THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY Extended Edition Blu-ray Review

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Since its release, the one criticism leveled most consistently against The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was its length. Eager to fill the giant void in their profit margins left by the departure of Harry Potter, Warner Bros leveraged a three-film cycle out of Peter Jackson, stretching J.R.R. Tolkien’s comparatively slim novel far past its breaking point. The result was a pretty good film in a lot of ways, but one whose flabby center and general overindulgence prevented it from joining the pantheon of greats occupied by The Lord of the Rings.  As you may have gathered, adding another fifteen minute doesn’t exactly improve matters. Hit the jump for my full review of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Extended Edition Blu-ray.

the-hobbit-an-unexpected-journey-martin-freemanAn Unexpected Journey covers only the first six chapters of The Hobbit, an impossibly small amount of time for such a large film. Director Peter Jackson and his colleagues filled it by pulling huge amounts of backstory from Tolkien’s archives, as well as expanding the danger represented by the mysterious Necromancer (a subplot only hinted at in the book and basically used to get the wizard Gandalf out of the way). It works largely because the story remains so charming and Jackson knows it so well.

He got a lot of help from cast members both old and new, topped by Martin Freeman’s pitch-perfect rendition of the put-upon hobbit, Bilbo Baggins. Chosen by Gandalf (Ian McKellan) as the “lucky number” addition to a company of thirteen, he journeys towards the Lonely Mountain to help the dwarf Thorin (Richard Armitage) reclaim his ancestral homeland from a dragon that has taken up residence. Along the way, he learns the nature of fear and courage, as well as picking up a few baubles that Lord of the Rings fans should find familiar.

If nothing else, The Hobbit makes a welcome return to this world, giving us a chance to explore more corners and delve into its elaborate history more readily. That actually helps it work better on Blu-ray than it did in the theaters, since Blu-rays allow you to soak in the details at leisure.  (It’s worth noting that people who haven’t read the book before seeing the movie tend to like the movie more than those of us with preexisting expectations.) On the other hand… yeah, there’s a whole lot of it, and though Tolkien has more than enough details in his universe to fill up the time, it does feel like filler far more than compelling narrative.

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The new Extended Edition, unfortunately, adds to that problem considerably. It’s not that the new material is bad; it just feels supremely unnecessary, and while melded rather seamlessly into the whole, it elicits more shrugs than excitement. We have a few new songs pulled from Tolkien (including one rather funny one from Dame Edna’s Goblin King), some expansion of the prologue, a couple of additional scenes in Rivendell… all of which are fun but none of which do anything to make the story more compelling.

And in this case, it feels more like double-dipping than the Extended Editions of The Lord of the Rings did. Those films had to cut the story to a minimum to make it fit in the allotted theatrical time, making the new material a case of appreciated breathing room rather than egregious padding. While the extended versions of The Lord of the Rings feel even better than the theatrical runs, this one feels a bit worse, and I suspect I know which version will see more play in the future.

None of this should diminish The Hobbit’s very real strengths, which only a few other movies in history can match. Tolkien’s vision is undiminished, and Jackson’s efforts here feel no less reverential than they did a decade ago with The Lord of the Rings. We evaluate it against the very highest standards, and though it’s found wanting on that level, that’s still a long way from being anything but terrific entertainment. The new version proves only that you can have too much of a good thing, and that double-dipping isn’t always necessary if the new version doesn’t bring anything extra.

the-hobbit-an-unexpected-journey-extended-edition-statueHaving said that, the set’s extra features are quite impressive, to the point of being worth a purchase all on their own. The format continues the “Appendices” set-up used in The Lord of the Rings, greatly expanding upon the rather meager offerings in the previous Blu-ray of The Hobbit. Nine-plus hours of terrific behind-the-scenes features cover every conceivable form of production and development: a discussion of the lands and peoples of Middle Earth a breakdown of dwarf genealogy, a look at Bilbo as a character, and over five hours of details related to the production itself.  An audio commentary from Jackson and co-screenwriter Philippa Boyens closes out the set, featuring expected insights and observations on the process of bringing the film to screen.

In light of that, the movie itself feels like more of an afterthought than a selling point: unnecessary though not entirely unwelcome. The extra features are strong enough to stand on their own, and concerns about paying for the same movie twice will fade when you see what the set as a whole holds.  Warners has a habit to see as many different versions of these films as they can. In this case, at least, the total package exceeds the meager offerings of the new footage alone, raising The Hobbit Extended Edition to the status of a must-buy. With The Desolation of Smaug looking to up the game a bit, it’s worth returning to this world for another curtain call, despite the mild disappointments involved.




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  • Vic Twenty

    I am trying to talk myself out of buying this. I must consult the WOPR.
    Oh Joshua!!!!!

    • Sten

      I’ll wait for the complete trilogy boxset, probably in the extendend version. Did the same with Lord of the Rings. And I wait for the Iron Man trilogy as well. I already got the Dark Knight films separately and must confess, that I am thinking to sell them to buy the trilogy boxset as well… it gives the thing a more complete character. I love the Rambo boxset, the Lethal Weapon and Dirty Harry boxset, the one I got from Nightmare and Hellraiser (just the first three entries…) and so on. If you know, there will be a trilogy, it makes sense to wait. When the Batman reboot started, I didn’t know it was going to be a trilogy. So there is that.

    • Sten

      I’ll wait for the complete trilogy boxset, probably in the extendend version. Did the same with Lord of the Rings. And I wait for the Iron Man trilogy as well. I already got the Dark Knight films separately and must confess, that I am thinking to sell them to buy the trilogy boxset as well… it gives the thing a more complete character. I love the Rambo boxset, the Lethal Weapon and Dirty Harry boxset, the one I got from Nightmare and Hellraiser (just the first three entries…) and so on. If you know, there will be a trilogy, it makes sense to wait. When the Batman reboot started, I didn’t know it was going to be a trilogy. So there is that.

  • Marissa Evans

    Man, I must be the only one who didn’t feel ‘The Hobbit’s length. When it ended my immediate reaction was “No keep going!” Not denying there were lagging parts I zoned out in, but hell, there were more than enough of those in ‘Lord of the Rings’ so it wasn’t exactly a surprise.

    That said, the only reason I’m interested in this extended edition is because I want to see that scene between Bilbo and Elrond in Rivendell. One of my favourite parts in the book.

    • dangeer

      You’re not the only one, my friend. I loved An Unexpected Journey from start ’till finish, and never felt it dragged one bit. For me, FINALLY seeing The Hobbit on the big screen after such a long wait, even if it was only 1/3 of the story, was such a cool experience that every moment was treasured, even the “slow” parts. I like that it’s taking its time.

      • http://www.facebook.com/josiahcoulter19 Josiah Coulter

        YES! I felt the same way.

      • bilbo bagshot

        Me too man. My favorite bit was Bilbo hosting the Dwarven party. It was exactly as I had imagined while reading the book. loved the movie except for the ‘stone giants throwing rocks’ part. It was the most unnecessary CGI sequence of this year along with Superman fighting metallic tentacles in Man of steel.

      • http://www.facebook.com/josiahcoulter19 Josiah Coulter

        I dunno, I kinda liked it and it looked good.

      • http://www.facebook.com/josiahcoulter19 Josiah Coulter

        I dunno, I kinda liked it and it looked good.

      • The Flobbit

        The ONLY part I felt it dragged was when Thorin and Gandalf have that little scrap in the abandoned farmer’s house. I always hunch in my seat when that moment comes. The rest of the movie is freaking awesome, and it kept me riveted to the chair.. That moment where Thorin walks through fire to face Azog is one of the most powerful and awesome moments in like…blockbuster history!

        But FOTR, TTT, and ROTK had MANY MANY more dull moments. I mean, is anyone riveted to their seats when Frodo, Sam, and Gollum go through Shelob’s lair? I don’t think so. The good thing is, they are sheer masterpieces – unequalled, brilliant, electrifying, perfect masterpieces – in spite of it.

      • mbmarquis69

        I quite liked Shelob’s lair. It was a culmination of all the scheming and betrayal that Gollum was working up towards and the moment when it became horrifyingly obvious to Frodo just how alone he was.

      • The Flobbit

        Well put, good sir. The most powerful moment of the film, however (Frodowise, of course) is when Sam picks up Frodo and carries him up the mountain. Such stolid faithfulness and determination showed that young hobbit, even when Frodo, condemned with an unbearable load, had faltered and failed.

      • mbmarquis69

        I quite liked Shelob’s lair. It was a culmination of all the scheming and betrayal that Gollum was working up towards and the moment when it became horrifyingly obvious to Frodo just how alone he was.

    • MIXTER

      Me too! I thought out of all of the series, Hobbit felt the shortest. Why everyone suddenly forgot how long the first 3 films were I don’t understand.

      And so far, i aCtually prefer the film to the book. Smaugs senes alone only filled about 3 to 4 pages. The battle of 5 armies wasn’t much longer neither. Its as if Tolkien just wanted to finish it quick to end it. I do hope we don’t get singing/talking spiders though.

  • The Flobbit

    Go die in a fire. The Hobbit was excellent. I will gladly see anything new.

    • Lovecraftlives

      This extended is longer, but not by much. I think I deal with it just fine. Yes, I like the original cut just as well, but I’m not going to buy every damn version that’s out there, plus I don’t really see how ten to fifteen minutes of footage is going to hurt a film I already love. The real clench for me is that it comes with all these extras, plus I plan to get the 3D version. Add all of this up and it’s the extended 3D version for me, now on to film 2!

      • The Flobbit

        Us Tolkien fans sit through hundreds of pages on the Noriquendi and the Taliquendi and Beor and Feanor and Fingolfin and Finrod. We sit through 4+ hours of The Return of the King. We watch 11+ hours of the extended editions on our birthdays for fun. We own the blu-ray, the DVD, the collectible edition, and the extended versions. We have Howard Shore’s complete score and we play it in the car. We leave our cities to find a premiere of the films. We stand for days in line to watch the movies, and whenever promotional material comes out we watch it around 20 times.

        The Hobbit Extended version is 11 minutes longer. This guy is clearly underestimating us.

    • Brian Parker

      Hellz yeah!

    • IMPYEMU

      You disagree with the man’s opinion and tell him to go die in a fire? You’re a cunt.

      • The Flobbit

        Ditto.

  • http://www.facebook.com/josiahcoulter19 Josiah Coulter

    I don’t care if it’s only 13 minutes, I WANT THIS EXTENDED EDITION. I will take anything I can get from LOTR/Hobbit.

  • Matty

    I’m one of the people who disliked that they split it into 3. The extra details that added to the movie’s length aren’t really necessary for the main Hobbit story (what I really care about) and the story-ending gratification will be delayed by a couple years. It could be worse though.The extra content wasn’t bad, just a little strenuous. The only real cons are the extra money we have to pay for the tickets/DVDs. I’m glad some people are enjoying the extended storylines.

  • randommale7

    I don’t get why people in the comments don’t just wait for the whole trilogy to come out and in the extended edition…i’m sure you want it now but they probably add more stuff for the trilogy edition

    • Sten

      Exactly! It’s not as we don’t know it’ll be trilogy in the end, you know…

  • Btbcc12859

    I am just guessing, but If the Hobbit was “two” parts, then I think the extended cut would work better,

  • Guy Man

    Why must all footage be compelling and “forward the plot”? Why *can’t* footage be filler? You’re having fun watching it, right? What’s the problem then? I don’t understand the criticism of there “being too much.” The more the better! Especially in this series and world of Middle-Earth!

  • http://tarek-to-verso.over-blog.com/ tarek

    double post…

  • http://tarek-to-verso.over-blog.com/ tarek

    Calling the Hobbit a mess is not correct.

    But calling it a success isn’t correct either.

    Two huge issues for me in the Hobbit:

    1- the overused CGI ( the Awful Goblin king and the cartoonish Azog. )

    2- The white council: the dialogue was boring, and Lady Galadriel looked like a useless cheerleader.

  • Nathan

    While I do understand the problem of splitting it into three movies (the third movie would essentially be a huge battle), I don’t understand the critic’s complaints about The Hobbit’s length. One does not simply edit a Tolken adaptation!

    And really, this is probably (hopefully) the last time we see the world of Middle earth on the big screen. And we have the best crew and cast available to bring the vision to life, not a lot of adaptations have that kind of luck. Why not prolong this experience?

    • http://tarek-to-verso.over-blog.com/ tarek

      Not the last time.
      I need to see the middle earth again when they will adapt the Silmarillion

    • WAldenIV

      I’d be much more interested in an abridged (read shortened) version of “The Hobbit” than this extended edition. For starters, cut out the ridiculous song-and-dance routine in the beginning and just get them on their way.

      • Nathan

        But then it wouldnt be The Hobbit. If you wanted it to be short, too bad. Go watch the awful animated Hobbit film.

      • WAldenIV

        I want it to be good. Length is irrelevant.

      • Nathan

        That “song and dance routine” was in the book. And while the book is shorter in page length, there is still a lot of material in it , good material at that.
        If you don’t like the book, then don’t watch the film.

  • Ambitous

    Do any of these editions play in HFR? Personally i want to see HFR 2D, but somehow I doubt they’ve granted that option

  • Gil8ert

    I didn’t enjoy the Hobbit, mainly due to the lack of ‘The Hobbit’ in the film. They’ve nailed the aesthetics in the main, and it mostly looks amazing – but it’s just not the Hobbit. I understand the problems in bringing a book to life and certain liberties need taking – but read the book and see what happens when the dwarves arrive at Rivendell, and then watch the movie and see what happens. It’s certainly a gay moment, but not in the way Tolkien meant.

    The lack of peril faced by the characters takes all meaning from the quest in the first place. Yeah, just fell 100 foot into a cave – I’ve had worse. *Pats off self*
    It looks Tolkien, but it absolutely isn’t Tolkien – and it certainly isn’t ‘The Hobbit.’

    Now, fusty old grump though I am, had it been called ‘Tales from Middle Earth’ – then I would have no gripe (except the lazy story telling and cliched direction.)
    Bad Taste and Brain Dead are exceptional films, and the LOTR trilogy are really very good indeed. The Hobbit, for me, is just like King Kong – Sentimentally overdone pap. WTF is Legolas even doing near this trilogy?!
    There’s a good reason why the Hobbit was so loved as a book. If you’re allowed this much license then why not make a film called ‘Lord of the Flies’ but instead of focusing on the kids, focus instead on the Warship sailing around the sea (the one that comes to the rescue at the end) and have that as the first film. The Second film follows the kids – and the third film is a massive great Battle between the navy and the boys. Would that be Lord of the Flies? No, it wouldn’t.

    I understand why people love it. But then I love Starship Troopers – and I can happily both love that film and agree that it is abominable, and The Hobbit is pretty bad even without everything I’ve mentioned.

    I will never be able to leave this argument alone – if not only for what they did to poor Radaghast! One of the 5 Istari? – Yeah!? – Let’s just make him a tw@ instead!

    • http://tarek-to-verso.over-blog.com/ tarek

      I think that Peter did the same “mistake” as George Lucas, by changing the tone of the movie to be more accessible to younglings.
      Thus, Radagast became a clown instead of an excentric Istar.
      The dance of the goblin king was also ridiculous. But probably funny for young kids.

      • Nathan

        Go read the book.

      • http://tarek-to-verso.over-blog.com/ tarek

        Read it more than once.

        No Radagast the clown and his cartoonish Rosghabel Rabbits.

        No white counsil with its dull dialogue.
        No cartoonish Azog
        No Awful goblin king dancing like a fool.

        should I go on ?

  • Dingus23

    Ian Holm is a pitch perfect Bilbo. Freeman is Arthur Dent Officeguy in a wig.

    • http://tarek-to-verso.over-blog.com/ tarek

      No one can replace Sir Ian Holm. It is true. He was Bilbo himself.
      I watch Fellowship of the Ring every now and again just to enjoy his play

    • http://tarek-to-verso.over-blog.com/ tarek

      No one can replace Sir Ian Holm. It is true. He was Bilbo himself.
      I watch Fellowship of the Ring every now and again just to enjoy his play

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