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Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - March, 2013

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“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Stephen Hornbrook

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Synopsis

Before The Lord of the Rings there was The Hobbit, an extraordinary tale about Bilbo Baggins.  The epic Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor was taken over by an extremely dangerous dragon, Smaug.  A group of Dwarves led by King Thorin stops by the Shire for an extra member for their quest.  Suggested by Gandalf the Grey, Bilbo has been requested to join their journey to reclaim Erebor.  Along their journey to the east, the group of heroes face many dangers such as goblins and orcs.  The climax of An Unexpected Journey occurs in the goblin caverns where Bilbo meets Gollum and finds the ring.

 

Specifications

  • New Line Cinema
  • 2012, Color, rated: PG-13, 2 hours 49 Minutes
  • 1080p
  • Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
  • English, DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
  • Starring: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage
  • Directed by: Peter Jackson
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Fantastical
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

After a lukewarm response from fans and press, my expectations for the first part of The Hobbit were less than optimal.  I do not understand why Peter Jackson felt the need to split this story into 3 long movies, other than to feed his own personal obsession.  I am fairly certain once all three movies are out that a perfect edit down to one lengthy but concise movie would be ideal.  Of course, Jackson will never do this.  There was a lot of fluff in An Unexpected Journey and that ruined the pacing of the movie.  As a fan of The Lord of the Rings and fantasy in general, I still enjoyed An Unexpected Journey, but it fell way short of the quality that was any of the three Lord of the Rings films.  Still, there isn’t a lot of fantasy movies to choose from, so I would still recommend watching The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

Technical

A lot of fuss was made about Jackson’s use of 48fps 3D video.  Many complained the movie’s picture quality was so sharp and clear that it revealed the fake nature of a movie.  I have to say that having missed the movie in the theaters and watching it for the first time in normal 24fps Blu-ray, that many of the scenes had a fake feel to them.  Often the use of lighting on a soundstage gave the movie a cheap feeling.  I haven’t had the chance to research why Peter Jackson chose to film this way, but it often didn’t look right to me.  I can imagine seeing in in higher frame rate would only exacerbate the issue.  Those notes aside, the image quality on the blu-ray is stunning with some of the best image detail I have ever seen on Blu-ray.

The 7.1 DTS-HD MA audio track is solid, but not as impressive as the mixes on The Lord of the Rings movies.  There wasn’t as much bone crunching bass in this one and use of the extra center surround channel could have been more aggressive in my opinion.

 

Extras

A short bit on New Zealand, 2 hours worth of production video blogs