When The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug opens this weekend it will have done so having avoided some of the bad sentiment laid upon its predecessor.
Take, for instance, the issue of frame rate. Last year, the first installment of Peter Jackson's (totally unnecessary) trilogy suffered a spate of negative press after viewers balked at the fact that Jackson shot the film at 48 frames-per-second, double the industry standard of 24. Our Richard Lawson wrote in his review of the first film that "Jackson chose to film at a high frame rate and with Real 3D technology in mind — because 3D movies are doing well these days and, hell, doesn't hurt that the tickets cost more — and the results are frequently hideous."
This go-round, however, everyone seems to have gotten over that issue, even though Brent Lang and Lucas Shaw at The Wrap, for instance, reported Warner Bros. is releasing the film in the quicker frame rate in more theaters. Lang and Shaw explain that "as many as 750 theaters will exhibit 'The Desolation of Smaug' in the enhanced projection — up from roughly 450 theaters the first time." And yet! No one seems to care, they report.
In fact, reviews for the film have been generally more positive, though it should be noted that Lang and Shaw report that "Critics screenings for Desolation of Smaug were offered in standard projection, so that it will not factor into reviews." In his review Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter said that "the distractingly vivid images provided by the 48 frames-per-second in the first film appear to have been massaged properly this time, and there is a notably lower-than-average reduction in image brightness when using the 3D glasses." More broadly, Richard Corliss named it one of his top 10 best movies of the year at Time, and Jocelyn Noveck of the Associated Press wrote that this film feels "brisker, lighter, funnier" than its earlier counterpart.
Of course, reception is irrelevant. The first one made boatloads of cash, and this one will likely do so as well. Still, the movie's team seems to have shifted the focus for the better.