The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Peter Jackson gave the world a beloved, wildly successful film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, culminating in a record-breaking Oscar sweep, so of course, he was the obvious choice to helm the Hobbit prequels. But whereas the Rings trilogy made a newbie like me love it with its epic thrills and fascinating characters, An Unexpected Journey seems to be in love with its own familiar world and everyone in it. We meet a younger Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit happily minding his own business when the wizard Gandalf drafts him for a dangerous quest. Unfortunately, the story takes quite a while to move forward, the trappings feel stale, and the jokes mostly fall flat. Perhaps I’ve grown more jaded in the nine years since The Return of the King, but I find the “magic” here less fantastical and instead rather silly, such as one particularly tedious fellow’s rabbit-drawn sled. in 3D by a master, Hobbit was shot digitally, notoriously at 48 frames per second, but the results are warm, organic, and absolutely stunning on Blu-ray. The movie is split onto two movie-only Blu-ray 3D platters to assure optimal quality, and the ambitious scope shines through in the flawless detail, celebrating Gandalf’s every facial hair and Bilbo’s enormous pores. The stereoscopic effect is striking, with multiple layers of depth, although wearing those glasses for nigh on three hours might prove a challenge. The 2D version (on a separate, single disc) is first-rate as well, throbbing with vibrant greens.

The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack is no less spectacular, from tiny insects all the way up to the surround and bass of a big Orc-versus-dwarf battle. There are also flying plates, whizzing arrows, shrieking demons, angry bats, and be sure to watch out for falling rocks. Howard Shore’s music does its best to keep matters interesting with its full, wide mix, and in general this track creates a wonderful illusion of off-camera activity.

A DVD and an UltraViolet Digital Copy are also bundled inside, plus another disc of extras in high definition. As with the initial releases of the Lord of the Rings films on home video, these bonuses are mostly fluff: a featurette on the locations, 10 of Jackson’s video blogs created years ago to preview the movie online, and a trailer gallery. We can only assume that a special edition is in our future, complete with an extended director’s cut. I’m going to need a big pot of coffee for that one.

Blu-Ray 3D
Studio: Warner Bros., 2012
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio Format: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
Length: 170 mins.
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Peter Jackson
Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage

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