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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Extended Edition - Blu-ray Review

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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - MOvie Review

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2 stars

The wait is over.

The extended edition of The Hobbit is upon us.  The result, however, is more of the same.  The additional scenes still don’t slow down the headache-causing pace of the film and there’s still very little of the wonder and joy that sun-kissed Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.  And I still stand by my original thought that Jackson – who used more CGI and less real environments this time out – should NOT have directed the picture.  Someone else – a newbie to Hobbiton – should have taken the reigns.  Maybe someone who isn't afraid to continue to use miniatures to add depth and detail to the work.

Honestly, most of An Unexpected Journey still looks like a BBC-produced stage production of a rushed Shakespearean play.  It looks a far cry from the honesty of the The Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Might we be witnessing the downfall of Jackson with this commitment to a new way to see film?  Is this a case of Star Wars?  How’s that for irony?  What came before WAS better.  And, if you'll remember, those extended editions of the LOTR series NEVER felt like an indulgent director’s cut.  THEY were the versions that mattered.

Sadly, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Extended Edition feels completely inferior to theatrical cut (a film I essentially sliced in half).  It is a movie already sliced incredibly thin ... times two.  Nothing added improves the film; a long film gets longer for really no valued reason.

Now, I’m not a total luddite; I do see the advantage to the sharpness of the picture (and you will too…once you get inside the misty mountain and hop around a bit) but if Radagast the Brown’s (Sylvester McCoy) bunny-driven bobsled scene leaves you as cold as it left me (we're talking pod race Phantom Menace style), you totally understand my point of view.  This picture is rushed and undeveloped.

And all of this would be completely forgivable if there was an honest story to go with it.  There isn’t.  The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a movie about … Thorin (Richard Armitage) admitting he was wrong about Bilbo (Martin Freeman).  Two more films are following this revelation?  Really?

Oh, I forgot.  There are some nice Trolls, forgettable dwarves, a few Orcs, and a pretty fearsome-looking Goblin King on a cavernous bridge along the way in that admittance.  And while it’s nice to see the familiar faces of Frodo (Elijah Wood), Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), Elrond (Hugo Weaving) and Saruman (Christopher Lee) again, nothing can hide the fact that 80% of the film is clunky, brain-numbing exposition without a story to tell.

The overall sloppiness of the effects is embarrassing and they are more noticeable on blu-ray than they were in theatres.  Exactly how do WETA’s effects of Middle Earth get worse a decade later?  Shouldn’t there be an improvement?  Everything looks fake because, well, everything is fake (and this includes the plates at the dinner scene in Bilbo’s house).  World building was a huge component of the success of the original trilogy.  Those locations felt real because most of them were real.  Here, though, the sets are not unlike fake plastic trees.

The Hobbit would have made a great 3-hour film.  Turning a children’s story into something with the same thematic weight of The Lord of the Rings has a word to describe it.   It’s called a mistake.  And Jackson is confirmed to bring two more of these 48fps mistakes to the screen.  I have no excitement to see The Desolation of Smaug.  At least nothing comparable to the level of which I did have for The Two Towers.  The excitement is simply not there.  At all.  And The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – The Extended Edition just reinforces this sad fact.

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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Blu-ray ReviewMPAA Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 169 mins.
Director
: Peter Jackson
Writer
: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens
Cast:
Ian McKellen; Martin Freeman; Richard Armitage; Elijah Wood; Cate Blanchette
Genre: Fantasy | Adventure
Tagline:
From the smallest beginnings come the greatest legends.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Bilbo Baggins, I'm looking for someone to share in an adventure... "
Distributor:
Warner Bros. Pictures
Official Site:
http://www.thehobbit.com
Release Date: October 14, 2012
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
November 5, 2013

Synopsis: From Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson comes The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first of a trilogy of films adapting the enduringly popular masterpiece The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien.

The three films tell a continuous story set in Middle-earth 60 years before “The Lord of the Rings,” which Jackson and his filmmaking team brought to the big screen in the blockbuster trilogy that culminated with the Oscar®-winning The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.

The adventure follows the journey of title character Bilbo Baggins, who is swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome dragon Smaug. Approached out of the blue by the wizard Gandalf the Grey, Bilbo finds himself joining a company of thirteen dwarves led by the legendary warrior, Thorin Oakenshield. Their journey will take them into the Wild; through treacherous lands swarming with Goblins and Orcs, deadly Wargs and Sorcerers.

Although their goal lies to the East and the wastelands of the Lonely Mountain, first they must escape the goblin tunnels, where Bilbo meets the creature that will change his life forever…Gollum. Here, alone with Gollum, on the shores of an underground lake, the unassuming Bilbo Baggins not only discovers depths of ingenuity and courage that surprise even him, he also gains possession of Gollum’s “precious” ring that holds unexpected and useful qualities… A simple, gold ring that is tied to the fate of all Middle-earth in ways Bilbo cannot begin to know.

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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades
Movie

Blu-ray Disc
2 stars

4 stars



Blu-ray Experience
3 stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey [Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + UV Copy]

Available on Blu-ray - November 5, 2013 (UK)
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles
: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit); French: Dolby Digital 5.1; Portuguese: Dolby Digital 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Three-disc set (3 BDs); UV digital copy; Digital copy (as download)
Region Encoding: Region-Free

This is essentially as good as it gets right now, folks, when it comes to video quality. The MPEG-4 AVC coded picture is a sumptuous feast for your eyes, with flawless crisp vistas, day or night, natural or unnatural flesh tones, as per the need. Whether the brightest of day scenes or the blackest of night scenes the detail throughout is incredible. This is home video, folks, so any lean you may have had on the whole 48 frames per second debate is a moot point here: you get 24 beautiful effective frames per second her in both the 3D and 2D versions, and it looks slick and – with no depth to the effects – fake as hell.  Everything is too bright and too slippery.

The 7.1 DTS-HD master provides full immersion, whether in the, at first, quiet confines of Bag End or on Bilbo and the dwarves many misadventures. Base is robust, subtleties consistently dance between speakers at any moment; the dialogue is clear; the surround channels are given a hefty workout. This is a stunning offering.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • It’s obvious that Peter Jackson is in love with the technology he used to shoot the film. Much of the commentary is spent addressing the complex filmmaking techniques in which he pushed cinematography beyond the first trilogy.  Jackson also addresses all the extended additions and speaks a lot about which elements will pay off and further develop in the sequels.  Very little attention is paid to location and acting.  Boyens addresses changes made when the screenplay went from two to three films.  It is good stuff to know … just not essential.

Special Features:

All 9 hours of the appendices included with this release are still up to the high standard of those that came with the extended editions of The Lord of the Rings.   A little behind the scenes footage on The Desolation of Smaug introduces some new characters in action and mainly sequences that look like more of the same visual effects.  Hobbiton, Rhosgobel, Rivendell, the Misty Mountains, and all the other locations get examined.  The set does not, however, include the 127-minute, ten-part Video Blog series, which is exclusive to the March 2013 2D and 3D releases of the film's theatrical cut.  The film's appendices -- the "Chronicles of The Hobbit - Part 1" -- is spread across two additional BD-50 discs, with an embarrassing wealth of bonus content that leaves no stone unturned... quite literally at times.  It is 4.5 hours long.  The second disc has 4 hours and 45 minutes of creature and characters discussions on it.  Deal with it.  It’s kind of unfortunate that the Extended Edition couldn’t have included all of the video journals and trailers from the first release, making this at least a definitive version in supplemental material if not the film itself.

  • New Zealand: Home to Middle-Earth (7 min)
  • The Appendices Part 7: A Long Expected Journey:
  • Introduction by Peter Jackson (2 min)
  • The Journey Back to Middle-Earth (48 min)
  • Riddles in the Dark (17 min)
  • An Unexpected Party (25 min)
  • Roast Mutton (17 min)
  • Bastion of the Greenwood (11 min)
  • A Short Rest (29 min)
  • Over Hill (14 min)
  • Under Hill (19 min)
  • Out of the Frying Pan (16 min)
  • Return to Hobbiton (19 min)
  • The Epic of Scene 88 (8 min)
  • The Battle of Moria (11 min)
  • Edge of the Wilderland (23 min)
  • Home is Behind, the World Ahead (12 min)
  • The Appendices Part 8: Return to Middle-Earth:
  • The Company of Thorin (62 min)
  • Mr. Baggins: The 14th Member (16 min)
  • Durin's Folk: Creating the Dwarves (57 min)
  • The People and Denizens of Middle-Earth (58 min)
  • Realms of the Third Age: From Bag End to Goblin Town (59 min)
  • Songs of The Hobbit (32 min)

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