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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

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Released worldwide on December 13th, 2012 The Hobbit: an Unexpected Journey was greeted by massive audiences and massive hype. The followup prequel to the fantastically popular Lord of the Rings trilogy directed by Peter Jackson from the same titled book series written by J.R.R. Tolkien, was said to be the film of the holiday season. The Hobbit though greeted worldwide by a huge hype and an onboard fan base had a lot to live up to, its predecessor The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King holds the record with Ben Hur for the most Academy Awards won by a single film, 13. The film went on to gross over 1 billion dollars worldwide in the box office and was nominated for 3 Academy Awards. But the film did not claim the critical or fan appreciation of its predecessors. This is largely due to the lack of content in the first film, something that the previous films, including their extended versions which total a staggering 12 hours total, did not. The reason the content was limited was that the companies behind The Hobbit wanted the same elongated success that the original trilogy had. But the problem was they were starting with only one book The Hobbit the adapt into film, where in the case of the original trilogy there were three books, one book per film. The problem, with this film, is greed. The premise of this film and the book is about how bad things come when greed is in the hearts of men.
Originally The Hobbit was going to be directed by Pan’s Labyrinth Director Guillermo Del Toro, but after some time he realized the project was two large and that he would not be able to spend so much time in New Zealand away from his family. With a script already written, and most pre-production underway, New Line Cinema had no choice but to call on The Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson to helm the project. After Jackson made the Lord of the Rings film and produced a whopping 3 billion worldwide gross for New Line a legal battle had pushed the two entities apart. But time heals all wounds and only 7 years after the final Lord of the Rings film was released, Jackson was well underway making The Hobbit.
Rumors began to circulate that Jackson was planning on splitting the book The Hobbit into two films. This was something that excited many fans, he had done so well producing each of the Lord of the Rings films into 4 hour films for each book. It was logical to assume that he could stretch The Hobbit into a 6 hour epic masterpiece. But the rumors did not stop there, shortly after the rumor mills starting spewing out the idea of a 2 film Hobbit story, it was confirmed that not 2 but 3 Hobbit films were to be made. The idea of a prequel trilogy was a gluttonous one at that.
Now with the original Lord of the Rings director having full control, and the backing of New Line Cinema, MGM, WingNut Films and Warner Bros. distributing the film, there was no stopping this trilogy train. The film series was given the biggest budget of all time, $561 million dollars and production was off to the races.
The Hobbit was arguably one of the most ambitious filmmaking achievements from a technological standpoint. The film was filmed in native 3D using 2 RED epic cameras positioned specifically to cause depth differential needed for the 3D affect that became prominent in the film industry after the massive success of 2009’s Avatar. In addition to being film in native 3D, Peter Jackson’s the films director decided to take the film to the next level by shooting it at 48 frames per second. For the most part, it has been an industry standard to project all films in theaters at 24 frames per second. This became a standard with the advent of VHS, which displayed the film onto the TV at that speed. The idea to shoot at the 48 frames per second or HFR (high frame rate) as it was marketed was to improve the 3D aspect of the film. 3D had enabled James Cameron’s Avatar to generate a all time record earning 3 billion dollars world wide and since that moment, film companies had been cashing in on 3D films which movie goers are charged a premium to see. The problem is Peter Jackson knew that the last Hobbit film would release 5 years after Avatar and odds are by then most of the allure of 3D would have worn off. So, he needed something extra to improve it and that is the reasoning for the HRF.
Jackson was interviewed by CinemaBlend.com in December of 2012 and explained his reasoning for the HFR filming stating, “With 3D your left and right eye, both of your eyes are seeing a different picture, because the two cameras are filming different pictures, you're stetting strobing and motion blur and the artifacts of 24 frames. Your brain is trying to fit this stuff together, and the more artifacts in the capture, like when you're panning and things are moving or strobing, your brain is struggling to resolve these two pictures. 48 reduces the artifacts, so it does make for a smoother experience.”
I first say The Hobbit at midnight in HFR 3D, and I for one was very impressed with the films ability to smooth out the 3D affect and make it something that was not straining on the eye. I for a long time have been a fan of native 3D and been the opposite towards films converted from 2D to 3D, just for the sake of the money.
Though the film is a technological triumph there are many places where it falters and it is these areas that are the most important. The plot generally stays the same as the original text, but where it goes astray it is gleamingly obvious that money is the reason. The Hobbit is in many ways a book that warns us about the evil inherent in greed. Throughout the book we are shown many ways in which greed is the root of the problem. Bilbo is greedy of his safety and doesn't want to help the dwarves. The dwarves to not want to share information with the elves. The dragon Smaug does not want to share gold with anyone. Gollum does not want to share the ring and neither does Bilbo. The list goes on and on, there are many times throughout the book where each and every character becomes greedy.
Greed is what changed the plot of the film. It is safe to assume that if there were one Hobbit film that it would have generated the same amount of revenue, 1 billion dollars, that the first Hobbit film made. Not a bad haul by any means. But that would not have been enough to satisfy the multiple institutions involved in the process. That is the true nature for the book being turned into 3 films. The Hobbit: an Unexpected Journey for instance only covers essentially the first 6 chapters of the book. It is because of this, because so little of the actual original text is shown that the plot needed manipulation. The first 6 chapters of The Hobbit by themselves are not a story, they are not a beginning middle and end. They are a beginning and middle, and they do not posses the correct amount of character development and action to suffice for a book or film.
It is for this reason that Peter Jackson and the rest of the production team had to write in subplots to drive the story across. The evil enemy in the film, the Pale Ork was invented to push the plot along. This was a completely useless piece that would have been totally avoidable if the film had been made sticking to the original story and was not dragged out in the hopes to turn this adaption from book to film into 3 tickets instead of merely 1.
Everyone in the film performed with grace and expertise. From the costumes to the score, there was many things about the film that captured the mystery and hugeness in scale of the original text. The scenery and setting was so vivid and true to that of the book I felt like a small kid again reading The Hobbit for the first time. It is not the execution of the film that is the problem with The Hobbit: an Unexpected Journey, it is simply the amount of content they intended to stretch.
In spite of all of the changes to the content, the tone of the film fits well with that of the book. The majestic nature of Tolkien’s Middle Earth rings true in The Hobbit, only it is sustained for a spell too long.

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