The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. From start to finish, this Dolby Vision presentation delivered a spectacular visual experience.
At all times, sharpness appeared crisp and distinctive. Even when the movie went with wide shots – which happened a lot – the elements remained accurate.
I saw no issues with moiré effects or jaggies, and the image lacked edge haloes or signs of artifacts. No print flaws appeared in this clean presentation.
If you saw the Lord of the Rings films, you’ll encounter a similar palette here. Greens and ambers dominated the Hobbiton sequences, while other parts of the flick opted for teal, blue and orange. Within the movie’s choices, the hues looked full and well-developed, and the HDR gave the tones nice tenacity and impact.
Blacks were deep and dense, and shadows showed nice clarity and smoothness. HDR contributed power to whites and contrast. This was an absolutely top-notch image.
Note that Peter Jackson shot the Hobbit flicks at 48 frames per second rather than the standard 24 fps. While 4K supports high frames rates – as indicated by releases like the 60 fps Gemini Man - apparently the format can’t handle 48 fps, so the 4K version of the movie runs at the usual 24 fps.
Similar pleasures came with the Dolby Atmos soundtrack of Unexpected Journey. Downconverted to Dolby TrueHD 7.1, the movie’s many action sequences offered the most memorable material.
The early battle between Smaug and the dwarves dazzled, with fire and flying all around the room, and subsequent fight sequences worked equally well. The soundscape placed components in the appropriate locations and meshed them together in a smooth, well-blended manner.
Audio quality was also terrific. Music seemed vivid and bold, while speech was distinctive and concise.
Effects showed solid clarity and accuracy, with low-end response that gave the package life and heft. This was an impressive auditory piece.
How did the 4K UHD compare to the prior Blu-rays? The 4K’s Atmos mix added some breadth and punch to the already-excellent DTS-HD MA 7.1 from the BD.
While the BD also delivered terrific visuals, the Dolby Vision 4K topped those releases, as it became better defined and more vibrant. Expect reference quality picture from this 4K release.
In terms of visual comparisons, a potential complication comes via the fact both the theatrical version and the Extended Cut also exist as 3D Blu-rays. Not only did Jackson shoot the flicks at 48 fps, but he also made them native 3D productions.
Because I enjoy the ability to watch 3D Blu-rays, it becomes a tough choice between the 3D Journey and this 4K version. On one hand, the 4K clearly offers superior visuals.
As noted, the 4K beats the 2D version in terms of picture quality. While the 3D BD also looked great, it marked a minor degradation in visuals compared to the 2D BD, so it obviously presents weaker visuals than this 4K.
On the other hand, I do like the 3D presentation of Journey. Though it never becomes the most ambitious stereo image, Jackson uses the format well and the 3D adds a nice layer of depth and involvement.
So in the future, which will I watch? Cop out this may become, but I don’t know. When I eventually get an Atmos set-up, I’ll probablygo 4K, but until then, it feels like a tossup between the 3D and the 4K.
Take that as a win-win, though, as both work awfully well. You can’t go wrong with either.
Unlike the prior home video versions of Journey I reviewed, this 4K UHD package includes zero extras. That situation will become rectified in summer 2021, when a deluxe package will emerge.
Not only will that set include all the missing bonus materials, but also it will encompass the whole Tolkien saga, so it’ll match the Hobbit trilogy with the Lord of the Rings flicks in one big six-movie set. It also promises some new extras in addition to the eight million hours of content already released.
That leaves this version of Journey devoid of extras. This package also lacks a Blu-ray copy of the film, so we get just the 4K discs.
As the opening chapter of a three-part saga, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey introduces us to its tale well. Though some scenes threaten to sag, they remain enjoyable and engaging, so the film keeps us with it across its long running time. The 4K UHD provides dazzling picture and audio but it comes with no bonus materials.
That latter factor may prompt some fans to want to wait for the 2021 release of the Hobbit trilogy mentioned earlier, as it’ll contain copious supplements. If you only care about the movies themselves – and perhaps already feel sated with the massive collection of features on the prior DVDs and Blu-rays – then this movie-only set may seem sufficient.
Note that as of December 2020, you can only purchase this 4K UHD version of Journey as part of a “The Hobbit Motion Picture Trilogy” package. This includes all three movies – both theatrical and extended editions - for a retail price of 89.98.
To rate this film, visit the Blu-Ray review of THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY