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THE HOBBIT:  AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY
Extended Blu-ray Edition

Review by Mark Wiechman

Stars: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, James Nesbitt, Ken Stott, Sylvester McCoy
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


 

Film ***

 

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.  
 

Video ****

 

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.
 

Audio ****

 

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.
 

Features ***

 

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.
 

Summary:

 

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!

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