With The Desolation of Smaug arriving in cinemas next month, Peter Jackson has followed up his tradition started in Lord of the Rings, of releasing an Extended Edition of the previous film the month before in preparation for the new cinematic adventure.
If you’re reading this review, I’m going to assume you have an interest in buying the Extended Edition DVD or Bluray, and therefore already know and like the movie, and are really more interested in the changes, and what you get in the extras. This isn’t just a cynical marketing ploy by the studios, but as Jackson mentions in the commentary, it’s also a chance for the director to tweak and beef up a few elements of the original movie. This maybe something as simple as adding a few more seconds to focus on something that has greater significance in the subsequent films. But it also means he can add back in elements that were cut for time in the cinematic release. In the case of An Unexpected Journey, the most noticeable additions are a couple of the songs. One from the Great Goblin (Barry Humphries), and Bofur’s (James Nesbitt) song in Rivendell. There are also a number of extended scenes added just to add more texture, or in one Rivendell sequence… naked dwarfs… Overall, it’s not really going to shift your opinion from the cinematic cut of the movie. If you thought it was too long in the cinema, this isn’t going to help, and if you loved the original version, this can only make you love it more.
Really, the reason you are likely to buy this version isn’t for the extended cut, but for the whopping 9hrs of additional background material. I will confess, having only got the Bluray late last week, I haven’t managed to watch it all yet. The main reason I stopped watching, is because I needed to write this review! As with the LotR DVDs, what stands them apart from some other ‘movie special edition’ discs, is the sheer amount of content, and access that Jackson gave them to film it.
Appendix Disc 1, you get a full 4 and a bit hours of footage from behind the production. I was assuming that some of this maybe from the ‘production diaries’ Jackson had uploaded to the web, but that’s not the case. It’s effectively a 4hr movie of the making of The Hobbit part 1, from the first shot, right to the premiere. Not only were they making a 3hr movie of Tolkien’s work, they were making a 4hr movie about making a 3hr movie of Tolkien’s work! It’s a pretty impressive feat, and really gives you some insight into the way the film was crafted, and how the cast and crew of The Hobbit movies work so closely together. There’s a lovely sequence quite early on, where Sir Ian McKellen is struggling a little with the way of filming Bag End this time around – mainly due to him being stuck on a green screen whilst the rest of the cast is on a smaller scale set. This leads to the production team deciding to surprise him by decorating his tent/dressing room area to cheer him up. You get this very warm feeling from seeing how they work hard to produce something magical, but also go out of their way to make sure the cast and crew are comfortable.
Appendix Disc 2 goes into more depth about specific elements of the production. I found the section on the dwarves particularly fascinating. It not only goes into the casting, and why they picked people for the roles, but also the work they did in figuring out the distinct personalities off each dwarf, which is somewhat skimmed over in the original source text. There’s also some great background on casting Martin Freeman as Bilbo, the visual effects, and creating the music.
If you’re a fan of The Hobbit, or just have an interest in the making of movies, this really is the version of the film you want to buy. Not so much for the movie itself, but more for the huge amount of background material you get in the extras.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Extended Edition is released on Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray and DVD on Monday, November 11 2013, from Warner Bros. UK