You may have seen Middle Earth before. But you haven’t been in Middle Earth.
Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” has made it possible for you to feel like you’re surrounded by the astonishing environment created by J.R.R. Tolkien and brought to the big screen by Jackson. You have several format choices. I can’t recommend strongly enough that you see “The Hobbit” in HFR 3-D.
As I went in the theater, I figured, “This can’t be all that big of a deal.” Well, I was wrong. It is a big deal, and it’s worthy of a big movie like this when it comes to setting a higher standard in terms of viewing experiences. “HFR” stands for high frame rate. Instead of the usual 24 frames per second, you can see the film in HFR, which means 48 frames per second. This is closer to how your eye actually views things.
Tolkien wrote the book on which this film is based in 1937, about 17 years before “The Lord of the Rings” was published. This is not a direct translation of the novel, so I can’t say exactly how it will sit with purists. For someone like me, who grew up on the novels, it’s a marvelously told “origins” story, a tale done in flashback.
We first meet the elderly Bilbo (Ian Holm, who also portrayed Bilbo in “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring”). Bilbo is writing down his adventures and we see them as his memories unfold.
Martin Freeman (“Hot Fuzz”) plays the younger Bilbo, who is relaxing one day when he encounters the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellan). Gandalf and Thorin (Richard Armitage), the dwarf king, along with a dozen of Thorin’s followers, ask Bilbo to accompany them on a journey: They want the hobbit to help Thorin take back his kingdom from the dragon Smaug. Bilbo, it seems, is the perfect size and has the perfect temperament to break into the dragon’s dwelling.
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The next scenes offer extraordinary battles, intriguing characters — some of whom we have met before in Jackson’s trilogy — along with wonderful and often-fearsome creatures.
Normally, I would say that this movie is simply too long. What makes it worth its nearly three-hour running time is the astonishing visual sense that HFR provides.
“The Hobbit” deserves to be seen on the big screen. You will walk away feeling not as though you have seen a movie, but rather that you have visited another universe.