The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey

I got to watch Peter Jackson’s long awaited ‘The Hobbit’ (twice) over the weekend. Peter Jackson was pioneering the 48 frames per second format for the first time with this film & I really wanted to see how it worked given all the press it has been receiving.

I watched it in the normal 24 frames per second 3D version at PVR IMAX, Bangalore & caught the 48 frames per second 3D version at INOX, Garuda Mall. At the outset, if you’re expecting a review of the movie, there are far more qualified people doing that. What I’ll be writing about is the difference in experience of the 24 and 48 FPS versions.

PVR IMAX played the 24 FPS 3D version of the movie. Although I was ~25 minutes late to the movie (blame Bangalore traffic) I made it just in time for the dwarves’ meeting at Hobbiton. The IMAX here is what movie aficionados refer to as the “faux” IMAX. The screen is ~28 feet in height & can be accommodated in any current theater facility without much investments. The IMAX Corporation, in an effort to popularize the format, diluted the branding to allow such modifications to existing theater facilities.

For further reading, I suggest you read this article on the differences. The only true IMAX screens in India are located only in 2 places, Hyderabad (Prasadz IMAX) & Ahmedabad (Gujarat Science City).

Coming back to the PVR IMAX experience, I’ve never seen a movie on IMAX before & I knew I was walking into a “faux” IMAX theater beforehand but I was still BLOWN AWAY! The enormity of the screen &  the engrossing 3D is just no match for the regular screens. Until date, I’d rate Urvashi & PVR Gold Class as the best 3D experience is Bangalore but with this “faux” IMAX now in Bangalore, you really have no excuses. The ticket prices are a bit exorbitant (Rs 550/- each) compared to the normal PVR & other screens across Bangalore (even India). Seating position doesn’t matter much, I’d still suggest you to take up the center & right up front for the best possible experience.

The 48 FPS “HFR” 3D version was played at INOX, Garuda Mall. This was a normal screen but the experience was very VERY different compared to every other cinema I’ve watched until today. It took me ~15 minutes to get adjusted to the format, until then, it looked like someone had increased the speed of the film by 2x.

The format also brought in a level of clarity & depth I’ve never seen before, the CGI looked almost real! In fact, it was too real, approaching the Uncanny valley sacrificing cinematic quality! As stated by some reviewers before, during the initial scenes it looked like actors were dressed up in costumes & makeup and were walking around on the set. Moviegoers have to deal with migraines & headaches when watching a 3D movie because of the strain it causes on the eye. The dimly lit screen is also a contributing factor. Thankfully, this is no longer the case with HFR 3D, the screen & picture were bright as day, unfortunately, it also ended up looking like a FMV sequence from a video game too.

Since this was my second viewing, I started to notice a lot of details which I might’ve missed during my first IMAX screening. I even closed one eye & watched it in HFR 2D. Sadly, the cinematic experience is gone & it ended up looking like a “soap opera”.

I had gone along with my cousin, who was blissfully unaware of the fact we were walking into the HFR version. I later spoke to him about this, apart from the obvious differences like clarity & brightness, he didn’t notice the speed itself. The giveaway was the Goblin battle sequence at Misty Mountains when he started noticing the speed.

With respect to the movie itself, I thought it was pretty good not as epic as the ‘Fellowship of The Ring’ but this could be counted towards being re-acquainted with the series rather than seeing it for the first time. It is definitely worth the watch though, for the story, characters, the technology & for some, nostalgia of revisiting middle earth itself!