Judd: Our faithful readers will know that I hate fantasy, especially the kind with wizards, elves and dragons. In fact, I?m already feeling irritable after reading Tom?s opening. However, I did go see The Hobbit ? at least the first 30 minutes of it -- because it made cinematic history. For 100 plus years, movies have been shot at 24 frames per second. Aspect ratios, sound scapes, and film processing techniques have all progressed, but 24 fps has been the standard. The Hobbit doubled that film speed and was shot at 48 frames per second. That?s like going from a Model T to a Bugatti.
Swanner: As Brian knows I have a TV with 240 Hz which means it refreshes twice as fast as most new TV's and four times as much as older ones. This has the same effect Brian just described so for me I'm used to it. To me the film just looked amazing and I can't wait till all films are made this way. Some people are claiming they feel dizzy or even nauseous but once you make it through a few minutes that feeling should disappear. The film is also being shown in the standard 24 fps.
Judd: But you?re wrong. You?re TV uses algorithms to calculate the motion between frames, so you?re seeing what your TV thinks 48 fps looks like. You talk about the film; you let me talk about the techy stuff. While I will say that real 48 fps is better than the ?Smooth Motion? most TVs come with, which are prone to stutter when the TV miscalculates the frame, 48 fps as it stands is ?different? and I believe it is the future of film.
Swanner: Fine. Where Brian hates fantasy, I love it. The dragons, wizards and lots of men with beards. I was in full geek heaven last night during the screening. The 2:46 running time of film moves swiftly and I was surprised when the credits ran. It's a good thing. One thing I love about Jackson fantasy films is that everything looks great. The score by Howard Shore is wonderful, the cinematography by Andrew Lesnie is incredible and art direction, makeup and costumes are breathtaking. If there was any complaint about the film is that they are once again making me wait for the other films to come out.
Judd: The biggest critique you?re going to see about 48 fps is that it looks fake. I agree. But the science of lighting, SFX and cinematography are all built around 24 fps, which is apparently incredibly forgiving. I think it?s going take movie makers several years to be able to make 48 fps look cinematic. In the 30 minutes I watched, there was a fight scene, interior and exterior shots. I thought the SFX looked extremely phony and some of the exterior shots looked like a soundstage. Even standard camera movements and angles were blatantly apparent and awkward. I think 48 fps has the potential to be breathtaking, but as it enhances everything, over the next few years 48 fps is going to look garish and cheap.
Swanner: The 48 fps doesn't bother me at all and I can't wait to see it on my TV at home. The film is big and beautiful just liked I hoped it would be. If you're worried about the film speed then see a 24 fps screening. If you want to see the future of film then buck up and enjoy. I'm so glad Peter Jackson remains at the helm because this film is a companion piece to the LOTR's and once all three films come out they will sit beautifully next to each other on my shelf. If you're a Middle-earth fan you won't be disappointed
Judd: Of course you don?t mind 48 fps, I said it looks garish and cheap. I hate to rain on your parade, but bluray does not currently support 48 fps, and while your TV is 240 Hz, it wasn?t built to accept 48 fps source material. Your TV and player, at the very least will need a software update. That, in a nutshell, is why The Hobbit is so revolutionary. It changes everything, and that is a good thing ? or it will be, eventually, when filmmakers update their technique. Avatar 2 is being shot at 48 fps, and because that?s largely a digital/animated film it may avoid some of the pitfalls The Hobbit encountered. All I know, and I can?t believe I?m saying it, is that I?m looking forward to it.