The adventure follows the journey of title character Bilbo Baggins, who is swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome dragon Smaug. Approached out of the blue by the wizard Gandalf the Grey, Bilbo finds himself joining a company of thirteen dwarves led by the legendary warrior, Thorin Oakenshield. Their journey will take them into the Wild; through treacherous lands. Bilbo Baggins not only discovers depths of guile and courage that surprise even him, he also gains possession of Gollum's "precious" ring that holds unexpected and useful qualities... A simple, gold ring that is tied to the fate of all Middle-earth in ways Bilbo cannot begin to know. (from MovieWeb.com)
When director Peter Jackson was making his Lord of the Rings trilogy over a decade ago, he had filmed more than enough footage to fill a reasonable amount of screen time. When the idea for "Extended Editions" came about, he actually went back and filmed extra footage to flesh out his films for special "Extended Editions" to be released exclusively on DVD (and later Blu-Ray). In a similar fashion, Jackson and Warner Bros. are releasing extended versions of his latest project, the prequel to The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit. However, the first "Extended Edition" may not fair quite as well as the previous three had.
For this review, I'm going to be specifically addressing the changes in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Extended Edition (and its bonus features in detail below) and not the film as a whole as much. For that review, which is of the original Theatrical Version (and its Blu-Ray release), please click here.
The reason I say that The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Extended Edition doesn't work quite as well as the Lord of the Rings Extended Editions is because I truly felt that nearly every minute added to The Lord of the Rings trilogy actually helped flesh out some areas that needed it and added to the character and story development. In fact, I won't even watch the theatrical versions of those movies; the extended versions are the truly the most complete versions to watch. Now, one must keep in mind that each of the Lord of the Rings films were based on their respective books. However, Peter Jackson's original plan for The Hobbit was to split it into two separate films; that's one book, two films. But then the announcement was made that Jackson was going to be making THREE films from this one book. To do so, one would expect that every bit of extra footage that could be made would be added to these movies to flesh them out into stand alone stories. As such, the first Hobbit chapter is 2 hours and 49 minutes long. And yet, Warner is still putting out an "Extended Edition" that adds 13 never-before-seen minutes of footage. For the first time, it feels like the added footage hardly "adds" to the movie. Maybe only a few of these extra minutes seem worth the effort. The rest truly feels like filler.
On the Blu-Ray disc, the viewer can go to the "Scene Selection" menu which highlights (just like the paper insert in the DVDs did) which scenes are entirely new and which have been extended. The opening scene of the film is the first extended sequence, and here we get a brief moment where Gandalf meets Bilbo as a little boy. Next is the first entirely new scene, called "Mr. Baggins," which shows Bilbo going to the market and hiding from Gandalf who he worries might be around (but isn't). So far, the additional moments feel entirely unnecessary but still rather innocuous. The sequence where Bilbo meets the dwarves at Bag End is slightly extended with a little more one-on-one interaction with the characters as he meets them. "Rivendell" extends the dwarf fellowship's arrival in the elf city a little bit longer. "A Short Rest" is also extended and we now see the dwarves feasting with the elves and acting rowdy (singing, dancing, and throwing food in a disrespectful manner). But "The Last Homely House" is only the second, and yet the last, all-new scene added here. The only significant moment is that we see Bilbo and Elrond begin their lifelong friendship as they talk on a balcony in Rivendell. Bilbo then leaves as Lindir joins Elrond and they start walking and talking. They suddenly stop and, in the distance, we see all of the dwarves, butt naked, swimming in a sacred elvish fountain. It's brief but strange to be included. It also looks entirely CG, and we see their bare butts, but nothing else explicit. It's the first "What the heck?!" moment of the extended edition. Next is an extended version of The White Council where Bilbo overhears Elrond and Gandalf talking (and there's some brief mention of The One Ring here at the round table discussion). Finally, the last addition to this set is a disappointing one. "The Great Goblin" is extended, featuring a song that is sung by The Goblin King as he dances and squashes goblins around him. It's unnecessary, silly, and feels more like something George Lucas would add to one of his beloved-by-fans movies than Jackson.
By the time The Goblin King finishes his song and you realize you've seen all of the new content and there's still a lot of movie left to watch, you're likely to feel a bit shortchanged. There isn't enough added to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey movie to warrant buying the extended version, but diehard fans may still want to get it for one other reason: The Appendices. With each Lord of the Rings Extended Edition came bonus discs that included two appendices per movie. And each one went into GREAT detail about the production of the film. These are no different. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Extended Edition includes NINE hours of behind-the-scenes content. It's overwhelming, but it's a devoted fan's dream to get an intimate look at the production of the film. It's easily the most thorough behind-the-scenes feature I've seen in years and it's certainly worth picking up this set for if you're into bonus material. Is the Extended Edition of the movie itself worth watching? Not really, but if you're a completist or a fan of movie-making documentaries, you won't want to pass over The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Extended Edition.- John DiBiase (reviewed: 11/8/13)
Disc One: The Film
Disc One includes the film with 13 minutes of additional footage. It's debatable whether it's better than the theatrical version, but I have to admit it's a bit disappointing and feels more like padding than anything substantial. In additon to the film is a wonderful feature-length commentary from Director Peter Jackson and Writer/Co-Producer Philippa Boyens that's worth checking out for fans.
New Zealand: Home of Middle Earth (6:35) - The lone featurette from the first release of the film on disc talks about how they rebuilt the Shire (AKA "Hobbiton") in New Zealand for the film and how the previous Shire wasn't built to last, but this one is. In fact, fans can actually visit it! The featurette continues with cast and crew gushing about how beautiful the scenery and locations in New Zealand are. The neatest part is when they overlay the original footage with the finished theatrical footage to show you just how much of the scenery was actually real.
Disc Two: Appendecies 7
A Long Expected Journey (4:31:11) - This documentary makes up the whole of Disc Two and continues the "Appendecies" from the Lord of the Rings Extended Edition sets. The Opening (2:42) offers quotes from cast and crew about production, serving as a short highlight reel of what you're about to watch. (There's also an optional introduction from Peter Jackson you can watch before the opening.) "The Journey Back to Middle-Earth" (48:19) kicks things off a retrospective that talks about the interim between the two trilogies and how Jackson and his team thought that LOTR was the end of it. It goes on to tell the full story of how the movie came to be--from when Guillermo del Toro was attached to direct to it being passed back to Jackson. We're then taken to dwarf school and training for the actors, as well as the cast's first read through... all of which leads up to Peter's unexpected illness from an ulcer that knocked him out of commission for several weeks. Preproduction continued anyway. We then see them learning horseback riding and training to act and move like dwarves. The team also were given singing lessons, language classes and weapons training. This segment concludes with the opening ceremony for the start their filming in New Zealand.
Riddles in the Dark (17:00) is a highlight of this segment. Gollum and Bilbo's meeting in the caves was the first scene filmed, and Andy Serkis talks candidly about how surprised he was that Jackson asked him to be Second Unit Director. Jackson talks about doing some previsualization tests with stand-in actors as Gollum, and then we're shown footage from the very first day of principal photography. Martin Freeman, who plays Bilbo, talks about acting largely in this CG world for the first time and we see a great deal of B-roll footage of the two actors on set, including Serkis accidentally frying a motion capture face cam when he got it wet during a take. The crew talk about the changes in animation technology over the years and we see some fantastic split screen comparisons of Serkis' acting and the final animated Gollum. An Unexpected Party (25:28) is all about the meeting of the dwarves at Bilbo's home in Bag End. They talk about the changes in technology and how the camera tricks utilized in LOTR won't work today with 3D technology, so they actually had to have Ian McKellen as Gandalf film his parts completely by himself in a green screen, scaled-down version of the house where he had to try to memorize where all thirteen dwarves (and Bilbo) are while the rest of them film their scenes together on a real set. It's pretty heartbreaking when you find out that Ian actually broke down on set due to how taxing it was on him. McKellen even expresses how he considered quitting acting after it. The crew felt bad for him and wanted to show their appreciation for him, and Martin, so they created personal tents for each actor (Ian's was themed with Elvish set pieces and Martin's was furnished with a 1960's look). It was touching to see the love and respect the filmmakers had for their Hobbit family. As the Second Unit Director, Serkis was given the job of filming the food on the table in Bag End and silly stuff like Bombur eating eggs and the dwarves having a food fight.
Roast Mutton (17:12) is about bringing the iconic troll scene to life on screen in Trollshaw Forest. It was interesting to hear how Jackson needed the crew to do a reset after a short time to accomodate a different look for the scene, and it required the entire crew from all departments to pitch in to make it happen in record time. Here we also see some of the motion capture filming used for the trolls--who were voiced and acted by three of the actual dwarf actors too. We also see how the actors had to do the grueling "dwarf kebabs" shot where the actors were bolted onto a log over the fire. Bastion of the Greenwood (10:41) is all about the character Radagast The Brown. Jackson told the team he wanted "enormous rabbits" to pull Radagast's sleigh and the crew found that to be rather silly...until they learned such super-sized animals actually exist even today. They also show how Coordinator for Stunts and Fights Tim Wong actually served as a stunt double for Sylvester McCoy as Radagast, and they needed to make a face cast of McCoy to make Wong look like him. It's pretty fascinating how they accomplished it. A Short Rest (29:12) brings us back to Rivendell for a sort of LOTR reunion, and we see Hugo Weaving suiting up once again as Elrond for filming. They show the dwarves beside their scale double stand-ins (who also wear face casts of the actors to look more like them), and Cate Blanchett is shown making her return as well. It's pretty interesting to see a sequence when Blanchett, McKellen and Jackson call co-writer Fran Walsh on the phone to discuss changing a scene on-the-spot due to some discussion about it. Here we also learn that Christpher Lee (Saruman) couldn't make it to the New Zealand shoot due to his health, so they filmed his scenes against a green screen to splice into the Rivendell scenes later. The cast and crew then gush over the legendary actor and reflect on how many great stories he has to share about his life. Finally, we see Elijah Wood's return as Frodo, complete with him putting on slip-on hobbit feet (as opposed to the attachments in the first trilogy) and filming with Ian Holm again as elderly Bilbo. (1 "S" word, 3 "g-ddmn")
Over Hill... (13:40) covers filming the Misty Mountain storm, where the actors had to be hosed down to look wet during the torrential rains (which, obviously, they hated), while ...Under Hill (19:15) focuses on Goblin Town. Here we see some of the evolution of the goblins' design -- from people in suits (some with animatronic faces that Peter later scrapped in favor of CG) to them being shown as entirely CG designs. They candidly talk about the camaraderie of the goblin actors and how they created their own dance number out of boredom. (1 "S" word) Out of the Frying Pan (16:07) is centered on the forest cliff fight between the dwarves and the Wargs, complete with the appearance of the eagles. (1 "g-ddmn") Return to Hobbiton (18:35) takes everyone back to the Hobbiton town in New Zealand. Peter brought the actual car from the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (which he owns) to the set to get the team excited for the shoot, and then went on location. Here, we see Elijah Wood rejoining the crew for his on location shooting, including his "last" last shot from Lord of the Rings, and we briefly see some footage from his final moments on set over ten years ago. Finally, it's quite moving to hear Martin Freeman talk about the Make-A-Wish foundation guests who were given the chance to visit the set to meet the actors on location in Hobbiton.
The Epic of Scene 88 (8:28) - This curiously titled portion is named for the extended sequences of running that was filmed for the actors as they're being chased by Wargs. The actors humorously express their resentment for this sequence here (1 "J-sus Chr-st"). The Battle of Moria (10:57) took 10 days to shoot as opposed to the originally planned 2 days. And they deliberately planned for the battle to take place outside the same place that Frodo and the fellowship exit Moria in Fellowship of the Ring. Edge of the Wilderland (22:37) is about filming pickup shots to add to the film, like changing the ending to have Bilbo save Thorin from Azog, a scene between Elrond and Gandalf, and Peter Jackson's cameo as a dwarf. They also talk here about how Jackson can tend to be mischievous on set (and show some evidence of this). Lastly, we see them filming the final scene on Carrock, as well as the very last shot of the movie (complete with an unexpected expression of appreciation for Freeman). (1 "S" word, 1 "J-sus Chr-st") The documentary then wraps up with Home is Behind, the World Ahead (11:40), which is about finishing the movie at the very last minute just moments before the official premiere, and it sets things up for the next film. We then get some tasty footage (mostly behind-the-scenes) of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. And then we're shown the end credits (3:03).
Disc Three: Appendecies 8
Return to Middle-Earth (4:45:19)
The Company of Thorin (1:02:41) - The second disc is less about filming specific scenes and more about the actual production and design of sets and characters. "The Company of Thorin" is all about casting the actors you see in the film. We get some great original audition tape footage here as well as test videos of their acting without makeup. Each actor tells the story of how they were cast, too, and it's heartwarming to hear just how excited and appreciative they were to get the job. After dubbing the group "The Dirty Baker's Dozen," we see a great mock TV theme video that has a sort of A-Team feel to it. The section is also split up into 6 chapters by family groups of the dwarf characters, so we hear how they fleshed out the characters and gave them more distinct personalities than the J.R.R. Tolkien novel suggested.
Mr Baggins: The 14th Member (16:10) is all about the title character of Bilbo. The filmmakers admit that they never thought of anyone else for Bilbo but Martin Freeman. But his committments to the BBC TV series Sherlock almost made it impossible for him to do the film, so they tried to find another actor to replace him. After they realized that Martin is still their main choice, they decided to work around his schedule to make it work--even if that meant him leaving the production for 3 months. Martin and Peter talk about working together to find the right beat for Bilbo. (And Martin and McKellen individually voice their questions about what Bilbo's sex life would be like?! Very random.) We see some really great alternate takes of Martin acting in different ways as Bilbo. Jackson admits that Martin gave so many good takes that it was very difficult to pick from them for the finished film. Very oddly enough, we get an extended montage of Martin Freeman flipping his middle finger at the camera (in full Bilbo garb) throughout the entire production of the film...even up to the moment he's walking by a camera on the red carpet. It's meant to be a joke, but it feels kind of over-the-top to include here (especially since he actually looks angry doing it and some viewers are likely to take it the wrong way). (Also 2 "S" words here, as well as some bleeped "F" words)
Durin's Folk: Creating the Dwarves (57:25) focuses on the design of each dwarf from the beginning with each concept all the way to their completion as the final versions. They discuss getting their proportions right, donning fat suits, prosthetic facial features and arms, and the cast seeing their designs for the first time in January of 2011. We see some makeup tests, learn that their beards were made of yak hair, and see the evolution of their appearances. Finally, we see the design of their individual weapons and hear about how they combatted the heat of their costumes with cooling suits underneath that they could plug into between takes, and air conditioned tents they could also rest in. (1 "S" word)
The People and Denizens of Middle-Earth (58:09) is split up into 4 parts. It opens with a segment about the troll designs for the iconic scene (as mentioned in part on the first bonus disc). We see the three dwarf actors recording their voices in the studio for this segment and acting the scene out in their motion capture suits. It then moves on to Radagast the Brown and we hear about his design and see Sylvester McCoy suit up (1 "S" word). A good portion here is dedicated to the goblins' design and how Peter wanted a completely new look for these underground dwellers. Some of the designs are especially scary and grotesque and they show us a lot of design concepts. We're also shown the Goblin King (and his design) and actor Barry Humphries' motion capture acting. Finally, the segment talks about the character of Azog and how the storytellers here kept him alive when the book had killed him off originally. They show an extensive evolution of his design, and how they ultimately finished him as a fully digital character in post production because they couldn't agree on a single design before filming.
Realms of the Third Age: From Bag End to Goblin Town (58:59) is split into 5 parts. This is mostly about the design of each set location and what went into that process. First we see the rebuilding of the on-location Hobbiton in New Zealand and then see Bilbo's Bag End house set (which Jackson admits is his favorite set). We then see Radagast's house design, and how it was built to look as though a tree grew right through the middle of his house, and then move on to Rivendell. For the elf town, we see that it's much more full of life than it was 60 years later in LOTR. It was dark and dilapidated in the first trilogy, so the art department had a grand time designing it to be alive and lighter in appearance. We then hear about the look of the Stone-Giants on the Misty Mountain and the intricate design of the goblin town (1 "S" word).
Finally, The Songs of the Hobbit (32:32) and its Credits (3:23) close this documentary. It begins by mentioning the songs sung in the LOTR trilogy and then moves into the featured songs, including "Blunt the Knives" and the "Misty Mountains" theme. As such, we get to hear some interesting alternate versions here and see footage of the dwarf actors singing together and recording it. They also talk about the Elvish songs and Howard Shore's musical score a little. They touch briefly on the "Goblin Town" theme that's heard mostly in the Extended Edition (and how Humphries got to sing that) and, finally, discuss the "Misty Mountains" theme getting a new take from artist Neil Finn to sing over the credits (and his appearance at the premiere).
Overall, these two bonus discs present some incredible and largely intriguing bonus footage for Hobbit fans to enjoy. It's extensive and revealing from a filmmaking sense (but keep in mind that the theatrical release on Blu-Ray from earlier this year included the online blog production videos and this set does not). Those who love bonus features really can't get any better than what's included on The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Extended Edition.- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 11/10/13)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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