The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey


*********IMAX HFR 3D Viewing Update*********

Last evening I had the pleasure of experiencing my first IMAX viewing of a movie ever when I went to the new theatre 45 minutes away to take in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in IMAX HFR 3D.  Many have said that seeing An Unexpected Journey in HFR or 48fps highlights the abundance of CGI in this film.

First things first. The IMAX 3D glasses are big, bulky and completely uncomfortable.  It has been a long time since I have had any issues watching a 3D movie with glasses on, but last night was one of those nights.  I had to remove and reposition the glasses numerous times and had I not have already seen the movie before, it would have been quite the nuisance.

As for how the movie looked, I will say this, I have never seen such a beautiful looking film on such a large screen in my entire life.  Now, that is not to say that there were not any issues with it.

At times, the movie looked, for lack of a better description, like watching a movie in fast forward in slow motion.  It really is hard to explain that any better, and that is due solely to the fact that after 33 years of watching movies filmed in 24 fps that my eyes and brain are conditioned to movies looking a certain way, and that finally seeing a film in 48fps that it looked odd at times.

It is a very similar thing to when I first saw flat panel TV’s that were running at 120Hz or 240Hz.  The mind’s eye was used to 60Hz TV’s and watching Blu-ray’s on these newer TV’s looked almost fake and fabricated, and this is the same issue that appears to be coming up with 48fps versus 24fps.

That being said, as more and more movies are shot using 48fps this issue will go away.  It is a new technology, and this was the first film shot using it.  I don’t feel it is anywhere near as bad as others said it was, but I do understand how it was jarring at times.

*********2D Second Viewing Update*********

So, I went to see ‘An Unexpected Journey’ for a second time last evening, taking advantage of cheep night once again, and seeing the movie in 2D.  Having now seen ‘An Unexpected Journey’ in both 3D and 2D now, and both in standard 24 fps, I am now 100% sure that the only way anyone can possibly complain about the visuals in this film is if they have seen it in 48 fps and found it to look fake.

And I understand how that can be possible.  ‘An Unexpected Journey’ is one of, if not the first, films to utilize 48 fps, and because of that, and years and years of conditioning to how 24 fps movies look, anything new can be jarring to the eye.  It is quite similar to the first 120 and 240Hz flat panel TV’s when they first came out.  When I first saw them, they seemed jarring to me as I was not used to the higher quality of picture they were providing, and that is the issue I feel we have with 48 fps and ‘An Unexpected Journey’.

I would also like to say that the scenes that I mentioned I found blurry in the 3D version of the film I also found blurry in the 2D version, so I am not sure if that was caused by slight out-of-focus or just quick panning with the cameras as a whole.

What I can say is just how much I do love this movie, how enjoyable it was even on the second viewing, and how with a second viewing I think that I can tell all 13 dwarves apart now.

I am going to see the film a third time this coming weekend when I head out-of-town to see it in the new IMAX theatre that opened 45 minutes from me.  I am quite excited for that.

*********Original Article*********

Wow.  In a single word, that explains just how blown away I was by The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  The return to Middle Earth was everything that I was hoping for and more.  Be it the word-for-word scenes directly from the book, to the inclusion of scenes that were only hinted at in the Appendices of The Lord of the Rings, all the way to the briefest of glimpses of the wyrm, Smaug, I loved every moment of this film.

What ‘An Unexpected Journey’ also did is point out just how well I know the source material, despite having not read The Hobbit in almost two years.  The ability to go word-for-word with scenes in the film, and the ability to know the answers to all of the riddles from Riddles in the Dark surprised me.

I will say that, even though the movie was filmed in 3D, there were still a couple of scenes where the 3D was lacking, and I found those to once again be the wide-scope, panning shots that have plagued most movies in 3D.  This is not a fault of this film in particular, but a fault that I have found in almost every movie I have seen in 3D.

That being said, the scope of how they filmed this was astonishing.  From our first looks at the city of Dale and halls of Erebor, to our returns to Hobbiton and Rivendell were all done in such grandeur as to take my breath away.  Everything that worked well in the Lord of the Rings trilogy with regards to scenery was once again present in ‘An Unexpected Journey’.

Someone asked me if this was what I was expecting, and I replied “yes and no”.  Yes, because I knew it would be visually stunning and full of beautiful scenery.  No, because I was not expecting scenes to be filmed almost identical to how I have always imagined them in my head since I first read the book when I was in grade school.

I saw ‘An Unexpected Journey’ in standard 24 fps 3D, and as I mentioned, aside of a couple of pan shots, I had no issues with how this movie looked.  I have heard some issues about the visuals not looking good from other people, and I would have to say that this sounds more like an issue with people not being used to the 48fps that the movie was filmed in.

I know for a fact that I am seeing the movie at least twice more, both in the coming seven days, as I will be taking in a 2D showing tomorrow evening on my local cheap night, and I am also taking it in this coming Sunday in the new IMAX theatre that opened up 45 minutes east of me.  Neither of these showings will be in 48fps though, so I won’t be able to get a good comparison on this issue.

In the end, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was much more than I ever expected and Peter Jackson has done a masterful job of recreating Middle Earth for all of us Tolkien fans.  The only issue I have is the fact that we have to wait a full year for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug to hit theatres.

For all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.


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