The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

This week I saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in IMAX 3D High-Frame rate. I include the format because I know that the film-makers thought that the high-frame rate and 3D was an imperative part of the story-telling experience, so I feel it’s imperative to include it in the review as well. The story follows the first third of the book written by JR Tolkien, in which a homely, comfortable, well-fed hobbit is reluctantly convinced to join a band of dwarves on a sprawling adventure in an attempts to reclaim The Lonely Mountain (the once great kingdom of the dwarves) from Smaug, an evil fire-breathing dragon. In this first chapter, we are introduced to Bilbo (Martin Freeman) as he meets Gandalf (Ian Mackellen), an eccentric wizard. Bilbo is shown comfortable in his hobbit-hole before groups of dwarves begin showing up and raiding through his pantry in preparations for a gathering. This was great opportunity for the film-makers to introduce such an expansive cast of characters and have them each interjected with some amount of personality individualism. The film takes it’s time in setting up the characters and the story, while some might say the adventure takes too long to finally get going, I think in the context of all three movies it seems appropriate. On the adventure the group is met with Incredible Rock Giants in the midst of a battle, armies of goblins, and orcs, lead by a monstrous White orc named Azog with whom the leader of the dwarves, Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) has a personal vendetta.

I really enjoyed the Hobbit. As an enormous fan of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, I was excited to see the original film-makers together again to bring The Hobbit to the Big Screen. While the new movie has a few problems, I’m confident saying that this is a worthy addition to the Lord of the Rings film franchise. The problems that I had were mostly technical and included problems with the high-frame rate format. Because the new frame rate is so high, it makes certain shots look like they are being played at double-speed. It felt like the camera pans needed to be even longer and slower, in order to truly appreciate the clarity that the new format provides. When the High-Frame rate works, it works really well. Fight sequences and CGI textures in particular look great. The CGI wasn’t always consistently good. In one part that I remember, a character Radagast the Brown (Sylvester Mccoy) Wizard is rabbit-sledding over hills of grass while the camera captures an awesome panoramic shot. While the shot was beautiful, it was ruined by the subpar CGI used to make Radagast and his sled come to life. The same cannot be said for the return of Gollum (Performed superbly as always by Andy Serkis). The sequence between Gollum and Bilbo looks impeccable and it was clear that the film-makers have mastered the motion-capture technology involved in making him come alive. All in all I was relieved to see that the proper care has been taken with such good material. As a fan of the books and movies, I am excited to see how the second and third movies will elaborate on the existing material as this one did with the help of the authors many manuscripts and texts. With only a fraction of the story told, I feel already that the Hobbit trilogy with be worthy successor to the LOTR trilogy

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