The Hobbit at 48 Frames Per Second: A Review

As I am no longer a pro movie critic, I had to go see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey after it came out like a common troll (get it? Get — ah, never mind). My local cinema had it at the standard frame rate, but there was a movie theater in Dayton showing it at 48 frames a second, which is director Peter Jackson’s preferred frame rate for folks to see the movie in, as he believes it makes for a more immersive cinematic experience. I was curious enough about whether this was true to go ahead and go out of my way to see it that way. I have notes about the movie both as a storytelling vehicle and as a test of new-fangled technology.

The storytelling first. From my point of view the movie was perfectly agreeable, if meandering. The Hobbit is a slim volume to make three movies out of, so it’s not in the least surprising that this first third of trilogy spends a lot of time setting up events, tromping to and fro and getting itself into (and out of) set-piece action scenes — it’s padded, in other words, and quite a bit so. There’s a long set-up with an old Bilbo and a young Frodo, there’s extended scenes with elves, Radagast the Brown somehow becomes a major player in events, the scenes with goblins are like a D&D adventure crossed with a flume ride, and so on.

If I were a Tolkien purist all of this might drive me up a wall a bit, but I’m not; truth to tell I prefer Jackson’s Middle Earth over Tolkien’s, whose Middle Earth was always a bit twee for me. Yes, yes, you can throw me into the fire later. Likewise, if you’re not a Middle Earth fan of any sort, I can imagine this all gets tiring; even someone like me, with a high tolerance for Peter Jackson wandering off on his own, was wondering at points whether the man was going to get on with it already.

What saves it from being too tiresome is the fact that Peter Jackson is a little looser here than he was in the Lord of the Rings movies — a little lighter and a little goofier, and it makes the time and the digressions go by pleasantly. I would suggest the The Hobbit is probably closer in sensibility to Jackson’s earlier works (this being a relative term; The Hobbit is still safely within PG-13 territory); whether it’s because of the lighter nature of the source material or Jackson thinking screw it, I already have three Oscars, what do I have to prove or possibly both is a question I won’t go into now. But I found the similarities to that earlier, weirder work enjoyable.

The Hobbit is not as good as any of the three Lord of the Rings movies, but that’s a high bar to reach in any event and it’s probably unfair to expect it to have the same sort of impact — Tolkien’s The Hobbit is an enjoyable diversion while his Lord of the Rings, written during WWII, is stuffed with allegory and good vs. evil stuff (the movie versions have their own good vs. evil resonances coming in the wake of 9/11 and the US at least girding itself for war). The film version of The Hobbit does try to shoehorn in weightier good vs. evil stuff, as well as having Thorin Oakenshield step up to be a shorter, more hirsute version of Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings, but it’s only middling effective, and all the weighty stuff is where the movie bogs down.

A perhaps more fair comparison would be to put The Hobbit up to the first installment over another hotly anticipated first movie in a prequel trilogy, i.e., The Phantom Menace. Compared to that movie, The Hobbit is an absolute joy; it makes sense, it doesn’t crap all over the films which preceded it, storywise, and it doesn’t merely rely on special effects to drag the audience through. Jackson doesn’t reach the heights he hit with Fellowship of the Ring or the other movies in Lord of the Rings, but he doesn’t embarrass himself or have to excuse his choices. And when I left the theater, I was genuinely looking forward to the next installment instead of desperately hoping it would redeem the first movie, which is what I felt with Phantom.

Also: Martin Freeman: Born to play Bilbo. And there you have it.

So as a storytelling experience, I’d give The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey a “B.” Like its literary predecessor, it’s a minor work, but an enjoyable one, and as an entertainment it’s solid if not life-changing. There’s nothing wrong with that.

On the technology side I thought the 48 frames worked as advertised: The images were clearer and sharper, the movement and action more fluid and engaging, and the 3D far smoother and rather less headache inducing. I understand a number of film critics (and some audiences) don’t like the higher frame rate because it looks less “film-like,” and the adjectives they use to describe the 48fps experience reflect that — I’ve seen it compared to television, video games, thrill rides and so forth.

I agree that at 48 frames per second, The Hobbit doesn’t look like film… but then, inasmuch as The Hobbit wasn’t shot, processed, edited or (in most places now) presented on actual film, why should it look like film? If the only reason it should look like film is because that just what we’re used to, then eh. If this is the argument you’re going to make, you’ll equally need to defend the use of sound, of color and of any other technological advancement to the cinematic experience. You can’t even argue that 24 frames per second is the true film experience, as films prior to the sound era were shot at other frame rates (which is why old silent films look “sped up” to us; they were shot at lower frame rates). I think this is an argument of received aesthetics rather than a discussion of whether the technology genuinely serves the story and the movie in a general sense.

To that discussion, I think the 48fps tech serves The Hobbit well. Because this is the first major movie production to use a higher frame rate, there are some places where it’s not perfect, notably in the beginning of the movie where a) the audience is acclimating to the look and b) there are a lot of talky, ploddy scenes. I suspect there will be fewer of these in the second Hobbit movie and almost none at all in the third. And when the Hobbit movies wind down, the next set of Avatar movies will pop into the theaters — and James Cameron has already noted he plans to shoot those movies as 60 frames a second. I don’t expect James Cameron to present technology that is anything less than as perfect as he can make it, because he’s a tweaky perfectionist that way.

Do I think every movie in the future needs or will benefit from high frame rates? No, any more than I think every movie now would benefit from 3D. I do think high frame rate movies are probably the wave of the future for epic scale or action-oriented movies, however, as the technology both to shoot them and to screen them is already here (or is just a software fix away on digital projectors). People who enjoy the “film aesthetic” will increasingly be like the people yelling at the tide, or the clouds. It’s not to say they might not have an argument, just that it won’t matter. Especially when The Hobbit claws in something in the area of $300 million domestically by the end of its run, as it is likely to do. If there’s any aesthetic argument Hollywood understands, it’s the aesthetic of a box office success.

By the way, the hardest thing about writing this review? Not using the word “film” to refer to The Hobbit. It’s a movie, yes. A film? Nope.

141 Comments on “The Hobbit at 48 Frames Per Second: A Review”

  1. A comment I wanted to make but which I didn’t want to put in the main entry because I thought it would be too off point: I really would have loved to see the Del Toro versions of The Hobbit films, and I’m sad now I never will. I don’t know that they would have been better or worse than Jackson’s versions, but I think they still would have been something to see.

  2. It’ll be interesting in ten or twenty or whenever years when someone invents a movie system which is no frames-per-second, just continuous action and movement, like human vision. I suspect the early reviews — especially by veteran reviewers — will be scathing, and the young viewers will take to it like nothing nobody’s ever seen, refusing to ever again watch that “flickery” stuff.

  3. A longtime lurker, but just wanted to point this out since I think people are missing this fact: The darker scenes (such as with Radagast and the council with Gandalf, Saruman, Elrond, and Galadariel) are actually from the appendices in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The appendices explained the events leading up to the LOTR, which the Hobbit couldn’t tell since it was only focused on Bilbo. So the darker stuff is the appendices, and the lighter stuff from the Hobbit itself.

  4. “truth to tell I prefer Jackson’s MiddleEarth over Tolkien’s, whose Middle Earth was always a bit twee for me. Yes, yes, you can throw me into the fire later”

    We can have a heretic’s party together. I feel much the same way.

  5. For the record, the HD video documentary look was also noticeable in the non-48 fps IMAX 3D. I loved the film and I’m going to see it in HFS within the week, but it did seem a little extra video like.

  6. I pretty much agree with John’s review. I saw the cheapo regular version at the local theatre(7 bucks with discount card too!). I did not like LOTR1 very much, and couldnt stand LOTR3. LOTR2 was pretty good. I like the characters better in the Hobbit as well. I think its a better story. I think there was WAY too much filler. In 4 years, I hope to see a “clean” cut of all the Hobbit films put together as a 3 hour epic. This is a case where less would get more from it.

  7. Also, I saw some of the Showscan movies back in the 80’s (the high frame rate, large film format movies that Douglas Trumball developed). Somehow they only ended up in Chuck E. Cheese restaurants. They looked amazing, though. Apparently you don’t notice the 24fps flickering until it’s not there.

  8. Scalzi: True. I don’t think there’s really any one good way to merge a lighter, more whimsical tale with darker, heavier material. It’s fairly well done considering the source material at the very least, and the transitions from the lighter to the heavier is fairly smooth for the most part.

    I definitely agree that it’s much, much better in the 48fps. I adored how beautifully clear it was. I’d happily watch it again and again, just like I did LOTR. And yes, I am one of those Tolkien-crazed fans. There’s a few points that bugged me, but I can forgive Peter Jackson for it because of how absolutely wonderfully in-depth he gets with the settings, the props, the clothing, and the culture itself. He’s definitely true to the source material in all the wonderful details.

  9. While it’s nice to see Peter directing these, I, too, wanted to see what Del Toro’s Hobbit would have looked like. I suspect it would have been excellent.
    I am no less concerned about the boredom factor now than I was before your review, but at least it sounds like it will be fun, even if he’s making up tons of stuff to stretch a tiny book into 3 movies.

  10. I really enjoyed The Hobbit. I felt like the beginning was a bit “expositiony,” with the flow getting interrupted a bit often with flashbacks to set things up, but when the movie finally gets properly going, it’s a real treat. I do have to worry about the wife leaving me for Thorin Oakenshield. Apparently, she has not hang ups with pursuing a short man. Maybe it has something to do with his confidence…and that impressive baritone.

    I agree that it doesn’t quite match up to the heights of the LotR movies–at least…not yet. I’m hesitant to judge the series as a whole until at least the next movie because Fellowship was my least favorite of the LotR movies.

    I’m very disappointed that there was not a 48 fps showing in my area, as it’s something I’ve very much wanted to go check out. I hope there will be an option for that when the Blu-Ray comes out.

  11. I saw the Hobbit opening night and also chose the 48fps version. I wanted to see it at least once the way the director intended it to be seen and I am exceedingly glad I did. Count me in the folks who liked the new technology. I agree with you that it’s not right for every film. I think it’s going to be a fantastic tool for director’s who are good at making creative use of technology. For me it felt like I was sitting on the stage in the middle of an extremely elaborate stage play. There are a few places where effects technology will need to catch up with “film” technology. Matte painting is the most obvious of these. I also think the higher frame rate improved certain effects, making them much more immersive and believable. I loved the goblin scenes btw. I think the technology worked to very good effect there.

    All that being said I enjoyed it as a movie.I was grinning the whole way through. I’ve come to trust Peter Jackson as a director and recognize that he has a much larger vision than we are currently seeing in a single movie. I’m withholding judgement on all the buildup pieces for the war of the ring until I can see how he resolves it in these three movies, or makes a strong connection to the LOTR movies.

  12. I was thrilled with the movie. I felt that it actually did justice to the early events of the book rather than rushing through everything as I felt all of the LotR movies did. My 18 yo daughter, who only knew that the movie would have Bilbo, Gandalf and a dragon, enjoyed it immensely, so I felt that it worked well to entertain a non-reader and to keep them abreast of events.

    I saw all LotR movies with not only a non-Tolkien-reader but a non-any-book-reader (sad, I know) and he was utterly confused after each of them. So while I know there are and will be varying degrees of complaints about Jackson dragging out this trilogy, I for one am anxious to see all he has to offer. I’m hopeful that it will make up for all that he left out of LotR.

    Also, Martin Freeman was TOTALLY born to play Bilbo! He was incredible! And far Hobbitier in this one movie than was Elijah Woods throughout the entire LotR trilogy. Sorry Elijah, but you know it’s true. ;o)

  13. I honestly loved this movie. I went into the theatre knowing that there would be no comparison between it and the Lord of the Rings movies, because the subject matter in the Hobbit is inherently different — lighter tone, smaller scope, a different time in Middle Earth. You’re spot-on describing the movie’s pace as “meandering;” it was like a walk through a familiar park on a warm Sunday afternoon.

    Was it jammed tight with action? Nope. Was it on the longish side? Yeah. My ass was numb by the time the credits started rolling. But all in all it made for an immersive, pleasant return to Middle Earth and a brief respite from this “poisoned world,” as Peter S. Beagle called it in his intro to one of the Hobbit’s more recent editions.

  14. Oh, I feel much better now. A couple of my friends went to see it over the weekend, and they were so disappointed they almost walked out (they are also film snobs, but still, I was panicking a bit). I think they went in expecting it to be the next Return of the King, which it’s not really supposed to be. This is about in line with what I was expecting; I’m properly excited again now. Thanks, John!

  15. Most silent film was shot at 16 – 18 fps. When projected at 24 fps, it looks sped up. Most silent films on Turner Classic Movies have been transferred in a manner that maintains the correct frame rate. It’s interesting to watch the silent films at the correct frame rate when you’ve only seen them incorrectly screened!
    24 fps became a standard because it maintains persistence of vision. We don’t notice the flicker of film passing through a gate, and there are enough images that a person dancing, or running, or whatever rarely looks choppy.
    It was inevitable that eventually we moved away from 24 fps. I’ve seen some tests of 48 fps and it does indeed look “sharper,” but even that isn’t quite right. Each image is sharp. It’s the way the moving image is being processed that’s different. The whole persistence of vision thing has changed.

  16. My biggest trouble with the 48fps version — I’ve seen both now, and vastly preferred it in 24fps — is that, especially in all the big action swoopy-camera shots, it was simply too much. My suspension of disbelief is strained enough without making the blatantly impossible hyper-realistic; it doesn’t make me BELIEVE in it, it just makes it look that much more ludicrous when it’s super super clear and in your face. It’s like some little switch gets flipped in my head and everything starts getting lost in “oh, for f’s sake….”

    Granted, some very, very strange things have been known to shatter my suspension of disbelief in the past — I was willing to run with all sorts of ridiculous stuff in BTVS, for instance, but it was the Bronze (“You’ve got a nightclub? With booze? And you’re letting HIGH SCHOOLERS in?!”) that I couldn’t handle. So, y’know. Take this with your pinch / pound / metric ton of salt, as applicable. ;)

  17. By the way, the hardest thing about writing this review? Not using the word “film” to refer to The Hobbit. It’s a movie, yes. A film? Nope.

    Mr. Scalzi, can you expand on this a little? I confess I’m unclear what distinction you’re drawing here.

    I saw it last night, staying through the credits, and was interested to note that Guillermo del Toro was credited as one of the writers. So it wasn’t Guillermo del Toro’s The Hobbit, per se, but some of his vision lived on.

  18. My husband and I also went out of our way to see the 48fps version of the film. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie but I had a difficult time maintaining my suspension of disbelief. So often during the movie I was distracted by the real life look (it was really like watching this play out on stage or watching the action through a window) that I was pulled out of the story. I suspect that as more and more movies are released in this format and our brains become more accustomed to it, this particular problem will occur less. We plan to see it again in the ‘regular’ version to compare experiences.

  19. I AM a Tolkien fan. I am NOT a Tolkien purist. There is simply no way to adequately translate the experience of reading a story to the experience of watching a movie. Tolkien knew this but he (himself!) nevertheless sold the movie rights to The Lord of the Rings (for not very much money, even for the time). He must have known that anyone attempting an adaptation would have to depart significantly from his written words. If he was okay with it, why shouldn’t everyone else be?

  20. Kellan Sparver:

    It’s not a film because at no point in its production was film involved (except for the very end, when it was transferred to film for some — but not all, and possibly not a majority at this point — theaters). It’s a movie because it’s a motion picture, it’s just not a motion picture made on film.

    This is similar to how “LP” and “album” are not in fact synonymous, as the latter can be in any recorded sound medium, but the former refers specifically to vinyl.

  21. If you want the Tolkien Society member die hard loyal opposition “Gawd I hated it” review, try mine:

    I support to the bitter end your right to like it. I support Christopher Tolkien’s statement in Le Monde that it “eviscerates” the book, regardless of its merit as a movie.

    But I also think it’s not Peter Jackson’s best by far. He’s likely already in his yawning and clipping coupons stage. This is Episode 1 (re: Star Wars) as far as I’m concerned.

  22. I’m confused – is the (properly) 2D version of the movie available in 48fps as well?

  23. For the humanities nerds, because I want to show off, and finally because I bet that even here a few people are wondering what the big deal is:

    Television’s frame rates have been higher than film’s during the former’s ubiquity because that simplified the receiving electronics. Meanwhile, the lower your frame rate, the less film footage (literally) that needs to be purchased, exposed, developed, and printed. Film and its processes are DEARLY EXPENSIVE, so that they impose a non-trivial cost on a production. Cf. the film used for Clerks.

    Magnetic storage capacity, not so much (these days, at least).

    I’ve been hating the future for the past few days, and I’m glad someone that brought me around, because it might just be worth it to go to Kansas City to see what 48fps looks like in a movie. I bet it’s pretty.

  24. Yes, yes, you can throw me into the fire later.

    But not the fires of Mount Doom, because the lava would be wrong. Or possibly right but only because it’s magical. But in any case a flying snowman would probably save you.

  25. I would love to try the movie in 48 fps, just to form my own opinion of it. Unfortunately, I can’t watch movies in 3D. And the fact that 48 fps version is only being shown in 3D, I have to confess, kind of makes me resent the whole thing.

    In terms of the film itself, I felt like I was watching one of the LOTR extended editions just by how long it seemed to be going on, which given that this film ran over an hour shorter than those, well. Yes.

  26. I have a feeling the 24 vs 48/60 fps arguments will be just as tiresome as the vinyl/analog vs digital music arguments and will probably fall along the same lines (experience vs clarity and fidelity).

  27. In regards to the 48fps aspect, it’s worth remembering the lessons of the Dvorak keyboard.

    The keyboard layout that almost everyone uses is called the QWERTY layout, named after the first six letters in the upper-left corner and first introduced in 1878. The thing about the layout is that it’s not designed for typing efficiency. The QWERTY layout puts more burden on the left hand than the right hand (which is the weaker hand for most folks), and many of the most-used letters are not in the home row. It’s also been noted that all the letters for the word “typewriter” appear in the top row, and that they may have been arranged this way so that salesmen could type “typewriter” as a demonstration quickly, making the keyboard look easy to use. It’s also been speculated that QWERTY may have actually been designed to slow down typists so that typewriters wouldn’t jam (this is 1878, remember). In any case, the layout we all use is definitely not the optimal one.

    The Dvorak keyboard layout was introduced as a replacement in 1936. It moved the most commonly-used letters to the home row and placed more burden on the right hand than the left, and in general was meticulously designed for maximum typing efficiency and for the prevention of repetitive motion injuries. However, since everyone had learned and was comfortable with QWERTY, no one was interested in re-learning to type on Dvorak keyboards, much as the US has been stuck on English imperial units of measurement rather than switching to metric, and much as the film industry has been stuck at 24fps rather than move on to higher framerates.

    To be sure, the parallels aren’t perfect, but they’re there. QWERTY is probably one design choice that we’ll be stuck with forever, a cultural oddity that our collective muscle memory won’t allow us to drop. 24fps is more likely to eventually change, but I’m willing to bet it’ll keep holding on longer than a lot of people imagine. People are slow and set in their ways like that.

  28. A grade of B is not worth the 4 + hours of my time — getting to and returning from theater included here — and $14.

    Particularly with even longer and more tedious cave trolls and all the rest, which I hated in the Jackson LoTR. And a wizard in a bunny drawn sleigh, o my, do not want. And as it’s a free country, do not have to have! :)

    If others enjoy, good, because it’s great to have things we can enjoy, particularly at this time of the year.

    I confess though, that every time I see Ian Holm as Bilbo I see his earlier career role as Napoleon, the Napoleon In Love series. So were all the actresses.

    Love, C.

  29. Since Tolkein is on record as saying “I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations” (referring specifically to LotR, too), and since allegory is by definition intentional, I think we have to hold him innocent of that.

  30. Saw it with my two oldest in IMAX 3d, we all enjoyed it. My son really wanted to see it in 48fps but then he would have had to wait longer for me to have time to go to a more distant theater. Waiting seemed like the greater evil to him. I’m not sure if I want to see it the other way yet. When I see shows on my dad’s HDTV it looks too weirdly real for me so I imagine it’s a similar effect. I don’t think anyone else is bothered by it, maybe you get used to it? We are all looking forward to the next one (and the peak at Star Trek was fun too).

  31. @David Gustafson: If you think your eyes track continuous movement you have seriously underestimated how hard your brain works to fill in all the blanks.

    That said, I liked the movie more than I expected to. If you’re going to stretch a 300 page book into a 9 hour film trilogy there is much worse filler to work with than The Silmarillion. I didn’t go near the HFR 3D though. I spent a week tweaking/turning off all that motion smoothing nonsense on my HDTV. I’m sure not going to pay a premium for it in theaters.

  32. Excellent review, thanks. I have been wondering which frame rate to go for, and this is some help to me.

    One quibble, you say that LOTR “is stuffed with allegory.” Tolkein explicitly denied allegory in his stories, especially LOTR. He said he wrote fictional history rather than allegory, with the distinction that with a history, the freedom to apply similiarities with current events is in the freedom of the reader, whereas with allegory the author is forcing the reader to draw a conclusion.

    The distinction was a big deal to him as an author, so I thought as an author you might want to be aware of it in reporting on his work.

  33. I loved this movie, mostly because the book was such a big influence on me as a kid — and I haven’t read it since, so I’m no perfectionist to details, as most of them are a little fuzzy. I haven’t seen the movie at 48 fps but I don’t see the big deal. Maybe I’m just one of those go with the flow people, I don’t know.

    The one thing I found hard to understand is how Jackson plans to turn one big into three movies. Am I looking forward to finding out that answer? Of course. It just worries me a little.

    Also there was that Star Trek commercial that made me squeal like an idiot. It was beautiful.

  34. JoeP – point taken, though oddly enough, I’m typing this comment on a Dvorak keyboard. The switchover was really a lot faster and easier than I would have expected, and I now type faster on the Dvorak than I did on the QWERTY – and I was a decently fast typist on the QWERTY. However, the switchover was possible because keyboards are no longer completely subject to what manufacturers are willing to make. Instead I could convert to Dvorak with a couple of minutes worth of electronic fiddling (and switching my keys around if I really wanted to – I didn’t bother.)

  35. I actually prefer the director’s cuts of LOTR. I like the meandering. Makes it less Syd Field school of screenwriting. To me, often writing in the way we have come to expect has the same limitations as filming it in those conventions does. Because of this, in the end, I think Peter Jackson will end up with a six part work, as much as two trilogies.

    I think it is interesting that “The Artist”, last year’s Best Picture Oscar winner, was shot at 22 frames per second, and at a 4:3 ratio. It was also mostly a silent movie. I guess you can only really play with the tech if its in homage to the past.

  36. I went to see it with about 90 other Tolkien enthusiasts (including Peter S. Beagle) on Saturday, many of whom had already seen it once. I think most of us enjoyed it. I had a great time and thought it presented the material of the book and extra material from the LOTR appendices quite well. I saw it in 3D and 48 fps and thought it worked quite well. There were a couple of Del Toro touches that remained – the goblin on the zip line was definitely one of his.

    You can see Peter S. Beagle and some other folks’ thoughts on the movie at

  37. On a scale of five stars, I give this film two and a half. If the Bilbo/Gollum scene hadn’t been so brilliantly done, I would have only given it two stars. For comparison, I gave each film in the LOTR trilogy a full five stars.

    After almost three hours, 48 fps still looked like a soap opera to my eyes. Not to mention, in 48 fps, sets look like sets, props look like props, makeup looks like makeup, CG effects look like a video game, and performances seem to be exaggerated, demolishing suspension of disbelief.

    Just because technology is new doesn’t mean it’s good.

  38. This review, while also being spot-on pretty much with what I thought of it the entertainment aspects of the movie, reminds me how much I miss the Film Critic columns.

  39. Good review, John. I felt much the same, except I didn’t mind the meandering and truly enjoyed the extra material, raising the grade for me to at least a B+/A- depending on the curve. Radagast was a scene stealer. I went to see it in digital 3D, but the projector was not working, so I only saw it in 2D, and it’s a testament to how good it was that I was only marginally disappointed at the very beginning and it didn’t seem to matter about 20 minutes in. I see this film as being told by Bilbo, so it’s going to be a bit excessive and bombastic as he does seem to be given to over-dramatics and exaggeration.

  40. Oh Scalzi! How you cut me! The movie Middle Earth is shallow, juvenile, badly conceived, hamfisted, unsubtle, everything played on the surface. Jackson can’t imagine the exercise of power without a magic wand, and power to him means nothing more than throwing someone around a room or making it snow by chanting in a scary voice. The politics are childishly visible, the action treacly, and every metaphor is literalized like a little child drawing a picture book. The Lord of the Rings, however – the novels which will endure as masterpieces when we are all dust – are gorgeous, complex, breathing accomplishments, rich and articulate, profoundly subtle and oblique the way life is. Twee?! As well call Jane Austen snobbish or Victor Hugo boring, and say you’d rather see a TV miniseries adaptation of each adding fart jokes and go-cart racing.

  41. I really enjoyed the movie. The plodding bits didn’t bother me at all, but then I prefer a bit slower pace. Even when my attention wandered a little during the slower moments, the amazing amount of detail in the costuming, set pieces, etc was more than enough entertainment for me. The few elements I disliked were things I also disliked in the book, so they were to be expected.

  42. I wonder if vision issues divide the people who hate and the people who love the 48fps version. I was hoping I’d love it, but I left feeling kind of sick. The landscape shots to me looked like obsessively detailed model train settings and the close shots were just very odd. But that isn’t the experience of others I’ve spoken with, including my son. I’m very nearsighted and I have to put the 3D glasses on over my glasses, but in other 3D movies it hasn’t been a problem. I wonder if my brain just can’t cope with it.

  43. If I may, I’m going to copy something I wrote elsewhere:

    Yep, this 9 hour epic version of the Hobbit is a mistake, and I just don’t see it getting better as it goes. The whole thing is so weighted down with exposition and portent that it feels much more like a history lesson than an adventure. It gets to the point where the adventure aspects of the film (the trolls, the goblin king, even Gollum) feel out of place.

    There’s also a fundamental lack of urgency to any of it, despite the screenplay’s best efforts to paint this as a prelude to LotR. If Thorin and his company fail in their quest, if the can’t open the back door to the mountain, or even find it, in the time frame they’ve been given… what would happen? Well, nothing. Things in Middle Earth would stay pretty much just as they are. I suppose Thorin would continue to feel sad. Smaug might, maybe, possibly, join up with Sauron later, but Gandalf really doesn’t sell anyone on that threat. And Bilbo would go home, none the worse for wear. There’s just nothing at stake here to drive this 3 hour film, let alone to give the audience a feeling that it’s 9 hour planned running time will be needed.

    And, because of that lack if urgency, and because Jackson has given himself so much time to work with, everything… just… takes… so… long… to… happen… And many, many things that, in a drum-tight script, should have been excised are instead given loving, fawning attention. Case in point: Radagast occupies 20 minutes of screen time, in order to supply information to Gandalf (the existence of the Necromancer) that really Gandalf should have seen for himself. Then, Radagast quite literally wanders off, which doesn’t help his case for being included. Even something as simple and throw-away as the stone giants takes about three times longer on screen than it needed, and it didn’t need to be on screen at all.

    It’s not all bad, though. Martin Freeman is wonderful. Richard Armitage is very engaging, even if Thorin is just needlessly moody. Ian McKellan looks like he’s having a ball, and I do love the notion of a Gandalf, the legendary wizard, who’s a bit of a dork, and clearly has no idea what the hell he’s doing. Basically, he’s how every RPGer actually plays their wizard. I mean, I’m pretty sure Gandalf keeps the Foe Hammer for no other reason than that it’s a fucking cool sword. The dwarves are fun, and well presented, even though only Thorin, Balin (the eldest) and Bofur (with the distinctive hat) matter at all in the script, leaving the others 10 as hard to distinguish set dressing. I suppose Kili and Fili get a lot of attention, but since they basically share a personality, they hardly count as separate characters. All in all, this is a good movie. It’s just not good enough to justify the investment of time Jackson is demanding.

    I did see the movie in 3D and 48fps. The 3D, as in every single case since (and including) Avatar, adds nothing whatsoever to the experience. Seriously, people, what it is that I’m supposed to find interesting in a 3D presentation? As for the HFR, look, I enjoy the aesthetic of film. I like the softness of the image, I like the 24fps flicker. I don’t think high frame rate smooths motion. If anything, the motion blur is more apparent. The increased sharpness makes CGI significantly less convincing (though I do give credit to The Hobbit for being a vast improvement on this front). I suppose it does give some images a more “lifelike” quality, but the ridiculous scale of the “lifelike” images ruins that effect. All that said, I am still curious to see 48fps without the distraction of 3D. I am also well aware that aesthetics are not objective measurements, and that film is a dying a medium. So, I suppose I will eventually get used to it. I think though that I will always have a nostalgic eye for 24fps film.

  44. If one is a Tolkein fan, one loves setting detail, and if one loves setting detail, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was amazing.

    Martin Freeman was also perfect. Also Cate Blanchett. Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, and especially Ian MacKellen also very worth watching. All of the acting was great.

    I’m not a big fan of 3D because I would like it to be, well, 3D, with objects in real depth relationship to each other. Too much 3D looks like flat objects placed in front of each other, not real things. I’m not sure I noticed anything special about 48fps; maybe I’m getting old. Pacing was a bit off; some of the action scenes had slo-mo, and a lot of action scenes went on longer than they needed to. There were hardly any whole scenes I’d want to cut. I liked all the backstory and thought it all contributed to the film. And my recollection is that the extended versions of The Lord of the Rings were a lot better than the (excellent) theatrical versions, so it’s understandable and forgivable that Jackson erred on the side of more being better.

  45. @Edward Brennan
    I did like the extended version of Towers better. Since it was the middle installment, with no proper beginning or ending, it benefited from the extra breathing room, and helped the whole thing feel more complete. However, I thought the extended scenes in Fellowship really only served to break up the pacing, and Return of the King just became too damned long at four hours and ten minutes, much as I loved seeing the Saruman and Mouth of Sauron scenes.

    Still, the extended DVDs/Blurays are worth owning just for all the making-of documentaries, which have to be the most comprehensive and most interesting such documentaries ever made. I enjoy watching those as much as I enjoy watching the films themselves. Speaking of, does anyone know if Michael Pellerin will be doing the making-of stuff for the Hobbit like he did for LOTR? I sure hope so.

  46. I wouldn’t consider myself a Tolkien purist, but I have more concern about adapting The Hobbit to film than I did for the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I don’t hate Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth, but I don’t know that this tale needs to be stretched out into three parts or padded with extra material. Yes, Gandalf does disappear from the narrative and fights the Necromancer behind the scenes in the book. But I’m not interested in The Hobbit because of that. I just want to see Bilbo and his Dwarven companions trek over mountains and through perilous woods to reclaim treasure from a dragon.

  47. @zenspinner:
    I am also very nearsighted (~-8 dpt) and had no problems. I found the HFR 3D to be very immersive – it really pulled me into the movie. Maybe some difference in 3D tech? The cinema I was in uses very sleek polarized glasses (no throw-aways) and seems to invest regularly in the newest tech.

  48. Joe P: there’s an alternative take on the alternative Dvorak keyboard at TL;DR: it wasn’t as good as the advertising made it out to be, and was hindered by strong patent controls while QWERTY was in the public domain.

    Mr. Scalzi, thanks for the review. It’s confirmed my intent to first see it in 24 frames / 2D for the story – I don’t mind long, meandering plots, I’m not of an age that demands all Jack Slater IV all the time – and then will make the time to see it at 48 frames in 3D for the tech.

  49. I’ve read two reviews of the Hobbit movie; both complain that the beginning is slow and plodding (or worse) but actually: so is the book! So complaints should be directed at Tolkein I suppose. Loved your comments about the 48 frames per second. I enjoyed the technology lesson and got a good laugh out of it too. :)

  50. Be careful about Tolkein and allegory – he apparently disliked it, possibly
    as a reaction to the other Inkling, C S Lewis and Narnia

    He seemed to feel that a thing is what it is, and not something else.


  51. My family and I (2 adults 3 kids) all decided we preferred the first Hobbit movie to the first LotR movie. It didn’t feel padded or meandering to me, which is probably an indication that I’m a simpleton. I just enjoy the ride. The long chase scene in the mountain? Thrilling! I wondered how they would get away from all those goblins. The party – hilarious and fun, then moving when the dwarves sang. We loved Radagast. My youngest (9) said the only part he thought was boring was when Elrond, Galadriel, Gandalf and Saruman had their little council. I enjoyed even that.

    We saw it in Budapest – normal frame rate, 2d with Hungarian subtitles. This was the only drawback for us (we haven’t learned enough Hungarian to follow the subtitles) as there were no English subtitles for the non-English portions. It wasn’t hard to figure out the general idea but then again – how do we really know?

    Hungarian is hard for native English speakers. My Hungarian copy of Old Man’s War sits on a bookshelf as motivation. I’m afraid it may be resigned to existence as a conversation piece when we finally move back to the states.

  52. Sad as I am about not seeing Del Toro’s Hobbit, I’m EVEN SADDER we’ll never see his Mountains of Madness. :(

  53. Everything I have read indicates that from a box office standpoint, this movie is being considered a disappointment. Not a flop, but not a hit. And the 48 fps format is taking a lot of the heat for this underperformance. Perhaps Cameron will ride in with perfect 60 fps and save the day. I don’t know if the format is fixable or if it is inherently nausea inducing to a large segment of the viewing public. (I would guess that the cheap video-like quality can be fixed, but I am not an expert.) So if HFR is the future, Peter Jackson will probably look like a bump on the road to its adoption.

  54. @JoeP (, I don’t think that QWERTY vs Dvorak is really relevant here.

    To convert from QWERTY to Dvorak to the other requires some effort on the part of the user for a small perceived benefit, and up until relatively recently also required the user to buy new hardware.

    Changing recording and projection standards is centrally controlled and the only “effort” required by the user is to pay a bit more. If they don’t like the new technology they can go back to paying a bit less (until the new tech takes over…) and they haven’t lumbered themselves with a useless piece of kit.

    As other people have pointed out, 24fps is not the acme of film (sorry, movie ;-) making, but rather a compromise between quality and practicality. In that sense it may be comparable to QWERTY, but is Dvorak then comparable to 48fps? I see 48fps as a natural, even dare I say obvious, improvement over 24fps, but Dvorak is more like a sideways step.

    I haven’t seen anything at 48fps yet and I don’t understand the complaints about it being too clear, too detailed. Isn’t the whole point of movies to make the viewing experience as realistic as possible?

  55. PrivateIron:

    While it’s a little earlier to make the call, I’m guessing that with a $84.8 million opening, it’s probably not going to be a box office disappointment.

    For context, LOTR:ROTK was the highest opening of those three, at $72 million.

    Yes, yes, higher ticket prices … but I submit that the industry cares far less about the butt-count than the dollar-count.

  56. The HFR debate may get settled with VFR…I’m reading lots of reviews saying that HFR works fine in action scenes and looks the worst during the slower expository ones. Variable Frame Rate is already being worked on, so we can probably get the best of both worlds eventually.

    Although I understand what Peter Jackson was doing by inserting all the extra material, I disagree with the amount he chose to add (and surely most of it should have stayed in the EE releases?). I am in no hurry to see the movie now, but will enjoy the book once again. Maybe I’ll watch this first movie next winter, before the release of part 2.

  57. I have read Lord of the Rings dozens of times (including the Appendices!) I have worn out several paperback sets. I have read the Hobbit many times. I have read the Silmarillion, the various Books of Lost Tales, and every other Tolkien work I could get my hands on. (I have his album!)

    And I left the theater after seeing The Fellowship of the Ring, telling anyone who would listen that Peter Jackson was a genius.

    I love the books, but I never expected any movie to be ‘just like the books’. I judged the movies by their own merits as movies, and I love them.

  58. I still think 24fps looks better for many scenes, and that has to be the deciding factor when watching movies. As I mentioned to a friend the other day (and this is the problem I still have with 3D and now Higher Frame Rates), any cinematography tool or technique that draws too much attention to itself and distracts from the STORY is defeating the purpose of cinema. In the past, did we really watch a film and say, gee, that looks flat, I wish it was more three-dimensional? No, the magic of movies made our minds perceive depth when watching light and shadow projected through celluloid onto a silver screen. If a story is told properly, did we really notice any motion blurs in action sequences, etc., or did we instead get caught up in the adrenaline-pounding moment? If 48fps makes things “look more real” at the expense of taking us out of the moment, then it fails at its purpose, especially in a fantasy movie in which we need to believe that the characters and sets are real, instead of noticing the wigs and makeup and plywood and faux scenery. Don’t break the illusion!

  59. I think some people comparing The Hobbit negatively to LoTR need to go back and read the book. The Hobbit is much more light hearted than the later books, more like a bed time story about a joyous adventure. Which makes sense as it is more of a children’s book. It’s not really until the battle of 5 armies that darker/weightier subjects are discussed. If anything, the movie was less light hearted than the first half of the book.

    I saw it last night in the 48fps version and loved it. It took a little while to adjust to the higher frame rates but by the halfway point all I noticed was how great it looked. There were some minor variations to the story in addition to the appendix material (troll scene, Azog, tree scene, etc) but they all served the story itself so they didn’t bother me.

  60. Amazing what the digital age has brought to movies. I bought all the director cut DVDs of Jackson’s LotR movie trilogy and was fascinated by how the production process went. The ability to touching up each individual frame with a photoshop-esque tool was amazing.

    Thanks for the review, John. Looking forward to seeing this one though I’m not sure if 3D is all that necessary (or is it even an option?).

  61. Just saw it (2D, 24FPS) last night. My wife can’t see the 3D movies. John’s comments are right on. (I’ll go see 3D/48FPS by myself next week.)

    I will say one thing: I really want movie sound people to quit using the Wilhelm Scream. Whenever it turns up, it just yanks me right out of the story.

    Also, did the Goblin King go to school at Oxford?

  62. ‘Round these parts, Tuesday is cheap night at the movies. Tonight, I can take my family of three to see the 2D version of The Hobbit for <$17. Or we can see the 48 fps 3D version for $31. Tomorrow, the prices would be $32.50 for 2D, and $45 for 48 fps 3D.

    I've yet to see a movie in 3D that I thought was enhanced by it, including Avatar. I don't really care how amazing 48 fps looks: it's not possibly worth an 84% mark-up, especially given that 24 fps still looks pretty damn good. With money saved I could almost buy three copies of the book, by way of comparison.

  63. I actually went.

    I know I said I wasn’t going to. But I showed up for my regular Friday-night babysitting gig to be told “we’re taking him to The Hobbit and we want you to come!” And I have to admit, I was curious, and really like Martin Freeman.

    Martin Freeman was great.

    They took considerable liberties with the book, to put it mildly. I haven’t read the book in a while, but I remember the Elves being a hazard in the woods, not major players on the side of good. The orcs and wargs didn’t belong there. I got bored with the ODTAA and with (as expected) Peter Jackson’s endless repetitive battle scenes. I don’t object in principle to including Radagast, but I really hated the way he was done, especially the bunny-drawn sleigh, which was just silly without being amusing.

    But what bothered me most were the fast, blurry pans. They were meant to convey a sense of rapid motion, I suppose, but they hurt my eyes and gave me a massive headache. I’m so glad I didn’t see it in 3D!

    In fairness, I have to say that the Riddle Scene was absolutely perfect. Even though Gollum was less ambiguous in the book, I liked that change. And Martin Freeman, I would bet without checking, acted that scene out in his bedroom when he was 9.

    John Scalzi: This is similar to how “LP” and “album” are not in fact synonymous, as the latter can be in any recorded sound medium, but the former refers specifically to vinyl.

    And in fact applying the term ‘album’ to vinyl LPs was a metaphoric extension. Originally “albums” were collections of 78s (I forget what the material was – acetate, maybe?) in big books with multiple sleeves. Real albums, in other words, in much the same way pictures used to be organized.

    Brian: If you’re going to stretch a 300 page book into a 9 hour film trilogy there is much worse filler to work with than The Silmarillion.

    Material from The Silmarillion doesn’t appear in the movie, except as it overlaps with the material in the Appendices of LOTR. Jackson doesn’t have the rights to The Silmarillion, in part because Christopher Tolkien hated what he did to LOTR so much. But the rights to The Hobbit and LOTR (all of it) were already sold.

    Neil: There were a couple of Del Toro touches that remained – the goblin on the zip line was definitely one of his.

    Hmm. Maybe I’m glad he didn’t make this movie.

  64. Some of us experienced the most dreadful vertigo like sensation; I walked out after five minutes, and only got back a few days later to see it in 24fps2D, as God And Naure intended. I suspect that this was due to some interaction between the HFR and the 3D, and I’d be interested in seeing each of those without the other.

  65. @ddyer7bennet December 17, 2012 at 10:44 pm said: “Since Tolkein is on record as saying “I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations” (referring specifically to LotR, too), and since allegory is by definition intentional, I think we have to hold him innocent of that.”

    Allegory are also instructional (intentionally) in some way.

    And, the fact that a story is some-how based (in parts) on real events doesn’t make it an allegory. That the LOTR was written during WWII doesn’t mean it is saying anything useful about WWII.

    People like to call things “allegories” because it makes them seem important (they need to do more work to be convincing).

  66. Del Toro is still credited as one of the screenwriters. Exactly what that means, who knows? Personally, I really enjoyed it, and I thought the riddle scene, performed by two brilliant actors, was the absolute height of the movie, truly enjoyable movie-making.

    As for HFR – I’ve yet to see it. I saw it in 2D, and while I don’t normally care for 3D, I’m curious about and interested in seeing the higher frame rate. I wish they’d released a 2D HFR version.

  67. First, I predicted the Hobbit movie a decade and a half ago, online.


    J. K. Rowling, thanks to the “Harry Potter” series of novels and movies, became the first Billionaire Writer in history.

    On-line entertainment programs displaced broadcast television in total market value and number of viewers in 2015. Hologrammatic motion pictures reached 10% of box office gross in 2019.

    Olympics were held:

    2010: Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada
    2012: Summer Olympics in Saigon, Vietnam
    2014: Winter Olympics in Katmandu, Tibet

    2016: Summer Olympics in in Rio De Janiero, Brazil
    2018: Winter Olympics in New Zealand
    2020: Summer Olympics in in Baghdad, New Iraq

    The FIFA World Cups, the biggest event in world sports, featured football/soccer in:
    2010: South Africa hosting (after the Egypt and Libya/Tunisia bids lost)
    2014: Brazil hosting (after the Argentina, Chile, and Venezuela bids lost)
    2018: Australia hosting (after the Nigeria bid lost)

    Also on the Fantasy front, Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy of feature films [The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Two Towers (2002), Return of the King (2003)] further elevated the late J. R. R. Tolkien
    in the world’s attention, and were widely held to be the greatest Fantasy films of all time — and then Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit” (2010) and “Silmarillion” (2014) made one wonder.

    Other huge 3D Film box-office hits included Spider-Man 6; X-Men 5 (2010); The Matrix 7 (2012); Men in Black 5 (2012); Shrek 5 (2013); Star Wars: Attack of the Wookies (2014); Super-Fly (2015); Pirates of the Caribbean 4 (2016), Alien Vs. Predator 3 (2016), Fantastic Four 4 (2014); Hellboy 3 (2014); Asimov’s Robot Empire (2014); A Sound of Thunder 2 (2014); The Demolished Man 2: The Stars My Destination (2015); Farenheit 451-2 (2015); Iron Man 3 (2015); Jurassic Park 7 (2015); Star Wars: Episode III (2005); Spider-Man 3 (2006); X-Men 8 (2016); and Rendezvous With Rama 2+3 (2016).

    Second, in this so-called “real world” — (1) Read the book;
    (2) see the movie (it’s technically not a film, as John Scalzi so accuratelky points out);
    (3) Read the book, plus appendices to LOTR, plus The Silmarillion, and try to figure out how this all was related.
    (4) Lather, rinse, repeat when the second of the Hobbit trilogy is released.

    Third, my wife and I enjoyed it very much, albeit we are moderate Tolkien purists (she reading it in the 1950s or early 1960s in British edition, me having it, then Fellowship of the Rings read to me by my mother from that same British hardcover, pre-Ballentine).

    Specifically, the mainstream critics are wrong to dismiss it as “ponderous” and “lacing character development.” To my wife and I, it was padded, but the wacky and beautiful visuals (especially the vast architectures, perhaps influenced by Giambattista) Piranesi’s atmospheric “prisons” = Carceri d’Invenzione) alone make it worth the money. As does the high quality of the acting. And we get character development of about a third of the Dwarves, presumably we’ll have arc of character of each by #3.

  68. Since Tolkein is on record as saying “I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations” (referring specifically to LotR, too), and since allegory is by definition intentional, I think we have to hold him innocent of that.

    Authors also deny things are allegories for reasons that have nothing to do with whether their works are, or not, so I don’t know whether Tolkien’s words settle the matter.

  69. Bearpaw: If movie execs expect to make 95 M and they only make 85, then they are disappointed. I would be ecstatic with those kinds of sales, but then I did not drop hundreds of millions of dollars into NZ’s economy. They will make money, but the money they did not make will still rile them. And if some people come out of HFR screenings saying I had a massive headache or I had to leave because I was going to throw up if I didn’t, they are seriously going to consider whether and how that affects their bottom line. My guess is that there will be fewer 3D/HFR screens for the next movie and/or they will bump up the HFR price and/or they will do massive marketing on how they “fixed” the issue. (I have not seen it yet. I will probably do 2D and if I like the story, I will attempt 3D/HFR.)

    As a side note, so many critics expressed disgust at the format and gave corresponding lukewarm reviews at least partly for that reason. What are they going to do next year?

  70. David, I have never seen anybody give a clear reasoned detailed explanation why LOTR is an allegory for WWII. They just say like Hitler/Sauron, dude and written in 1940’s, yo, while waving their hands. Contrast that to, say, all the careful research on relating various parts of the novel to JRRT’s experiences on the Western Front.

  71. The one admittedly autobiographical scene of LOTR, according to JRRT, was the corpses under water in the marsh, which he saw in World War I. That is only one of the reasons that he plausibly denied a World War II connection. No Dark Lord Hitler. No Ring = atomic bomb. Let alone no Palantir = quantum entangled Intranet.

  72. I’ve adored LOTR and The Hobbit since childhood, and have re-read the books nearly every year since I was 10. I’ve pored over the appendices to LOTR, and I’ve spent a lot of time with The Silmarillion. I loved most aspects of the LOTR movie trilogy, though I have my quibbles. But in general, I thought Jackson’s/Walsh’s/Boyens’s love of the source material was obvious, and ultimately I didn’t have much trouble forgiving them for most of the choices they made that I wouldn’t have made.

    I was of two minds during the run-up to The Hobbit’s release. On the one hand, I looked forward to seeing a lot of the events described in the LOTR appendices make it into the main narrative. On the other hand, I worried that Jackson would be too self-indulgent and meandering. I also wondered how he’d manage to reconcile the pretty vast differences in tone/mood between The Hobbit (light, comic, fast-moving) and LOTR (somber, portentous, slow-moving), especially since the LOTR movies are now so well-known and beloved.

    So I was a little worried going in. But I ended up liking the movie very much. As with the LOTR movies, I would quibble with some of the choices they made, but on the whole, I think it mostly worked. It was certainly an enjoyable entertainment (though most definitely meandering, especially for the first hour or so), and it seemed true to Jackson’s vision of Middle-Earth (which is decidedly not quite the same as Tolkien’s).

    I saw it in old-fashioned 24 fps 2D, since 3D often gives me a headache. I liked the movie well enough that I think I’ll go back and give the 48 fps 3D version a shot.

  73. DAV1D: Tolkein’s words do settle the matter. He wrote about how the story would have been different if he had meant it as an allegory for WWII. As in giving details about how it would have been different. He specifically said that the ring would not have been destroyed in the end, among other differences.

    He didn’t deny that a historical events could be applicable to other events. He just rightly pointed out that with a history, the freedom to do so was with the reader. With allegory, the discretion belonged to the author.

    For a linguist and historian like Tolkien, the distinction between allegory and history was important. He chose to write a fictional history. Just because one can find analogs to real world events does not turn the work into allegory.

  74. Bert Wells, et al:

    If Tolkien didn’t want people to think he was writing allegory, he probably shouldn’t have written allegory. Denying it afterward doesn’t do much to change that, although it’s possible he wasn’t aware he was doing it at the time.

  75. I first read my mom’s paperback versions of LOTR around 1970ish. I haz the gold-colored boxed version of The Hobbit, is preciousss. I’m going to leave it in its nice shiny box and not reread it until after I’ve seen the movie; I made that mistake with Dune, and don’t want to do that again.

    (My preference for authenticity is much closer to “Bring out your dead” than SCA-level precision, and I expect that books and movies tell stories enough differently that I’m not too concerned if they get everything accurate, and The Hobbit is supposed to be much lighter-weight than LOTR. On the other hand, even though a movie is roughly a short story, and so a short book could be 3 movies or a miniseries, it seems way way too long. And I assume the goblin zip-lining will be a brief comedic break in the 4th wall and suspension of disbelief, like Legolas skateboarding on his shield and Gimli the dwarf getting tossed.)

  76. @ PrivateIron – I’ve always felt too that LOTR was more inspired by the Great War than WW2… Tolkien, a self-described hobbity character (he liked pipes and beer and so on), had been pitched out his small comfortable life in England and sent away to fight against a powerful distant foreign emperor in a vast and industrialised conflict.

    Ben Macintyre in The [London] Times had an article about this last week (behind a paywall, unfortunately), entitled “Bilbo Baggins was born in the Somme mud”; in it he referenced John Garth’s Tolkien and the Great War, which sounds like something I would like to read. The Somme, which Tolkien was at as a 24-year-old signaller in the 11th Lancashire Fusiliers, was atrocious – on the 1st July 1916, the first day of the battle, 20,000 British soldiers were killed, the worst day in British Army history. To Macintyre, “Tolkien’s writing is among the greatest of Great War literature, a timeless portrait of ordinary people struggling to retain their humanity and humour in an inhuman conflict.”

    But again, it is not allegorical – Sauron isn’t Kaiser Bill, and so on.

  77. Thanks for the reply, John. I would reply to you that allegory is intentional. To claim that the ability of a reader to find analogy within a work to events in a real world as a litmus for allegory would turn all works into allegory. Which would make the word meaningless.

    I tend to like for words to mean things. For instance, when you point out that this isn’t a “film” because it wasn’t shot on film, you point out that a word means something, which is cool. When somebody uses the word “allegory” for a work like Animal Farm, for instance, I like to think that means something. So that when I comment on Animal Farm, my commentary is somewhat informed by the author’s intent and the degree to which they succeeded in the attempt.

  78. I didn’t really want to see The Hobbit, since I hated almost everything Jackson did with the LOTR movies after Fellowship of the Ring. But my husband wanted to go, so I went with him to the 48 fps/3D screening.

    When it was over, I was surprised to find that I liked it. I liked Bilbo, I liked the dwarves, I liked the brief shot of Lee Pace as Thranduil (on a moose! or possibly an Irish elk) at the beginning. I even liked some of the scenes with Radagast, though the leading the orcs away/towards the escaping party over and over annoyed me.

    I wasn’t that impressed with the Riddles in the Dark sequence either, and it makes me wonder what I’m missing. :( And the battle in the goblin caves was just Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom mine sequence all over again. Blah.

    I also honestly couldn’t tell much difference in the 48fps stuff, except in the swoopy bits. Those made me dizzy. But like someone else said upthread, maybe I’m just getting old.

    It’ll be interesting to see how the other two movies come out.

  79. John Scalzi (December 18, 2012 at 4:10 pm) says: “If Tolkien didn’t want people to think he was writing allegory, he probably shouldn’t have written allegory. Denying it afterward doesn’t do much to change that, although it’s possible he wasn’t aware he was doing it at the time.”

    A lot of fiction is related to real stuff. That doesn’t make it an allegory. Or, if it does, then pretty-much all fiction is allegory (and being an allegory isn’t much of a distinction).

    Calling thing “allegories” is lazy praise.

  80. Tolkein’s words do settle the matter

    They may settle it for you. They don’t settle it for me. I don’t think allegory has to be conscious and intentional on the author’s part, and I also think that Tolkien may have been reluctant to identify the LoTR as allegory because of the interpretive freight that such a label would bring.

  81. I suspect I’m one of those rare fans of SF (and some fantasy) who’s never read either LOTR or the Hobbit. Really regret the hours I spent watching the LOTR trilogy (especially the third one which tried to end at least three different times). Wasn’t really planning on seeing The Hobbit, and with a solid B from someone whose opinion I value (even if I don’t always agree with it), no chance I’m seeing it now.

  82. Bert Wells (December 18, 2012 at 4:25 pm) said: “Thanks for the reply, John. I would reply to you that allegory is intentional. To claim that the ability of a reader to find analogy within a work to events in a real world as a litmus for allegory would turn all works into allegory. Which would make the word meaningless.”

    Yes. There’s the intention and there is an instructional element to allegory as well. It would seem that the idea is to get the (intended) lesson across in a way that describing the real events would fail to do. Who, exactly, is the audience that doesn’t realize that WWII or WWI were bad?

  83. John: If Tolkien didn’t want people to think he was writing allegory, he probably shouldn’t have written allegory. Denying it afterward doesn’t do much to change that, although it’s possible he wasn’t aware he was doing it at the time.

    I think the line between work influenced by the life experience of the writer, on the one hand, and allegory on the other, might be a little fuzzy (npi).* And remember a couple of things: the time, and the fact that JRRT was friends with C.S. Lewis, whose Narnia series is the most blatantly allegorical work since The Pilgrim’s Progress. Obviously they disagreed on the value of allegory.

    If you define allegory as necessarily deliberate, as Bert Wells does, then the question becomes “was JRRT lying when he said he didn’t do allegory?” But I think you probably disagree with Bert on that definition (as DAV1D does, and note to self: refresh before posting to see if JS has responded), so the case is subtler.

    On the JRRT-was-writing-allegory side are 1) the fact that evil comes from the East in Middle Earth; 2) the fact that anyone who is swarthy or has slanted eyes is automatically evil, because they’re part orc; 3) the “evil weapon” idea. Let me take those in turn.

    Evil comes from the East. I think Tolkien did mean Middle Earth to be the ancient Earth (take, for example, the sunken continent of Numenor, referred to as “Atalantëa,” the Downfallen, in Elvish). Is that allegory? I don’t think so. I think he meant to say that the stain on Mordor led to the evil he’d seen from the East in his own time.

    Dark and slant-eyed people are evil. I think this isn’t so much allegory as racism. JRRT really thought Asians were subhuman and evil. So all the “swarthy” or “yellow” or “squinty” or “slant-eyed” people in Tolkien are less than human (since orcs are nasty damaged corrupted things) and evil. Is that allegory? Not if their evil is the ancestor of the evil of the Axis. It is, however, racism.

    Some weapons are just evil and should never be used. I don’t think you’re arguing this one, but I want to dispense with it: Most of LOTR was written before the bomb was dropped. The evil of the Ring was well established, and is intrinsic to the story. It’s certainly NOT an analogy to the atomic bomb; I don’t actually know JRRT’s opinion on the bomb, but it’s pretty clear it didn’t have much impact on LOTR.

    Of course, if you count “this is the secret history of the world” as allegory, my argument would collapse. Not that you’re saying anything that unsubtle; just want to point out that I’m assuming that secret history does NOT count as allegory.

    DG Lewis: SHELLAC! Thanks. I couldn’t remember.

    *Seriously, I didn’t even notice this until I’d written it, and realized it was the title of a book John is fond of (and wrote a perspective-shift book of his own based on); and only after that realized that it could be taken as a reference to John’s pose in the recent pose-off, NONE of which was intended. If I were confident that it would be taken as clever I would have omitted this disclaimer, but…the failure mode of clever is not a place I want to be.

    davep: I mostly agree except for this: Calling thing “allegories” is lazy praise.

    That’s only true if you like allegory (and only if labeling it is all you do). If you hate it with a passion, it’s…well, something, but definitely not praise.

  84. DAV1D: “I don’t think allegory has to be conscious and intentional on the author’s part, and I also think that Tolkien may have been reluctant to identify the LoTR as allegory because of the interpretive freight that such a label would bring.”

    So now Tolkien is a coward as well. I don’t say this to ridicule your position, but to as a way to point out the danger in letting words mean anything we feel like. It becomes possible to prove anything we want. Tolkien may be a coward, but that would have to be proven on other grounds than changing the meaning of a word.

    Looking at the text, it is possible to find all kinds of ways in which Tolkien’s time and experiences influenced his work. But we already have a word for that – influence. Influence also works the other way, as Tolkien’s world had a huge impact on his readers. There is a lot of evidence that Tolkien wasn’t prepared to deal with the influence of his work, but that doesn’t make him a coward, either.

    But allegory is something else. We know what to expect when we read the “allegory of the cave” in Plato: we expect to see a metaphor that is intended to persuade, in a very specific way. Personally, I like allegory, it is honest and straightforward.

  85. Xopher, you might want to think of the fact that Germany is to the east of Britain as Mordor is to the Shire, and that not all swarthy people are Asian (coughSlavscough).

    Two notes:
    1. I don’t think allegories need to map perfectly to be such.
    2. I’d complicate things by saying that works can be *treated* as allegories even if the authors didn’t intend them as such.

  86. So now Tolkien is a coward as well.

    Please don’t imput such loaded words to me. It’s really quite offensive. I don’t think that Tolkien is a coward because he may not have wanted everyone to start analyzing LoTR as an allegory for WWII.

    Sheesh. I was under the impression you wanted to have a serious discussion. Is that not true?

  87. As I said in the very next sentence DAV1D, I didn’t say it as a way to ridicule your position. I said it as a way to point out that letting words mean anything we want them to can lead us to some unintentional conclusions.

  88. DAV1D, that’s the pro-allegory part. Or are you saying something I need a map to fully understand? Germany is “the East” in this case; if there’s a WWII allegory there, it would be Germany == Mordor. I don’t think of Slavs as swarthy, and I bet Tolkien didn’t either. English racism takes in Spaniards and Italians as “not quite white,” but I think in JRRT’s time most people still thought Russians were, you know, the Rus (who were Norse and distinctly un-swarthy). If you accept the allegory theory, the Haradrim would be Mussolini and his gang.

  89. As I said in the very next sentence DAV1D, I didn’t say it as a way to ridicule your position

    It’s irrelevant that you didn’t intend to ridicule my position; you imputed an obnoxious stance to me, one that I find offensive. Don’t do that.

  90. DAV1D: “1. I don’t think allegories need to map perfectly to be such.
    2. I’d complicate things by saying that works can be *treated* as allegories even if the authors didn’t intend them as such.”

    1. Allegory needs to map in sufficient detail to preserve the intent of the author. There is that word again.
    2. Saying that we can “treat” something any way we want isn’t a complication, it is an indication that we are free to think what we want. Technically, a treatment is an interpretation of a work by somebody else. You want to give an allegorical treatment to Tolkien, say by putting on a production with your own allegorical spin? Have at it!

  91. I don’t think of Slavs as swarthy, and I bet Tolkien didn’t either. English racism takes in Spaniards and Italians as “not quite white,” but I think in JRRT’s time most people still thought Russians were, you know, the Rus (who were Norse and distinctly un-swarthy).

    Oh dear, no. Slavs were considered quite the inferior race by wide ranges of polite society (in England as well as Germany). Untermenschen, to use the German term. Add in the anti-Communism quite prevalent in Britain at the time, and you have a double-whammy. I have no idea whether Tolkien had those attitudes, but I feel at least as comfortable imputing them to him as I do agreeing with your imputation of his racism towards the Japanese.

  92. Bert, I read DAV1D as saying that something doesn’t have to be written as allegory to be read as allegory. This is certainly true; I’d like to un-snarkily concede that point and get back to discussing whether Tolkien intended to write allegory and (somewhat less interesting to me) whether allegorical elements may have crept into his work without his conscious intent.

  93. DAV1D, I am truly sorry that my words were offensive.

    At the risk of further escalating, but in hopes of understanding, I will point out the importance of intent. I didn’t intend to offend you. Yet I did. And I am sorry about that.

    But would you not agree that it would be a very different situation if I had intended to do so? For instance would my actions mean something different if the consequences of them were intentional versus not?

    That distinction is worth preserving.

  94. Xopher, I do understand the danger inherent in using intent as a mitigation. As I said, I am truly sorry that my words were offensive. I also do not wish to exonerate Tolkien of the racism that runs throughout his work.

    But there is danger in the other extreme as well. If the only thing that matters is our personal interpretation of the thoughts and actions of others, without regard to their intent, then conversation itself is scarcely possible.

  95. but I don’t think they’re serious candidates for the allegorical referent of the “swarthy men.”

    Well, my sense of Britain 1930s is that Slavs, southern Europeans, Spanish, and Portuguese were all identified as ‘swarthy’ without much hesitation. Again, I don’t have evidence that Tolkien himself had those feelings, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

    DAV1D, I am truly sorry that my words were offensive.

    Bert, I appreciate that. I think intent makes a difference, but not enough to eliminate the category identification. I.E., much what I think about allegory.

  96. John Scalzi sayeth: “If Tolkien didn’t want people to think he was writing allegory, he probably shouldn’t have written allegory. Denying it afterward doesn’t do much to change that, although it’s possible he wasn’t aware he was doing it at the time.”

    Just as in the case, by analogy, the elements of common law murder are:
    * Unlawful
    * killing
    * of a human
    * by another human
    * with malice aforethought

    So there’s:
    * Intentional Allegory (requiring conscious intent)
    * Negligent Allegory (he wasn’t aware he was doing it at the time)
    * Lawful Allegory
    * Unlawful Allegory
    * Malicious Allegory
    * Common Law Allegory
    * Aggravated Allegory

    Or am I stretching an analogy too far?

  97. Asking about JRRTolkien lying regarding allegory: I attended a speech by Dr. Tom Shippey (whose class I was unable to take as he taught it once every four years and I didn’t know it until it was too late. AND who is on the Fellowship DVD features as an expert and was a consultant on the film) who pointed out that just as much as Tolkien decried allegory, he also really didn’t like being interviewed by reporters and would lie to them at times. That said, I think the point Tolkien emphasized was that the five wizards were not the five sense and the orcs were not communists or Nazis. That you could apply the book (LOTR) to the horrors of war but not just to one specific war.

    I wonder if this is in part a difference in the usage of the word. Has the definition of allegory loosened over the past 70 years? Or perhaps Tolkien held to a strict definition because of his expertise with words? But it’s noted that Tolkien played more with the strict allegory in other works as well as nosing up to it in LOTR – see the eagles song at the Field of Cormallan.

    (Btw, big fan Mr. Scalzi, and my first time writing here. Oh man, Tolkien post popped my Scalzi cherry. I… should feel weird about that I think.)

  98. Xopher Halftongue (December 18, 2012 at 5:18 pm) said: “davep: I mostly agree except for this: Calling thing “allegories” is lazy praise.

    That’s only true if you like allegory (and only if labeling it is all you do). If you hate it with a passion, it’s…well, something, but definitely not praise.”

    I did say earlier that people calling something allegory really have to do more (something) to be convincing! While it’s possible, I don’t think many people mean it as a criticism when they label something as an allegory (it might even be an odd criticism).

  99. DAV1D: “I think intent makes a difference, but not enough to eliminate the category identification. I.E., much what I think about allegory.”

    Thanks for accepting my apology, DAV1D. That is good of you.

    Another apology, this time in advance: sorry that I am such a persnickity (sp?) nerd about words and meanings.

    As to your category identificatio, there exists a category, called “subtext,” that includes all the implicit things in a text, it includes things that an author meant to say and didn’t mean to say. My quibble about the use of allegory in this sense is that it takes a nice word that we have for a persuasive device that authors can use when they have the itch, and conflates it with the “subtext” category.

  100. Drolefille (December 18, 2012 at 7:04 pm) said: “That you could apply the book (LOTR) to the horrors of war but not just to one specific war.”

    It seems to me that the LOTR would be a really poor allegory of the horrors of war, especially compared to the real thing, very recent to when it was published.

    Drolefille (December 18, 2012 at 7:04 pm) said: “I wonder if this is in part a difference in the usage of the word. Has the definition of allegory loosened over the past 70 years?”

    What distinguishes allegory from mere rewriting real events as fiction? Is it the same? Or does it mean something more than that?

  101. Thanks for accepting my apology, DAV1D. That is good of you.

    You’re welcome. I appreciated it.

    My quibble about the use of allegory in this sense is that it takes a nice word that we have for a persuasive device that authors can use when they have the itch, and conflates it with the “subtext” category.

    I tend to thing of the two categories as overlapping (without being identical), and that being part of their analytical strength. I’m not sure I know where I’d start using one or the other precisely, but I think it has something to do with the specificity of the comparison.

  102. How do I know if it’s in 48fps? If it’s IMAX 3d or real D 3d, should I just assume that those are the ones with the 48fps? My local theater is listed on a website that tells you where the 48fps versions of The Hobbit are showing, but when I go to my fandango page, other than showing which ones are IMAX 3d and which ones are Real D 3d, it says nothing about 48fps for that theater.

  103. DAV1D: “I’m not sure I know where I’d start using one or the other precisely, but I think it has something to do with the specificity of the comparison.”

    This is often the case with categories, their boundaries are fuzzy. But language being one of the only games in town for communication, I feel impelled to attempt to understand be understood when it comes to usage.

    The reason I quibble about this one, is not that I am concerned for Tolkien’s feelings, him being dead and all, but that I think that there is a chilling censorship issue involved for living authors. Many, possibly most, authors are very sure of their voice, and don’t give a damn about the interpretation the get from critics. But some are authors, whose voices I would like to hear, who end up censoring themselves for fear of critics who do shoddy interpretation work. I am not talking about anyone here in this comment thread; I am making a general statement about professional critics and budding writers.

    For that reason, I prefer to put the onus on the critic. If a critic interprets an allegorical meaning that the author flatly denies, as in the case of Tolkien, the allegorical interp has to stand up to scrutiny, i.e. be very specific and well linked in the analogies from the text to the real world. The allegorical interps of Tolkien don’t pass that test, IMO. On the other hand, the critics who rightly point out the racism, sexism, and classism that runs throughout Tolkien are spot on.

  104. As the work of Tolkien and World War 2 history are two of my most passionate interests in life, I must say that beyond some superficial details, LOTR is not an allegory for the war. Tolkien started writing LOTR before the war started, for one. How can the One Ring represent the atomic bomb then? Did he pull a George Lucas, changing things after the fact? Sauron was defeated once, before the War of the Ring. Hitler had one shot, Sauron had two. Hitler went east first, then west, then east again, attacking his then, albeit convienient, ally Stalin. Sauron did not attack his convienient ally Saruman. Isengard is not Japan, suing for peace while gearing up for war.. Nor did it play both sides. Vichy-Isengard, don’t think so. There was no two-front war. No sneak attack on the Grey Havens from the sea by the “slant-eyed” Uruk-Hai. Who or what in LOTR represents the Soviet Union? Nobody. The USSR wasn’t exactly a bit player. Bree wasn’t Dunkirk. Is Rivendell acting like France? It’s more like Belgium, neutral. But Belgium was trampled by the Nazis. Gondor did not pull a Munich, giving things up to appease Sauron. And, industrialized war, a la Saruman, did not first happen with the Second World War, but the First. (Side note:96 years today commemorates the end of the Battle of Verdun, 10 months brought almost 800,000 casualties.) By the way, are the Ents to represent the Ardennes? I just don’t buy it. :-)

  105. @Davep
    Was trying to use the examples I’d seen used in the comments as well as in the text I was going through.

    As for what makes allegory different, I don’t know. Tolkien certainly saw allegory as a very one-to-on thing, which makes me question if the definition has changed from his usage whether due to time or his profession. I’m not claiming to know answers.

    I rather agree with Bert there in general.

  106. I thought that the Ents somehow related to: “Macbeth shall never vanquished be until Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill Shall come” and The Ring and Dragon were because JRRT thought that Wagner had gotten them all wrong.

  107. But some are authors, whose voices I would like to hear, who end up censoring themselves for fear of critics who do shoddy interpretation work

    If people are going to be intimidated by *that*, then, even absent such criticism, there’s going to be _something_ that drives such authors out.

    @Justin. Sauron isn’t Hitler, he’s Germany. Defeated (eg Germany in WWI) but not destroyed, now rising again with the aid of highly mobile ground forces (the Nazgul on horses) or in the air (the Nazgul on them flying beastie things). The One Ring is the German military, taken after the first defeat in the same way as the Versailles Treaty took German’s military after World War I, and now Sauron is looking to rearm (or finger, as the case may be). Rohan is being undone by a Quisling in its midst. Gondor is England/London, protected by two separate English Channels (the river, then the walls). Germany/Sauron has allied itself with the swarthy races (the Russians). Aragorn is Winston Churchill, come from the wilderness (literally, being on the outs in British politics, as Churchill was, is referred to as being “in the wilderness.”) to lead England/Gondor to victory. Isengard is Italy, looked at first as a bulwark against Germany (check out “Stresa Front”) but then revealed to be a German ally.

    Etc. Allegory.

  108. It has been noted that Tolkien drew heavily on the general history of the Goths, Langobards and the Byzantine Empire and their mutual struggle. Even historical names from these peoples have been used in drafts or the final concept of the internal history of Gondor, such as Vidumavi, wife of king Valacar (Gothic language). [Librán-Moreno, Miryam (2011). “‘Byzantium, New Rome!’ Goths, Langobards and Byzantium in The Lord of the Rings”. In Fisher, Jason. Tolkien and the Study of his Sources. MacFarland & Co.. pp. 84–116. ISBN 978-0-7864-6482-1.]
    The Byzantine Empire and Gondor were both only echoes of older states (the Roman Empire and the unified kingdom of Elendil), yet each proved to be stronger than their sister-kingdoms (the Western Roman Empire and Arnor, respectively). Both realms were threatened by powerful eastern and southern enemies: the Byzantines by the Persians and the Muslim armies of the Arabs and the Turks, Langobards and Goths; Gondor by the Easterlings, the Haradrim, and the hordes of Sauron. Both realms were in decline at the time of a final, all-out siege from the East; however, Minas Tirith survived the siege whereas Constantinople did not.[op.cit.] In a 1951 letter, Tolkien himself wrote about “the Byzantine City of Minas Tirith.” [Hammond, Wayne; Scull, Christina (2005), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s Companion, London: HarperCollins, ISBN 0-00-720907-X, p.570.]

  109. It’s not a film because at no point in its production was film involved (except for the very end, when it was transferred to film for some — but not all, and possibly not a majority at this point — theaters). It’s a movie because it’s a motion picture, it’s just not a motion picture made on film.

    Heh. Not the point I thought you might be making, but a fair point. How many movies these days are films, anyway? Vanishingly few, I’d wager.

  110. “the weighty stuff is where the movie bogs down.” True, but I saw the movie shortly after learning of the tragedy in Newtown. Gandalf said to Galadriel,

    “Saruman believes that it is only great power that can hold evil in check. That is not what I have found. I have found that it is the small things, every day deeds from ordinary folk, that keeps the darkness at bay. Simple acts of kindness and love.”

    I was struck at that moment that I needed to immediately be a better person to those around me to fight the evil in Newtown. It is what I remember most from the movie.

  111. Ditto to what Pat H said above thread. Nice to see a movie review from you Sir John. Saw the movie in 2D. My greatest fear was that Jackson would keep too much of the darker tone of the LOTR movies, as I well knew that as a children’s book The Hobbit is much lighter in tone as an adventure story. I was pleased to see Jackson maintain much of the lighter tone of the children’s novel. The additions from the appendices were nicely worked in I thought. And Radagast’s bunny driven sled seemed in keeping with Tolkien’s humour in The Hobbit and worked for me. Screen Academy: Can we give Serkis an Oscar for his motion capture acting as Gollum this time around? Marvelous Chapter Five Riddles in the Dark scene! Now we wait a year to meet Beorn, the Mirkwood spiders, and the Mirkwood elves. Sigh.

  112. Beyond 24fps vs. 48fps, there are tons of other decisions a director has to make when approaching the technical side of movie making.

    Widescreen (2.35:1) vs. Standard aspect ratio (1.85:1)
    Color vs. Black & White
    Anamorphic lenses vs. standard lenses
    Which brand of lenses to use
    lighting style
    film vs. digital cinematography
    if film – then IMAX format, or 35mm, or Super 16mm
    also if shooting on film – the filmstock to be used
    and now, frame rate
    2D vs. 3D
    Shooting in 3D or post convert to 3D

    Also, I’d think 48fps will have an effect on the post production side of things, so perhaps it will be a bit expensive for lesser budgeted films, and also difficult for independent and or ultra low budget filmmakers.

    Personally, I like that we have directors like Peter Jackson and James Cameron testing and pushing digital cinema technology, but we also have someone like Christopher Nolan who shoots on good old 35mm film and in the IMAX film format. So really, digital and 48fps is just another tool and a choice at the director’s and cinematographer’s disposal.

  113. Just saw it and at the risk of sounding like a fawning toady, my take was quite like John’s. Thumbs up for the “movie”. Most fun I’ve had in the theater since the Avengers.

    Regarding all this nonsense about Tolkien and allegory and WWII: from everything I have read about JRR and his influences, if the books are “about” anything, they are about WWI. Not II, I. Tolkien was a survivor of the notorious Battle of the Somme. He talked about the horrifying experience of leaving the trenches by walking ON the bodies of his friends, which lead to the Dead Marshes. I would argue that the books are not an allegory for anything. But the author’s experiences in the “war to end all wars” are what shaped many scenes and led to some of the great themes of the book: sacrifice, honor, friendship. If one is any kind of a writer, one has to input their life experiences and what they have found matters to them most. That’s what art is for, isn’t it?

  114. Yes, jeroljohnson, what you say better expresses what I wrote yesterday at December 18, 2012 at 3:56 pm. “The one admittedly autobiographical scene of LOTR, according to JRRT, was the corpses under water in the marsh, which he saw in World War I.”

  115. I’m going to see the movie next week. I’m just waiting for my holidays to appear on my calendar. Then it’s off to a matinee viewing I go. I’m probably going to see the movie in multiple formats as I did with Ridley Scott’s Prometheus last summer: one on Tuesday, another on Thursday. Here in Seoul, I prefer catching such movies in the early afternoons. The theatres are pretty much empty, but full of caffeinated imagination. I’m hoping this movie experience feels like a pleasant three-hour vacation; I’m hoping for an adventure, the film strip a landing strip. When it comes to Middle-Earth, Peter Jackson et al are fine tour guides . . .

  116. Regarding all this nonsense about Tolkien and allegory and WWII: from everything I have read about JRR and his influences, if the books are “about” anything, they are about WWI

    I’ve seen those arguments, and I don’t find them overwhelming. It’s interesting how–Dead Marshes aside–little the war in the LoTR resembles the trench warfare of World War I. The war in LoTR is relatively fast-moving, not particularly stagnant, and utterly decisive. It’s glorious, heroic, and meaningful. All of these things are very unlike the WWI that Tolkien knew.

  117. I’m glad that I was able to see the movie in 48 FPS, but I have the opposite opinion – I think the movie looked worse when the camera was jerking around all over the place (like in the action scenes). That’s when the movie looked like it was being played on fast forward, and it didn’t go away over the course of the film.

    The CGI was a mixed bag. A lot of the creatures looked really good, particularly Gollum and the Eagles. But there were several scenes that just looked awful, particularly those with Radagast on a rabbit-pulled sled. I’d heard the Radagast sled scene described as “video game like”, but I didn’t really believe them until I saw it.

  118. I saw the Hobbit in 2d. I am not sure if this was 48 frames or not. I did not want to pay extra for 3d. I did that for the alien prequel and felt like I got ripped off cause there was no 3d. I did not notice any difference in visuals.

    I didn’t like this movie. I liked the Lord of the Rings movies and I read Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings books. I liked them all. The movie had a TV pacing and it seemed like an ADHD movie since it didn’t have any focus. I also found the action boring. Seriously we need several minutes of dwarves whacking Trolls and nobody getting hurt? Or that silly fit in the goblin caves when you just knew that everything would be ok?

    Or this Ashok guy? Is he in the books? He is silly. I remember that Jackson said that he had planned to have Aragorn fight Sauron at the end of the Return of the King because that is traditionally what you do in movies. The hero fights the villain. But it didn’t work. I found Ashok to be a stereotypical and boring villain.

    I just felt that the Hobbit would have been better done as 1 movie. I felt like they added alot of stuff that normally goes in a DVD extended cut specifically to drag this into 3 movies.

  119. Thank you for the well-moderated and insightful comments on a broad range of relevant topics. I’ve not seen such civil resolution of differences of opinions on many boards.
    On the subject of allegory, I imagine that Tolkien would have wanted his readers to have the freedom to interpret his work as allegory, while maintaining a clear (and well-articulated) boundary with his intent. That would be consistent with his statement that suggests that he avoids domination of interpretation.
    I put my worst cause first, and in the first place. As to ‘movies’ or ‘films’ as one may choose to call them, its clear that Peter Jackson loves them, and wants to contribute in a lasting way to their narrative power. Its also clear that he loves his source material, and I think he’s done a lovely job of satisfying both ends. Material from The Hobbit would need to be lighter because of the source, but also because it would be quite dull to try to recreate the first trilogy experience. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, we might suspect James Cameron of overdoing his praise by moving to 60 fps.
    On a more practical level, I think the 48 fps will need some time before other production issues adjust to best advantage. The riddle scene was the most convincing, visually, for me; the action scenes clearly have more detail (and sadly, I think that this will be how the format is mostly utilized); but up-close fabric and prosthetic textures need to be absolutely believable, and interior lighting looked like a 1970’s Masterpiece Theater Dickens adaptation. Most distracting for me was the disjunct between the intimacy of some visuals (you’re really in the hobbit hole!) with clearly studio/reverb inspired orchestral soundtracks. It needs to be more acoustic in timbre to match the look.

  120. I’m so glad Peter Jackson delayed filming until Martin Freeman was available (or I guess he started, shot for 3 months, stopped for 3 months, then started up again for 8 more?). Because I concur: Martin Freeman was born to play Bilbo!

  121. @DAV1D
    Well, I’ve seen your “arguments”, and I don’t find them overwhelming. In fact, I can hardly call them arguments – you just like to open your mouth a lot, but nothing of value ever comes out.

  122. Our brains process the images our eyes see at roughly 60 frames per second… 48 fps is one thing… 60 fps is a totally different story.

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