Josh Wilding Reviews: THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY (3D/48FPS)

Released on Thursday in the UK and on Friday in North America, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey marks Peter Jackson's long awaited return to Middle-Earth. So, does the film live up to expectations and just how much of a difference does 48fps make? Hit the jump for my spoiler-free verdict!

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By Josh Wilding - 12/9/2012

It's hard to know what to review first; the movie itself or the 48 frames per second format which has for some reason been causing something of an uproar. Well, one can only assume that those who have criticised it are the same people who moaned about DVD's replacing VHS and Blu-ray's later (mostly) making that format obsolete too. After seeing The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, it's clear that 48fps is the FUTURE of cinema and not just a gimmick like 3D (which is however used to great effect throughout). It may be a little jarring at first and there are perhaps a handful of scenes in which it feels as if what you're seeing is moving a little too fast, but it vastly improves the moviegoing experience as a whole. It just looks...better! A good comparison would be the difference between standard and high definition. It particularly pays off in action sequences - they've never looked better and imagining something like Marvel's The Avengers being shot like this is enough to make your mouth water. Middle-Earth (well, New Zealand) also looks stunning as the camera glides effortlessly over the stunning vistas. Ignore the naysayers and see this film as director Peter Jackson intended.

As for the film itself, if you didn't love The Lord of the Rings, it's unlikely that The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will do much to change your opinion. Despite a lighter tone, this is still very much the same world and fans of the critically acclaimed trilogy will appreciate the many nods and references to them. The difference between that trilogy and this one is of course the fact that this is an adaptation of one book instead of three, so perhaps that's why it leaves you with the impression that it will make for a much better watch when viewed alongside There And Back Again and The Desolation Of Smaug. Occasionally feeling a little over-long (some scenes have a tendency to really drag), it has to be wondered if that's a result of two films being made into three. Regardless, the story that is told here is enjoyable and never gets boring. The humour sometimes feels out of place, but hits the mark far often than it misses. It's also fair to say that the main characters are all well-developed enough that the end of the film leaves them in a very different place to the start, while the scene that An Unexpected Journey ends on is the perfect way to build anticipation for the next chapter.

In terms of character work, it's mainly 'Bilbo Baggins' and 'Thorin Oakenshield' who get the spotlight. Martin Freeman, perhaps best known for his role as 'Dr. Watson' in the BBC series Sherlock, is perfect as the lead character. Bringing the exact right amount of humour and likeability to 'Bilbo', it's hard to imagine anyone else filling this role so perfectly. A stand out performance. Richard Armitage is also great, making 'Thorin' a complicated and thoroughly compelling presence onscreen. Ian McKelken ('Gandalf') is as reliable as ever in terms of quality, while the other returning cast members also impress. The major new additions are of course the band of dwarves, and it's unfortunate that some of them end up being so...forgettable! However, the likes of Aidan Turner ('Kili') and James Nesbitt ('Bofur') still impress and there is of course still another two films for us to get to know the rest of the gang a little better. Special mention goes to Andy Serkis as 'Gollum'. Despite only appearing for around ten minutes, he still manages to steal the show during a battle of riddles with 'Bilbo' which ultimately sets the stage for his role in the previous trilogy perfectly.

In terms of special effects. WETA has really outdone themselves with this one. Creations such as Barry Humphries' 'Great Goblin' and the three trolls just look unbelievably lifelike, making you wonder whether they truly are in fact digital creations or just incredibly convincing prosthetics. In terms of visual effects, it really is the most impressive release of 2012, while the various locations and battle sequences make this arguably the best looking take on J.R.R Tolkien's work yet. With The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Peter Jackson has for the most part truly excelled himself. Whether it's as good as the previous instalments in the franchise is an argument for another day, but it's certainly a wonderful and well-crafted adaptation of a book which ultimately couldn't be any more different to that trilogy. Middle-Earth without Howard Shore is like Star Wars without John Williams, so his rousing score here is a welcome (and thoroughly epic) addition. The film might not be perfect, but it really isn't that far off. We're back in Jackson's world and the next two instalments just can't get here soon enough.

Despite a few minor flaws, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a superb (and suitably epic) addition to Peter Jackson's past adaptations of Tolkien's work. See it in 3D and 48fps for the ultimate experience.








The adventure follows the journey of title character Bilbo Baggins, who is swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome dragon Smaug. Approached out of the blue by the wizard Gandalf the Grey, Bilbo finds himself joining a company of thirteen dwarves led by the legendary warrior, Thorin Oakenshield. Their journey will take them into the Wild; through treacherous lands swarming with Goblins and Orcs, deadly Wargs and Giant Spiders, Shapeshifters and Sorcerers.

Although their goal lies to the East and the wastelands of the Lonely Mountain first they must escape the goblin tunnels, where Bilbo meets the creature that will change his life forever…Gollum.

Here, alone with Gollum, on the shores of an underground lake, the unassuming Bilbo Baggins not only discovers depths of guile and courage that surprise even him, he also gains possession of Gollum’s "precious" ring that holds unexpected and useful qualities … A simple, gold ring that is tied to the fate of all Middle-earth in ways Bilbo cannot begin to know.


STARRING:

Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins
Ian McKellen as Gandalf the Grey
Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield
Andy Serkis as Gollum
Hugo Weaving as Elrond
Benedict Cumberbatch as Smaug
Luke Evans as Bard the Bowman
Christopher Lee as Saruman the White
Cate Blanchett as Galadriel
Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins
Orlando Bloom as Legolas

RELEASE DATE: December 14th, 2012.


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NerdyGeek - 12/9/2012, 11:24 AM
[frick] YEAH!

Far over the misty mountains cold.
To dungeons deep, and caverns old.
The pines were roaring on the height.
The winds were moaning in the night.
The fire was red, it flaming spread.
The trees like torchers blazed with light.



Carne - 12/9/2012, 11:31 AM
Got my tickets, can't wait!
Superior - 12/9/2012, 11:34 AM
@JoshWilding, did you see the new Man of Steel Trailer during the screening?
marvel72 - 12/9/2012, 11:37 AM
i do plan on seeing it,i'm glad you enjoyed it josh.
rocky - 12/9/2012, 11:38 AM
I'm so tired of people using the word gimmick to talk down things they don't like. Yeah color and sound were gimmicks too when first introduced to some snob "purist" I'm sure


The funny thing is that aftr calling 3D a gimmick then says its used to great affect.

Personally I love 3D. Can it be used wrong, hastily and without reason outside of the extra money? of course it can but so can most tools at the disposal of directors
JDUKE25 - 12/9/2012, 11:41 AM
awesome, can't wait for this movie and the Man of Steel trailer.
JoshWilding - 12/9/2012, 11:45 AM
MarauderM: I had my fingers crossed, but no trailers at all unfortunately. Then again, we probably won't get them in the UK regardless!
ironspider12 - 12/9/2012, 11:49 AM
bs;lld
ALmazing - 12/9/2012, 11:49 AM
I second JDUKE25 comment.
PapaMidnite - 12/9/2012, 11:50 AM
Whoa! Calm down, man! A LOT of people said that 3D would be the future of cinema as well. I believe in what Peter Jackson stated - 48fps will be just one choice more of experience cinema, like 3D is. Not "da future" of cinema! One thing doesn't eliminates the other! LOL

About the review, i think yours is the only one which rated it maximum that i've read lately. Awesome, i guess! Can't wait to watch The Hobbit!
thunderforce - 12/9/2012, 11:52 AM
It sucks that here my Imax does not have the 48fps only the normal 3d movie theater has the 48 fps . Maybe I will have to go to both .
Maximus101 - 12/9/2012, 11:54 AM
I doubt I'll give it a review like this but I am way more excited to see the star trek prologue!!
JordanKing - 12/9/2012, 11:54 AM
See it in 3D and 48fps for the ultimate headache

Naa, can't wait for this one, just without all the trivial additions. Can we expect heated seats next?
Facade - 12/9/2012, 11:57 AM
@PantherX...it's my understanding that the higher frame rate eliminates the headache aspect of the 3D.

@Josh...5 stars, eh.
BlueHawaiiSurfer - 12/9/2012, 12:01 PM
3D as we know it so far is purely a "gimmick". I think I've seen 2 movies where 3D actually "worked" without making you think about it. They were both animated features. This 48 is going to be the first real step forward since the red and blue shades from decades ago. Sounds like that combined with 3D might actally start making it worth it for anything not animated. Thanks for the review, looking forward to this one on Imax.
TheGambitFreakIsBatmanOfCBM - 12/9/2012, 12:01 PM
It will be easier for Brits to adapt to the frame considering a lot of BBC programs are shot in such a way that is similar to the 48fps rate.


For an example of how the film is shot, watch the trailer in post-converted 48fps HERE!
DrRockso - 12/9/2012, 12:05 PM
Right on, dude!
ComfortablyNumb - 12/9/2012, 12:05 PM
I'm ready!
FOOM - 12/9/2012, 12:08 PM
Even I'm excited and primed to see this. And I don't even like Tolkein stuff.
Superior - 12/9/2012, 12:10 PM
@JoshWilding, ah, well at least it'll be online
blackster - 12/9/2012, 12:11 PM
""one can only assume that those who have criticised it are the same people who moaned about DVD's replacing VHS and Blu-ray's later (mostly) making that format obsolete too."


condescending bullshit.

i have never been one of the people who bitch and moan about change. I liked the changes that many CBMs have made while adapting, I like almost every change YouTube has made to it's design over the years, and yeah, I loved DVDs over VHS, and then BluRay over that due to increasing quality of film and experience.

but 48fps isn't just a case of jarring. it just looks stupid.

it is as idiotic to assume that every change is good, as it is to assume every change is bad. there are good changes and bad changes. this is a bad kind. i am well-versed in what 48fps looks like. and the benny-hill comparisons aren't really as off the mark as some think.


nonetheless, i'll go for 24fps, and enjoy this movie.
GodzillaKart - 12/9/2012, 12:11 PM
Good review Josh...although I think you throw out 5 stars a little too easily. :P

So the big complaint about the 48 fps seems to be that it sometimes makes the motion look like it is happening too fast. I don't understand how this is possible. It seems like all it would do is make the motion seem more smooth.

Regardless, I thought although Jackson made a number of bad choices in the LOTR trilogy, all in all they were solid and a lot of fun. Looking forward to The Hobbit!

BlueHawaiiSurfer - 12/9/2012, 12:14 PM
I wouldn't consider anyone "well-versed" in 48 until a few more films are out lol. Wait and see what a few more directors can do with it first.
TheGambitFreakIsBatmanOfCBM - 12/9/2012, 12:19 PM
If a film has flaws, that take you out of the film, then it is not a 5 Star film, just FYI.
Feedthemachine - 12/9/2012, 12:28 PM
Can't wait for Desolation of Smaug. That film is going to be EPIC.
JoshWilding - 12/9/2012, 12:29 PM
Godzillafart: People keep saying that, but of the 20+ movies I've reviewed for CBM this year, I've only given 5 or 6 of them 5*, lol. :P Perhaps I'm just a little too generous with the books I review...

IM53: Nothing sadly, although it wasn't shown in IMAX anyway!

JoshWilding - 12/9/2012, 12:31 PM
TheGambitFreak: Every film has flaws (even The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises), but that doesn't mean they don't deserve a 5* rating. In The Hobbit's case, the 48fps is a big part of why I went for 5* over 4*.
gaikinger - 12/9/2012, 1:03 PM
I don't think 48 fps is the future at all as it changes everything about cinematography and replaces it with soap- opery, home video looking saturation that makes movies all look the same. Movies look less artistic and less organic with this somehow.
gaikinger - 12/9/2012, 1:04 PM
...trying to put my finger on just what it is..its like it sucks all the ambience away.
soberchimera - 12/9/2012, 1:13 PM
Great review Josh! You've reinvigorated my faith in this movie. Can't wait til Friday.
charlie2094 - 12/9/2012, 1:14 PM
Good review! Glad you liked the 48fps! Been unsure about whether to first watch in 24fps then try 48fps (incase I don't like it, don't want it to ruin or distract from the film) but plunged for a "HFR 3D" screening. Can't wait!

@ darthdanimal

Wow. Do his reviews really bother you that much? Maybe just don't read them? It's often big "cool" films like this and Avengers/TDKR that are 5* worthy. If you took stars off for minor flaws, then no movie EVER would get a 5* review.

rise217 - 12/9/2012, 1:19 PM
awesome review... but anything on the MOS trailer
pro346 - 12/9/2012, 1:28 PM
I don't pay much attention to movie reviews but I'm glad you liked it josh! Even if josh gave it no stars and it was 0% on rt im going to see it anyway!
Ceejay - 12/9/2012, 1:37 PM
This is not an adaptation of just one book, it's the adaptation and dramatisation of The Hobbit as well as other short tales from the Appendixes of The Silmarillion, The Book of Lost Tales and especially The Quest for Ereabor.

People are quick to try and blame the films length on the extra material not being needed but that's bollocks. The Hobbit is a book written from one perspective only with no other character but Bilbo's view of events, unlike LOTR. For it to be dramatised into a movie other characters have to be given much needed scenes of exposition as well as other tales from the other books explaining the other events that were going on at the same time like the White Council meetings and Sauron's rise to power under the guise of the the Necromancer.

Too many reviewers have been quick to jump onto the misguided view that its just one book so they must be making up lots of stuff that Tolkien didn't write. The fact is they are adapting more of his original extra material to bring to the screen, most of what a lot of people never bothered reading past LOTR and The original Hobbit book meant for younger readers.
charlie2094 - 12/9/2012, 1:42 PM
@ darthdanimal

I understand where you're coming from, but you've got to expect a certain excitement and enthusiasm for films such as these on a site like this than you would from a less specialised site. If you were to really reserve 5* reviews for such films, then the list of 5* worthy films would be much shorter and many great films would end up with a more "mediocre" 3*. You can't rate a movie based on how it's going to age, you review it on how it works today. As Avengers is today, it's a perfect 5* blockbuster, whilst years from now, with the cgi showing more, it may not be considered so perfect. There's been many great films that in years to come will appear dated, but that shouldn't detract from how they are now.

Besides, his 5* reviews often line up with other critics reactions. Empire are the only critics I really listen too, and they too gave Avengers and Rises 5*.
charlie2094 - 12/9/2012, 1:53 PM
@darthdanimal

You're twisting what I wrote. Avengers was made to be a blockbuster and does a perfect job of it, therefore its a 5* blockbuster. Argo, was not a huge blockbuster, but I loved it and would give that 5* easily. I've read many many 5* reviews for Avengers, do they not have any "critical integrity" because you don't agree with them? You can't reserve 5* reviews so much. 5* doesn't mean perfect. Heck, Godfather is considered a 5* and I got very bored when I re-watched that the other day.

Wow. Really sad how much one person's review can annoy other people.
CrimsonReign - 12/9/2012, 1:55 PM
Great review!

Got my tickets already!!
charlie2094 - 12/9/2012, 2:05 PM
@darthdanimal

You can't compare the Hobbit to Dark Knight Returns. Audiences have already seen LOTR so will be going in to this expecting to see connections between this and LOTR. If they made the Hobbit as it is with even the one ring being downplayed, it wouldn't make much sense and audiences would be disappointed. They had to bring Hobbit more inline with LOTR so that it makes more sense and to better fit audiences expectations.

Besides, when the likes of the Godfather came out, I'm sure the reviewers weren't all, this'll still be good in 40 years. They reviewed that by that days standards. Standing the test of time is unpredictable and should have no influence in whether a film gets 5*. Avengers was a perfect film for todays audience (as shown by the box office takings) and who knows, in years to come, it may still be considered a classic, maybe not.
Talontd - 12/9/2012, 3:04 PM
The comments on this site have gone to sh!t...sooooooo many @ssholes...

Thanx for the review @Josh
valeriesghost - 12/9/2012, 3:17 PM
Wait, so people are bitching because of someone's opinion on a film? Yep, I'm in the comments section on CBM.


Get over it Darth. Write your own goddamn review.

Great review josh, nice to hear another opinion on the 48fps, it's making me rethink which format I'll see it in.
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