Movie review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Extended Edition

One of the things I just got for my birthday was the Blu-Ray of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Edition, which I saved until tonight to watch–because one does not simply commit to a three-hour Peter Jackson epic on a school night! So we watched it tonight, and lo, it was lovely.

There are, according to Wikipedia, 13 extra minutes of footage in this version. And for the most part, I think almost every minute actually helped the movie considerably. Dara and I are in agreement that they improved the pacing of the film by providing a better balance between the battle bits and the slower bits. And I was particularly pleased to see some extra detail in the prelude that sets up the backstory between Thranduil and the dwarves.

There are additional songs, which I mostly liked as giving a bigger tie to the book, with one notable exception. And by and large, I did quite like the extra footage in Rivendell.

Details behind the fold! Mind where you’re digging for spoilers!

ETA: Here’s Dara’s commentary as well!

The first big extra bit we get is in the prelude, where Bilbo is narrating the tale of Erebor to Frodo. There’s some additional detail setting up Thranduil’s backstory with the dwarves–most notably, the appearance of starlight-white gems that Thranduil actually mentions in Desolation of Smaug, and seeing them here actually makes that bit of the second movie make more sense. But what really pinged my Tolkien-geek radar is the mentioning of disputes between the elves and the dwarves about the dwarves not getting their rightful pay for work the elves had wanted them to do. WHY HELLO THERE oblique reference to the story of the Nauglamír!

(It has to be oblique, since that story’s only covered in The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales, but nonetheless: HA!)

Next we see a lovely little glimpse of BABY BILBO and his first meeting with Gandalf. Awww. <3 Totally adorable! And bonus, we get a nice glimpse of Bilbo’s mother, Belladonna Took. I quite liked that bit, if nothing else for the chance to go YAY BELLADONNA TOOK!

There’s a bit of Bilbo wandering around interacting with other hobbits, nervously on the lookout for Gandalf, before we finally get the party scene at Bag-End.

We get a lot of extra mileage in Rivendell, pretty much all of which I liked quite a bit. I recognized the song that Bofur sings once he gets up to stomp around on the table as one that appeared in the book! And I just had to giggle at the unilateral “oh for FUCK’S SAKE, you dwarves” facepalming that everybody in Rivendell was doing. Bonus *lol* for Kili apparently not only being a pervy elf-fancier but maybe a bit bisexual as well. 😉 (At least, that’s how I choose to interpret that, since I like that explanation better than just “ha ha Kili can’t tell male elves apart from females”. C’mon, dwarves, it ain’t like you lot have much in the way of gender dimorphism going on either, y’know.)

Dara and I both quite liked Bilbo just wandering around Rivendell exploring, which we agreed was just really rather nicely Tolkien-ish in general. And I liked his brief scene with Elrond, in which they exchanged a bit of good-natured ribbing, and HEE, there’s the joke about “go not to the elves for council”.

The White Council meeting had some nifty extra stuff too: finally, for the first time, we get to hear about the dwarven Rings of power! Four destroyed by dragons, two reclaimed by Sauron, and the last one in the hands of Thrain, who as of this point in the story is unaccounted for. One presumes that we’re going to see Thrain accounted for in There and Back Again, and it will be real interesting to see if we get Thrain identified as a Ringbearer on camera in that movie, either in the theatrical cut or in the extended one. If Sauron’s reclaimed a Ring from him, it’d lend some weight and credence to his attempt to rise back into power in this storyline.

And for that matter, it’d be real interesting to see if Jackson’s going in a direction of Thror’s gold-madness having been caused by that Ring.

Lastly, we get extra footage in the goblin caverns as well. And we do actually get a version of the “down down to goblin town” song that’s so vividly emblazoned into my head from the 1977 animated Hobbit–but I’m genuinely torn about seeing it here. I think it’s absolutely in character for this version of the goblin king to be so full of himself that he’d be singing triumphantly like that. On the other hand, this is the one time that Howard Shore’s realization of a song out of the book hasn’t actually quite worked for me, possibly because this specific song is indeed so emblazoned into my brain from the animated version of the story.

I’m not sure whether it was this specific arrangement of the song or how the goblin king happened to sing it, but the performance just didn’t work for me.

On the whole, though, the fight scenes with the goblins did feel much better paced due to the balance provided by the other footage. So because of liking all the rest of the additions, I can forgive the goblin king being annoying.

Long story short: this movie was overall quite improved by the additions. And I’m very interested now to see how the other two movies will build on what’s here, and what their extended editions will be like, too!

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