Christmas has come early. The most anticipated film of the year (the one that doesn’t star Daniel Craig) is quite literally about to burst onto the big screen in bigger way. But is The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in all its shiny armour and eye flickering beauty actually any good and it is worth the bum-numbing 169 minutes?
In a word, yes. Even as the Warner Bros’ golden shield dismembers into the sunny sky in the opening credits, you know you’re about to witness something big and the hum of ‘oooos’ may well be heard as the pioneering technology grips the gaze of the cinema audience before it.
We’re talking of course about the 48 frames per second technique (‘HFR’ for less of a mouth full). Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey is the first film ever to use such a stunt. It may sound all very geeky but it’s quite simple. Movies are usually shot using 24 frames per second, have done for the last 80 years. Doubling the frame rate results in a sharper image and less blur. Now the science bit is over, what does that actually look and feel like?
It takes some getting used to and ultimately it looks a little too crisp for cinema as it appears like a very expensive TV show. The vegetative landscapes of Hobbit land may shine up like a organic cheese advert, but it enhances the action scenes as battles appear fine-tuned and orchestrated with the grace of a Nutcracker performance. Watching limbs pop out of their sockets has never looked more eloquent.
It won’t be to everyone’s taste and the complaints of feeling sick are probably from the kind of people that get nauseous in an elevator and still own a Discman. You can’t shun change – as Peter Jackson has addressed, it’s needed if the experience of cinema is to maintain its allure. He says: “We’ve got less people coming to the movies, especially young people. We should be doing everything we can with the technology we’ve got to bring people back to enjoy movies on the big screen.”
Science bit aside, the story unfolds well, if a little prolonged and exaggerated from the book (which was to be expected). Essentially The Hobbit is an overindulged prologue to chunky novel Lord Of The Rings, with this in mind you can respect it for keeping to its time-hungry trait.
Gandalf takes a break from the little guys
It’s a pleasure to meet the acquaintances of the burly 13 Dwarves who, along with the brilliant Gandalf the Grey played by the fantastic Ian McKellen, sweep up Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) for their quest to reclaim the Dwarf Kingdom as they dodge dragons, Orcs, Wargs and the odd ‘Necromancer’.
Martin fits the role of Bilbo Baggins rather snugly. Not even having big hairy feet distracts from his charm. The bumbling dwarfs occasionally threaten to burst into song, but just before you begin to feel duped into watching a musical, they pipe down and go about their dragon dodging business once more. Besides, this is a group of portly bearded men, of course they like a singsong over the fire.
The baddies are impressive (even the one that looked like an infected private part) and ‘precious’ Golum is even more stunning in this new medium – as stunning as a malnourished, bug-eyed being can look that is. His schizophrenic tendencies churn out the chuckles and its enjoyable to keep up with your own emotions of recoil v revulsion towards this scrawny favourite.
The Hobbit plays an important part in cinematic history and it’s more of a ride than any movie you’ll have experienced. Everyone will have an opinion on its beloved book to bewildering screen adaptation but make sure you see it in the full throttle 48 frame version so yours is warranted. Why fanny around on the teacups when you can ride the roller coaster?