The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (movie)

Having seen An Unexpected Journey yesterday at the movies in 3D with the high-frame rate, and presumably in the 5k definition, I am prepared to give you my thoughts on the first in the trilogy of movie adapatations of JRR Tolkein’s prequel to Lord of the RingsThe Hobbit. I discussed the book a few days ago, so this post isn’t really concerned with the book, you can go have a look here. 

Also, be warned this first section is a ‘rant’ of sorts about the delayed release in Australia, scroll past if you aren’t interested, I’ll let you know when I get to the movie.

There will be movie spoilers, so be warned (though it is safe for the next few paragraphs, I’ll point out when it stops being safe), but most countries have had this movie out for a fortnight, so this isn’t one of the first reviews, but I can’t be blamed, Roadshow Films on the other hand can. I’ll get my complaining out of the way first, because I am disappointed. Yes, I can be patient, and there are things so much worse in the world than having to wait for a movie, that isn’t the issue. The issue is that Roadshow Films decided to delay the release of the film a full 14 days after the premiere, and at least 12 days after nearly every other country. Iceland, Trinadad and Tobago had the same release date as us. And only Vietnam, Poland and Ecuador had release dates that were after (the 28th). Clearly we are not alone in having a delayed release date, and it is not acceptable for any country to have to be held at ransom to the whims of a corporation. I understand that in non-English speaking countries (which is a far bigger majority than those who speak English) there is a need to add subtitles or over-dub in the native language, so that could cause a delay (but honestly it shouldn’t, they have plenty of time to facilitate these translations), but the excuse from Roadshow is something about ‘tradition’.

In Australia, Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) is the day for movie releases, and is one of the biggest days for the box offices. But with the worldwide release 14 days earlier, and New Zealand just a hop away, a delay just to have a release on Boxing Day, is a weak excuse. What is more, they recall when the Lord of the Rings trilogy were released in Australia (the movies), which were delayed to Boxing Day, they call it a ‘tradition’ of releasing ‘Middle Earth’ movies on Boxing Day. Which is just disappointing, and hopefully they will change their minds next year when part 2 is released around the same time (part three however won’t be anywhere near Boxing Day, so they CAN’T do it! So they better not delay the final instalment). After all, even if they think it will have earned them more money, they have to realise that people are pretty ‘dedicated’ and want to see the movie as soon as possible, and people will resort to downloading copies illegally. The longer the movie is delayed, the more people will resort to other means of seeing the movie, so it is at their own peril that they choose to delay.

Anyway, RANT OVER, on to the actual movie! So as I said above I saw the film in High Frame Rate 3D. H:AUJ (can that be the acronym?) is as far as I know, the first movie to use a high frame rate. So that means there are three different options when going to the cinema, 2D, 3D and High Frame Rate 3D (as it is only available for 3D). I don’t know about elsewhere, but these days in Australia, 3D films are more expensive, so that is one thing to keep in mind. The frame rate of standard films is 24 frames per second, but Peter Jackson decided that he wanted to be ‘revolutionary’ (I guess) and use a frame rate twice as ‘fast’, so it is shown in 48 frames per second. Which is intended to make it more ‘life-like’ and to allow smoother shots. There are criticisms for this change, even some saying that it means that films lose their ‘cinematic quality’, which I don’t think is true. It does however, take time to get used to. That said, if you don’t pay attention, you might not notice it. I know a few people didn’t even notice any difference, and frankly didn’t care, because they just loved the movie, and loved being back in Middle Earth. So if you aren’t interested in what the movie looks like from a ‘technical standpoint’, then these changes won’t bother you.

But for those of you who are interested in these new developments, then I’ll give you my thoughts. I certainly noticed a difference. At the beginning things looked almost as if they were sped up, Bilbo moved very quickly, and sweeping aerial shots looked like they were moving too fast. I was somewhat disappointed in the beginning, the scenes looked almost amateurish, and I have heard similar reviews of the High frame Rate. But after a while, I got used to it, and I didn’t notice the difference. Everything started to flow, and I do really want to somehow get two versions of the film playing side-by-side to compare the difference, because I haven’t seen it in standard 3D, and I don’t plan on, until maybe the DVD comes out. And sometimes, especially in the beginning, the animation looked really fake, and poorly done. I don’t know if that was the high frame rate, or whether they just weren’t as polished as they could have been. Those thoughts too faded away (possibly as I got into the movie and the plot and character more and more).

As for the 3D, there weren’t the cliqued things flying out at you, which is what I remember of the 3D with those red and blue glasses. Those days have long gone (apart from the promos at the start of the movie, showing you that 3D works), and if that happened too much, people would just call it tacky. The 3D (again I haven’t seen it in 2D so I can’t say what it is like), was well done, and it did look as though it had real depth. Overall, it looked good, and it did look life-like to some extent. Real fans of Middle Earth, won’t really care one bit, and if the main drawcard of The Hobbit is the High Frame Rate, I think you’re seeing the movie for the wrong reason, or you are a real movie aficionado.

Getting on to the finer plot points (This is where the spoilers begin, so if you haven’t seen the movie, you have been warned, don’t read on). So the movie went for 169 minutes (plus about 25 minutes of advertising at the beginning!), which is a pretty long movie, and any longer and I would have needed a toilet break. And as always, having nearly a three hour movie, means that people are going to complain about it. Critics, unless the movie is so riveting and capitulating that time literally flies for those who don’t even want to be there, like to detract from the movie, as being too long and drawn out. I wouldn’t agree, and I would struggle to think which scenes should be deleted, and left to a DVD release (that being said, apparently there is a further 25 minutes of additional footage to be released!), as is Peter Jackson’s style. And these long scenes and additional footage makes fans adore Jackson, because we get to see a long movie, and get to see our favourite scenes with all the added detail, that critics don’t care about. And that is how a movie should be made (when adapting a book), fans want detail, and the only way to give them that is to make a long movie, or put these scenes on to DVD, and I think Jackson did a good job of finding a balance. As I said, I don’t know what could have been cut out, but at the same time, I can’t imagine what the additional footage could be.

Having 3 movies, at nearly 3 hours each, means that Jackson has a whole 9 hours to turn 300 pages into video, which is a lot. But you must remember that storylines from the appendices of Lord of the Rings (which I have yet to read mind you) have been included. Which means when Gandalf goes off on his own journey, we get to see what he was doing, instead of never finding out. We get to see extra battles that were mentioned in passing. We get to see Radagast the Brown, who wasn’t even mentioned! We get to explore the Necromancer, who was mentioned, but his story left out. We get backstory, which is makes the story richer. But most of all, in the 300 pages of The Hobbit, Tolkein left out a lot of detail, he skimmed over battles, and journeys and stops at Rivendell and Beorn’s house, which went on for weeks, passed by in a sentence. This allows Jackson to take liberties and expand the storyline, without ‘making stuff up’. And he does this really well, by seamlessly adding in secondary plots to the tale. Yes in the process, the movie is not 100% true to the novel, there were cinematic liberties, like the encounter with the goblins under the mountain and how Bilbo slipped away (I quite liked how Jackson did it though) and the final battle with the wargs and the company hiding up in trees was again different (this had quite some differences, as the wargs were lead by a giant white orc, who had a past with Thorin Oakenshield, and who tried to attack them before coming to Rivendell, which didn’t happen in the book).

But I can’t complain about H:AUJ and how it translated the book to screen. It did a fantastic job, and I don’t think fans would complain. The riddle scene with Gollum, was the favourite scene of the movie for me, and it was really captivating, and the acting was brilliant. I have no complaints about how the plot, the movie can NEVER be identical to the book, that isn’t what adaptations are about. Adaptations are there to provide a different interpretation of the book, and to visually show the events that were limited to the page. Liberties must be taken, things from the book have to be changed, otherwise they make no sense on screen or to viewers, and if you don’t like it, then too bad.

Clearly Jackson has done something right, 2 weeks in, and the movie has grossed over $500 million, so viewers have been out in force. Even if the critics aren’t the biggest fans, they don’t always get it right, and their opinion doesn’t represent the plethora of different people out there! So I definitely recommend anyone who has read The Hobbit, or enjoyed the Lord of the Rings movies, to go out and see the movie. If you didn’t like the LoTR movies, then you probably aren’t going to change your mind for the Hobbit, they are pretty similar, a different storyline and lots of new characters (with a few oldies thrown in, Frodo what were you doing there???????). If you can’t sit for 3 hours, then you might want to wait for the DVD so you can pause it whenever you like. But the movie experience is worth it, the 3D, High Frame Rate, 5K, all add to the experience that you can only get at the movies. I think I’ve covered everything, and with nearly 2000 words, I’ve said enough! I really enjoyed it, and I can’t wait for Part Two, The Desolation of Smaug!


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