Peter Jackson’s long-delayed first entry in the new Hobbit trilogy, titled The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, is finally here. Long have fans been awaiting this Lord of the Rings prequel and now that it has arrived mix reactions have been coming in left and right. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey maintains the scope and size of the Lord of the Rings films, but it approaches the material with a lighter tone, less action and more adventure. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a hopeful start to a new beginning.
Before Frodo and his journey to destroy the one ring there was a young Hobbit by the name of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman). Bilbo can be described as a safe man and one that isn’t too keen on adventures. That is until Gandalf (Ian McKellen) calls upon him for an unexpected journey that involves Bilbo teaming up with a group of Dwarves to help them reclaim their land from a nasty dragon by the name of Smaug.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey takes place before Peter Jackson’s highly-popular Lord of the Rings series. It uses many of the same characters and settings, but it quickly establishes itself as a much lighter affair. This time around Jackson seems to be more focused on the technology involved behind making the films than establishing that same sense of awe that he did with the Rings trilogy.
The Hobbit is based on a short children’s tale written by J.R.R. Tolkien and yet An Unexpected Journey presents itself as film one of three.
Most of the film’s problems come from the idea of Jackson creating an entire trilogy out of one novel. I haven’t even read most of The Hobbit, but I can already tell you after watching An Unexpected Journey that there is a lot of padding. The film is at its best when Bilbo and the Dwarves are engaged in battle, because Jackson’s storytelling mixes well with his visuals, but most of An Unexpected Journey can be called a tale that just won’t end.
Cliffhangers are rarely exciting and most of the action is pleasing on a visual level, but far too distant to be engaged with. It’s simply Jackson going through the motions of making a film that looks great and is a good bit of fun, but nothing that is as groundbreaking as his Rings trilogy.
Perhaps it’s just first film fatigue, much like The Fellowship, which is usually classified as the least-favorite Rings film or perhaps Jackson has gotten too wrapped up in the world of making films that break technical barriers. The Hobbit was mostly talked about when it was in theaters due to its use of high frame rate 3D and now on home video barely anyone is making a fuss about the film.
It’s adventurous, fun and light, but a giant bore at times that feels unnecessarily long, especially when knowing that Jackson is squeezing in even more stuff from the Rings films to help tie the trilogies together and make the overall experience that much longer.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey at best feels like piece one of three. Perhaps the trilogy will truly shine once all three films have been seen, but for now I’m hardly looking forward to revisiting Middle Earth two more times.
Warner Bros. brings The Hobbit to Blu-Ray with an eye-opening 1080p video transfer that impresses on both 2D and 3D sets. The 2D transfer is a dazzling feat that can best be described as a faithful representation of what Jackson and his cinematographer were going for. Colors of Middle Earth appear without much tampering, with detail remaining defined and natural.
The 3D transfer focuses on inward presentation, which means less popping out and more of getting sucked into the overall experience. The film is rarely bothered with cross chatter or image banding, making this another striking 3D transfer that’s worth the upgrade over the 2D-only combo pack.
The 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is deep and thunderous, often dropping you directly into one of the many battles featured in the film. Jackson’s Rings films were always ones to test out the surround system and now The Hobbit is another one that you’re going to want to put on your demo shelf.
Here’s a list of bonus material found in this combo pack:
- 2D & 3D versions of the film
- The Desolation of Smaug Sneak Peek Access Code:
- New Zealand: Home of Middle-Earth (HD)
- Video Blogs (HD)
- DVD Copy
- UltraViolet Digital Copy
Hopefully things get better for Peter Jackson as he continues with his Hobbit adventures. It was always clear that An Unexpected Journey was going to be the weakest of the trilogy, because of the origins nature, but what An Unexpected Journey also revealed is that Jackson is clearly more invested in the technology surrounding these films than the actual stories. Why he’s making three films when he could have gotten away with one longer one is a question that I will always ask.
Still, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey works as a lighter and more adventure-based story when compared to the Rings trilogy and I suppose some audiences will appreciate that over the grimmer and much bleaker tone of the Rings trilogy. I’m still worried that my interest will be completely gone by the time The Desolation of Smaug comes out, but perhaps a few more 3D viewings of this spectacular looking and sounding Blu-Ray will change my mind.