DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Blu-ray 3D/Blu-ray/DVD/UV Digital Copy (2012-13)

Enjoyable first of a new Hobbit trilogy, with excellent 3D effects.

Published on April 1, 2013

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Blu-ray 3D/Blu-ray/DVD/UV Digital Copy (2012-13)

Cast: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, James Nesbitt, Ken Stott, Cate Blanchett, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Elijah Wood, Andy Serkis
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Studio: Warner Brothers Home Entertainment 
Video: 2.40:1 anamorphic/enhanced for 16:9 1080p HD 3D
Audio: English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio; French, Spanish, Portuguese DD 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Extras: (on 2D Blu-ray Special Features disc): “New Zealand: Home of Middle-Earth” featurette; Video Blogs (a collection of ten production videos); Six theatrical trailers; Three game trailers; DVD copy; UltraViolet digital copy
Length: 169 minutes
Movie Rating: ****½    3D Rating: *****
2D Rating: *****     Audio Rating: *****

 The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the beginning film in a trilogy that serves as a prequel to the highly-successful The Lord of the Rings trilogy.  The unexpected journey in the film’s title refers to that of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), an unassuming Hobbit who receives a visit out-of-the-blue from the Wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen).  Gandalf encourages Bilbo to join a group of thirteen Dwarves who are on a quest to reclaim their home from a powerful Dragon named Smaug.  Though he is not a skilled warrior, Bilbo reluctantly agrees to join the Dwarves on their journey.  It’s not before long though, that this brave group falls under attack from the likes of evil creatures including Trolls, Orcs and Wargs.  Bilbo also encounters the creature Gollum and his “precious”, that of course being a gold ring with magical but very dangerous qualities.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was an eagerly-awaited film with high expectations from its fans.  While it was bound to not live up to everyone’s expectations, I, for one, liked the film overall and think this trilogy is off to a good start.  The film has a fair bit of action, a little humor, and stunning visuals and sound.  The 3D effects are particularly fantastic.  I’m very much looking forward to the next two films in the trilogy (“The Desolation of Smaug” and “There and Back Again”).  My only caveat with this Blu-ray release is that it is light on special features and there will likely be a special edition with more released in the future.  Plan accordingly if that is of importance to you, but otherwise it is highly-recommended for all Middle-Earth fans.

The overall high-definition video quality of the 2D Blu-ray presentation is excellent.  Images are crystal clear with razor-sharp detail.  Black levels are consistently dark and velvety throughout the movie.  Colors are vibrant and bold with fully-saturated hues.  Picture defect mastering is perfect with no major flaws or compression artifacts.  The 3D video was shot in native 3D and it is current reference-quality for a live-action 3D-title.  Colors and black levels exhibit the same excellent qualities present in the 2D version.  Separation, dimensionality and depth are all superb.  There are a few pop-out effects that appear to extend beyond the screen (such as smoke, boulders, fire embers, bats, etc.), but the 3D here is more of the inward-looking variety than outward-extending type.

The overall audio quality is also excellent.  The reference-quality soundtrack has a very active mix that makes use of all of the discrete channels.  Dialogue is clean and intelligible and properly positioned among the forward soundstage.  The surround channels are aggressively utilized for sound effects and Howard Shore’s musical score, plus include many split rear effects.  The low frequency effects channel is active throughout and provides an explosive presence during action scenes.

—Calvin Harding Jr.




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