So how do I feel about HFR?
First of all, I should mention that I'm a huge Hobbit / Tolkien geek. And anything that would have gotten in the way of telling that narrative as I think it deserves, would have been seen as useless to me, even if the new technology comes from RED cameras, which I'm a big fan of as well.
I really do think that a lot of critics are blowing it out of proportion. Yes I do think that we can somewhat compare the look to home video, or soap operas, or smooth-o-matic tru-motion video, or whatever crap they are putting on TV's these days (which I hate with a passion). We can compare it to these things because it's the closest type of image we can relate it/reference it to, but IT IS NOT the same. There is a huge visual difference when you see 48 FULL frames captured and projected, instead of them being interlaced, or inter-created. The amount of visual information, clarity, and beauty of each frame is noticeable. At least it was to me. The 3D judder or strobing is almost gone, and it gives this very unique depth to the frame even in fast-paced action scenes. I find these comparisons very similar to the whole 2k vs 4k debacle. A lot of people, even professionals, are going to the theater and watching a movie like The Avengers or Skyfall and saying that they look beautiful enough, or good enough. That 4k is not that big of a deal. What I will predict will happen to these people however, is once the 4k future is here, and we have been exposed to plenty of true 4k acquisition and projection, we are going to look back and say "It was good enough then, and even if it still is, I can notice the big difference now." Just like it happened with HD vs SD. I've had the privilege to be exposed to a lot of 4K projection by now, and when I go to a 2k movie "sadly" I do notice the big difference (ignorance can be bliss sometimes I guess). I think that if we were exposed to more true HFR 3D footage, we would be able to tell the big difference it has vs the "soap opera" look.
I do think the brain plays tricks with you as you are watching it however, this happened to me during close-ups. It almost feels like the video is sped-up. Halfway through the movie however, this illusion stopped happening, or not as much as in the first half. I believe this was my brain trying to adjust to the amount of visual information. My hope is that once we start watch more and more of this technology, those nuances will be corrected by our brain. In fact, I plan on watching this movie several times in all of its formats just so I can make the best judgement out of it. (I did love the movie, so this won't be a chore to me, I will rather enjoy this experiment).
Bare in mind that HFR is intended to be used in 3D projection. Not 2D. If it was used for 2D I could see the case being made that it is useless, but not this time around. I think the use of 3D HFR was good if not great, and I think I can see why they decided to take such a big risk with it. It did bring something unique things to the table, even if many argue that it's a step backwards. I really don't think it is. I can't imagine the battle scenes or the stone giants scene as incredible as it was watching them in 3D HFR. I have never seen anything like it. Which makes me very excited about the battle of the Five Armies in the third movie. HFR acquisition and projection can become a new cinematography language, and I don't think it will be too long where we'll see movies with different frame rates throughout the movie in order to express different things. This is just the first movie, and of course there will be things that didn't work out as well, but I'm glad that Peter Jackson and Andrew Lesnie are trying it out. It helps us learn more about the craft we love.