The nearest theater to Peoria that is showing the movie “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” in the new “high frame rate” (HFR), or 48-frames-per-second format, is the Rave theater in Davenport, Iowa. I hear tell the HFR version may make it to Peoria eventually, but until then, it’s worth the drive up to Davenport to see for yourself. (Note: if you use Google to look up showtimes, it says that Carmike, formerly Rave, at Grand Prairie has the HFR version, but they don’t.)
The crispness of the images and the smoothness of the motion shots is incredible. It took a little while to get used to it, but not long. I understand the criticism this format has received, but I’m not certain it’s all due to the format. There were some scenes that had a definite look of a BBC videotaped series to them, but I’m not so sure they wouldn’t look that way even at 24 fps.
At times, the limitations of the special effects were exposed (i.e., they looked fake); especially noticeable was when Radagast is racing around on his sled. Also, some normal movement, such as walking, in the early scenes looked like they were a little sped up. Not sure if this got better as the movie went on, or if my eyes just got used to it after a while. Other reviews online have made the same observation.
But other than that, everything looked (strange as it may sound to say about a fantasy-genre film) realistic. Perhaps even hyper-realistic. It certainly is a noticeable advance in film.
As for the movie itself, it’s a good prequel to The Lord of the Rings, but the pacing is slow. There really was no reason to take this little book and turn it into three two-and-a-half-hour films. The result is the inclusion of too much footage that should have been left on the cutting-room floor. Many scenes are needlessly drawn out, especially the whole opening, which does nothing more than set up The Hobbit to be one big flashback.
The big teaser of the film is the dragon Smaug, which we never get to see completely. We see its effects, its tail, its shadow, and ultimately, its eye. But we never see the whole dragon. They’re saving that for the next film, no doubt.
Once the action gets going, however, the movie sucks you in just like the original LOTR, and it’s fun to visit Middle Earth once more as the wizard Gandalf and the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins help the dwarves reclaim their home from the dragon Smaug, and encounter more adventures than they expected along the way.