Plot: What’s it about?
After being stuck in production hell for several years, The Hobbit: An unexpected Journey finally arrived in theaters Christmas 2012, and was a huge success. The issues included legal issues with MGM, director Guillermo Del Toro dropping out and constant delays. Peter Jackson once again, returns as director here. His The Lord of The Rings films were all very successful, so it was good to have him back on board. It adds consistency in the direction and storytelling. I remember having to read The Hobbit in school many years ago. I enjoyed it a bit. I admit I am not thebiggest fan of this series, however, but I was eager to see what Peter Jackson would bring to the film. This is also noteworthy for being the first film shot at 48 frames per second (the standard is 24 frames). Supposedly, this was to give a more realistic, smoother look to the film. There are those who totally oppose this, but honestly, it hardly matters to me. The film looks quite nice (especially on Bluray). This time around, the focus is on Bilbo Baggins. He lives a fairly simple, routine life until Gandalf arrives with a mission. The journey is to reclaim the lost dwarf kingdom of Erebor from the dragon Smaug. This time, the journey includes not only Bilbo and Gandalf, but also the dwarfs. We meet many of the more familiar faces along the way, including cameos from Frodo and Gollum. The journey includes several close encounters, one of which includes giant spiders.
It is strange that Jackson would take a rather short book and extend it into a trilogy. This story really could be told in one movie and several scenes show repetition. Jackson does a fine job withthe effects but the deliberate pace can feel like an endurance test at times. I was never as involved here as I was with the Lord of the rings films. Those films had a sense of dread and urgency. Here, the tone is much to jovial for my liking. I understand this is how the book is, but I still don’t care for it. Also, with this being a prequel, I pretty much knew everything that was going to happen. Elijah Wood was also a much stronger lead than Martin Freeman (Bilbo). The dwarfs are also interchangeable. They hardly register at all and wear out their welcome fast. With the next film, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug on the horizon, I feel it will offer an improvement over this one. Part of the problem is expectations. The film was on the horizon for quite some time before finally being released. If a film takes a long (and unexpected) journey to theaters, then the result better be worth the wait. It wasn’t, however, and the initial disappoint many had is hard to dispute. Still, the film was a box office success and chapter two is coming. For the next installment, Jackson needs to pick up the pace a bit and tighten the narrative. It’ll also be nice to have theorigin part of the story out-of-the-way for the next chapter.
Video: How’s it look?
After being spoiled by the first three Lord of the Rings films, I sat down with this extended edition and wasn’t wondering if this would look good – namely I was wondering how good it would look. After all, our grading scale only goes up to 5 and it’s really hard to improve upon perfection, isn’t it? As expected The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey didn’t disappoint. Ever. I mean, I really couldn’t find a single thing to complain about and there’s no shortage of movie here, folks. The 2.40:1 AVC HD image is just sheer perfection. Warm, earthy tones mix seamlessly with the stark white of others, the pitch boac of the nighttime scenes. Everything’s rock solid. Black levels are strong, contrast is right on. Detail is amazing, down to the littlest nuance. Simply put, this is one of the best examples of picture quality I’ve seen on disc.
Audio: How’s it sound?
I’m sure I’ll sound like a broken record here, but the DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack is nothing to hawk at either. With just a tad over three hours of material, every speaker in your household will get its fair share of audio time. Vocals are strong and rich, surrounds offer an ample amount of support to enrich the scenes and the over powering front stage is constantly booming. Not to be outdone, the LFE also have a big part in the film. I really enjoyed the way that the deep bass was handled it was almost…subtle. Then again the rock battle scene had my sub spitting out things I’d never heard before. Lest I neglect to mention Howard Shore’s magnificent, robust score – amazing.
Supplements: What are the extras?
After seeing countless versions of the Lord of the Rings trilogy on both standard DVD and Blu-ray, it should come as no surprise that we’re seeing an Extended Version of The Hobbit. Regardless of your personal thoughts on the additional footage, the sheer depth of supplements should be reason enough to pick this up. There’s a lot of information to cover here, folks, nine hours worth to be exact – let’s get started.
*The Video Blogs that appeared on the Theatrical Cut Blu-ray are not on this Extended Edition.
- New Zealand: Home to Middle Earth – This segment appeared on the previous Blu-ray and gives us a look at the lush, lavish landscape of New Zealand which served as the literal backdrop for the series.
- Audio Commentary – If ever someone is familiar with Hobbits and Middle-Earth, it’s got to be Peter Jackson. Jackson and co-writer Philippa Boyens literally don’t stop talking for the duration of the movie. They cite the troubled production, the long road to get the movie made and just about everything in between. Truly this is a labor of love for Jackson and it shows. Sadly it’s the only audio commentary on the film but far better than nothing at all.
- The Appendices: A Long Expected Journey – The majority of the supplements are found in the appendices, both of which occupy a separate Blu-ray disc in this three disc set (the first disc is the film itself along with the commentary).
- Introduction by Peter Jackson – Jackson delivers a two minute introduction, complete with a sneak peek at The Desolation of Smaug. Never let it be said the guy doesn’t know how to market.
The Journey Back to Middle-Earth – Clocking in at just under and hour, this focuses on the production itself. We’re privy to the stresses of getting the film made, the cast and just about everything else that it took to get this made. The longest of the appendices, this is a must see.
Riddles in the Dark – The notable scene in which the trio set it up as if it were a play. Granted Serkis has quite a history with the Gollum character and this is a fitting testament to it.
An Unexpected Party – The dwarves’ visit to Bag End is shown and we get a glimpse into the motion capture technology (and how it’s improved) and some of the tricks of the trade when filming for scale.
Roast Mutton – We get a glimpse as to how frustrating it can be to be an actor and see the dwarves suit up in motion capture suits.
Bastion of the Greenwood – Seeing a giant rabbit pulling a sleigh is an odd site indeed. Learn more!
A Short Rest – The trio of Ian McKellan, Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving are once again back in Rivendell as we see some other familiar faces head out for a LOTR reunion.
Over Hill – The Misty Mountains and the rock giant battle make for a very memorable scene in the film and we get some glimpses into what made it work.
Under Hill – Jackson prepares to turn one goblin into many as we see the somewhat practical effect that will turn into an amazing digital effect.
Out of the Frying Pan – A look at the dwarves and Orc battle in its purest form, complete with green suits and gives us a look into how dull and drab things can look pre-digital effects. Still an interesting watch.
Return to Hobbiton – You don’t have to look too closely to see some familiar faces as the cast returns to Hobbiton.
The Epic of Scene 88 – The Warg chase scene is somewhat dissected, though we get a feel for the production crew as they literally race around to get shots.
The Battle of Moria – A look at the prologue sequence that literally laid the groundwork for the entire trilogy.
Edge of the Wilderland – The shoot is over and we get a feeling for how close the cast has become. Truly a memorable experience.
Home is Behind, the World Ahead – With principal photography over, the fun part beings…editing! Peter Jackson and his editor sit down and get to work and we get a sneak peak of some oft-seen characters from future films.
- The Company of Thorin – Clocking in at just over an hour this six-part documentary shows us of the five families of dwarves featured in the film. Included are “Assembling the Dwarves,” “Thorin, Fili & Kili,” “Balin & Dwalin,” “Oin & Gloin” and “Bifur, Bofur & Bombur.”
Mr. Baggins: The 14th Member – We get a pretty matter-of-fact interview with Martin Freeman, the man who will be the face of Bilbo Baggins (and The Hobbit) for quite some time.
Durin’s Folk: Creating the Dwarves – If you’ve ever wanted to know anything about dwarves, it’s here. Essentially everything is covered in this hour long piece that covers everything from casting to makeup.
The People and Denizens of Middle-Earth – Moving from small to large, we get a look at the different creatures that so dominate the film. Included are “The Stone Trolls,” “Radagast the Brown,” “Goblins” and “Azog the Defiler.”
Realms of the Third Age: From Bag End to Goblin Town – Not to be outdone, we now shift our focus to the different locales used in the film.
The Songs of The Hobbit – Tolkien’s songs were adapted for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and the filmmaker’s give us a look at how and why they were done the way they were.