The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is an interesting film for me to offer a review on.. It is a follow-up to a grand trilogy that I didn’t expect to wow me on the level it did, so there’s a wee bit of expectation I could bring in to seeing this new film. And of the three available theatrical formats my friends and I chose to watch this film in, we chose the newest, labeled “HFR”.
HFR stands for High Film Rate and the HFR version is projected at twice the film rate than normal projection rate. The point of HFR is supposed to be that you’re getting a clearer, sharper image to watch because there’s twice as much footage and thus visual information you’re seeing in the same amount of time. Director Peter Jackson filmed The Hobbit films in this HFR so you’re seeing the film in the same higher quality that he shot it in.
So not only was there some expectation by me about how I felt the film should be, I was also going to be distracted by analyzing the picture quality of the film.
And it was a 3D screening. So there’s the added notion of whether 3D will hinder or heighten my enjoyment of The Hobbit.
After two hours and fifty minutes of sitting in a theatre watching a HFR 3D film, I will say I was very entertained.
I’ve never read the book. But the story in this first cinematic chapter of The Hobbit was very fairy tale-like. I did go in having seen headlines of reviews saying it was a slow-moving movie, and I’m glad I knew that going in. There are some big action set pieces, but most of the film is more character-building than character battles. And for the most part, I kept pretty much interested in seeing all that character arc stuff. I don’t know that I need to pay to go see it in a theatre again for all that, but if someone forced to go I wouldn’t be disappointed re-watching it all either.
But mostly here I want to let loose about what I thought about the HFR and subsequently the 3D too.
Going in, I had heard that some movie-goers who’s seen early screenings got sick and nauseous. This concerned me. I got a little motion sickness watching Cloverfield and also during my first trip on Star Tours: The Adventure Continues at Disneyland.
Then, I had a friend tell me that a friend of his who saw an early screening thought it had a “video quality” and that that made it look to more 3D than usual.
Those notions were on my mind going in to see it for myself and during the film. Here’s my take.
Watching the images of The Hobbit in HFR 3D is a lot like looking at pictures through a View-Master.
Images, especially those in bright daylight, are saturated, sharp, and breath-takingly full of color. And while I noticed more 3D at the beginning, it’s likely my eyes got adjusted to the 3D the longer I watched. I lost all sense of 3D-y heighted depth of field about 30 minutes into the movie. But to be sure, don’t take my View-Master analogy as a negative. It’s just the best way I can describe the HFR look. At the same time, because the imagery was so crisp and sharp and rich in color, there was a bit of a surreal quality to viewing the film too. Not “so real it’s 3D” type of feeling, but just so sharp in image quality that my brain couldn’t understand why it was damn sharp.
The only time I didn’t like the HFR look was at the very beginning of the movie. It’s a prologue scene and it wasn’t until after the scene ended that I knew the scene was filtered to give it a uniquely different look, because the next scenes was gorgeous!
So I enjoyed this HFR presentation. You can imagine the kinds of outdoor vistas Jackson would shoot or create of Middle Earth, and seeing them in HFR was Ah-mazing.
So for those of you who even knew about there being HFR screenings and were curious, these were my thoughts about it. I saw the opening weekend Sunday matinee show at the ArcLight Beach Cities in El Segundo for $17, and I wasn’t disappointed (and my company of friends were definitely a plus as we got into our usual geeky breakdown analysis of what we’d just seen). I don’t know that I need to see every film in HFR either. But I don't doubt the studios offering HFR more, just we have more IMAX and 3D choices today than we did five years ago, if The Hobbit continues to do as well as it’s expected to over the holidays.
All About Me
A fan of Star Trek, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Batman, comic books, Blu-rays, Disney, soundtracks, taking pictures, theatre and...Barry Manilow!