The Hobbit Of A Lifetime?
Tripwire’s editor-in-chief Joel Meadows slips on his ring of power and takes a look at Warner Bros.’ The Hobbit 4K UHD Trilogy out now on Blu Ray…
The Hobbit Trilogy: An Unexpected Journey, The Desolation Of Smaug and The Battle Of The Five Armies
Director: Peter Jackson
Stars: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Ken Stott, Graham McTavish, Hugo Weaving. Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee, Lee Pace, Manu Bennett, Sylvester McCoy
Ten years after Peter Jackson wrapped The Lord Of The Rings with The Return of The King, he returned to Tolkien with The Hobbit. Of course, these films were originally intended to be directed by future Oscar winner Guillermo del Toro. So this Christmas we have the three Hobbit films in 4K UHD from Warner Bros. I chose the extended versions rather than the theatrical versions for the purposes of this review.
Visually, all three films do feel like a massive upgrade with scenes like our reintroduction to Bilbo and the Shire in An Unexpected Journey, the final battle of the first film, the introduction of Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) in The Desolation of Smaug and the Battle Of The Five Armies in the third film looking more crystal clear and sharper than they have done previously. The effects have definitely had a huge boost thanks to the 4K restoration with the CGI improved throughout on its original version. The new version makes its set pieces look more immersive and detailed than ever before. The HDR gives everything a huge boost too offering extra depth and complexity to the images onscreen. Every scale on the monstrous dragon’s body glistens even more than it did before thanks to the restoration. King Thranduil’s woodland realm feels even more dreamlike and ethereal too thanks to the new version’s enhanced visuals too. The sound is also pretty spectacular as well with the addition of Dolby Atmos giving The Hobbit that extra sense of epic fantasy, offering us a dwarf kingdom that truly echoes and adding extra drama to the battles throughout.
There are still flaws here of course and they do feel more padded out than the Lord of The Rings trilogy and I admit the songs in the first film don’t work for me. But scenes like the final battle on the ice between Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) and leader of the orcs Azog (Manu Bennett) is even more brutal and painful to watch thanks to all of the extra details we can now see thanks to the restoration and the fight between the dwarves and Smaug in Erebor feels even more widescreen and compelling. Also the presence of Orlando Bloom returning as elf Legolas and the cameos of Cate Blanchett as elf queen Galadriel and Christopher Lee as wizard Saruman do help to make it feel connected to its predecessors. McKellen back as Gandalf also offers the film its heart, soul and warmth as he did in the original trilogy. Armitage as the dwarf king is suitably flawed and heroic too and Lee Pace makes for the wonderfully unsettling unearthly elf king Thranduil.
It is interesting sometimes to consider what might have been if del Toro had made his versions of the films but The Hobbit still offers quite a lot for fantasy fans and for aficionados of the LOTR trilogy. Jackson has really enhanced The Hobbit trilogy and made them work wonderfully well with today’s home cinema equipment. The only disappointing thing here seems to be a lack of extras which is a shame as even the five minute video online with Jackson offers a little insight into how he approached the restoration process and helps to put it all into context. All you get here are the theatrical and extended versions of the films. It will be interesting to see the new versions of Lord Of The Rings to compare how much better all six films fit together now, which was Jackson’s intentions when he decided to restore these for 4K UHD.
Here’s the film’s three 4K trailers
The Hobbit Trilogy is out now on 4K Ultra HD Blu Ray from Warner Bros.