As a kid, I never had the pleasure of reading any of the Tolkien books. I had seen the Ralph Bakshi animated films and was intrigued by the stories, but that was about it. When Christmas 2001 rolled around and I sat in my theatre seat for Peter Jackson’s first installment of his Lord of the Rings trilogy, I figured I would be in for a cool fantasy movie. Little did I know Jackson had created a film that would capture my imagination and become my favorite series of films since Star Wars. The scope of the films, the sense of time and place, the attention to detail, the revolutionary special effects and the rich character development all made Frodo Baggins’ journey one that I would never forget. But when it was done, it was done. Little did I know, 9 years later Jackson would return to Middle Earth to tell the tale that started it all with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) was a happy Hobbit who always dreamt of high adventure. When old friend Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) offers him a chance to find adventure helping to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the dragon Smaug, Bilbo finds himself in the company of thirteen dwarves led by the heroic Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage). Together their journey takes them across the lands of Middle Earth over dangerous territory swarming with goblins, orcs and trolls. On their journey East they must first escape the goblin tunnels, where Bilbo will meet a creature that will change his very destiny, Gollum.
I find myself at a difficult crossroads with The Hobbit. When I exited the theatre originally after seeing it, I was despondent. I found this visit to Middle Earth to be very different than my first three visits. Everything this time around was more polished, more in place, more organized. And I also found that at no time during the journey of Bilbo and the dwarves did I feel they were ever really in any danger. The huge cloud of imminent danger so ever present in the first films was just not there. But things also seemed more deliberate this time around. I found myself looking at character’s hair a lot. In the original films all of the characters looked like they lived and breathed in this real world of Middle Earth. It was messy and dirty. In The Hobbit, everyone’s hair is perfectly coiffed; everything is too clean and neat. It just didn’t jive. It was after I saw the film that a friend informed me that the book of The Hobbit is much more fun, much more family friendly than the Lord of the Rings books, almost more of a children’s book. So when I sat down to rewatch it on Blu-ray, it took on a new veneer. I still have issues with the hair and the overall look of the film, but at least with my expectations in check I did enjoy it more. And I honestly think it looks better on Blu-ray than it did in the theatre.
The picture is just breathtaking. The colors, detail and overall clarity are just stupendous and the transfer is pretty much perfect. The same can be said for the soundtrack, this is one immersive mix. The Hobbit may not have ended up being what I wanted it to be, and I do have two more films that may make me happier, but it did end up being significantly more enjoyable the second time around in my own home. It still ended up being a worthwhile journey.
Available March 19, 2013 on Blu-ray and DVD.