The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Blu-ray)

September 24, 2013 6 Min Read

Review by: Matt Malouf

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?

This is certainly a top-notch transfer on all fronts. Colors are deep and rich, details are strong in nearly every scene. Some of the dwarfs have scars and other marks on them and that shows up with great clarity and detail. Fleshtones are always lifelike and accurate and the various CGI creatures are more than convincing. The film has a wide variety of colors throughout and all of them get repeated here nicely. Facial features show nice detail such as the wrinkles in Gandalf’s face. This is a strong and crisp transfer that will more than please fans. I can’t think of anything negative to say here.

Audio: How’s it sound?

We get a 7.1 DTS HD track here and right from the start you will notice its impact. Things are nicely spread across all channels and gives great depth to the film. There are various rumbles and thumps throughout the film and the track presents that nicely here. The sounds of debris hitting the ground always come out with great effect. Things are always smooth and balanced here. Thevocals are also clean and concise. Just like the transfer, this is a top notch track.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This is a 3-Disc combo pack with a DVD disc and a second Bluray disc for the special features. There is also a digital copy code inside the package. It should be noted that an extended cut will be released. It will also include many more features as well. This was the trend with the Lord of the Rings films so this was to be expected.

  • New Zealand: Home of Middle-earth (6:35) – a decent behind the scenes look.
  • Video Blogs – We get 10 of them here, these total 2 hours and 7 minutes. They offer looks at various aspects of the production. A lot of information is covered here and it’s fairly interesting.
  • Trailers – Several ads for this film and other titles.

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