The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: The IMAX Review

Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit is just days away and you have lots of viewing options to start thinking about. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the first installment of a prequel trilogy to J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Peter Jackson is a perfectionist and an innovator when it comes to filmmaking so it’s no surprise that The Hobbit is the first “high frame rate” (HFR) 3D film to hit theaters. Not only is it available in a HFR 48 frames per second, but it’s also available in IMAX 3D.

If you liked The Lord of the Rings, then the first installment of the Hobbit will be sure to please. It’s full of action, plot development, amazing visuals, magic, and even some familiar faces. While we had our doubts about a nearly 3 hour movie based on just one third of one book, we were pleasantly surprised.

While the Hobbit trilogy is another epic adventure, this time it involves Frodo’s guardian, Bilbo Baggins. Gandalf the Wizard, played by Sir Ian McKellen, plays another large role as he and young Bilbo assist a group of 13 dwarfs to reclaim their promise land. There’s a lot of great backstory that sheds light on some of the events that occurred in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. While Gollum (and his precious) play a large role in the Hobbit’s marketing, we were glad to see he doesn’t hog up too much screen time.

We applaud Peter Jackson for such a realistic portrayal of Middle Earth. The detail, texture, and liveliness of every creature and scene is extremely believable. We’re not die-hard Lord of the Rings fans, but we’re most definitely excited about the second installment of The Hobbit, which we won’t see for a full year. Another great aspect of the prequel is that you don’t necessarily have to be a Lord of the Rings fan, just a fan of fantasy movies. However, there are a few nuggets that LOTR fans will gobble up and make them smile.

The Hobbit is a somewhat of an iconic film release because it’s the first to be released (and filmed) in high frame rate 3D. Films are generally all filmed and viewed in 24 frames per second, the Hobbit is filmed and displayed in 48 frames per second. More frames means more quality and smoothness, reducing choppiness associated to camera pan and zoom. While reviews are slim at the point, much like 3D the HFR reviews seem to be hit or miss. HFR is making some nauseous while others note it makes the film look artificial and unrealistic.

Here’s where things get tricky, there’s so many options! 2D, 3D, HFR 3D, IMAX 3D, and in some theaters even IMAX HFR 3D. Availability will most definitely vary by theater. We had the pleasure of seeing it on film in IMAX 3D (as opposed to digital). Needless to say, IMAX is an intense experience of auditory and visual imagery; almost always worth the few extra dollars. While HFR could have been a cool experience, and HFR IMAX an even cooler experience, we were perfectly content, nay, perfectly impressed with IMAX 3D. Even if the 3D effect starts to wear off quickly, it still added a nice perspective. Coupled with the gigantic IMAX screen, we felt like we were actually watching from Middle Earth!

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey hits theaters December 14th in the US.

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