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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Fantasy > Literature > Comedy > Magic > Mythology > The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey (2012/Warner/New Line Cinema Blu-ray 3D + Blu-Ray 2D + DVD + Ultraviolet)

The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey (2012/Warner/New Line Cinema Blu-ray 3D + Blu-Ray 2D + DVD + Ultraviolet)

3D Picture: A-     2D Picture: A-/B     Sound: A-/A-/B     Extras: C+     Film: B+

 

The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey or The Hobbit: Part 1 of 3 is a not so unexpected hit.  Since (before) Peter Jackson made the Lord of Rings films there was talk of adapting JRR Tolkien’s 1937 classic novel into a film.  There was the (now cult classic) 1977 animated, musical television special created by Rankin/Bass Productions for NBC; and though it stuck closely to the source material it felt compressed and obviously suffered due to its intended ‘made for TV’  style.  The studio would go on to make a sequel in the form of the ‘made for TV’ version of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.  Outside of a little known USSR created film (entitled The Hobbit), the compressed animated version was the only Hobbit audiences ever saw; Peter Jackson, however, took the novel in a different direction when he decided to expand The Hobbit (the shortest Tolkien novel) into not one, not two, but THREE films.  After his major success with the other three Lord of the Rings films, Jackson was the obvious heir to throne and after years of haggling Jackson geared up to finish up the Tolkien classic series.

The Hobbit is a tale of an unassuming Hobbit named Bilbo Baggins who was conformable in his life in his shire.  He spent his days reading, eating, and generally enjoying life as time passed by; but all of that was soon to change for Bilbo as he was cast into an adventure bigger than any Hobbit could have ever expected.  Gandolf the wizard (Sir Ian McKellen reprising his role) arrives with a band of dwarves who are looking to take back their homeland (and gold) from a nasty, fire breathing dragon named Smaug.  It has taken years for the dwarves to amass a crew brave enough to take on the fearless dragon; and even at that they are outmatched.  So why Bilbo Baggins?  A Hobbit with seemingly no special powers or abilities, yet Gandolf names him essential to the journey.  Bilbo, having done little wrong in his life, is said to be their ‘thief;’ someone small enough and unassuming enough to slip in and out unnoticed.  The dwarves are hesitant and less than impressed, but on Gandolf’s word accept him into the crew.  So we’re off!  An adventure of epic proportions begins…

My rating of a ‘B+’ on this film may be more than generous as I am a huge fanboy of Tolkien and I know what is to come; so to me, the more the better.  Though I am certain most people are asking ‘How did Peter Jackson stretch the shortest book into three films?!’  The answer consists of two parts; one is obvious studio greed (something most assume) and two is that Jackson admittedly felt this was his last/only chance to get back to Middle Earth, so he was going to take full advantage.  This is to say that YES the source material for The Hobbit is sparse, but Jackson also consulted Tolkien’s short stories, unfinished works, and LOTR appendices to give the films some heft.  From this we get what some would consider a ‘bloated’ tale, but personally I find it awesome and amazing.  The film at times is tangential as it diverges from the main storyline to give some background or a side story, but (as Jackson said) is something audiences would most likely never get to experience if not here.

I never found the film to be choppy or dragging; as it moves along at a solid pace and there is plenty of action and adventure to keep any viewers’ attention.  I will say that in terms of ‘story progression’ the story doesn’t go far, but it is the journey that is exciting anyhow.  On the path to Smaug we see our heroes encounter some trolls, wizards, and even a familiar foe named Gollum;  all very exciting, all very crucial to character development and the world of Tolkien.

I think hardcore Tolkien fans will get the most out of this film, but at the same time casual viewers will find plenty to enjoy as well.  The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug will arrive in theaters in 2013.

The technical features on this Blu-ray 3D set are amazing!  I think studios are finally realizing that simply turning a standard release into 3D isn’t enough; color, contrast, and everything in between must be revamped to give the best quality picture.  The Blu-ray 3D and Blu-ray are equal in quality, each having a few hiccups along the way, but nearly perfect.  The film was created using a higher frame rate than filmmakers had used in the past (now using 48 fps), which many were up in arms about, but I feel it gives the film a more natural appearance.  Here on Blu-ray 3D the film is presented in a 1080p, MVC-encoded 3-D MPEG-4, 2.40 X 1 image at 24 fps as home theaters don’t have the 48 fps capabilities at this time; heck, most theaters don’t!  Personally I preferred the standard AVC encoded 1080p 2D Blu-ray (still don’t like 3D glasses), but both versions host solidly framing blacks, bright colors, and little to no light/dark issues.

The film can be quite dark at times (though not as dark/gritty as the 3 previous films), but the picture quality is never bogged down and holds strong with a crisp, clean, clear image.  If anything I would have preferred some grit/grime from the RED EPIC 5K HD 3D shoot as is feels too bright/clean at times, even as supreme contrast, detail, and texture are seen.  The sound is a stunning 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio lossless mix that uses every speaker thoroughly.  The fluid sound bounces around the room with ease, putting the viewer right in the midst of the action/adventure.  The immersive soundscape doesn’t fail to impress as everything from dialogue to ambient noises to musical scores projects smoothly to make a serene and captivating viewing experience.  Just like you can see every fiber, blade of grass and hair with the picture, the sound is equally impressive as even the faintest noise is heard giving the film life and texture.

Extras are merely adequate as not much was included; though undoubtedly there will be some kind of super-duper edition to come.  Extras include:

·         New Zealand: Home of Middle Earth

·         Trailers

·         Video Blogs

Excellent film, with more to come!

 

-   Michael P. Dougherty II


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