The Hobbit

The Hobbit (1978)
Warner Home Video
Extras: Tolkien and Filmmaker Highlights

Based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel ’The Hobbit, ’ which eventually lead up to his writing of ’The Lord Of The Rings,’ this is the animated adaptation of the book as perceived by Arthur Rankin and Jules Bass. While the film captures the story in essence, the visual presentation is extremely rough with crude animation and a washed out art style that does not adequately reflect the beauty and richness of Tolkien’s actual work. It tells the story of the hobbit Bilbo Baggins as he is recruited for a treasure hunt. Although adventure is against the very nature of hobbits, he accepts the challenge and goes out for the adventure of his lifetime, facing dark foes, perilous creatures and even a dragon!

Warner Home Video is bringing us this film in its original fullframe presentation on this DVD. Unfortunately, the transfer is marred with stains and dirt and exhibits excessive grain throughout. The result is an image that always appears muddy and dirty, and never stable. The compression also adds to this feeling as it introduces noticeable pixelation and other digital artifacts, which at times make watching this film straining to say the least.

The audio is presented as a monaural Dolby Digital track in English, which is also showing signs of age and neglect. The frequency response is very limited, resulting in a harsh sounding presentation, that is occasionally exhibiting some hiss and slight distortion.

It is unfortunate that this DVD version of ’The Hobbit’ has turned out rather mediocre. A thorough clean-up of the print and a little more care compressing the material would have gone a long way to make this a pleasing presentation, although the film itself can’t really convince either and remains a fairly poor adaptation of a novel that is rich in detail and colorful in its descriptions. Just like the other animated films of Tolkien’s novels, this incarnation simply doesn’t hit the essence of J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterful works.