The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
The next installment in "The Lord of the Rings" saga, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" should have been subtitled "The Totally Expected Prequel" or even "The Cash Cow Juggernaut, Or, How to Stretch a Short Book Into Three Three-Hour Films."
Of course die-hards will love it no matter, and are thrilled to see Galadriel and Elrond and Gandalf and Frodo again, and happy to meet the slightly-too-modern Martin Freeman as titular Bilbo at the origins of his ring-lust.
Viewers don't even get outside Bag End's round green door for almost an hour, as the passel of dwarves eat and drink, and ransack and belch while scheming and planning, and proselytizing their host to accompany them on a gold retrieval mission (spoiler: we only get as far as a glimpse of Smaug's smoking nostrils).
The Blu-ray combo packs' extra features disc adds another couple of hours to total running time too. In addition to the theatrical and game trailers, there's the piece "New Zealand: Home of Middle-Earth" and ten video blogs, from the start of production on Apr. 14, 2011, to the Wellington World Premiere on Dec. 14, 2012.
These casual, comedic film diaries are fascinating and overwhelming in scope, visiting every single department (including the "flesh factory") during the massive filming schedule, where director Peter Jackson grows from trimmer to fatter.
The first installment looks at elements like swordplay and horseback riding, plus motion capture techniques and a native Powhiri Welcoming Ceremony. Other segments go to the UK's Pinewood "James Bond" Studios, on all the glorious New Zealand location shoots, including the first faux and now real Hobbiton village, to the kiwi studios in Wellington, to the orchestra recording at London's Abbey Road to ComiCon.
We've come a long, expensive way from "In a hole in the ground, there lived a Hobbit."
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"
Blu-ray & DVD Combo Pack