The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey [Blu-Ray] Peter Jackson

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey [Blu-Ray] Peter Jackson

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The opening instalment of Peter Jackson's adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's first novel set in Middle-Earth is remarkable both for its technical achievement and for the scope of its storytelling. While the source material is considerably thinner than what Jackson had to work with for his The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the visionary director nonetheless wound up with another three films on his hands (not without some criticism for trying to do too much with too little). The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has some undeniable flaws, including a few embedded in the source material: Tolkien's original text was written for a younger audience, with silly songs and dwarf antics, whereas the later novels (while certainly not devoid of humour) are much more adult. Hence, the tone of the film is occasionally awkward as it navigates between giddy childishness and epic quest. Also, Jackson draws heavily from the structure and feel of the first The Lord of the Rings film, 2001's The Fellowship of the Ring, cribbing major action and plot points throughout (for example, the flight from Goblin town across rickety wooden scaffolds is extremely similar to the chase through the collapsing rock bridges of Moria). Despite the flaws, An Unexpected Journey is nonetheless a delightful film. The technical achievements, with effects again handled by the venerable WETA workshop, build upon their previous innovations for an even lusher, realer and more fully realized world. The animation of Gollum (once again played by Andy Serkis, who also has risen to Second Unit Director, shaping the action of the film, as well as his signature character) is even more nuanced, the textures and expressions of his haunted face more fully realized. It is also brilliantly cast, with Martin Freeman's absolute embodiment of reluctant hobbit hero Bilbo Baggins and Richard Armitage's dignified, moving portrayal of dwarf prince Thorin Oakensheild being highlights. The Blu-Ray release soothes much of the controversy surrounding the film being shot in 48 FPS, which was, at times, overwhelming on the big screen, but is smoothed out, less over-lit and saturated on a home screen. Aside from the film, the Blu-Ray comes with very few extras, including the lack of a commentary. A second Blu-Ray disc contains theatrical and game trailers, a six-minute feature about the film's filming in New Zealand (which plays a bit like a travel advertisement) and a collection of all ten instalments of the video blog, which were re leased during the filming and production of all three films in the Hobbit trilogy on-line. While the video blogs area fascinating look behind the scenes of the film-making process, capturing everything from parts being shot in extraordinary locations to glimpses into the inner sanctum of the makeup, costume and special effects departments, they have also all been seen before and are still available online. It's clear that Warner, as Alliance did previously, is saving all the choice extras for the inevitable collector's edition release of the films. The Blu-Ray of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey doesn't have enough additional material to warrant a purchase, if that's your main criteria, but if you absolutely must own the film now, it's worth picking up. Plus, those who buy the movie near release date will be able to participate in an exclusive web preview of the next instalment of The Hobbit trilogy, The Desolation of Smaug, on March 24, 2013. (Warner)