Movie Reviews & Interviews from Washington

‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ Review: 3D 48 FPS Looks Glorious!

Note: There are 6 different ways you can see “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” and the way I recommend seeing it is in 3D 48 frames per second (HFR or high frame rate). The film was NOT shot in IMAX, but the benefit of seeing it in IMAX is for the 9 minute long prologue of “Star Trek II,” which comes out Summer 2013.

Kevin describes on his blog, what each of the different ways means when you go to purchase a ticket. I’d advise you to check it out before making that purchase on Fandango this weekend. You might as well not even see the movie if you choose not to see it in 3D HFR because that is the way Peter Jackson intended the audience to see it!

“The Hobbit” takes place 60 years prior to the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), a hobbit who lives a quiet life, gets an unexpected visit from the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen). Gandalf wants Bilbo to join him and a band of dwarves in an epic adventure to claim back the Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor, which has been conquered by the dragon Smaug.

Bilbo is hesitant at first, but decides to join Gandalf and Thorin (Richard Armitage), Balin, Dwalin, Bifur, Bofur, Bomber, Fili, Kili, Oin, Gloin (who I played in the 6th grade play, yes, I was a dwarf), Nori, Dori and Ori.

This is the first feature film ever to be shot in 48 frames per second, normally movies are shot in 24 frames per second (our eyes move at 60 fps), so of course there is going to be backlash. People will say “it looks weird” or “I don’t want to sit through a movie like that,” but the truth is it looks absolutely glorious. I cannot imagine another way to watch this movie.

The best scene in the movie is when Gollum (a motion-capture performance by Andy Serkis) and Bilbo do a riddle face-off in a cave. It’s gritty, intense and well acted. Serkis and Freeman bounce off of each other and we wouldn’t get that same effect had Freeman been looking at a stand-in puppet. Serkis gives so much on-screen presence, it’s a wonder the film isn’t named “Gollum.”

Howard Shore’s score is beautiful and captivating and should certainly be up for a few awards this year. I have to admit the score is a bit more memorable than the movie itself. It was in my head for days after I watched it.

Where “The Hobbit” fails is its length. I know it was a lengthy book and all, but sorry Mr. Jackson, I can only take my fair share on Orc fights and dwarf drama. If the film were about 30 minutes shorter (it runs 2 hrs. 45 min.), it would’ve been a much more effective story.

“The Hobbit” has flaws, but there’s much to be celebrated in this “Lord of the Rings” prequel: the 48 frames per second looks beautiful; McKellen does an amazing performance as head wizard, Gandalf; and Serkis does mind-blowing work in that motion capture suit (will someone give this man an Oscar already??) Fans of the franchise should be pleased and Peter Jackson will be marked down in film history as not only the first director to conquer 48 fps in a feature film, but the first one to do it beautifully.

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