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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (review)

The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey yellow light Martin Freeman

I’m “biast” (pro): loved Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings

I’m “biast” (con): was not happy to learn that this brief story was being chopped up into three epic-length films

I have read the source material many times (and I love it)

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)


No, not all who wander are lost. But doesn’t mean that some who wander aren’t lost. Such as Peter Jackson, with his first-of-three-parts big-screen adaptation of The Hobbit. I wish I could say that it’s confounding and inexplicable that he would do such a thing, take one small short charming little adventure story and blow it up into three hugely epic films… but it’s not mysterious at all. Jackson’s Hobbit was always going to be a license to print money, after the remarkable and wholly deserved success of his beautiful Lord of the Rings trilogy. Bilbo Baggins could sit smoking his pipe and reading aloud the Shire genealogy records for four hours, and fans would line up for it. I don’t think Jackson was being particularly mercenary with his decision to expand his Hobbit to three films and nine hours (or at least not only mercenary) — I think he thought he was giving fans a gift of as much more Tolkien as he could manage. Alas, though, Jackson’s own fannish partiality may be getting in the way here… as well as what I suspect is a case of George Lucas Syndrome. I fear Jackson is now surrounded by too many of his own fans who would never dare to tell him his ideas might possibly be the teensiest bit crappy.

Many diehard fans of the book [Amazon U.S.] [Amazon Canada] [Amazon U.K.] and of Jackson’s LOTR trilogy will love An Unexpected Journey, I have no doubt, or will at least be very forgiving of its many problems. And that’s fine: I would never wish for anyone to not get as much enjoyment out of this they possibly can. Revisiting Middle-earth is a treat: this is escapism at its purest, a full-blown diversion from reality. This is an alien land fully realized onscreen, populated by totally authentic nonhuman characters, and in 48 frames-per-second mode, as I saw it, it is startlingly real, as if you were looking through a window into Middle-earth… or perhaps as if you had walked onto a holodeck. It’s almost disconcerting how touchably real it all looks, though not in a bad way: this method of shooting film at a faster rate, which captures twice as much information and hence is sharper and clearer than anything we’ve seen before, is just so different. It’s a groundbreaking step for cinema that may well be a par with the introduction of color. The kick up to 48fps for Middle-earth is like Dorothy from black-and-white Kansas suddenly finding herself in Technicolor Oz. 48fps — also known as HFR, or high frame rate — also makes 3D feel more real and look less dark. (Note that relatively few showings of The Hobbit will actually be in HFR, because many multiplexes have yet not upgraded their technology. Check F.P.S.: 48 for a list of U.S., Canadian, U.K., and worldwide cinemas showing the film in 48fps.)

As a story, however, Journey is more than a bit like slogging through overly completist volumes of fan fiction, and that is going to bore more casual moviegoers, and also some serious fans (as I consider myself). What we have here isn’t even fairly titled as The Hobbit, because it’s only just barely about Bilbo Baggins; better would be A Child’s History of Middle-earth in the Late Third Age. Not a lot actually happens here — far too much time is given over to backstory and tangents that act only as fan service. Oh, look, there’s the Arkenstone! Hey, it’s Galadriel again! Oh, so that’s why the elves and the dwarves don’t get along! The charm of The Hobbit as Tolkien wrote it is that it was, you know, charming. It was not, at least not on its face, an epic tale of good-versus-evil: it was the tale of a homebody fussbudget who ran out of his cozy hobbithole one morning without even a handkerchief and discovered, though travel and hardship and — *gasp* — missed meals that the world was bigger and more interesting than he realized. There are lovely, lovely moments here, during the house party of rambunctious dwarves that Bilbo gets tricked into hosting by Gandalf in order to induce him to come along on their adventure as their resident “burglar,” in which Martin Freeman as Bilbo so delightfully exudes a hobbity despair at witnessing his larder being decimated by unwanted and very hungry guests. Freeman (Sherlock, What’s Your Number?) is downright adorable as Bilbo — he was born to play a hobbit. And it’s a shame that he gets so little chance, over the course of nearly three hours of running time, to be a hobbit reacting to the not-conducive-to-hobbitness stuff going on around him.

Jackson (King Kong) — who didn’t just direct but wrote the script with his regular partners Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, with an assist this time by Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Pan’s Labyrinth) — lavishes love on everything he presents here, but every time the focus wanders away from Bilbo, we lose the sense that there is a coherent, primal story to be told. We don’t need the full and complete history of the dwarf city under the Lonely Mountain far from the Shire to understand why deposed dwarf king Thorin wants to take it back from Smaug, the dragon, who now lives there. It’s nice for actor Richard Armitage (Captain America: The First Avenger, Robin Hood) that Jackson chose to make his Thorin this trilogy’s Aragorn, all noble and lonely and angsty and still-not-king, because Armitage is wonderful in every possible way and I hope this makes him a huge star, because he totally deserves it and I long to see him more on the big screen. But that’s not really a good reason to take a story called The Hobbit that is about a hobbit and make it about Thorin. Also too: Jackson tries to force a sense of the epic upon this, but this story lacks the existential threat that Lord of the Rings has. Middle-earth is not in crisis. Some dwarves want to get their gold back from a dragon. That’s it. There’s nothing urgent about this, and no amount of lurching from action setpiece to action setpiece can make us feel an urgency that isn’t there. Tolkien’s Hobbit is sort of a mock epic, in which the leaving behind of a handkerchief is mock tragic. And yes, there is the event, to be seen in retrospect as momentous, in which Bilbo acquires a magic ring later discovered to be the One Ring of Power forged by the mighty Sauron, etc… but it’s only later that the enormity of this happenstance is known. Jackson should have trusted the viewer to bring in our own awareness of the Vital Importance of Certain Events here. But he doesn’t. He wants to take a little side trip into, say, roundtables of Gandalf (Ian McKellen: The Golden Compass, Stardust) and Elrond (Hugo Weaving: Cloud Atlas, Happy Feet Two) and Galadriel (Cate Blanchett: Hanna, Robin Hood) holding high-level magical discussions at Rivendell of the Vital Importance of Certain Events. In the book, Gandalf keeps wandering off on the mysterious business of wizards, leaving Bilbo and the dwarves to wonder just what the hell he’s up to. But there’s no mystery here. It’s all so on-the-nose. It loses all possibility of being metaphoric — in the same way that Jackson’s Lord of the Rings felt like it was commenting on our world, particularly in the immediate wake of 9/11, when the first film was released — by making itself so concrete.

Here’s the thing. Tolkien was constantly rewriting his stuff to bring it all into line with his grand vision, which he was ever developing. In the 1960s, he tried to rewrite The Hobbit, which was first published in 1937, to bring its tone in line with the heroic somberness of The Lord of the Rings. And he couldn’t do it. He found that it ruined the essential hobbitness of The Hobbit, the light adventure and the comedy and the airiness of it. Jackson is trying to do what Tolkien failed to do, and though the filmmaker makes sure there’s plenty of dwarf-belching and troll-snot and other blithe grossness in the mix, it’s plain that Tolkien was right: you cannot force grandeur onto a story about a hobbit for whom losing the buttons off his waistcoat remains a calamity even after he’s been traveling with uncouth dwarves for a while. The button-losing is here in the film, but to concentrate on it feels out of whack. That’s not how it should be.

US/Canada release date: Dec 14 2012 | UK release date: Dec 13 2012

Flick Filosopher Real Rating: rated FS (contains immoderate levels of fan service)
MPAA: rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images
BBFC: rated 12A (contains moderate violence)

viewed in 3D
viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes
  • LaSargenta

    I love the word ‘fussbudget’.

     

  • Danielm80

    Three years from now, a Tolkien fan will edit the movies into one short film and post it online. Hopefully, the studio will have the good sense to leave it up.

  • slurch

    For a review that registered as “Rotten” on RottenTomatoes, it’s done an unbelievably good job of selling this film to me. Sounds amazing, I can’t wait.

  • http://www.flickfilosopher.com/ MaryAnn Johanson

    It’s tough deciding whether a review like this is Fresh or Rotten (I pick my ratings on RT). But I thought a Fresh was too generous.

  • http://www.dpsinfo.com LaurieMann

    I’m enough of a fan that I might enjoy this movie…but…I have to admit, I’m rereading The Hobbit now and it’s much duller than I’d remembered.  Jackson has had a bad habit of taking a minor, interesting piece and blowing it up out of all proportion.  Remember King Kong?  He was, generally, slightly constrained during The Lovely Bones, but that wasn’t as good as its source.  

    I did go to “Trilogy Saturday” a few days back, and found the LOTR movies on the big screen as enthralling as ever.

  • RogerBW

    I wonder whether perhaps Jackson is using the opportunity to make as much of a Silmarillion film as he can – because nobody sane will ever greenlight the real thing.

    It’s very clear re-reading The Hobbit that it’s a story for children, and as MAJ says a pretty lightweight one. You can dig out the references, but none of the original readers who made it a success was equipped to do that… and they loved it anyway.

  • JT

    That’s been my prediction since these reviews started coming out. Let’s just hope the core of the movie is good enough to allow for it. I really hope Jackson sees one of these “fan cuts” when all is said and done and thinks about how much better the reception might have been if he’d just learned to control himself.

  • JT

    Interesting. I wonder if that’s why the Variety review registered as “Fresh” on that site? I read the review, and it didn’t seem complimentary to the movie at all…

  • http://twitter.com/FunWithHeadline FunWithHeadline

    Yes, this is a complaint I seem to be seeing from a lot of the standard (i.e. non-fan-site) reviewers, and there’s merit in the observation.  Me?  I’m a fan, so the more details the better for me.  I saw no problem with Return of the Kings “multiple” endings for example, and only wish they included the Scouring of the Shire episode too (hello, 4-hour movie).

    The thing is though, the Hobbit is light and fun only because the reader is unaware of the larger world.  Bilbo ends up learning more about that larger world on his adventures, but still is largely ignorant of the darkness that surrounds the Shire.  Tolkien, especially in later years, was not ignorant.  Thus his attempt to rewrite The Hobbit to fit it into his larger world.

    So what should Peter Jackson do with this material?  He could have made a one-movie version of The Hobbit that is happy and light and moves rapidly from scene to scene.  Or he could do what he did and include all the rest that Tolkien wrote about that was happening during this time.

    If you are a fan, you want this extra material.  If you are a non-fan, who cares, you ain’t seeing this movie anyway.  But what if you are a fan of the movies but never read the books (a much larger universe than the book-reading movie fans)?  Then all you know of Middle Earth are the three previous movies, and the simple one-movie version of The Hobbit (written for kids) would feel very strange and out of place.  The wrong tone.

    The goal at the end is to have the three Hobbit movies serve as a detailed look at the forces at work that led to The Fellowship.  For those non-book-reading movie fans, this will be welcome.  Maybe a bit too much detail for them, but beats the alternative of a simple happy Hobbit story.

  • http://twitter.com/RachelSupra Rachel Supra

    Looking forward to seeing this and the opening of our new cinepex VIP theater in Brossard, Quebec  http://imgur.com/a/zVlsK

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    *reads blurb in the top image, notes yellow circle*

    Yeah, that’s what I was afraid of.

  • http://www.flickfilosopher.com/ MaryAnn Johanson

    FYI: For the major sites, RT editors choose the ratings.

  • Joanne

    Middle-earth is not in crisis.

    I’d disagree with this to an extent. Bilbo doesn’t know Middle-earth is in crisis, but there’s certainly crisis meetings going on in the background during the time The Hobbit is set. Sauron is regrouping and becoming more powerful and the orcs and goblins, as demonstrated at the Battle of the Five Armies, are growing in strength. This is only 60 years before the full-out war that is told in LOTR, after all, and I’ve always had the feeling that wars in Middle-earth brew for a long time with many smaller conflicts going on before they blow up. Gandalf and Galadriel and Elrond are trying to stave off crisis, stymied by Saruman and his growing desire for power. I’m quite looking forward to seeing that on screen really. Whether it’s necessary or not I don’t know – and it’s entirely possible that a single film sticking to the book of TH would be a better film. I’ll reserve judgment until I’ve seen it on Saturday.

  • http://www.dpsinfo.com LaurieMann

    I thought the original plan to make a 2 movie series that was about 2/3rds The Hobbit and 1/3 “bridging material” was the right one.

  • Chuck

     How does one budget for fuss?

  • Hank Graham

    Sounds like Jackson being Jackson.

    There’s a famous memo from Merian Cooper about the famous “spider pit” sequence from “King Kong.” Cooper cut it, although O’Brien considered it his best bit of animation in the movie. Cooper wrote that, “…it stopped the movie.”

    And he was right. It added nothing to the story, and took the focus away from Jack and Ann and Kong at a crucial moment.

    And in Jackson’s version of Kong, he included it. And it had the same effect on his film that it had in the original.

    You gotta love him, the guy’s just a fan like us. And I look forward to the single-movie Phantom Edit of Hobbit, when all three are out.

  • Karl Morton IV

    Well, let’s not condemn this as the wrong way to go about it until we’ve seen it, hmmm? :)

  • Karl Morton IV

    Is that weird? Seems weird.

  • Karl Morton IV

    It mildly irks me that everyone who posts stuff on the Internet pretty much made up their mind about a three part “Hobbit” months before they saw any footage. Groupthink at its most pervasive, says I. Until I see it and don’t like it, in which case I’ll happily knock back the Kool-Ade with everyone else. ;)

  • LaSargenta

    I think it is a Time thing more than money.

  • Geweiv2

    There was a free showing on a nearby base a week before the premiere in my area, and I went and saw it. I don’t see why this had mixed reviews.  Sure, a nine hour trilogy for a two to three hundred page book may seem a little extreme, but there’s just so much content in it. i really enjoyed it, and am looking forward to the next one. The acting is tremendous, and it sticks to the plot of the Hobbit very well. And, while amusing in the novel, I don’t think just a two hour movie of Bilbo complaining would be very entertaining. When we see through Bilbo’s eyes, it makes much more sense, and the little side stories with Gandalf and the White Council, as well as the appearance of Ragadast the Brown, give little surprises to those who read the books; and not bad ones.

  • CB

    It
    mildly irks me that everyone who posts stuff on the Internet pretty
    much made up their mind about a three part “Hobbit” months before they
    saw any footage.

    Well it really sounded like a terrible idea from the moment I heard it.  I mean Jackson did a great job of trimming three epic-length novels down into three epic-length movies.  But to take the pleasant afternoon read that is the Hobbit and also turn it into three epic-length movies?  The source-material-to-movie ratio just doesn’t match up whatsoever.  Instead of having things trimmed for time and pacing, is he going to end up having to pad out the story, or is it going to just end up with very little happening?  Why not make a single, tight movie that seems like the natural fit for the book, aside from the obviou$?

    I think a lot of people reacted the same way, because it’s a really big and obvious concern.  Which is not the same as group-think. 

    Now I would have been happy to be wrong, cus hey I and others thought filming LotR was nigh-impossible in the first place but Jackson showed us all to be fools, but the things MAJ says in her review are precisely what I feared would happen. 

  • CB

     ALL OPINIONS MUST BE BOOLEAN!

    Cus otherwise it requires too much thinkin’. :)

  • CB

    If you are a fan, you want this extra material.  If you are a non-fan, who cares, you ain’t seeing this movie anyway.

    Er, well, I’m a book-reading fan, and I’m not sure I want this extra material.  If it works, fine, but I’d much rather have a tight movie adaptation of the Hobbit than a padded-out trilogy that tries to force a sense of the epic that the story lacks.  What’s more out of place — a tonal mismatch with the previous trilogy, or a tonal mismatch with what you’re watching?  The Hobbit is more than amenable to a somewhat darker tone without having to try to match the previous trilogy.

    But for the record I’m also one of the book-reading fans who fully supports the vast majority of Jackson’s decisions to trim or alter LotR for his movies.  I don’t want unlimited fan service.   I want an effective adaptation. 

    We’ll see if that’s what we get, but this review suggests I might not like the decisions made in this movie as much as the previous.

  • http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=1186107134 MarkyD

    I haven’t read the book since I was a kid, and don’t remember a thing about it. It was the same with the LOTR series. So while I enjoyed it when I read it, I can’t really count myself as a book fan, considering I don’t even recall the content.
    Still, due to loving the LOTR movies, I’ve been looking forward to this. My son and I will be going on Saturday. I feel bad because I still haven’t shown him all of the LOTR movies. Just Fellowship.
    I hope it’s not as boring as it sounds.

  • http://twitter.com/FunWithHeadline FunWithHeadline

    Thinking about it some more, and reading the New Yorker review (similar to MaryAnn’s), I think this is how it goes:

    LOTR
    ———
    Fans: He left out Bombadil!  No scouring of the Shire!
    Everyone else: Wow, cool movies!

    Hobbit
    ———-
    Everyone else: Man, this movie is taking forever.
    Fans: Ah, he kept everything!  Cool movies!

  • CB

     Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to call it “The Hobbit:  An Unexpected Edit”?  Or maybe “The Hobbit:  To the Editing Room and Back Again”.

  • Ralph

    I have not seen The Hobbit yet, so I will reserve judgement. Maybe the whole thing makes perfect sense when we have all three extended editions at hand ;-)

  • http://www.flickfilosopher.com/ MaryAnn Johanson

    Doesn’t seem weird to me. It seems like the only way the reviews by the really big critics would get on to RT at all, because they’re not gonna bother to add them themselves.(They’re unlikely to need to traffic boost from RT, for one.)

  • http://www.flickfilosopher.com/ MaryAnn Johanson

    The seeds of crisis are certainly there, but it’s not a crisis yet. And trying to force a crisis atmosphere doesn’t work.

  • http://www.flickfilosopher.com/ MaryAnn Johanson

    Glad to hear you liked it! I hope I’m wrong, and that more people than I suspect will like it do enjoy it

  • JT

    I’ve been concerned about how The Hobbit might turn out for quite a while actually, back before the general public knew much about it and most people were hopeful. I saw Jackson was taking a Lord of the Rings-ish approach to the adaptation of King Kong and The Lovely Bones and worried it had become his default way of making movies. So I wouldn’t say groupthink, at least not in my case, just concern based on what I had observed him doing…and many reviews are now validating my concerns. (And I do mean many; even positive reviews of the Hobbit have generally pointed out pacing problems.) That’s not to say I’m going to think The Hobbit is a mediocre film…I may turn out to like it. But can you enjoy a film and still admit it has flaws? Yes. And the odds are, based on both the general reaction to it so far and my own long-held suspicions, that the film is going to drag. But hey, I’m the first one to wish I turn out to be wrong. :)

  • Karl Morton IV

    Watch out for self-fulfilling prophecies!  

    I re-read ‘Hobbit’ for the first time in many years a couple months ago and in my opinion (not that it matters much, of course) there’s plenty of room for comfortable expansion.  The Battle of Five Armies, to choose an obvious one, gets a couple paragraphs – not even a paragraph an army!  Better yet, Bilbo gets knocked on the head and misses it all!  Works great in the book for all sorts of reasons but I can’t imagine any movie audience anywhere in the world being okay with a build-up to a HUGE battle which is then bypassed narratively by the main character sleeping through it.  A few characters we’ve been following through the story get killed in that battle – while Bilbo is asleep in the book.  Think that’s gonna make for satisfactory viewing in a film?  

    Before we even get to the big battle, we have Smaug to contend with.  Does anyone really want to reduce Smaug to ten minutes of screen time?  Check out the Rankin/Bass film from the late ’70s if you want a taste of how a single film might play.  If that is more your speed, you’ll always have that – but do we really want Jackson to recreate that in live action?Another part I’m very keen to see (not ’til next year, I understand) is all the stuff that happens in the Mirkwood elves’ domain.  I’d forgotten that the dwarves are locked up there for quite a while and Bilbo has to find them all in their cells, figure out how to free them, then figure out how to get everyone out of the mountain without undue hue and cry. This time through, knowing what sort of thing Peter Jackson is capable of, I imagined a phenomenal extended wordless sequence of  Bilbo really coming into his own as an adventurer (in spite of himself, yes), drawing on reserves of strength and ingenuity he didn’t know he had.  Could be an amazing climax and ending to the second film, if they break the story up that way.  Getting excited just thinking about it!  :)

    It feels like all the naysayers are going to drag themselves reluctantly into the cinema as to an IRS appointment with, “omiGOD this thing’s gonna be SOOOOOOO long” running through their head.  Not the best mindset in which to embark on something like this, is it?  It’s only a movie at the end of the day – you get out of it at least as much as you take into it.  I hope those who are dreading a three-film ‘Hobbit’ do themselves a favor and stay home.  Seriously.  You’ll be happier.  

  • Karl Morton IV

    I still think you’re kinda proving my point.  You’re going in expecting the film to drag and be really long and (interpolating a bit) filled with unnecessary stuff that’s only there to fill out three long films.  I hope you find that you’re wrong.  ;)

  • http://www.facebook.com/StephanieMClarkson Stephanie Clarkson

     In point, I love The Hobbit, and am a fan of it. I hated LOTR; can’t read the books, they bore me, I put them down at night, pick them up the next day and find I cannot remember who the hell anyone is, and more I do not care. But after I read The Hobbit when I was 10 I drew hobbitholes for *years* in my cartooning. I loved so much about it.

    So I think it’s crap to be all ‘oooh, the fans will want this’. I don’t. I wanted the gorgeous movie that would tell the story I loved the way LOTR worked for fans of that; and I would have seen that movie in a heartbeat. Probably two or three times, in the theatre.

    Not one single review that I have seen makes me want to see this 8 hour commitment. I can read the book 3 times in that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/StephanieMClarkson Stephanie Clarkson

    Instead of having things trimmed for time and pacing, is he going to end up having to pad out the story, or is it going to just end up with very little happening?

    Most of the reviews I have seen, even the complimentary ones, seem to indicate he has embraced the power of ‘and’.

  • David C-D

    I tend to enjoy the extended treatment of books so I anticipate I will be able to enjoy this.  My bigger concern is whether it will still be fun for children.  We just read the book out loud with our daughters (the older one had already read it, the younger had not).  If the end result is too boring or serious for pre-teens, that will be a big disappointment. I suppose we could still watch it episodically on the small screen….?

  • Jody Bower

    I’m a diehard Tolkien fan who first read the books (three times in a row without stopping because I fell so in love with Middle-earth I never wanted to leave) at age 15. I’ve been an active member on the leading Tolkien fan site’s message boards since the site went online in 1999, and there are plenty of folks there who would agree with you. We have been wary of Jackson’s tendency to over-indulge since the wargs of “The Two Towers.” I’ve said for years that Lucas NEEDS a good scriptwriter and a good editor – Spielberg needs the latter as well – and “King Kong” convinced me that Jackson does too.

    I understand the completist urge. I’ve written fan fiction (solely for my own consumption) at times just to play with the idea of “so what did happen next?” But that’s part of the joy of Tolkien, that he can hint at so much more than he ever actually tells you about, so that you walk away from the story feeling that you’ve been in touch with a much larger world than was actually shown. This is my main objection to most horror films: it’s so much scarier to leave the monster in my own imagination. I don’t care how slimy or big or toothy a monster you invent or how much blood spatters or how much detail I see about bodies being torn apart, monsters are scarier when you can’t see them. I know Jackson thinks he’s giving the fans what they really want, but the reason we were fans in the first place was because of Tolkien’s ability to write a great story, and that’s the story that should be put on screen.

  • CB

    Watch out for self-fulfilling prophecies!

    How on God’s green earth could my saying that a Hobbit trilogy sounds like a bad idea cause Peter Jackson to actually make a movie that’s overly padded and/or dull? 

    Oh, you mean I’ll just think that’s the case while watching the movie even though it’s totally not.  Gee, thanks, but I’m capable of both having an opinion and an open mind.

    The Battle of Five Armies… Smaug

    Can both be handled in a reasonable amount of time.  Not everything needs to be a half-hour spectacle.  In fact most things are better when they’re not because otherwise it dulls the emotional impact and stops serving the story.  Helm’s Deep worked because it was the first time we’ve seen a large-scale battle done so amazingly well. 

    Not the best mindset in which to embark on something like this, is it?
     It’s only a movie at the end of the day – you get out of it at least as
    much as you take into it.  I hope those who are dreading a three-film
    ‘Hobbit’ do themselves a favor and stay home.  Seriously.  You’ll be
    happier. 

    Hey, maybe that works for you, but for me that’s bass-ackwards in every way.

    For me, going into a movie with appropriately lowered expectations, knowing in advance what the likely weaknesses of the movie are, will only increase my enjoyment.   Either it meets my expectations in which case I already knew and accepted the problems and can enjoy it for what it is, or my suspicions and MAJ’s review were wrong and it exceeds my expectations — in which case woo-hoo!

    Going into a movie with unrealistically high expectations — especially in the manner you suggest, where I do have concerns but I just ignore them and tell myself “This is going to be awesome!” — is just a formula for me getting pissed off.  Been there, done that, and I know better now.

    So I’ll kindly ask you to stop assuming you know how I or anyone else best enjoys movies or what movies we shouldn’t see on the basis of those assumptions.  Thanks.

  • Karl Morton IV

    Take it easy.  Sounds like you’re pissed off already.  Nothing personal intended.  I’m sorry I spoke.

  • CB

    Oh come on.  I’m asking you to stop making bad assumptions about how I think, and your response is that I sound pissed?  Relax.  Go with the flow.  Engage in a discussion, where we each express how we ourselves feel rather than projecting.  That’s all I want.  If you don’t want to, fine, be sorry.

  • http://www.dpsinfo.com LaurieMann

    I’m hardly condemning it – and I have a ticket to see it Friday.  Still, I suspect that it is way too long and the original plan was probably correct.

  • Karl Morton IV

    It doesn’t feel like much of a discussion is happening. I’m happy to accept your assertion that your mind is open, but I’m not seeing much evidence of it – not that you have to prove anything to me. You seemed to take everything I said personally and while I did respond to your comment, my intention was not to get up your nose.

    You list all these reasons why the first “Hobbit” film isn’t going to work. Can you understand why that looks to me like you’re setting yourself up to strongly dislike it? Your comments about reasonable amounts of time are sensible, but they also presuppose that Peter Jackson flouted your ideas about what a reasonable amount of time is. Seems obvious to me you’re really gonna hate this movie, although obviously I hope I’m wrong.

  • Michael in Seattle

     *nod* Tony Robbins has an entire video series on budgeting your time to fuss properly.

  • Karl Morton IV

    “…and then?”

    Now I have that stuck in my head all day! LOL!

  • CB

    It doesn’t feel like much of a discussion is happening.

    It isn’t, because you just keep saying “It seems like you…” followed by an incorrect assumption of how I’ve already made up my mind, instead of actually talking about the issues.   I’d love to start having one, though!

    You list all these reasons why the first “Hobbit” film isn’t going to
    work. Can you understand why that looks to me like you’re setting
    yourself up to strongly dislike it?

    Yes I understand that you’ve assumed that regardless of whether or not my concerns turn out to be true or not, I’m not going to like the movie on the basis of my concerns.   Which is silly and condescending and assumes close-mindedness on my part.  Think about that.

    Your comments about reasonable amounts of time are sensible, but they
    also presuppose that Peter Jackson flouted your ideas about what a
    reasonable amount of time is.

    No, it presupposes your argument that The Hobbit can fill three movies by making extended sequences out of those parts.  I responded to this argument by saying that this is not actually  a good thing, that a tighter, shorter sequence is usually more compelling.   So if Jackson doesn’t flout this and pad these sequences out, then we’re back to the problem of making this story fill 8+ hours of screen time.

    This is the part where you respond to my counter-argument with a counter-argument or observation of your own, like in an actual discussion, rather than a statement of how I’m just assuming everything is going to suck and will therefore hate the movie even if the assumption (I’m not actually making) turns out to be false and the movie is great.

  • CB

     I miss ‘preview’. :(

  • Karl Morton IV

    What is there to discuss apart from our assumptions and how we are expressing them? We haven’t seen the movie yet.

    All I’m seeing from you (and many many others) is an assumption that Peter Jackson did it wrong. I’m not saying Peter Jackson is perfect, but I can imagine where the book can be expanded effectively – you say no, I’m wrong, it can’t and it would be better as a single shorter movie. If you’re going to claim that I’m shutting you down, I’d like to plead self-defense. ;)

  • CB

    What is there to discuss apart from our assumptions
    and how we are expressing them? We haven’t seen the movie
    yet.

    Well for starters you could discuss what I’m actually saying instead of your own assumptions about what i’m  saying.

    We could also discuss our reasoning behind our viewpoints, you know,
    like two people with different opinions having a discussion.

    Or, hey, we could talk about this review where someone who has seen the movie reflects my concerns that the story loses focus by padding it out with extra back-story and side-plots!

    And despite that review, I’ve still said that I could end up thinking MAJ is wrong, and my fears were for naught, and that I hope this is the case.  Yet you persist on with this nonsense:

    All I’m seeing from you (and many many others) is an assumption that Peter Jackson did it wrong.

    No you’re not.  What your eyeballs are  seeing is a concern that he might have done it wrong backed up by reason (and a review), but also hoping its otherwise.  You are then transmuting that into an immutable assumption that he definitely did do it wrong that won’t even be changed by the actual movie.

    You’re not even trying to engage me, the person talking to you.  You’re talking to an imaginary person in your head.  Have fun with that.

  • Beowulf

    The “fiscal cliff” Middle Earth is headed towards is dealt with at more length in the final two films.

  • Beowulf

    I’ve seen 20 minutes of “making of” and behind-the-scenes footage and it looks incredible.

    From the opinions of reviewers of all versions of the film, I think I will see it in 3-D, and 24 fps (not that I have the option of 48fps without at least two hours of travel time each way for a three hour movie!)

  • Hank Graham

    Fun, I think you have it about right, although I’d dispute the first call.

    What I like to use as an analogy is “The Wizard of Oz.” In the book, there are twenty pages of travel and fiddly details between the death of the Wicked Witch and the return to see the Great Oz. In the movie they cut directly from one to the other.

    With Jackson’s Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, cutting the Scouring of the Shire ended up leaving it with all twenty pages of travel and fiddly details, but then cutting out the final conversation between Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion with Oz.

  • http://twitter.com/Dart159 Ryan Stone

    I was looking forward to seeing this, being a fan of the quick, wonderful little adventure of Bilbo Baggins. That was until I heard the words “9 hour prequel.” And then I read your review, and all my fears came true. All hope failed, and I learned disappointment yet again.

    Cool story eh?

    I couldn’t stand “The Two Towers.”

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UIYLKKCSR2J6THJRWHPO26G3E4 laura

    If all I want is a a “stick to the book” Hobbit movie, I’ll watch the Rankin-Bassin animated version.  It’s fine with me if PJ develops some of the back-story from the appendices of LotR.  I’m just hoping he doesn’t mess up the characterizations like he did with Elrond, Theoden and Denethor.  Don’t get me started on Aragorn and Faramir…

  • Michael in Seattle

     The animated version, in fairness, really only sticks to the Cliff’s Notes version of the book.

    Also, dragons should NOT look like that. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/rebecca.dalmas Rebecca Dalmas

    So looking forward to it, haven’t seen a movie house original language movie in years, grew up with the atlas-sized illustrated Hobbit on the lamp table, love all the books.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Here’s the thing about the Scouring of the Shire: it’s anti-climactic. The movie hit’s a climax at Pelennor Fields. It then ramps the action up once more at the Black Gate and Mount Doom, in order to finally destroy the Ring, and Sauron with it. The battle is won, the danger is passed, it’s time to wrap up the character arcs. Ramping up the action once again, to battle a secondary villain who hasn’t been seen on screen in (at least) 2 1/2 hours messes up the downward trajectory of the film. 

    I’m really not at all sure what the point of this chapter is in the novel. I can only assume he meant to demonstrate how much the Hobbits have changed. But really, in the film, this has already been done. Merry’s riding ion with the Rohirim shows his change. Pipen’s actions in the service of Denathor show his. Elijah Wood does an excellent job showing how Frodo has changed to the audience through body language. And Sam… well, Sam’s gradual change is shown throughout the story, and culminates in his marriage. So the Scouring is thematically unnecessary. 

    After the Ring is destroyed, the movie is heading toward Gandalf and Frodo boarding the boat. I think you analogy would be more apt if the film had ended in Gondor with the coronation scene, which frankly would not have been an unreasonable place to end the film.

  • LaSargenta

     The first time I read the Scouring of the Shire, it jarred. But, in every subsequent reading I made, what I saw was an illustration of “you can’t go home again”, the reality of a war not only changing you (who have been through the front line action), but also changing the place you came from that you may remember like it was encased in crystal and your memory is static…but, it — home — wasn’t. It lived through the war, too, just differently than you did and what the war did to it might not be very heroic or nice.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    And that’s certainly an interesting theme to explore. But, I agree with the filmmakers that it isn’t interesting enough to throw off the trajectory of the film’s ending. As it was, “Return of the King” had a lot of endings. Adding another 15-20 minute sequence would not have helped that.

  • Juniortoniato

    Actually, they didn’t let Tolken rewrite The Hobbit. He always wanted bring the story more close to reality of Lord Of The Rings. Peter Jackson is not only trying this as well he is also enriching the story with the help of a lot of Tolken’s documents.

  • Hnoma

     Done correctly it could have worked and resonated.  Especially with all the PTSD and veterans from recent conflicts coming home (or not) these days.

  • Hacaro

    Well, I guess I’m just an unabashed, easily pleased geek, because I saw this movie todat and loved every moment of it. Can’t wait to see it again.

  • Tonio Kruger

    Perhaps Leonard Nimoy should have directed it. After all, he is responsible for the most concise version of The Hobbit ever produced.  ;-)

  • Beowulf

    Liked it a lot and I will definitely be seeing it again soon.

  • http://www.dpsinfo.com LaurieMann

    Have seen it, and while the 48 fps did not leave me queasy, Middle Earth just didn’t look riht.  For whatever reason, the 48 fps or the 3-D, the interior scenes, especially Bag End and “Riddles in the Dark” looked GREAT, but the exteriors, especially the overhead shots, looked like bad video game photography.  The movie is worth seeing if you’re a Tolkien fan, but it lacked the depth of LOTR.

  • Jonah Falcon

    You nailed it MaryAnn. I mean, Peter Jackson is The King of Bloat (see, King Kong, etc.)

    And of all the things to excise, why in the world did he leave out the entire crux of the book when Bilbo stammers Gandalf to leave by telling him “Good morning!” but invite him back on Wednesday for tea?

  • Jonah Falcon

     A lot of Star Wars fans convinced themselves The Phantom Menace was good and said that, too.

  • Jonah Falcon

     You loved The Phantom Menace, too? :D

  • Jonah Falcon

     Wait for Netflix.

  • Jonah Falcon

     And the animated TV show:

    1) Depicted Gollum as a frog
    2) Did not show any violence
    3) Skipped out whole important scenes, hardly was “stick to the book”

  • Jonah Falcon

     Also, The Scouring of the Shire is a running theme. Note that the end of the Hobbit is the same – Bilbo returns, but everyone thinks he’s strange and treats him like your rich crazy aunt; if he didn’t have that money, he’d be exiled. Conferring with strange people, acting bizarre, etc.

  • Hacaro

    That’s a Star Wars movie, right? What’s that got to do with this?

  • Beowulf

    Gee, you’re so right!  I hired two goons to beat me until I was convinced that the film was good not bad!  Yes, I was one of those fans who WANTED SW:TPM to be good, but that didn’t make me like it much.
    What you like is what you like. If everyone else in the world hates Spam ice cream, but you like it, who is to say you’re not allowed to like it? It’s your taste or opinion and you’re entitled to it.

    If TH is the sort of thing you like, you’ll like it.

  • http://reformamendment.blogspot.com/ Paul Wartenberg

    Two of the problems are 1) we’ve been told the true history of the One Ring already in both film and book (no spoilers), so trying to tell the Hobbit tale as a straight adventure without referencing just how important this quest truly *is* (Gandalf foretold the danger that Smaug could have been used by The Enemy to devastate Rivendell, and the quest itself concludes with a re-forging, however brief, of the Alliance between Elves Dwarves and Men foreshadowing that need in the coming War) is next to impossible, and 2) people, not just the geeks but also the normal humans, expect a Middle Earth tale to be epic in scope.

    It can be argued the problem of any prequel is that, yes, we know what the future holds for these characters and the events they are part of.  The question is, is the journey worth it?  I think so.  The bit with the trolls is more hilarious on-film than I can recall from the book.  And it was totally worth it to see Gollum/Smeagol once again for the game of riddles… and to watch him cry out “BAGGINSSSSSS!  WE HATES IT FOREVER!”

    I enjoyed the movie.  Not a true ZOMG CLASSIC like the LotR itself, but worth the cinema visit.

  • http://twitter.com/mcjwserenity Matt Clayton

    I enjoyed this movie, but Jackson should be more ruthless in the editing room. There’s a great movie in here, but Jackson should’ve cut more. We don’t need 2-3 songs in this film (maybe just one would do), the narrative and pacing would be just fine without them.

    And do really need a ton of extra backstory on Thorin here? That establishing initial backstory would’ve done just fine (with Smaug laying waste to the kingdom and so forth). He’s still a cipher, and the other 12 dwarves are two-dimensional. That said, Armitage did a good job with what he had.

    And I recommend the 24 fps 3D format (or 2D if you have the option). Absolutely stunning.

  • http://twitter.com/mcjwserenity Matt Clayton

    Are you kidding me? The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey isn’t a disgrace on the LOTR franchise like The Phantom Menace was to Star Wars back in 1999. 

    Apples and oranges, man.

  • Troll Hammer

    You again, beating the same drum and blowing the same horn?  ‘Dawn take you …, and be stone to you!’

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    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.

  • http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=1186107134 MarkyD

     ***/4
    Hmm. Where do I start? At the beginning, I suppose.
    The beginning of this movie in which I find the only real fault. It starts slow. But it makes sense considering all that they have to introduce in order to get the journey going. Once we get through that initial phase, and the caravan gets on the road, it’s quite the adventure. Way  more so than I was anticipating. I suppose it helps that I read the book what feels like ages ago, and don’t remember a single thing about it. This is all new to me! I don’t have to nitpick about who or what is missing! I love it.
    The movie looks incredible, as expected. Just like the LOTR films, if a tad bit sharper. 10 years of tech will do that.
    The movie sounds great, too, although a bit TOO much like the LOTR films. I was hoping for a more unique, or restrained, soundtrack, to reflect the (supposed)smaller scope of the movie, but that’s not what we got. It’s still good, but not one I’ll be buying, unlike all the LOTR soundtracks.
    Martin Freeman is perfect as Bilbo, as I expected him to be. He’s got this unique way about him that is well suited to this role.
    The dwarves are mostly just there besides Thorin, who is played with suitable kingliness by Richard Armitage.
    Ian McKellan IS Gandalf, and always will be. He’s amazing.
    We get all sorts of action and adventure, filled with legions of Orcs, Goblins, Trolls, Wargs(giant wolves), and a few I was totally not expecting. Gollum makes a great appearance in a fun test with Bilbo.
    I daresay we got TOO much fighting and action. The battles were intense, but it was hard to keep track of who was fighting what. A breather or two would have been nice. Perhaps a few more quiet moments.
    There was a distinct lack of any females in this movie, but I know that just how the book was written. It’s too bad, because I think it would have been a nice counter to all those dwarves.
    Overall, it was a fun movie, and I look forward to part 2, which has much potential

  • O Kurt83

    You, sir, are a TROLL. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QI3YDEVZO2IPVJJ5IA3JJMEBTY Henry

    I was thoroughly entertained by The Unexpected Journey, and for me, I was amazed how quickly the movie passed.  I like many others was also concerned how 3 movies could be made with such a small book.  So I was pleasantly surprised that Jackson utilized Tolkein’s book The Silmarillion to add to the story.  I will watch the movie again and am very excited for part 2 of the saga next year.

  • Nelsonic

    Saw the movie in 3D at 48fps.  I read the books (TH and LoR trilogy) many years ago…  don’t remember all the myriad details, and wound up skipping much of the song and backstory.  Loved the first three films for the most part.

    I had a blast watching The Hobbit, and am a little confused at others’ disappointment:  I never felt like the “detail” in the film was excessive, fan service, or impeded the story in any way.  I loved learning more about the Dwarves (Gimli being pretty much the only one in the trilogy) and watching them in action as a team was really cool. 

    Sure, the movie’s stakes are lower…  a team of Dwarves are on a quest to take back their gold.  The order we’re seeing these films means we know what’s coming…  there’s bound to be some Dark Portent rattling around somewhere, hasn’t there?  The beginnings of Saruman’s evil machinations?  The dawning realization of the return of Sauron and the One Ring?  There’s plenty of lighter-hearted comedy woven around the quest – Bilbo’s dinner, escaping the Trolls, the riddle game with Gollum, we even get to see Gandalf as a younger and more mischievous soul here.  The original readers of The Hobbit didn’t know there was another, darker, tale ahead…  but we do.  Doesn’t that color the story?  

    MAJ says Jackson should trust the audience and present a lighter film (perhaps creating the tonal differences that bothered Tolkien enough to attempted to rectify them,) but I’m with another commenter here – I’m not sure I want to watch a movie detailing Bilbo’s button loss, knowing what I know about what’s to come for these people. 

    So maybe this isn’t The Hobbit the book, but there’s a very rich and entertaining film here that does a great job at telling this story and simultaneously giving us more of the Middle Earth that we couldn’t get enough of.    

    As an aside, I loved the higher frame rate and the 3D…  my fiancé doesn’t normally enjoy 3D, and didn’t here either*, but wasn’t bothered by the higher frame rate.  Much like color, I don’t think it’s necessary to the story, but if you enjoy 3D I’d recommend it.

    *No, I don’t MAKE her watch 3D…  It was the only showing available.  (-;

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UIYLKKCSR2J6THJRWHPO26G3E4 laura

    “stick to the book” is in quotes for more than one reason…

  • Hank Graham

    Just caught this review of the reviews of “The Hobbit”:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/seth-abramson/dislike-peter-jacksons-em_b_2342591.html

    Is it just me, or does this remind anyone else of the spoof review a while back by the fella who was upset at the critics who didn’t like it, even though he hadn’t seen it yet?

    I don’t know who Seth Abramson is, but he is pissed at the poor reviews of “The Hobbit” because he doesn’t agree with them.

  • Youknowmevaguely

    Not meaning to be funny Maryann, but this is friendly advice, hope you will take it this way: If you were to use a good spell checker, and  grammar checker, it would help you enormously. One example the word “biast” doesn’t exist. It is spelled “biased”. Whilst the content of what you intend to say is always interesting, it’s often let down by serious grammatical errors, making it difficult to follow. Your grammar often doesn’t flow easily, and obstructs the readers understanding. These kind of things could be easily corrected, with better grammatical structure. While still retaining the meaning of what you want to say, promise. Hope you take this Ok. xx    

  • Jan_Willem

    But you are funny, if unintentionally so. Please do your research and read the “Minifesto” on reviewer bias before correcting an older, more experienced writer’s style. Also, Muphry’s Law: “the readers understanding” is one apostrophe short. 

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/NDUF6QLHDN7ASRUM2H6SUQCM6E Paul

    On another thread I was pondering 50 shades of trolldom. What’s a good term for someone like this? No activity on their profile apart from this message; a manner which is, superficially at least, quite polite; yet a message which shows no familiarity with its target, and which seems to have only trollish (emphasis on the ‘ish’) motives.

    Not a troll, then, that’s for sure. A leprechaun? A piskie?

  • Jan_Willem

    I suppose their name ought to reflect their earnestness, youth and naiveté. “Imp”? 

  • Tiffany

    Did anybody else have difficulty seeing the action through the 3-D glasses? I kept taking them off, putting them on, wiping them, holding them upside down. Everything looked blurry. (None of my friends reported this.) Are there some people out there with severe astigmatism who experienced similar ?

    Didn’t The Hobbit tread a lot of familiar paths? A lot of repeat elements: Gandalf whispering to the wee moth, “the eagles are coming!”, “wargs”, …  without the wit or brilliance of LOTR’s script.

    That said I totally agree that Martin Freeman was DELIGHTFUL as Bilbo, and the highpoint of the film for me was his riddling encounter with Gollum. Even that slightly self-conscious scene where Bilbo spares Gollum through pity (so important to set up the LOTR trilogy) was wonderful, moving, and essential.

    Coupla points:

    1) dwarves were not introduced carefully enough. I could NOT keep them straight, except Thorin/Richard Armitage and the fabulous Bobur/James Nesbitt;

    – Maryann could you do a female gaze on him, please?

    2) waaaay too much reliance on CGI. All that high-speed rabbit-sledding, Goblin Kinging and Azor the pale riding around being menacing was too much like watching a Disney film

    3) New Zealand has great milliners. Where does one get a hat like Bobur’s or Radaghast’s?

    Finally, even though I am a traditionalist, and don’t like when directors veer from fabulous original stories, I do grow tired that there are no speaking roles for women, except la Blanchett, of course. Wish Fran, Phillippa and Peter would’ve given one juicy little role to a semi-normal-looking female actress.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Brown/1113544894 Michael Brown

    Does anybody know how many different DVD versions Peter will make? Like a lot of Middle-Earthers, I own a couple of different copies of LOTR and really enjoyed the extended versions while the originals gather dust in the library. Sortof holding out until he releases a “Director’s Extended Cut” of Hobbit. Also, anybody know how much 48 fps will transfer to the DVD?