THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY
Extended Blu-ray Edition
Review by Mark Wiechman
Stars: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, James Nesbitt, Ken Stott,
Director: Peter Jackson
Audio: DTS HD 7.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.77:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 184 Minutes
Release Date: November 5, 2013
"If you have ever seen a dragon in a pinch, you will
realize that this was only poetical exaggeration applied to any hobbit, even to
Old Took's great-granduncle Bullroarer, who was so huge (for a hobbit) that he
could ride a horse. He charged the ranks of the goblins of Mount Gram in the
Battle of the Green Fields, and knocked their king Golfibul's head clean off
with a wooden club. It sailed a hundred yards through the air and went down a
rabbit-hole, and in this way the battle was won and the game of Golf was
invented at the same moment."
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
It came as no surprise to me that there was interest in bringing The
Hobbit to the big screen, partly
because, like the Lord of the
Rings trilogy, there had not been
a satisfactory adaptation that could measure up to the book. But The
Hobbit is a much shorter and more
basic book, almost a children's story about dwarves and a dragon. When
it was announced that this film would actually become a trilogy, I was curious
about whether Peter Jackson and crew would incorporate other Tolkien material
into it, extending it and in some ways actually improving on the original. And
of course, would this film measure up to Jackson's already Oscar-winning film The
Return of the King?
In some ways, The Hobbit does
measure up, but in others it falls a little short. The
video, audio, and overall writing and structure and wonderful, and seeing
mountains grow legs and fight with each other is only topped by meeting Gollum
for the first time, in an even more lifelike representation. My
complaints are some of the little things that they just did not get right.
My complaints are these: most of the
dwarves do not look like each other, but rather half of them look plastic and
the others merely appear to be small humans. They
do not seem stocky and bearded in the way we expect. Richard Armitage is a
wonderful talent, but deserved more makeup so that he looks like a dwarven
prince and not just a human. Sylvester
McCoy is wonderful as the goofy wizard Radagast, but seems to have plaster on
the side of his face. He resembles
someone from a poor school costumed play. Also,
some of the voices of monsters are almost laughable. There
is a critical new villain, the Necromancer, who we barely see at all but who I
assume will appear again, but I fear he will be a Boba Fett kind of character
that is supposed to be a big deal, but that will not really matter too much.
This Blu-ray release features stunning visuals and cinematography but maybe an
even wider color palette than the LOTR. Monsters
move even more realistically, but for the most part their skin does not seem
lifelike. There has been some
controversy about the production being filmed at 48 FPS like television, and
indeed the film lacks the smoothness of most films, but the action does seem
more real, and the CGI effects are even more lifelike than LOTR.
The sound mix and quality is one thing that is up to the level of the LOTR. Much
of the soundtrack features themes from that trilogy but especially toward the
conclusion, new themes emerge and the surround sound mix is wonderfully even.
This new edition starts off with a nice commentary from Peter Jackson with his
co/writer and producer Phillipa Boyens. "New
Zealand: Home of Middle Earth" mentions that the original Hobbit set was not made
to last, but for this film it was reconstructed with stronger materials so that
anyone can visit Hobbiton for years. Also
included are two FULL discs' worth of appendices, named part 7 and 8
respectively, that delve you deeper than ever before into the making of the
movie. We're talking about NINE HOURS of extra materials here, friends.
A very good first chapter, and better as the film goes on, and I expect the trilogy to improve also, consistent with Peter Jackson's prior track record. This expanded version is definitely the way to add this literary favorite to your home theatre library!