Mid-Week Poll: How Will You See ‘The Desolation of Smaug’?

This time a year ago, ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ opened amid a firestorm of debate – not just about its content and quality (which divided many viewers), but about the High Frame Rate 48 fps photographic format that Peter Jackson chose to shoot it in. This week’s release of ‘The Desolation of Smaug’ (ugh, that title…) will likewise be screened in a variety of projection formats – from 2D to 3D, and from standard speed to HFR. Knowing what you do about how the first one turned out, in which theatrical format will you choose to watch the sequel? Or will you not bother to see this one at all?

Despite a significant negative reaction from many viewers and critics, Peter Jackson is still bullish on the 48 fps technology. In fact, Warner Bros. has doubled the number of theaters equipped to project the sequel in HFR. However, the studio is greatly downplaying the frame rate conversation, and won’t screen the movie for critics in HFR at all.

I never saw ‘An Unexpected Journey’ in theaters in any format. I told myself that I’d wait for Blu-ray, but didn’t buy the disc either. Instead, I saw about ten minutes of the movie on HBO – a scene in which an elderly wizard with bird poop in his beard raced a sled pulled by bunnies through the bramble of a forest at top speeds – and decided that was all I needed to see. Frankly, I have more than a few issues with Jackson’s first ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy, and this was just too much to bear.

As such, I won’t pay to see the sequel at all. Nevertheless, I remain interested in what our readers make of this 48 fps thing.

Because the studio is being evasive with providing the details, finding a definitive list of theaters that will screen the movie in 48 fps is difficult. This site has attempted to compile a list as best as it’s able.

The HFR format is only available with 3D screenings, not with 2D. As far as I can tell, all IMAX showings of the movie (whether 24 fps or 48 fps) will be in 3D.

How Will You See 'The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug'?

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  1. Pedram

    That scene you speak of (with Radagast) isn’t be best in the movie. The opening prologue is one of my favourite scenes, along with the one where they show the flash-back to Thorin fighting the pale orc, and also the riddles in the dark scene with Golum. I could have done without the Goblin king though.

    But if you’re not a fan of the LOTR films then it’s understandable that you wouldn’t like this either.

  2. Pedram

    Regarding HFR, there may have been a lot of negative reaction from the press, but I’ve heard mostly positive reaction from people I’ve talked to (not online), and I also saw many comments online supporting the technology (generally on articles bashing HFR), and saying others they spoke to did as well.

    It seems like the regular folks reacted more positively to it (especially the younger generation who don’t have as much attachment to the frame rate at which films have been shown for a long time), but they aren’t as vocal about it on the internet.

  3. Timcharger

    Josh: “I saw about ten minutes of the movie on HBO – a scene in which an elderly wizard with bird poop in his beard raced a sled pulled by bunnies through the bramble of a forest at top speeds – and decided that was all I needed to see.”

    Tim: Imagine 25 years ago, all you ever saw on HBO was 10 minutes of a scene where a dude is straddling a giant worm through dunes of sand at top speeds, and decided that was all you needed to see.

    Josh: Touche.

    Tim: 🙂

    • Josh Zyber

      Now imagine that the worm-riding movie was the fourth entry in a franchise you had seen the first three of and weren’t really enthused about, made by a director you were never overly fond of at the best of times, whose other recent movies had been pretty terrible.

      Context is important, Tim.

      • Timcharger

        Context IS important, yet you admit to seeing only 10 minutes of Hobbit OUT OF CONTEXT. This judging of the entire film through a 2% scene of the film of silly dog-sized rabbits pulling a sled is exactly the point.

        If you judge a blu-ray by it’s slipcover, are you going to cite back to me the saying: don’t judge a book by its cover?

        • Josh Zyber

          Don’t know what to tell you, Tim. I’m not a very big fan of these movies to begin with, and that scene was astoundingly stupid. I just don’t have much interest in watching the rest of that movie or this one.

          • William Henley

            I get this all the time myself, Josh. Like people are shocked that I haven’t seen Fast and Furious 5 or 6 yet, and just start talking about how great they were. I am like “I didn’t like the first one, why would I want to see the sequels”.

            Television shows I am even more about that. I didn’t like the first couple of episodes of Downton Abby, why would I continue to watch it? Don’t like crime drama shows, why would I watch CSI or any of its spinoffs?

            I just find it amazing that people think just because they like something, you must as well. I actually had a guy in an Amazon forum call me a complete idiot because I say that Poltergeist 2 The Other side was complete garbage compared to the first, and was a low-budget film. He came back saying how awesome this movie was, and how it had a $19 million budget. I was like, um, even adjusting for inflation, that is still a low budget, and it is still a bad movie. I gave up – fanboys will do anything to convince you that the thing they like is the greatest thing in the world and if you just give it a shot you will love it.

            Although I must admit that I do that from time to time. Like on Enterprise – not every episode takes place in caves (a few do) so you are stupid for not liking that show. 🙂

          • JM

            ‘Fast Five’ is like ‘Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol’ cranked to 11.

            A genre franchise, taken by a new director to the highest level of practical action filmmaking. They put ‘Ocean’s 11,’ ‘Bourne Ultimatum’ and ‘Black Hawk Down’ in a blender and hit Frappé. The second unit team lays down shock after awe. The Rock fucking owns it. The new Wonder Woman doesn’t do much other than get her ass grabbed, but she totally nails it. The stunt men and women prove unquestionably that throwing live human bodies into death-defying sequences is a 1000x more cinematic than the outsourced CGI bullshit that’s the new boring.

            I never saw ‘1-4’ but ‘Fast Five’ was the most fun I had in all of 2011.

            The Hobbit is like the Star Wars prequels all over again.

    • William Henley

      Bad analogy – the worm-ridding scene is a cool moment in Dune. The Radagast scene is really weak and longer than it needed to be. I wish they had of spent maybe another couple of minutes in Rivendale and have left out the whole hedgehog scene. That whole Ragagast scene could have just started with him at the fortress.

      The worm-ridding scene was also only 2 minutes of the movie:

      The hedgehog scene alone in The Hobbit is 3 minutes long:

      Seriously, the whole Ragagast scene should have just started here:

  4. Timcharger

    “In 3D at 48 fps, just as Peter Jackson intends it to be seen.”
    “In IMAX 3D and 48fps. It’s the best of everything!”

    Is there an official quote citing Jackson’s preference? Any links?

      • Timcharger

        No, my question isn’t HFR or not HFR. Both my quotes had the same 48 fps.

        I’m wondering if Jackson is quoted saying he prefers a particular screen dimension. Did he open up frame for IMAX screens?

        Pls, pls, pls I’m not debating what you should own at your home. Just if Jackson has or has not come out on which screen he intends for viewing Smaug.

        • William Henley

          AFAIK, none of Jackson’s movies have expanded IMAX scenes. I don’t think the cameras they used support that dimension anyways (although I may be wrong, been about a year since I looked it up).

          As all three movies were shot simultaniously, I would expect the aspect ratio to be the same as the last movie.

        • Josh Zyber

          The Hobbit movies are constant 2.40:1, even in IMAX theaters. They do not have alternating aspect ratios. Most directors find that distracting, including some who’ve experimented with it.

          • I found the alternating aspect ratios to be great in The Dark Knight. But it alternated because Nolan didn’t want to film the entire movie that way.

            I did not find it distracting besides being awed by the amazing shots in Full IMAX.

  5. William Henley

    I liked TLOTR alright, and really liked the first Hobbit movie. I think what I like is that they are taking the time to build the world and do character development, and that is really what the books were – they were more about the world and the atmosphere than about the actual story (otherwise the story could have been told in about a third the space – feel free to disagree, that is just my opinion).

    As such, the HFR 3D was the perfect way to see this movie as it really drew you into this world. The 3D is some of the best I have ever seen in any movie, and totally recommend it.

    The HFR was really jarring at first, and I am not sure if it is just because I had never seen anything at that framerate (I don’t think that is correct, I have seen some rides and demos before at high framerates), or if the opening prolouge was actually shot at 24fps and converted. In any case, once we got to The Shire, about 5-10 minutes into the movie, it looked incredible. I am looking forward to seeing this in theaters really for that experience.

    What does sadden me though is that the closest theater to me that has ATMOS refuses to show anything in 3D in their ATMOS auditorium. I’ll check to see if any more theaters in the area have rolled it out, but it looks like, if I want to see it in both HFR and Atmos, I will have to drive about 45-60 minutes away.

    • Pedram

      Totally agree with your first two paragraphs.

      Also, the same thing happened to me with the Atmos theatre near me. I saw the first film in HFR and Atmos last year (and it was amazing IMO), but this year the same cinema hasn’t announced HFR showings. That is a big bummer, since HFR/Atmos is the premiere way to see this to me. Perhaps it was because they had technical issues with it on opening night and want to make sure that everything works fine before going “live” with it.

      In general, I think the reaction to HFR was positive by fans, since they’re expanding the showings this year (2500 screens compared to 1669 last year).

  6. Elizabeth

    Where’s the option, “Going to sneak into the most convenient showing after American Hustle next week because I’m curious to see it’s any better than the over-long first movie but not curious enough to spend my money on it?”

  7. Freakyguy666

    Not a fan of TLOTR movies nor did I like the Hobbit much. But I will be seeing part 2 as I’ve heard it’s much better paced than part 1.

    Wrt 48fps, it was distracting to me. I would not recommend it. The 3D effects were well-done though. I think my take on 48fps is that I believe movement becomes MORE noticeable at this speed vs 24fps. It is akin to crossing the uncanny valley…the closer you get the more distracting it becomes. I think 60fps would solve this issue, and I’m not surprised that Cameron and several others on the bleeding edge are skipping 48fps and going straight to 60.

    That said, I plan on watching Hobbit in ATMOS 3D.

    • Pedram

      What I’ve found with HFR (or even frame interpolation) making movement more noticeable is that the small movements are much more noticeable, but long pans are much smoother (and nicer IMO).

      Any small amount of camera shake is exaggerated, and is more annoying (whereas it may not have been even very noticeable in 24fps), so that definitely needs to be addressed in a movie that’s done in HFR.

      Not sure if that’s what you meant though.

      • Because most people that do not like HFR really can’t give you a reason other than “it’s distracting” or “Its Different”. When these people first saw a movie in 3D, I wonder if they said the same thing.

        Aside from the early attempts to cash grab on Avatars success with 3D, the tech has improved significantly. And HFR makes 3D even better.

        Because the only real examples of higher frame rate presentations have been via the 60fps found on Soap Operas and Newscasts on Television that is usually what people jump right to when complaining about this with the Hobbit films.

        I would love to get some news articles from when they had the transition to 24fps and see how many people said similar things.

        • William Henley

          Was there really a “transition” though to 24fps? My understanding was that early films used several different framerates – partly due to the fact of the hand-cranked cameras, partly to save on expensive film, but mainly because there was no standard. Early films had framerates anywhere from 12FPS all the way up to 26FPS. 24FPS seems to have been standardized when sound started being printed on film.

          While many silent era films are 16FPS, as the films were hand-cranked, it is hard to find films that were exactly 16FPS.

          So early framerates were all over the place – most lower than 24fps, but some were higher. As audiences were used to seeing stuff projected at different film rates, I am sure that the “transition” to 24fps was not that jaring to most audiences.

  8. tomandshell

    So if you’re only able to see it in regular 3D because your local theater isn’t showing it in HFR 3D even though that’s how you’d like to see it, you automatically have to vote that the first one looked awful in HFR? What a stupidly skewed and rigged poll.

  9. Ted S.

    I’m going to see it a digital IMAX 3D at 24fps and if I really like the movie, I’ll see it again at the HFR theater with Dolby Atmos sound.

  10. IMAX HFR 3D for sure, loved the first film (have seen it at least 6 times now including the 3D extended cut) and just cant wait to see the 2nd in HFR again. HFR was amazing and I so wish I could get that at home, so needless to say, anything that ends up in HFR I’ll probably go see, I’m a big supporter of this 🙂

  11. Kyle

    First off I feel the poll options would have been better fit if they were just left stating which version you were going to see.

    I chose 2D, not because i hate 3d, but its the only format available at my local theatre.

  12. motorheadache

    I hated the HFR when I saw it in the first movie, so I knew to pass on that this time. I still don’t think it looks any different than that frame interpolation feature on modern HDTVs.

    Saw Desolation of Smaug in 3D 24 frames. Although I enjoy some films in 3D (most recently being Thor: The Dark World), there was barely a 3D effect in the film at all and felt pointless.

    I would personally recommend good old fashioned 24 frames 2D for this one. Oh, and it was a good movie, better than the first.

    • No offense than you do not understand what your TV is doing as opposed to something natively shot at or created at that frame rate.

      “Good Old Fashioned 24 frames 2D”, did you yell at HFR and tell it to get off your lawn too?

      • motorheadache

        I actually DO understand the the “smooth motion” feature on TV’s merely simulates the frames. So yes, actual HFR is “better.” But it still produces the same look, which I don’t like.

        And I’m all for new stuff if I think it doesn’t suck. There’s plenty of movies I enjoy in 3D, and I love the look of many modern digital 4K shot movies.

        But by all means, continue to be HFR’s smart ass white knight to all who post something negative about it.

  13. Brad

    I was initially stoked about seeing the desolation in HFR. I’m just having a hard time adjusting to the “bad BBC movie” look. HFR is like they’re acting in front of you….unfortunately I didn’t go to the theatre to watch a one act play. I wanted fantasy…..I just feel that the uber-realism takes away from the mental escape. I personally have enjoyed the hell out of LOTR movies in their entirety. Yea they’re not perfect, but at least he’s trying capture the majority of the novelizations. I still can’t dig the HFR. WE ENDED UP SNEAKING INTO A 24 FPS showing, but I will say that at 48 fps, the cg was crisp and looked great. you could see noticeably more camera jerkiness, and the shallowness of the feel killed it for me. And to comment on your worm thing….I saw a piece of this movie once, a kid in the desert standing next to some kind of hut looking at two suns…. Thought it seemed boring…. Never saw anymore of them Star Wars movies….just sayin.

  14. Pedram

    As a follow up after having seen it in HFR on Friday, I have to say that I was surprised to notice the “cheap” look people complain about this time. I didn’t notice it on the first film; it only looked like it was sped up a bit, but that went away after about two minutes (after the film first leaves Bilbo’s house and goes to Dale).

    This time, the “cheap” look lasted about 10 minutes, but then after that it went away and everything was “normal” movie feel again, just really smooth. Perhaps it has to do with the type of scenes in the opening.

  15. Rick

    I saw this movie in both IMAX 3D HFR and 2D. I must say that the Soap Opera Effect was quite noticeable in my IMAX viewing, and I was very disappointed with that. My 2D viewing was much better, and the movie actually looked like a movie in that presentation mode, and it was smooth too during pans, no jutter seen. I don’t know what’s going on, but someone should get fired for that soap opera effect!