DVD review: The Hobbit - An Unexpected Journey - The Extended Edition
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - The Extended Edition
(Warner Brothers/MGM, M)
As the second of Sir Peter Jackson's Hobbit movies began desolating the box office, Warner Brothers released an extended edition of the first Hobbit movie on DVD and Blu-ray.
The DVD version is presented in a cardboard box to appear like a book, the whole thing oppening out to show off the five discs inside.
It's taken the best part of the evening of two weeks to get through all the discs and it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience for someone who loves to see what happens behind the scenes of his favourite movies as much as the story that unfolds on screen.
Disc 1 and Disc 2 deliver the extended edition of An Unexpected Journey, which comes in at approximately 175 minutes according to the packaging, compared to 169 minutes in the original release. It's hard to believe that there's only 6 minutes of extra footage in this release as it seems much more, probably due to the many extra lines of dialogue sprinkled throughout the film.
Even better is a few significant scenes in Hobbiton, with a young Bilbo Baggins, Rivendell, where elves roll their eyes at the antics of their dwarf guests, and Goblintown, where the madness of the Goblin King is magnified.
Most significant is the addition of two Tolkien penned songs which makes helps make Jackson's Middle Earth more like Tolkien's.
None of the new scenes push the story along, but they do help to establish individual characters and the Middle Earth races they represent.
This makes for a better film, although many would complain about the running time. My advice to them is to not treat the extended edition of An Unexpected Journey as a film but a two part serial. All they need do is watch each part on different nights. I watched them together, with a group of friends, and no one complained about the late night we had.
Discs 3 and 4 include The Appendices Part 7: A Long Expected Journey. They follow on from the appendices begun in the extended editions of The Lord of the Rings films.
It was these two discs which took up most of my viewing time since there is hour upon hour of behind the scenes material. They follow the film from pre-production through to the arrival of the cast, filming, post production and special effects. They are kind of like the shelf load of "making of" style books I have bowing my shelves on everything from the Star Wars films to Blade Runner, Gladiator and Saving Private Ryan.
The doco crew on An Unexpected Journey has an all areas access pass so you feel like you have been admitted into a very exclusive club of which Jackson is president. I suspect, too, that the docos are as much for the director's benefit as they are for fans. Such detail has only ever been shared before in the extra material released with previous Jackson productions.
Without going into too much detail it is evident, from these discs, that the cast of The Hobbit had just as much a wonderful time filming in New Zealand as their The Lord of the Rings counterparts did all that time ago. It's evident, too, that there were no, or certainly few, egos on set and that everyone gave their all to make the best film possible right from the A-list stars like Sir Ian McKellan down to the least heard of Kiwi actor.
The cast is pretty candid, as the documentary crew get in their face on set, and spend a heck of a lot of time making fun of each other. The occasional word has to be bleeped to keep this a family show.
By the end of it I was beginning to feel sorry for actor Mark Hadlow, who played Dori, as he is painted as the film's figure of fun by the rest of the cast. In all truth I suspect their treatment of him was their way of appointing him trilogy mascot. Keep smiling Mark!
Disc 5 features The Appendices Part 8: Return to Middle Earth and is a detailed look at the characters and peoples of Middle Earth. If Discs 3 and 4 are aimed at movie buffs, Disc 5 is aimed more at the Tolkien buff as it details the challenges of realising some of his prose on screen. It's full of readings from his original books, helping set the scene. There's two nights worth of viewing in this disc alone.
You'd have to be more than a casual viewer to sit through this lot, but if you do you won't be disappointed by a frame of it.