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Friday, March 5, 2021

The Hobbit: The Motion Picture Trilogy (4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review)


The Collection
The Films
The Video (Overall)
HDR Effect
The Audio
The Supplements

The Hobbit: The Motion Picture TrilogyThe Hobbit: The Motion Picture Trilogy is arriving for the first time on 4K Ultra HD remastered in Dolby Vision and overseen by Peter Jackson himself. The three films appear in this collection in both their theatrical and extended editions, just like the companion collection of the epic The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy 4K collection. Unlike The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit trilogy puts the Extended editions on one disc instead of across two discs.

These films act as a prequel to The Lord of the Rings and are taken from J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel The Hobbit. The films track the adventure of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) who joins Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and a group of dwarves on a quest to reclaim their home under a mountain from destructive dragon Smaug. Parallel to this journey, Gandalf finds himself investigating the rise of someone calling himself “The Necromancer” who some suspect could be an ancient and powerful enemy.

While this trilogy does suffer from pacing issues, even in the extended versions that may even make the films longer than they need to be, the inverse of The Lord of the Rings films, they are still ultimately fun popcorn films with spectacular visual effects. The rather abbreviated source material in comparison to the epic Rings source may have been extended to the breaking point to make these films, but they still work.

The Video

The Hobbit: The Motion Picture Trilogy unlike The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy, was not shot on film, but natively in a digital format. These three films were shot on the Red cameras at 5K and used a 4K DI in the mastering process, again overseen by Peter Jackson. The result is this trilogy, which arrives on 4K Ultra HD in a 2.40:1 HEVC 2160p (4K) encodement with Dolby Vision HDR, looks super-pristine. Whereas The Lord of the Rings, as fantastic as it looks on 4K, still shows a bit of grain and a few frames of softness this trilogy is completely consistent straight through, from the opening scene of An Unexpected Journey to the final moment of The Battle of the Five Armies. Whether you like that very pristine, digital look, may come down to personal preference. Personally, I think the slightly more organic look of The Lord of the Rings looks a bit better, but The Hobbit films still look spectacular. They have also done a great job trying to keep the color grading consistent with the look of The Lord of the Rings as well. It also ‘pops’ brilliantly, with vibrant colors such as the magentas and crimsons across the horizon or the highlights in things like the fires, again, which really spark in bright orange and amber. See my screenshot below taken from my iPhone 11 Pro Max off of my LG OLED65CX for just a rough example of how these films look in Dolby Vision. What that won’t show so well is the amazing overall detail in these films. We can, for example, pick out the individual gold coins in the scene where Bilbo goes to steal the Arkenstone from Smaug.

The Audio

All three films, whether the Theatrical or Extended, comes with a Dolby Atmos mix. These are again magnificent mixes that will show off any home theaters capabilities. The score swells and sores through the channels, the deep low end, like when Smaug moves around or breathes fire, is downright terrestrial in its extension into the lower end, and movement through the various ‘channels’ is pretty aggressive, and I put ‘channels’ in quotes since, strictly speaking, Atmos is object-oriented not channel-oriented.

The Supplements

Like the companion release of The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy on 4K, The Hobbit: The Motion Picture Trilogy does not have any bonus features beyond the Movies Anywhere digital codes which can redeemed for free digital versions at multiple digital providers for streaming versions in 4K where available.

On publication the only included supplement was in fact the digital copy, well now it turns out the digital copy also includes many hours of bonus features for the Extended Editions,  iTunes has updated each film with iTunes Extras including new bonus features. The first film has A Long-Expected Journey, 14-part look at the chronicles of The Hobbit, followed by Return to Middle Earth a 15-part look at the creation of the film, and then there is New Zealand: Home of the Middle. Desolation of Smaug has over 9 hours of bonus features, including The Appendices Part 9: The Chronicles of The Hobbit Part 2 and The Appendices Part 10: Journey to Erebor. And The Battle of the Five Armies gets over 10 hours of bonus features with The Appendices Part 11 & 12. As of this update, the digital extras appear to be exclusive to iTunes as they do not appear in Vudu, FandangoNow, GooglePlay or Prime Video.  The iTunes library can be accessed from non-Apple gear via the Apple TV app available on certain Roku and Fire devices and certain Samsung Smart TV’s. The rating has been update accordingly.

The Final Assessment

Another masterful 4K restoration on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray from Warner Bros. that is consistent with the companion The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy collection. Very highly recommended unless you need bonus features and would like to wait until summer of 2021 for the Six-Film “Middle-earth” Ultimate Collector’s Edition.

The Hobbit: The Motion Picture Trilogy is out on 4K Ultra HD on December 1, 2020 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

  • Studios & Distributors: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) (presents and copyright holder) | New Line Cinema (presents) | Warner Home Video
  • Director: Peter Jackson
  • Written By: Fran Walsh (screenplay) | Philippa Boyens (screenplay) | Peter Jackson (screenplay) | Guillermo del Toro (screenplay) | J.R.R. Tolkien (novel)
  • Street Date: 1 December 2020
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Video Format: HEVC 2160p (4K)
  • HDR Format: Dolby Vision (compatible w/ HDR10)
  • Primary Audio: English Dolby Atmos
  • Secondary Audio: French & Spanish DTS-HD MA (Movies 1 & 2) | French DD (Movie 1) | Spanish DD (Movie 1, 2, & 3)
  • Subtitles: English SDH | French | Spanish

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