Movie Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (3D 48fps Update!)

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Two weeks ago I saw "The Hobbit" with friends in traditional 2D, and yesterday I went to the theaters again with my family--but this time in 3D high frame rate. You can check out my original review, but here's a few additional thoughts on the differences between the versions:

Only Peter Jackson could have made me care about 3D and high frame rate.

The last 3D film I watched was "Spy Kids 3D: Game Over" over nine years ago. Even at 13-years-old, I knew that everything about that movie sucked. My mind lumped in the crappy technology with every other crappy element--plot, dialogue, character development, etc. Thus, despite the Elijah Wood cameo in "Spy Kids," I never felt inclined to see another 3D film.

That is, until I started hearing about the revolutionary advances that Jackson's team was making with "The Hobbit." I was intrigued watching behind-the-scenes footage of the overly vibrant sets and costumes, and I decided that if anyone was going to make me fall in love with 48fps, it would be the director that made my favorite story come to life.

The technology is worth the hype.

To my pleasant surprise, 3D glasses aren't made with red and blue lenses anymore! Why didn't I let it sink in that a LOT has happened with 3D technology in nine years? Mea culpa. I guess that I put off trying the experience out again for so long because of the fact that I wore glasses, and I didn't feel like wearing another pair over my own. It's been almost a year since my LASIK surgery, and it certainly makes watching something in 3D more enjoyable. (If only the frames actually fit people's faces! One disadvantage was that mine kept slipping down my nose.)

Despite the ill fit, I was blown away by the differences in visual effects. From the dizzying effect as the dwarves escaped the goblins in the mountain to the fluttering of every feather of the eagles, the high frame rate made everything feel so real. I've had issues with certain films on Blu-Ray players, for example, because it's like watching a poorly lit soap opera, but seeing "The Hobbit" again was like looking through a window. If you're worried about 48fps making things too crisp and losing the fantasy vibe, I give you permission to be relieved!

Ultimately, your opinion will not change, only deepen.

I've skimmed the negative reviews that litter the Internet, including those at Rotten Tomatoes and Slate. I've come to the conclusion that the advanced technology will, in the end, not make that much of a difference in how you view "The Hobbit." If you're like me, and absolutely loved the previous trilogy with every fiber of your being, then the prequels will be worthy of your admiration. Nothing compares to LOTR, but my geeky friends and I were happy campers.

That being said, if you're some Michael Bay fanboy who prefers boobs and explosions, then a three-hour fantasy epic will never win you over, no matter how innovative. Most of the complaints came from critics who never cared much for Tolkien or had never read his books. (Slate's Dana Stevens even admitted that she resisted any literature that contained wizards. You're telling me you couldn't find an actual fan on your staff? Next!)

Conflict of interests aside, I'll respect a movie adaptation review so much more if the critic read the book first. I'm not saying it should be required (because goodness knows I haven't always had the time to squeeze the novel in before my theater excursion), but fans of "The Hobbit" will appreciate criticism from someone who's familiar with Middle-earth versus someone who whines about all the singing.

Movie Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

I thought that I would just start out by saying this: For those of you who complained about "The Hobbit" being too long of a film, I have these three points:

1. Your attention span needs work, and I pity your inability to put down your phone long enough to recognize cinematic wonder.

2. You clearly have not paid attention to Peter Jackson's body of work, because otherwise you would not be surprised by its length.

3. After waiting nine years to escape into Tolkien's universe on-screen again, I left that theater wanting so much more. Only three hours of magic after over 78,000 hours of waiting?! If you whined even the teeniest bit, you are not a fan, and I don't know why you even went.

As Twitter would add, #SorryNotSorry.

Ok, with that rant out of the way, I know that my awesome readers will be glad to hear that "The Hobbit" was well worth the wait! I'll try not to give too much away if you haven't seen it yet, but considering that the film has already made approx. $85 million dollars this weekend, breaking the December opening weekend record, chances are you've made a trip to your local theater.

The version I saw was the basic 2D, 24fps, but I'll be checking it out again in 3D, 48fps, over the holidays, so I'll make sure to provide an update of the visual differences. That being said, even though I didn't see the film as it was intended to be seen, it's still great eye candy. The fact that those landscapes actually exist on our planet still boggles my mind--and makes me want to book a flight to New Zealand, stat.

And speaking of eye candy, let me have a fangirl moment for a second. When "The Fellowship" was released, I was 11 years old, but seeing Orlando Bloom as Legolas on screen for the first time probably incited early puberty for many girls like myself. Never will elves be of the Keebler variety in my mind again.

Now I was under the impression that Legolas would make a cameo in "An Unexpected Journey," but alas, we'll all have to wait for "There and Back Again." Although other elves, such as Elrond and Galadriel appear in their immortal glory, I went into the dwarf-centric film thinking that the odds of a character making me melt like before were nil.

That is, until this guy showed up.

When Kili barged into Bilbo's hobbit hole, both the girl sitting next to me and I blurted out, "Hellllloooo," as if to say, "Well, aren't you a sight for sore eyes among a group of prosthetic noses and braided beards?" We promptly sat back, knowing this  movie just tipped into amazeballs territory.

I sincerely did not pay much attention to the casting, nor to any information, since I hate feeling like I've seen everything about a film before it's hit theaters. I recall vaguely my mother mentioning this young Aragorn lookalike, but I'm glad my memory escaped me because it's nice being pleasantly surprised.

(By the way, Kili's played by a relatively unknown Irish actor named Aidan Turner. After a quick glance at his IMDb profile, clearly there's an episode of "The Tudors" I need to rewatch.)

Ok, ok, I'll stop. Angry rants and fangirl rambling, what has become of Book Club Babe? Apologies, moving right along...

What else can I add? The soundtrack was phenomenal, a wonderful balance between new and familiar. Not to mention, fans will enjoy the dwarf drinking song, which showcases Tolkien's whimsy. The entire cast's acting was excellent, from Martin Freeman's reluctant bravery as Bilbo to Richard Armitage's thirst for vengeance as Thorin.

And I don't think an audience has been so excited to see a villain as we were when Gollum slinked in. There's a reason Andy Serkis (who is part-Armenian, don't ya know?) is king of motion-capture performance art. He was simply brilliant, and the riddle scene was everything I wanted and more.

I won't provide a list of differences between the book and movie, but be aware that creative license is taken when emphasizing parts downplayed by Tolkien, such as the prominence of The White Council, the Necromancer, and even Radagast the Brown. Much of these changes I believe are to the viewer's benefit, since Jackson pieces together information explained in The Silmarillion and the Appendices that otherwise would not be apparent since The Hobbit was told from Bilbo's perspective.

So re-read the novel if you can, and make your own conclusions about this adaptation. Although nothing compares to the LOTR trilogy, Jackson follows through with another hit. Highly, highly recommended!

Book Review: The Hobbit

Rating: 4 out of 5

While many die-hard Tolkien fans are currently in line for the midnight premiere of "The Hobbit" here on the West coast, alas most of us can't afford to watch a three-hour film and still expect to function at work on a few hours of sleep. But given that I've waited almost nine whole years to return to Middle-earth, I think that I can wait two more days.

And speaking of time, can you believe it's been 75 years since The Hobbit was published? I see anniversary editions of the novel everywhere I go now, which is great, because it's wonderful to see that the Ringer fanbase has grown over generations.

Say what you want about Jackson's adaptations of The Lord of the Rings, but sometimes even the most hardcore of fans (like me) got a small nudge from the movies. I was 11 years old when "The Fellowship of the Ring" hit theaters, and while I was encouraged by a favorite teacher to pick up the series prior, it was the cinematic magic that fueled the fire.

I then immediately read LOTR, but eventually made my way to The Hobbit. This prequel, as many have pointed out, holds a much different tone than the saga. Compared to the epic battles of Rohan and Minas Tirith, Bilbo Baggins' adventure with the dwarves seems more light-hearted--hence, why The Hobbit is often marketed as a children's fantasy tale.

And while I would argue that LOTR also had its fair share of singing and joking (which would have been more apparent had Tom Bombadil made Jackson's cut), The Hobbit feels more "fun" because any danger that the characters face is relatively minor.

At least that was my impression. It's been years since I've read the book, and as much as I would've liked to re-read it, my brother has my only copy and I'm currently preoccupied with finishing my last book of the year, Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth.

For those who are unfamiliar with the prequel, it follows Frodo's "uncle" Bilbo, sixty years before The Fellowship takes place. Gandalf convinces him to join a group of 13 dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield, into the Lonely Mountain to defeat the dragon Smaug and steal its treasure.

Along the way, they encounter trolls, goblins, and giant spiders. Elrond is one elf who makes an appearance, but as much as I will enjoy seeing Legolas again in the film, I know that his cameo is inaccurate. I'll also be sure to address other changes of Jackson's in my movie review this weekend.

Of course, the scene I'll be looking forward to watching the most would have to be the riddle game between Bilbo and Gollum. I've purposely avoided all the footage online because I don't want to be spoiled, but I caught Andy Serkis on "The Colbert Report." Talk about my precious! Andy rocks my socks! I'm positively giddy to see this origin story come to life!

And if you were looking for a more critical analysis of the novel, I apologize. Unlike other authors, about whom I have no qualms nit-picking every metaphor, I have a very biased perspective on Tolkien. Knowing how much he despised allegory and psychoanalysis, I read his work with the simplicity and innocence which I believe he intended.

The Hobbit is a wonderful coming-of-age tale about a good-hearted hobbit who's pushed outside his comfort zone to become a reluctant hero--much like Frodo after him. Tolkien's world-creation is unmatched, and you fall in love with his rich descriptions of setting. Perhaps the timeliness of its themes and beauty behind its purity are what make The Hobbit an everlasting favorite among readers.

But if you're still skeptical, I hope that you see the film anyway and it inspires you like Gandalf giving you a nudge out the door. Because reading something this magical is better 75 years late than never.

Favorite Quote:“There are no safe paths in this part of the world. Remember you are over the Edge of the Wild now, and in for all sorts of fun wherever you go.”