Based on the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is an epic adventure that immerses audiences once again in the fantastical world of Middle-earth. The adventure follows the journey of title character Bilbo Baggins (Freeman), who is swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome Dragon Smaug. Approached out of the blue by the Wizard Gandalf the Grey (McKellen), Bilbo finds himself joining a company of 13 Dwarves, led by the legendary warrior, Thorin Oakenshield (Armitage). Their journey will take them into the wild, through treacherous lands swarming with Goblins, Orcs, and deadly Wargs, as well as a mysterious and sinister figure known only as the Necromancer. Although their goal lies to the East and the wastelands of the Lonely Mountain, first they must escape the Goblin tunnels, where Bilbo meets the creature that will change his life forever...Gollum. Here, alone with Gollum, on the shores of an underground lake, the unassuming Bilbo Baggins not only discovers depths of ingenuity and courage that surprise even him, he also gains possession of Gollum's "precious" ring that holds unexpected and useful qualities...a simple, gold ring that is tied to the fate of all Middle-earth in ways Bilbo cannot begin to know. (Gary Reber)
Special features include the featurette New Zealand: Home Of Middle Earth (HD 06:35); a full suite of Peter Jackson's Production Videos, which describe behind the scenes, location, and the filmmaking in a series of journals including Start Of Production (HD 10:32), Location Scouting (HD 10:20), Shooting Block One (HD 13:19), Filming In 3D (HD 10:46), Locations Part 1 (HD 12:04), Locations Part 3 (HD 12:28), Stone Street Studios Tour (HD 13;59), Wrap Of Principle Photography (HD 14:42), Post-Production Overview (HD 14:08), and Wellington World Premiere (HD 14:42); theatrical trailers; game trailers; D-BOX® Motion Code™; and an UltraViolet digital copy.
The 2.40:1 1080p MVC 3D picture is true to Director Peter Jackson and Cinematographer Andrew Lesnie's magical visualizations in every nuanced detail. Both the 2D and 3D encoding are flawless! While every parameter of quality is precisely executed—color fidelity, contrast, black levels, and framing—it is the 3D application that draws the audience completely into the image and storytelling. The 3D was captured with a total of 17 Red Epic digital cameras locked into 3Reality Digital mirror system rigs and other custom rigs, and monitored in 3D as it was being made. The sense of depth, dimensionality, and perspective is astonishingly successful, though, relatively restrained from screen-puncturing gimmicks. Spatial relationship of people and objects against vast landscapes and distant horizons is striking. Characterizations are incredibly realistic, with convincing shapely volume depiction's and spatial interplays. Whether during quieter scenes or rambunctious battle scenes, the sense of depth and scale is absolutely realistic. The feeling conveyed is one of "you are there" as an invisible observer. Occasionally, a sword, fluttering bird, or swinging ax extends out of the screen, but still this negative parallax view never is a distraction. Throughout the viewing experience the integrity of the 3D is never compromised. As for the elements comprising the picture, color fidelity is exceptional, with lush Shire greens, glowing browns, and oranges; blue skies, blazing flames, lifelike fleshtones, and complexly deep blacks providing the imaginative stylization. Contrast is excellent, with solid blacks and natural shadow detail evidenced throughout. Resolution is exceptional as well, no doubt due to the original master photography captured at 48 frames per second at 5K resolution. The human eye sees 60 frames per second, so 48 frames gives the viewer more of what they would actually see in the real world. Fine detail is evident in facial features, creatures, hair, costumes, and objects. Such nuanced resolution enhances the sense of realism and transport to the worlds of Middle-earth. The imagery is impressively pristine, without artifacts such as ringing, aliasing, macroblocking, banding, noise, and crosstalk. This is without reservation one of the finest 3D native presentations to be experienced. Jackson has ensured optimum quality of presentation by spreading the storytelling over two Blu-ray Discs™. This is a true reference-quality picture and a MUST HAVE for one's Blu-ray Disc library. (Gary Reber)
The DTS-HD Master Audio™ 7.1-channel soundtrack is in one word—spectacular! Holosonic®-sounding throughout, the soundfield perfectly projects the varied soundscapes imagined for Middle-earth. The thread that unites the tapestry of extraordinary visuals is Howard Shore's sweeping orchestral score. The music is an almost constant element in the sound design and delivers the emotional foundation of the storytelling. Atmospherics and sound effects are creatively and effectively supported with scale and dynamics, as well as presence in the surrounds. The added two channels subscribe to the Dolby® 7.1 theatrical format and enhance the overall sense of fullness and soundfield dimensionality. The .1 LFE channels provide necessary low-end support and force during particular segments. The bass extension is powerful yet nuanced to sub-25 Hz levels. Surround aggression is effective throughout, resulting in a totally enveloping soundfield with panned and directionalized sonics. Dialogue is consistently intelligible and nicely integrated spatially. Fidelity throughout is exemplary for motion picture presentations. This is one of those rare reference-quality presentations that sets the standard for attainment by other filmmakers. Peter Jackson and his team deserve our applause and appreciation for such creative work. This is one of the greatest Blu-ray Disc presentations thus far offered. (Gary Reber)