Blu-ray review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Adventures are fine, as long as I don’t have to leave my entertainment cave.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Warner Home Video, Rated: PG-13, $35.99) on the Blu-ray format, let me take a rollicking journey with a band of dwarves, a wizard and various assortment of elves and trolls.

With Peter Jackson at the helm, (“The Lord of the Rings” movie trilogy maestro), this first part of a three part cinematic epic based on the 1937 novel (and certain appendices) arrives in glorious high definition to give viewers a long, deep look into the J.R.R. Tolkien tale.

Starring Bilbo Baggins (actor Martin Freeman at his most feisty) and a bunch of lost, questing dwarves, The Hobbit is only the first part of the blockbuster three movie series, clocking in close to three hours.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is now on Blu-ray.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is now on Blu-ray.

Although, I caught many a yawn from some viewers near me early on, I profess, after repeated viewings, to continue to love every minute of it.

I’m a sucker for seeing old friends such as Gandalf the Grey, eventual enemies (beware Saruman the White), appreciating Howard Shore’s booming orchestral score, the incredible landscapes, daunting special effects and how Mr. Jackson makes the Tolkien universe so accessible.

Our introduction to the dwarves has the baker’s dozen of diminutives assembling at Bilbo’s house before they journey forth.

On their way to the Lonely Mountain, they suffer encounters with the orc leader Azog the Defiler and getting trapped beneath the rock raining battle of stone giants.

Comical is the wizard Radagast the Brown and his sledding rabbits and the vintage riddle-off between Bilbo and Gollum.

The magnificence of Rivendell is as awe inspiring as ever and all combined these were just some of the moments that made the movie a joy to behold.

Not all is smoke rings and fireworks as fantastical creatures start to move toward Star Wars’ silly territory with the slapstick of the Goblin King and a trio of trolls.

I’ll guarantee that the film does not meander into the realms of Jar Jar Binks, but I hope Mr. Jackson keeps it serious with the entrance of Smaug.

I’ll also admit, the story is certainly less urgent than the other  films based on Tolkien’s masterwork. A hobbit helping dwarves reclaim their kingdom from an old dragon is not the Lord of the Rings dire quest to save Middle-earth from evil, at least not yet.

Still, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a perfect beginning to the molding of a cinematic classic in the making, and its construction is the absolutely beautiful in the Blu-ray format.

Best extras: Ten previously released video blogs offer over 2 hours of pre and post production memories but are simply repurposed for the disk. Add a 6-minute look at the New Zealand locations used in the movie and I’d say a pretty underwhelming effort.

I could have used some background on J.R.R. Tolkien and the influence of The Hobbit in literature and other media, maybe a timeline of Middle Earth, and a commentary track by Mr. Jackson on how he extended the source material into this mammoth film series.

Blu-ray evolution: So let’s reiterate the obvious that has already been hinted on the Web. Warner Home Video will eventually release an extended edition of the movie supposedly around the holidays, making this release obsolete. We all understand why mega movie conglomerates pull this ploy.

However, Warner throws in a bone for those who buy the Blu-ray combo pack with a packaged code (tied to its complex UltraViolet digital delivery system). It offers access to Peter Jackson hosting a live look at “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” on Sunday, March 24 at 3:00 p.m. (EST).

Despite the bonus, fans should consider this version of The Hobbitt: An Unexpected Journey as a strictly rental proposition.

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Cornelius Crimple

Veteran musician and reviewer Cornelius Crimple began his love affair with popular culture after reading a comic book starring The Mighty Thor way back in the 1960s.

Benchmarks such as listening to “Who’s Next,” playing a couple games of Pong, watching a Big Mac commercial and appreciating SCTV helped shape his life and waistline. Cornelius digs video games, music, movies, television and sequential art. He dearly misses his brothers Dion, Nigel and Angstrom.


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