With all the talk of summer blockbusters on the horizon, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that one of the most-anticipated (for many, the most anticipated) films due out in 2012 won’t arrive until this winter. Obviously, we are talking about Gerard Butler’s new rom-com Playing the Field Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

Jackson is among the big-name filmmakers in attendance at the currently-ongoing CinemaCon 2012 in Las Vegas. There, the Oscar-winner talked up his decision to shoot both Hobbit movies at double the normal frame rate – and screened some ten minutes of footage from his $500 million budgeted, cutting-edge 3D return venture into J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantastical realm of Middle-earth.

While the early consensus on whether or not The Hobbit actually benefits from being viewed at 48 f.p.s. is somewhat mixed (more on that later), the visuals and scenery glimpsed in the film’s CinemaCon sizzle reel has prompted nothing but rave reviews so far – as evidenced by the following recap, written up by Coming Soon‘s Edward Douglas:

It opened with lots of sweeping shots of the mountains and landscapes of Middle Earth set to Howard Shore’s distinctive score leading into an introduction by the older Bilbo, played by Ian Holm, telling the story of his journey to Frodo, and we see a brief glimpse of Elijah Wood as his “Lord of the Rings” character. This then leads into the opening from the trailer of Gandalf approaching Bilbo to go on a journey with the dwarves.

There’s also a significant scene where Gandalf is presenting “the Immortal Blade” to a council made up of Christopher Lee’s Saruman, Cate Blanchett’s Galadriel, and Hugo Weaving’s Elrond as they discuss the sword’s origins and how Gandalf was able to get it from the crypt of the Witch King where he was buried in a tomb covered with spells preventing it from being opened.

The scenes of the group walking across the green fields and icy mountains of Middle Earth (i.e. New Zealand) were definitely reminiscent of “Fellowship of the Rings” and we even saw a little bit of Gandalf on his steed and a scene where the dwarves first encounter Orlando Bloom’s Legolas.

The highlight though was an extended conversation between Bilbo and Smeagol/Gollum where Bilbo is trying to get directions from the strange creature who seems to be more interested in playing a game of riddles. Andy Serkis’ ability to switch Smeagol’s schizophrenic personalities still seems to be intact, and from what we saw, Martin Freeman seems absolutely perfect as Bilbo and we think audiences will like him as much as they did the Hobbits in the “Lord of the Rings” movies.

For the complete scoop on what was shown during the Hobbit presentation, head on over to Coming Soon.

As mentioned before, the only issue that Douglas (and other CinemaCon attendees) raised is The Hobbit looks a bit too perfect when viewed at 48 f.p.s. – enough so as to draw attention to the difference between the organic New Zealand landscapes and the complimentary sets, models, and digital effects used to create the landmarks and non-human residents of Middle-earth. It’s similar to the result you get when watching an older movie in the Blu-ray format – where, suddenly, the aesthetic flaws previously masked by the cloudier film stock, are all the more glaringly apparent. It’s also an issue with new HD TV’s which offer a “smooth motion” function – a feature that unnerves some viewers that are not prepared for the loss of that grainy layer that signifies you are watching something artificial.

Bear in mind, the Hobbit footage previewed featured incomplete FX work and editing – not to mention, it’s not all that clear how many theaters will actually screen the movie(s) at 48 f.p.s. – so this shouldn’t be taken as a final verdict on that aspect of the film. As this writer can attest, having seen the Hobbit teaser trailer in IMAX 3D, the visuals are still quite beautiful and full of eye-popping colors, even when viewed at the “boring ol'” regular frame rate.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey arrives in theaters around the U.S. on December 14th, 2012.

Source: Coming Soon