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

Amazon Studios rotten movies we love Disney streaming service FXX book adaptation streaming women PlayStation TIFF Neflix remakes YouTube Red Film talk show franchise Masterpiece Comics on TV X-Men Horror Paramount Network 93rd Oscars Comic Book cancelled television AMC HBO critic resources Marvel Television japanese robots Reality Competition Opinion marvel cinematic universe RT21 OneApp Rom-Com politics Captain marvel American Society of Cinematographers Wes Anderson feel good MCU comics Musicals chucky ABC Signature HBO Go Endgame Hulu superman technology Amazon Prime Video ITV Family joker asian-american A24 live action Song of Ice and Fire NBA Shudder dogs APB binge Sci-Fi fresh Universal Pictures Baby Yoda 72 Emmy Awards BBC America First Look BBC Disney+ Disney Plus SundanceTV Holiday suspense rotten Film Festival elevated horror hidden camera Summer miniseries spain rt archives true crime A&E Discovery Channel Rocky Anna Paquin Broadway Awards Tour DGA Netflix Christmas movies Women's History Month deadpool TV renewals art house Marathons DC streaming service psychological thriller ID indiana jones YA Pop TV venice GoT all-time crossover Superheroes 2017 President Photos HBO Max Dark Horse Comics Disney Set visit MTV DirecTV justice league Logo international cinemax Elton John Fall TV posters award winner TCA Winter 2020 Lifetime Christmas movies werewolf The Witch canceled TV shows based on movie Quiz godzilla spider-man Exclusive Video hispanic heritage month zero dark thirty crime Sundance TV Animation Peacock Sony Pictures trailers dark See It Skip It blaxploitation Alien die hard BET docudrama blockbuster Pet Sematary toy story basketball cancelled TV shows anime Kids & Family emmy awards romantic comedy legend The Walking Dead pirates of the caribbean video on demand spider-verse 2020 Schedule slashers 71st Emmy Awards Tumblr foreign batman halloween Sundance Now Black Mirror christmas movies police drama science fiction mockumentary ViacomCBS sequel Marvel Studios parents dragons Creative Arts Emmys IMDb TV stoner Binge Guide spy thriller boxoffice romance dceu mob football children's TV Toys Ovation archives boxing Cartoon Network Extras Starz Pixar Western kids universal monsters television Crunchyroll news documentaries adaptation TV One TNT Rocketman cults dramedy independent Chernobyl FX Musical black Lionsgate french cancelled black comedy Podcast Sundance Food Network Netflix GLAAD green book FOX crime drama italian political drama monster movies composers Pacific Islander WarnerMedia name the review 2018 directors Stephen King The CW NYCC Esquire anthology BET Awards docuseries Avengers Video Games best Emmys First Reviews Pirates satire video new star wars movies Awards nature BAFTA spanish language 007 zombie The Walt Disney Company adventure sitcom Action live event 2016 Bravo Syfy Turner Classic Movies Christmas latino Brie Larson ratings stop motion Cosplay Tokyo Olympics Calendar Premiere Dates Funimation Television Critics Association E! VH1 movies FX on Hulu blockbusters Instagram Live versus free movies popular Sneak Peek finale TLC VICE lord of the rings royal family reboot facebook spanish breaking bad Comic-Con@Home 2021 target mutant Tarantino Walt Disney Pictures Thanksgiving comic book movie Spike hist movie documentary unscripted aliens jurassic park Watching Series king kong gangster jamie lee curtis Infographic cars hispanic space IFC screenings Certified Fresh indie saw classics Disney Plus dexter Columbia Pictures Holidays crime thriller Trailer Lifetime transformers Television Academy screen actors guild olympics Music theme song Classic Film RT History Winter TV biopic Drama Turner Acorn TV series CNN concert thriller golden globe awards stand-up comedy high school razzies Election TV Comedy Central 21st Century Fox Epix Star Trek Travel Channel disaster Amazon Comedy 20th Century Fox cartoon tv talk what to watch richard e. Grant Mindy Kaling zombies kong Best and Worst 24 frames vampires Reality 99% rt labs 2021 australia supernatural mission: impossible Image Comics rt labs critics edition Trivia 2019 know your critic travel strong female leads Mary Tyler Moore Crackle canceled obituary Mudbound Mary Poppins Returns casting discovery 45 Freeform Writers Guild of America New York Comic Con Winners game show comic book movies Hallmark Christmas movies PBS Polls and Games worst Marvel critics a nightmare on elm street war marvel comics IFC Films ABC Star Wars new zealand TV movies scorecard CMT Paramount NBC Red Carpet sag awards Ghostbusters quibi Academy Awards 90s ABC Family Oscars mcc renewed TV shows USA Network comic books Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt superhero CBS All Access action-comedy child's play Nat Geo Tomatazos Amazon Prime Disney Channel scene in color dreamworks Spectrum Originals natural history scary Rock SDCC streaming movies Box Office comic Apple El Rey CBS halloween tv Apple TV+ SXSW ghosts prank doctor who Biopics Interview History MSNBC new york Hallmark VOD scary movies films harry potter cops sopranos CW Seed YouTube Premium Trophy Talk DC Universe Pop nfl LGBT Country heist movie south america kaiju golden globes Warner Bros. Heroines Valentine's Day aapi San Diego Comic-Con TCA 2017 toronto 4/20 festival slasher sequels revenge criterion reviews Lucasfilm Teen Arrowverse cooking laika E3 USA james bond Pride Month Spring TV Fox Searchlight National Geographic Showtime TruTV The Purge japan worst movies Cannes witnail Legendary TCA PaleyFest dc period drama AMC Plus Nickelodeon Tubi Black History Month medical drama WGN GIFs Adult Swim rom-coms Vudu teaser Apple TV Plus Nominations debate Character Guide game of thrones festivals 2015 Britbox OWN Fox News LGBTQ historical drama Martial Arts Mystery young adult Super Bowl diversity Ellie Kemper genre Countdown vs. telelvision The Arrangement serial killer singing competition 73rd Emmy Awards TBS adenture Grammys twilight TV Land 1990s BBC One Shondaland animated king arthur Fantasy TCA Awards wonder woman Hear Us Out Paramount Plus Superheroe sports book comedies YouTube Mary poppins cancelled TV series 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards DC Comics nbcuniversal Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Universal comiccon fast and furious ESPN Year in Review spinoff Emmy Nominations hollywood psycho social media The Academy cats TCM biography