Blu-ray Review: ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’

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Blu-ray Review: ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’
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Movie poster for "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"

"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," one of the most anticipated and controversial films of 2012, releases on a three-disc set consisting of two Blu-ray discs and a DVD. The package houses the Blu-ray, DVD, and digital copies of this prequel to the historical opus "The Lord of the Rings Trilogy" ("LOTR"). It also hosts a wealth of supplements intended to please fans. Told in flashbacks, this epic adventure follows the journey of Bilbo Baggins as he finds himself aiding a group of 13 dwarves and the wizard Galdalf the Grey in an unexpectedly life-changing quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the powerful dragon Smaug. He reflects upon his earlier adventures with Frodo, from walking through treacherous lands and magical landscapes to being the young and merry hobbit who later becomes the ring bearer.

This cinematic offering, also from the "LOTR" helmer Peter Jackson, is the first of the films adapted from the enduringly popular J.R.R. Tolkien masterpiece "The Hobbit." Revolutionary in its own way, it attempts to change the industry by being the first production to be shot in 48fps (frames per second) technology. This vision intends to take advantage of the best overall resolution and clarity of motion picture, especially in utilizing 3D technology, by removing the effects of motion blur seen in the current industry standard that uses the 24fps frame rate.

Visuals

Except for some minor drawbacks brought about by the excessive running time of its simple story and ending-thirsty resolution, this HD transfer wows, dazzles, and thoroughly impresses. From the lush greens and summer-kissed browns and oranges to the moonlit blues covering blazing flames to the cavernous blacks dominating wild places, this technically stunning top-tier release is a visual feast throughout. It masterfully blends CG and practical effects to create the rightfully bold and magical mood and tone for the narrative.

As expected, detail is nothing short of extraordinary. Shots are always deep and inky. Blacks penetrate the screen with remarkable gradations. Textures remain lifelike throughout. There is warmth and energy to the swashbuckling stunts and heroic action scenes.

Audio

The package hosts a seven-channel lossless track, along with five-channel dubbed options in Spanish, French, and Portuguese. The inventive sound design adds satisfying intrigue to the storytelling. Seasoned with convincing directional effects, the immersive soundfield envelopes the audience with a great deal of depth and weight. The full and sweeping score, forceful yet discerning rear activity, and transparent cross-channel pans always produce resonant elements with bristling engagement.

Supplements

The package offers a number of extras including an almost two-hour-long director's video blog collection, the location featurette "New Zealand: Home of Middle-Earth," an access code for the exclusive online sneak peek at the promotional event "The Desolation of Smaug," and a variety of full and alternate movie and game trailers. Subtitles are available in English SDH, Spanish, French, and Portuguese.

Final Thoughts

"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" is an audio-visual fantasy powerhouse full of brilliant acting performances, action-oriented spectacles, and cutting edge effects. Although it is undeniably ripe with promise for the future offerings of the renowned Middle Earth saga, its length, which is only one-third of its source material, definitely pulls down its quality. It may still employ some serious trimming, but considering that the original book was already stretched into three separate movies, this installment's story tends to labor and plod through without enough feeling of progress and accomplishment. This makes it a relatively entertaining prequel, but not in a completely gratifying fashion as "LOTR."

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