Blu-Ray Review: The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey Colin D Miller April 10, 2013 DVDs & Rentals, Editor's Choice 1859 Like most people, I loved Jackson’s take on The Lord of the Rings series and was delighted to hear that the Kiwi director and the weta crew would once again be taking movie goers on another trip to Middle-earth. Naturally, I had reservations – the whole splitting a relatively small book into 3 separate films being a major one. With a bucket of popcorn in my hand and pair of 3D glasses in the other, I entered the BFI IMAX as high as Hobbit on finest Longbottom weed in the Shire. As fate would have it, at the time the BFI IMAX didn’t have projectors that could handle 48FPS, so we had to make do with the standard 24FPS. I don’t want to get bogged down in whatever format as better, as I don’t know. What I do know was that as soon as the film had finished, I wanted to see it again but this time in 2D. Whether it was the cinematography not suiting the format or those extra 24 frames lacking in the print that I was watching, I’m not sure – but the 3D effect felt blurred and was exacerbated by London’s biggest screen in my opinion. My eyes barely had the time to focus. This week, I managed to watch The Hobbit again on a slightly smaller screen (well, much smaller) and I’ll be honest, I did not miss that extra dimension one bit. Visually the film was much more pleasing, it felt more epic and was a much less distracting experience. And as a result, I enjoyed it a lot more the second time round. Starring Martin Freeman as the reluctant Bilbo Baggins, An Unexpected Journey tells the first part of the story of Bilbo’s adventure with the Dwarves as they seek to reclaim their homeland of Erebor, from the fierce dragon, Smaug. Also featuring support from the likes of Richard Armitage as the ever proud Thorin Oakenshield, Sylvester McCoy as Radaghast The Brown and James Nesbit as the comical Bofur, the film also brings back familiar faces such as Andy Serkis as Gollum, Hugo Weaving as Elrond, Cate Blanchett as Galadriel, Christopher Lee as Saruman and of course, Ian McKellen as Gandalf. Naturally, there are many parallels with The Hobbit and Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and these are finely hinted at in subtle ways, often by making good use of Howard Shore’s score and the plot points that later go on to affect Bilbo’s life. While everything looks great and Middle-earthy (or “muddy” as my mother put it when she first watched Fellowship of the Ring), the films biggest issue is the pacing. It does take it’s sweet merry time to get going and when it finally does kick off, we’re a good hour and half into the proceedings. Perhaps this is the whole prequel fatigue that George Lucas’ Star Wars films suffered from. We know about the Shire, Hobbits and Dwarves. But unfortunately we have to spend a good 45 minutes of singing, dancing and the Dwarves tossing plates before we can actually go anywhere. Whether splitting The Hobbit up into three parts is a good idea or not, remains to be seen. There is only so much blood Jackson and co can soak from the Appendices in the Return of the King book before resorting to “artistic license” and at that point, you’re on dodgy ground. Not that the scriptwriters Jackson, Walsh, Boyens and Del Toro are lacking in that area – but fanboys (like myself) are a notoriously fussy bunch. On a positive note though, speaking as a fan of the Lord of the Rings I can’t deny that it is great to see Bilbo, Gandalf and the folk of Middle Earth on the screen again. I guess the film is very much the victim of the original trilogy’s success. You simply can’t follow up an Oscar winning, critically and commercially acclaimed set of films with a smaller and simpler affair. In this day and age, filmmakers are expected to excel over what has gone before and arguably, The Hobbit should at least be commended for trying, even if it doesn’t get it quite right. I await the next films with great interest.