The Hobbit Review Redux: High Frame Right and other Sundry Thoughts

So . . . lucky me, after nearly two months and a trip down to South America, I finally managed to make it to the theater to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey a second (and most likely last) time before its gone from the big screen. What's more, I found a theater in my area that was still showing the movie in the much-talked-about High Frame Rate (HFR), so I was able to experience the show the way Mr. Jackson intended. Waiting two whole months and then seeing the movie in a new format gave me the chance to see the show with "fresh eyes" as it were. So, what did I think of HFR? What was my opinion of the movie going back and seeing it again? Read on, brave reader, past the break and you'll find out.

Before I start spilling my thoughts on HFR and the film itself, you may want to read my first review of the movie, which you can find here, just so you know where I'm coming from.

High Frame Rate

There has been so much discussion online since PJ announced that the Hobbit would be shown in HFR that it was impossible for me to come to the theater with an unbiased mind. To be honest, I wasn't expecting much . . . and so, it was a very pleasant surprise to have the HFR far exceed my expectations. PJ wasn't lying when he said HFR would make for a crisper 3D experience. There was none of the fuzziness that you usually get with even a well-done 3D movie . . . in fact, the image seemed just as crisp as you'd expect to see in a 2D high definition movie.

On the other hand, I was thrown a bit by the smoothness of the camera panning. And the images had a certain . . . I don't know, lack of depth, or something, that made them look a bit like the badly adjusted high-def TVs you see on display at Sam's Club or Costco. Now, to be fair, PJ was right when he said that after a while you get used to it . . . by the time Thorin and Company left Bag End the effect wasn't really jumping out at me anymore; but at first, I found myself focusing more on the look of the movie than the actual story itself.

One thing I really appreciated about the HFR version of the film was the chance to really enjoy little visual details that I had missed the first time around. The complexity of the dwarves' costumes, the wide variety of goblins . . . the incredible detail of the Trolls. I loved it all.

So, did I like the HFR? All in all I'd have to say . . . sort of. I missed the atmospheric "feel" that conventional frame rates give a movie, but I enjoyed the beautiful 3D experience the HFR created. All in all, it was a fun way to see the show, but probably not something I'd pay more money for in the future.

My thoughts on the movie . . . the second time around

Surprisingly, I found myself rethinking a lot of my original opinions about the movie. Some things that had bothered me at first (Ahem. Uh . . . Azog) didn't bug me as much. Of course, other things bugged me more. Mainly, I just can't get behind the whole beginning of the movie with Old Bilbo and Frodo in Bag End. I really thought I'd enjoy seeing Frodo again . . . you know, for old time's sake; but I don't . . . its just an unnecessary extra fifteen minutes right at the start of the movie. Why have Bilbo introduce the whole history of the Lonely Mountain, when Thorin does it just as well in the book? Gah. I'm getting frustrated just thinking about it. Worse, because the movie starts out with Old Bilbo reminiscing about his "unexpected journey" it makes it all but impossible to take the movie as a book written BEFORE the Lord of the Rings . . . instead it become a weird prequel that is presented chronologically out of order. Bugs me. Just bugs me.

But then again, like a mentioned above, Azog didn't bother me nearly as much this time. I'm not sure if it was the whole HFR thing, but I found myself really enjoying the character just from a design standpoint. Whether or not he should be in this part of the story, Azog is one bad looking orc. I mean, Thorin only comes up to his freaking knee caps! At least from a dwarf (or hobbit) point of view, Azog really is a giant orc. Creepy as all get out too.

Surprisingly, Sauruman and the whole White Council scene didn't bother me quite as much as when I first say the movie. I still maintain that PJ missed an opportunity to show a more crafty, cunning side of Sauruman, instead of just the stuck-up prig we get to know in FOTR and TT. But . . . from a visual standpoint, the scene was undeniably beautiful, and if you're paying attention, when Gandalf and Galadriel are having their little "thought conversation" Sauruman actually says some pretty hilarious stuff.

Sadly, the balance between adult film and children's story that had struck me as being off the first time around only increased with this second viewing. The movie is great, but unlike the book, it is definitely NOT a children's story. There is way too much head loping going on for anyone under 13 years old to need to see it. Which in my opinion is a shame, since Tolkien wrote the story for his own children.

Summing it up, the HFR was great but not a must have, and the movie––even with its faults––definitely holds up under a second viewing. So get out to a theater while you still have the chance and enjoy The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey one more time!

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