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Take an Unexpected Journey

Written By: Harald Schossman

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Almost ten years after the final Lord of the Rings installment director Peter Jackson revisits Middle Earth and brings us the long awaited Hobbit. Shot entirely on digital 3D cameras in the revolutionary 48fps 5K format this fantasy extravaganza is bound to leave its mark on cinema history.

Much like the first LOTR movie the Hobbit opens with an action packed Prologue that reveals the back-story of the Dragon Smaug taking the dwarven city of Erebor and claiming its gold. Then we find ourselves on more familiar territory, the Shire where Gandalf the Grey summons a band of dwarves and with the help of Bilbo Baggins plans a to reclaim the city of Erebor. The band sets out on a quest that is filled with many perils leading the adventurers from the depth of Mirkwood through Rivendell deep into the Misty Mountains.

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One of the strengths of the Lord of the Rings movies was their superb casting and The Hobbit follows in that tradition. Martin Freeman has the seemingly impossible task to live up to Ian Holm’s portrayal of Bilbo Baggins and not only does he live up to it he exceeds Holm’s excellent work and makes Bilbo completely his own. Not much needs to be said about Ian McKellen and his portrayal of the mystical Gandalf who always seems to know more than he is letting on. Richard Armitage deserves a special nod here, he brings just the right poise and resolve to the dwarven king Thorin Oakenshield.

Phillipa Boyens, Fran Walsh and Peter Jackson make wonderful use of dialogue, especially when it comes to some of Gandalf’s lines. The exposition of the Hobbit is very long and requires the viewer to see this 170 minute part one as the first act of a much bigger story. While I really enjoyed the film, I felt disappointed at the end that now it is another year before we see how the story continues.

Peter Jackson cleverly uses every tool available to welcome the viewer back to middle earth: familiar locations, characters even Howard Shore’s music is true to its original style occasionally even incorporating familiar themes. The technological innovations, however, do take some getting used to.

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Theatrical motion pictures up to this day have always been presented at 24 frames per second thus leaving the viewer with a somewhat shuttering image that has become an art form in itself. The Hobbit uses twice that frame rate, 48 frames per second to present an experience closer to human vision, which is 60 frames per second. As a result the image, especially the motion is incredibly smooth and appears much sharper since there is a lot more detail to be seen. Is it better? That is for each and everyone to decide for themselves. Personally I felt especially with 3D it is a lot more pleasant to watch because all the 3D strobe and flickering is now gone. Video gamers will be very familiar with the look and feel of the Hobbit, the motion is very reminiscent of gameplay. (games use up to 60 frames per second)

Of course Jackson relies heavily on this technology and makes ample use of sweeping, fast camera moves that do look pretty spectacular in 48fps. Especially the flying scenes on the Eagles are an amazing experience! This high frame rate is a tool in its infancy and eventually will have to evolve. Filmmakers will have to learn how to use it properly, much as we viewers will have to get used to it as well. But I do believe there is a place for it just as digital cameras were out of the question ten years ago, and are common place today. For now if you really don't like the new visual experiece, there are many screens out there that will show The Hobbit in the traditional 24 frames per second, so the choice is up to you!

About The Author: Harold Schossman is our International News Corespondent and our resident Expert Videographer. He has worked in the entertainment industry for almost two decades. Be sure to check out his outstanding video work on his YouTube account.

http://www.youtube.com/user/hdeditor