Watching Series: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

We Revisit The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Movies

by , and | December 13, 2014 | Comments

In anticipation of the upcoming release of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, we here at RT decided to take a look back at the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the first two films of the Hobbittrilogy. Our latest installment covers The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, which editors Tim Ryan and Ryan Fujitani rewatched for some fresh perspective.

The Fellowship of the Ring | The Two Towers The Return of the King

An Unexpected Journey | The Desolation of Smaug


The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Luke: Thinking about the much-debated visual style of this movie, I can’t keep from hearing the immortal post-guitar-freakout words of one Marty McFly: “I guess you guys aren’t ready for that yet… but your kids are gonna love it.” Yeah, I had very conflicted feelings toward The Hobbit. Like those ’50s squares puzzled by McFly’s discordant futurism, I simply could not grapple with the look of this. Let me rephrase that: I think it looked horrifying. We all went to a screening in 3D 48fps, so I was prepared for some ocular recalibration, but nothing could ready me for just how jarring this looked. The Hobbit‘s clarity is astonishing. Too much so, in fact. While many of Weta’s effects sequences looked outstanding, I felt like I was right there on set with the actors, which might be the kind of detail Peter Jackson was aiming for but, for me, just rendered everything too empty and everyday. I kept looking for boom mics or waiting for a make-up artist to roll up and touch up Gandalf. Call me a cinephile snob, but if I want high detail I’ll take 70mm. The other issue visually was the weird jerkiness of the high frame rate. Admittedly, my eyes may not have evolved — and, like the races of men in Middle-earth, my kind may soon be extinct — but I had trouble dealing with the staccato movements of the actors. In even the most mundane situations, like Bilbo and Gandalf taking tea, motion looked strange, as though someone had left the “2x fast forward” speed button on the Blu-ray player. It was kinda embarrassing to watch. I’m not sure human vision is equipped for this. Yet.

 

 

Tim: I love the following things, in no particular order: cinema, video games, and BBC series. However, The Hobbit taught me an important lesson: I don’t like it when my movies look alternately like video games and/or BBC series. There were moments in the film where I wasn’t sure whether I was watching the making-of featurette or a cut scene (for a millisecond after Gandalf showed up to rescue the dwarves from the Great Goblin, my brain instinctively steeled itself for an intense boss battle). I really don’t want to sound like the guy who walked out of The Jazz Singer and griped, “This talking picture business will kill the cinema!” (Presumably, such a sentiment would be pronounced in an old-timey mid-Atlantic accent.) But while 48fps may be the future of movies, it really doesn’t feel like the present of movies.

That said, I still found The Hobbit to be a pretty involving yarn; story-wise, it’s a cut below the original trilogy, but I didn’t think it was the draggy mess that some people did. The set pieces are thrilling and vivid as always; I particularly liked the campfire scene with the oafish trolls, and the escape from the underground goblin lair is propulsive and tense. Plus, Gollum remains a marvel CGI technology — name another digital creation that inspires as much revulsion and pathos. Overall, I thought The Hobbit was solid, but again, a word of advice: if you’re planning on seeing it and you have all the time in the world, I recommend watching it in 24fps, and then going back to see it in 48fps to compare and contrast.

Ryan: I will agree that the visual style was too aggressive for my taste. I suspect that Jackson’s aim was to draw the audience further into the picture, to make the experience more immersive, but it had the exact opposite effect on me. I don’t like being reminded that I’m watching a movie, but it was hard not to feel that way when I found myself thinking, “Whoa, that looked bizarre” at regular intervals throughout the film. That said, I still don’t think I hated it as much as you two did; every once in a while, just for kicks, I’ll watch a movie at home with that motion-smoothing effect turned on, so I was somewhat prepared for it here, even if the final product did sort of look like an extended video game cut scene.

 

 

What’s interesting for me is that, on paper, the film had a lot of narrative problems, but I still rather enjoyed it despite these problems, and despite the visual distractions. The whole movie is essentially one long chase sequence, with short breaks for some necessary exposition here and there, and chase movies tend to bore me. Bilbo and friends would escape narrowly from one life-threatening catastrophe only to find themselves in some other gargantuan peril, over and over and over again. What’s more, each time it seemed they were helplessly screwed, Gandalf would appear and save the day. Whether threatened by mountain trolls, orcs in hot pursuit, or underground goblins, never fear, for Gandalf will appear. And you know, he did this a couple times in the LotR series, as well — I’m starting to think Gandalf is just a stand-in for God, and he simply lets everyone get into trouble so they can learn valuable lessons from the experience. I don’t know how much of this was in the book (I’m speaking from a novice’s perspective again), but these are all things that would have bugged the hell out of me in any other movie. The bottom line is, though The Hobbit doesn’t quite capture the same sense of majesty and epic wonder as the LotR did, it was still an entertaining little romp that somehow convinced me to put aside my storytelling pet peeves and go with the flow.

Luke: Right. Well in terms of the story, my major concern going into this, really, was the potential for bloating Tolkien’s perfect little adventure yarn — and, at least on this count, I was somewhat relieved. The Hobbit‘s epic dwarves-and-dragon prologue felt unnecessary (as did the Frodo and older Bilbo framing device), but I get why they’re there: when you’ve fed audiences The Lord of the Rings, they’re gonna demand something equal in scope. It’s wrong for The Hobbit (I still wish it was a Guillermo-helmed single film) but it doesn’t do fatal disservice. Despite these and other diversions (the portents of Sauron, etc.), I found that once the movie settled into the groove of the actual story it was pretty faithful — and at times, really entertaining. Martin Freeman was a sound Bilbo Baggins, Andy Serkis was as good as he ever was, and the storytelling — at least in the back stretch — was well done. By the time the eagles arrive amid the final skirmish with the white Orc, I felt like I was at last deep in the real Hobbit again — and actually couldn’t wait for them to get on with the rest of it. But it still feels like a long way to The Lonely Mountain. And yeah, we gotta get there in high definition digital. But my corneal transplant should come through by this time 2013.


The Fellowship of the Ring | The Two Towers The Return of the King

An Unexpected Journey | The Desolation of Smaug

Tag Cloud

Rocky FX justice league President Crackle telelvision Fox News war Mystery Ellie Kemper Character Guide movies Hallmark Christmas movies football Mary Tyler Moore Holiday Grammys TV Set visit Ovation Certified Fresh docudrama Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Star Trek Infographic Captain marvel 2018 australia Fox Searchlight Pride Month superman ABC CMT PlayStation superhero cancelled television festival Spectrum Originals mockumentary Drama zero dark thirty BBC America Cannes cancelled TV series universal monsters Holidays Reality Universal Thanksgiving razzies lord of the rings what to watch Baby Yoda SXSW series asian-american dogs italian concert die hard children's TV Heroines TV movies stop motion sag awards CW Seed diversity Image Comics Rom-Com Sundance Now book TCA foreign Box Office jamie lee curtis independent dc hispanic American Society of Cinematographers Polls and Games BBC One Superheroes Marathons Schedule spain Bravo mutant WGN PaleyFest Sundance zombie cops Awards Tour USA Network hollywood Mudbound Opinion A&E news cars movie slashers MSNBC DC Universe VOD CBS NBC singing competition Amazon Prime Nominations Sci-Fi Walt Disney Pictures Television Academy GIFs Podcast 4/20 high school sports Exclusive Video 2019 reviews The Academy japanese historical drama E3 joker witnail Black History Month travel Video Games Pacific Islander cats Avengers french New York Comic Con CNN Summer Pirates classics 93rd Oscars supernatural The Walt Disney Company crime thriller Interview Toys stand-up comedy child's play Film Festival facebook adaptation Photos USA television comiccon ESPN YouTube Premium Masterpiece green book Marvel Studios Winners blockbuster disaster romance vampires transformers Britbox heist movie TIFF Food Network OWN streaming Biopics Arrowverse Music Disney+ Disney Plus spanish language NYCC Pop DC Comics Marvel Television Apple Pixar AMC Western Creative Arts Emmys hist video on demand breaking bad Comedy harry potter Superheroe Starz james bond Tubi RT21 WarnerMedia kids Spike obituary LGBT worst movies Lionsgate anime 45 X-Men GoT zombies twilight The Walking Dead DGA sitcom documentary Hallmark Trivia Christmas Crunchyroll MCU Stephen King adventure San Diego Comic-Con parents anthology Endgame Star Wars Apple TV+ Anna Paquin quibi Pop TV 2016 Peacock medical drama Academy Awards christmas movies E! TNT Adult Swim Winter TV Mindy Kaling period drama talk show YouTube Rocketman 21st Century Fox IFC Chernobyl scene in color Oscars cinemax archives 24 frames rom-coms science fiction comedies game of thrones Musicals Fall TV The Arrangement Comedy Central biography monster movies Country Awards Esquire casting films HBO Max Shudder 2015 Amazon Studios sequel golden globes prank Shondaland cartoon tv talk thriller boxing blockbusters emmy awards dceu Epix El Rey award winner all-time canceled TV shows ABC Family spider-man Animation scorecard batman godzilla black natural history social media The Witch TCA 2017 saw Spring TV Logo SDCC Tomatazos ratings fast and furious franchise serial killer MTV cancelled a nightmare on elm street cancelled TV shows animated Hear Us Out revenge south america TruTV Sneak Peek doctor who FXX Turner Classic Movies TBS critics fresh RT History Women's History Month Vudu Martial Arts Amazon Disney Plus teaser Apple TV Plus SundanceTV 20th Century Fox Marvel police drama Classic Film best unscripted sequels Amazon Prime Video Quiz Red Carpet APB indiana jones Lifetime YouTube Red robots Sundance TV The Purge First Reviews romantic comedy Valentine's Day Syfy Disney streaming service based on movie TCA Winter 2020 Cartoon Network directors golden globe awards mission: impossible werewolf Musical Calendar blaxploitation discovery Alien rt archives Legendary dragons Nat Geo nfl Super Bowl BAFTA Hulu free movies TCA Awards 007 technology GLAAD laika Paramount Network Showtime women theme song The CW new york boxoffice 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards video comics CBS All Access target renewed TV shows Cosplay TV Land Mary poppins cooking Emmys History TCM A24 OneApp reboot Sony Pictures Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt 99% spy thriller Columbia Pictures true crime king kong Comics on TV hidden camera FOX comic dramedy Teen PBS remakes marvel cinematic universe halloween tv BBC politics Dark Horse Comics Pet Sematary crime drama 72 Emmy Awards TLC Rock DC streaming service Elton John Watching Series space Turner indie Extras screenings latino ITV ABC Signature toy story miniseries Fantasy pirates of the caribbean live action Writers Guild of America chucky YA Brie Larson Television Critics Association Funimation halloween comic books Warner Bros. VH1 versus Kids & Family international trailers Year in Review nbcuniversal DirecTV Travel Channel National Geographic know your critic Acorn TV criterion Ghostbusters new zealand Reality Competition 2020 rotten VICE Film Disney Channel screen actors guild Horror psychological thriller Song of Ice and Fire nature psycho See It Skip It Disney Netflix Tarantino Countdown Paramount jurassic park Premiere Dates HBO Go stoner Trophy Talk ghosts 2017 book adaptation crossover name the review FX on Hulu TV One LGBTQ crime venice elevated horror binge Best and Worst spanish finale Discovery Channel Action Family aliens 71st Emmy Awards aapi IFC Films strong female leads game show popular Broadway Tumblr richard e. Grant Mary Poppins Returns documentaries Paramount Plus composers BET Lucasfilm Black Mirror First Look ViacomCBS Freeform ID festivals Election scary movies Nickelodeon canceled rotten movies we love Lifetime Christmas movies new star wars movies Emmy Nominations BET Awards dark HBO kaiju satire deadpool spinoff streaming movies Binge Guide 2021 worst cults Trailer kong toronto Comic Book TV renewals docuseries Netflix Christmas movies political drama