The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opened in theaters over the weekend to mixed reviews by both critics and fans of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy novel. Leaving aside the question of the merits of the movie itself, most of the online conversation over the course of the weekend centered around director Peter Jackson‘s decision to shoot and display the film in 48 frames per second rather than the conventional 24 frames per second.
I wanted to do a social snapshot and see what people were saying on the Internet about this revolutionary new film presentation. Using the Spiral16 web and social media monitoring platform, we listened this weekend for mentions of “Hobbit” AND (“frame rate” OR “48 frames per second” OR “48 fps” OR “48fps”).
Not surprisingly, fan and critic reaction to the movie itself was mixed. Additionally, the reaction from those who saw the high-frame-rate (HFR) presentation in 48 FPS was also mixed. However, despite a vocal minority hating the choice of 48 FPS with a passion (which we will get to in a minute), most of the discussion around the higher frame rate was positive for both those looking forward to seeing the movie, or positive reaction to seeing the movie in the Jackson-preferred format of HFR.
Positive fan reaction over seeing The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in 48 FPS centered around two subjects: Increased image clarity and detail, and the overall feel of a bigger movie experience.
Several professional movie critics were harsher on Jackson’s use of the higher frame rate such as Latino Review’s Sean Hutchinson who thought “this distracting bit of high frame rate technology only functions to take you out of the action at every turn” and even went so far as to pronounce doom to the future of cinema if 48 FPS catches on:
Movieline’s Jen Yamato took a more scientific approach as to the problems with HFR and why “it’s not something we’ll get used to over time.” Yamato interviewed filmmaker James Kerwin in discussing that Jackson and his team are using a frame rate beyond what viewers can comprehend, or likely accept:
And there were some fans who were somewhat less eloquent in their displeasure at the 48 FPS version of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey:
The Spiral16 web and social media monitoring platform looks at a wide spectrum of posts, from blogs and forums, to social media networks and mainstream news outlets. Taking the news sites and movie blogs out of the equation and looking strictly at Twitter, our overall sentiment chart looks like this:
The comments on Twitter that swing either very positively or very negatively are the ones that register in the green and red here. As you can see, in terms of solid sentiment one way or the other, it’s two-to-one on the positive side. The neutral category mostly represents those asking questions about The Hobbit, tweeting plans the see the film, or sharing links.
Despite several critics and movie bloggers’ issues with Peter Jackson’s use of a higher-frame-rate, a two-to-one majority of regular moviegoers on Twitter found the visual extravaganza a positive experience. At least for one weekend, popular opinion would seem to suggest the 48 FPS version of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a success not only at the box office, but with a substantial portion of its target audience on social media as well.