Sneak peek of "The Hobbit" technology gets mixed reaction from critics

A still from "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" James Fisher/Warner Bros.

A still from "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"
James Fisher/Warner Bros.
(CBS/AP) Critics and theater owners got a first look at Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," on Tuesday.

The director of the Oscar-winning "Lord of the Rings" trilogy previewed 10 minutes of assorted footage from his upcoming prequel, due out in December.

Pictures: "The Lord of the Rings"

"The Hobbit" was filmed in New Zealand using more frames per second than the Hollywood standard. Jackson said in a video introduction that using 48 frames per second produces a smoother image. But reaction to the new technology was mixed.

Jackson said the human eye no longer sees individual pictures under the faster speed, but a steady stream of clear images.

"The movement feels more real," Jackson said while introducing his film at the CinemaCon convention for theater owners on the Las Vegas Strip. "It's much more gentle on the eyes."

Indeed, the footage was vivid, with grass blades, facial lines and soaring mountains appearing luminous and pronounced. The actors looked almost touchable, as if they were performing live on stage.

Jackson warned the new approach would take time to adjust to.

Some bloggers agreed, quickly branding the footage released Tuesday as a failure in digital technology. The critics claimed the unfinished scenes looked like a low-budget TV show.

Variety film editor Josh Dickey tweeted, "Great Scott, THE HOBBIT in 48 frames-per-second is a thing to behold. Totally different experience. Not all will like the change."

British actor Martin Freeman stars as Bilbo Baggins, the hobbit who acquires the evil ring that sets the action of "The Lord of the Rings" in motion.

The footage showed Baggins lost in Gollum's cave. Andy Serkis' portrayal of the strange creature known for his "precious" obsession and speaking in the third person is just as disturbing as it was in the trilogy, with Baggins forced to appeal to Gollum's love of games to survive.

Ian McKellen, reprising the role of the wizard Gandalf, persuades Baggins to leave the shire and join him on his journey.

Orlando Bloom, as the elf Legolas, was shown with his character's flowing, blonde hair.

"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" is the first chapter in Jackson's two-part adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy classic.

The two films were shot simultaneously in 3-D, with the second one, "The Hobbit: There and Back Again," due in theaters in December 2013.

  • CBS News Staff

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