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

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