Film Article: Does 48 FPS Improve the Hobbit?

An article written for Pixelbedlam, which can be found here

hobbit picture

Ever since its first showing at ComicCon earlier in the year, most of the talk regarding The Hobbit has been about the ground-breaking 48 frames-per-second technology it uses. Heralded by Peter Jackson as the future of cinema, we’ve seen critics completely split by the format. Now that the long wait for the film is finally over, viewers have a chance to see it and decide for themselves if the ultra-realistic frame-rate is the way forward or not. If you’re unsure about seeing it in 48 FPS, a couple of PixelPedlum writers went along to watch it and gave us their view.

Callum Alexander – No, it’s simply not needed.

I have to admit I was nervous before seeing The Hobbit in HFR. My initial plan was to see it in good ol’ fashioned 2D before watching it the way director Peter Jackson wants us to. As a massive LOTR fan, I didn’t want any negative thoughts about the new technology getting in the way of my enjoyment of a film I have waited almost ten years for. In my opinion the original trilogy still holds up incredibly well, so more of the same would have suited me fine.

You’d imagine my anticipation when the group of friends I was seeing it with had booked a 48FPS viewing. The mixed reactions to the frame rate emerging in reviews, such as making it seem like a high end TV production, definitely worried me.

In all honesty, I came out of the film pleasantly surprised. Within a few minutes of returning to The Shire it was obvious I really didn’t mind the frame rate at all and thoroughly enjoyed the film. The thing is though, I don’t think the new technology added anything either. Peter Jackson has, despite the criticism, always been a firm defender of the format, calling it the future of cinema. He claims it makes the experience truly immersive, essentially removing the screen and making the cinema  a window into the world of Middle Earth.

Whilst at times this was true, the beauty of film means that suspending your disbelief already completely immerses you in the experience.  I was just as involved with the fate of Gandalf and co watching LOTR in 2D at 24 FPS as I was The Hobbit, the higher frame rate and 3D simply didn’t add anything to warrant the hype or extra admission cost.

Although I have mentioned I was pleasantly surprised that the frame-rate didn’t stop me loving The Hobbit, there were times when it stuck out like a sore thumb, mainly due to the film’s heavy use of CGI. One of the reasons the LOTR films have aged so well is that all of the Goblins, Orcs and Uruk-Hai were people in costumes, making the fights feel almost tangible and the look organic. In The Hobbit this is replaced with all enemies being fully animated. It’s a debate for another time but the problem is certainly made worse by the new format, as some scenes felt very computerised and almost metallic. Whilst this look works for sci-fi films like Avatar, it felt out of place in Tolkein’s world.

I shall definitely be viewing The Hobbit again. The long run time didn’t bother me, nor did the slow start or scenes added from the expanded lore. I will, however, be choosing to watch it in 2D. Not because I hated the 48 FPS, just because it doesn’t need it. Avatar was a technological marvel that was a joy to watch in 3D at the cinema, viewing it on DVD exposed the fact that without the visual wonder it was a long and pretty bland film; the Hobbit doesn’t need such visual gimmicks to aid the viewing. The wonderful characters, beautiful settings and stellar performances (Martin Freeman and Bilbo especially) are enough to make it a great film, no matter the frame-rate. 24 FPS maybe old but that doesn’t mean it’s dated.


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