Thu
Dec 5 2013 10:00am
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Extended Edition is Actually Better Than the Theatrical Release

Bilbo Baggins, The Hobbit Extend Edition, Martin Freeman

I’m going to tell you something, and you’re not going to believe me: The Extended Edition of the first Hobbit film, An Expected Journey, is actually better than its theatrical release. I know this seems impossible given that the Extended Editions of Lord of the Rings were not—they were chock full of fun bits that we missed, but they didn’t play as better films. The pacing got all wonky, and they didn’t really move.

The Extended Edition of The Hobbit is different.

Sure, the journey slows down a peg or two, but what we get in return is a movie that’s a little less fraught and clearly enjoying itself.

For some of the short bits that are just plain fun to have:

  • We see more of Lee Pace’s Thranduil at the start of the film. While he doesn’t speak, what we see gives us a slightly better understanding of why he’s got a beef with Thror. And we get some bonus eye-acting in the process. Seriously, check out Lee Pace’s ethereal majesty.
  • We get to see Bilbo as Gandalf first saw him. TINY BILBO. Tiny Bilbo with a tiny wooden sword! Ugh, it’s disgustingly cute.
  • More of Bilbo hiding from Gandalf in Hobbiton before a baker’s dozen of dwarves pull up on his doorstep.
  • Dwarves fountain-bathing!
  • Bilbo sees the Ring in a painting at Rivendell before ever putting it in his pocket. All kinds of creepy.

I wish I could say there was more Gollum, but what he did was entirely too perfect, so that’s probably for the best.

And now for the more sizable additions that do change how the film is structured:

On the serious side, the White Council is longer as a segment. This has the added value of making everyone’s concerns about the Necromancer and Thorin’s quest much clearer, plus extra time with Galadriel and Elrond is never a bad thing. Saruman is that much more of the jerk, leading you to wonder how everyone did not see this betrayal coming. Sheesh, Saruman, why don’t you just humble Gandalf more in front of the pretty elves? It’s like Mean Girls, but for wizards. (Someone make that movie now.)

Speaking of pretty elves, the entire Rivendell sequence overall is much longer, giving us plenty of time to observe the differences between elves and dwarves and just why they don’t seem to get along all that well. Gandalf spends a lot of time trying to convince Elrond that the band is super cultured, which is proven beyond reasonable doubt when Bofur halts the haunting elven music in favor of a tavern-like chant (James Nesbitt wrote the music for this one, similarly to Viggo Mortensen and Billy Boyd’s vocal stylings in LOTR). This is a shout out to Fellowship as well; the song in question is a modified version of the one Frodo sings at the Prancing Pony. Also, Kili has some trouble when he’s caught staring at an elven maid and tries to cover by suggesting that only one of them is okay-looking—then points out a guy. The dwarves have a fantastic time with that mix-up.

Bofur, The Hobbit Extend Edition, James Nesbitt

Bilbo gets one-on-one time with Elrond! The scene is both charming and great for foreshadowing the coming trilogy and Frodo’s role in events. Also, Bilbo manages to put his foot in his mouth superbly, like he should.

The dwarves’ abrupt departure from Rivendell makes more sense due to an interlude where Bilbo and Thorin overhear a discussion between Gandalf and Elrond about Thorin’s right to reclaim Erebor, considering how crazy his family is. In fact, Thorin is far more sympathetic all the way around here, as we see how often he must come up against people who think he can’t do what he says.

But it’s when they fall beneath the mountain that you get a real reversal—what the film might have been if they’d given into some self-indulgence in the editing. The Great Goblin seems like an entirely different character in the Extended Edition. Rather than menacing and gross, he’s bumbling and odd and quite funny. He is introduced via a song of his own making that all the other goblins chorus along with. It reads more like lost boys captured by pirates than dire circumstances with death looming. The Great Goblin demands to know what they’re doing there, and Bofur tries to explain. Badly. The goblins are barely competent, played for laughs the whole way through. The resulting escape suddenly reads as a shoddily-conceived effort by Gandalf, making the whole sequence funnier by turn.

Which means that when we get to the final battle between Thorin and Azog the White Orc, the movie hasn’t descended into that nightmarish Worse-Worser-Worsest progression—it’s actually a complete emotional shift from the previous. Perceived danger to real danger. Threats to aggression. Confusion to out and out fear.

So really, this is the version you should get yourself on DVD or Blu-Ray or what-have-you. There are a ton of fun extras to wade through beyond the rewatching and commentary, so more treats await. But for those who might like a film experience that reminds them more of the silliness they enjoyed reading the book, the Extended Edition is exactly what you need.


Emily Asher-Perrin wants a tiny Bilbo to carry around. You can bug her on Twitter and read more of her work here and elsewhere.

19 comments
Theo16
1. Theo16
For some reason I always enjoy extended editions of just about anything regardless of whether the shorter version actually makes a more effective story. I generally feel that the additional content makes up for any deficiencies in pacing.

I think the only case where I prefer a shorter version is the Director's Cut DVD of Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
Jeff LaSala
2. JLaSala
Oh, definitely. For me the extended additions of all the films made better films. Everytime there's a new movie out, I watch it and love but I feel I'm watching the abridged version for short attention spans. I can't help it!
Theo16
3. Colin R
I dunno. I trust that the extra stuff is all well-done, but none of it will do much to address my problem with the films--a critical lack of confidence in the source material. Rather than letting The Hobbit be the story that it is, they want to turn it into a prequel to the LOTR.
Rob Rater
4. Quasarmodo
I haven't seen it yet, but I figured if I was going to watch it, I should watch the extended edition.
Theo16
5. Herb414
Considering that the entire book should have been done in a single movie, I have serious doubts that an even more bloated first third could be any less bad.
Kristoff Bergenholm
6. Magentawolf
So, even in the extended edition, we don't get the full Misty Mountains song? *siiiiiigh*

Also, the Goblin King should not be some bumbling idiot.. and that whole bloody escape scene? Argh! I'm tearing my beard out here! I don't want slapstick comedy!
Theo16
7. Colin R
Slapstick comedy is not my problem with those scenes--the book is kind of silly and funny in a lot of places, including with the goblins and trolls. My problem is that the dwarves as depicted in the film are way too heroic, charging into danger with axes swinging and stuff. In the novel the dwarves are basically hapless curmudgeons, forever wandering into danger and complaining. I don't think they successfully battle anybody in The Hobbit. They are not heroic figures at all. The dwarves in the films seem more informed by D&D than by Tolkien.
Jeff LaSala
8. JLaSala
Since The Hobbit, as it was written, took relatively little account into the larger world that The Lord of the Rings fleshed out, I'm absolutely fine with this prequel trilogy tying the two together in a way that Tolkien didn't (and couldn't) have done without actually severely revising his book. Which is why I'm okay with these dwarves acting more akin to Gimli than the LotR-less original novel. I think so much consternation could have been avoided if only the movie trilogy weren't titled The Hobbit but rather included the story from The Hobbit as part of its larger prequelization. That's how I view it. My criticisms, which aren't numerous, mostly stem from where invention (especially dialogue) replaces existing material from the text (such as some of the Great Goblin's lines from the book that just aren't used in the movie—why not?!).
Theo16
9. i can't think of an alias
@8 I agree that Jackson needed to make sure that the two sets of films had consistent charactorization. That's why I wish someone else had directed The Hobbit. They wouldn't have been beholden to Jackson's LOTR movies. The Hobbit deserves to stand on its own two (furry) feet.
Theo16
10. Colin R
Bleh. The various junk connecting LOTR and the Hobbit was jammed into appendices rather than into the main narrative for a reason--it's not compelling or interesting stuff. Trying to tie the two stories together was a smart business idea, a bad storytelling idea.

The result is that "The Hobbit" movies barely seem to be about the hobbit at all--the films seem almost embarrassed to be about Bilbo Baggins, and so feel the need to crowd the screen with bombastic dwarves, Legolas, Wizard battles, the assault on Dol Guldor... ugh. At some point this isn't an adaptation of The Hobbit at all, but some enthusiastic corporate fan fiction.
Alan Brown
11. AlanBrown
Sounds like I am going to have to check out that extended edition. I like the idea of a lighter tone in some of the scenes, which would fit more with the spirit of the original book.
But I do not have problems with movie makers that amend the material they are working with. Very few movies that try too hard to hew to the original book are successful themselves. What works on the page does not always work on the screne.
Mr. Jackson did a great job of bringing his vision of the material to the big screen, and while I might have liked to see a few things done differently, I think overall he has done quite well.
Theo16
12. j-fan
Sorry, no. The Extended Fellowship was FAR superior to the theatrical release. The Extended cuts only began to suffer when the new extended scenes were more garbage written by Jackson, Boyens, and Walsh.

Which is unfortunately the problem, the whole idea of the Extended Editions is flawed. That is where more of the Director and Writer should be added, they should writely be director's cuts. Nothing that Walsh, Boyen, or Jackson creates from whole clothe should take the place of the actual creator of the characters.. but that doesn't seem to be the way it has worked.

The Extended Towers film simply loaded it down with more unneeded scenes with Aragorn, Arwen, the Pseudo-Faramir, and of course how can we forget all the fart and pot jokes they felt the need to add in. Return of the King was slightly better, but still not as good as the Extended Fellowship.. which actually added in quite a lot of good scenes. As far as I'm concerned Fellowship is still the best of all 4 of the Tolkien Adaptions released so far, and I don't doubt it will definitely be better than Desolation of Smaug.. which of course suffers from the fact it is essentially fanfiction.
Theo16
13. NormanM
I enjoyed the film in the theater, and will go see the new one when it comes out, but I certainly won't be buying the DVD, extended cut or otherwise.

Unless of course they release a trimmed down version of the new trilogy telling *just* the Hobbity bits. Something that fits in one movie, something that a kid could actually watch. That's the movie I would watch more than once. Otherwise, it's a grand theatrical experience that I have no desire to repeat at home.
Theo16
14. mutantalbinocrododile
While your mention of a different and less wonky tone interests me enough to give this a look (probably when someone else sells their DVD at a knockdown price on Amazon), making Thorin even MORE sympathetic is a major red flag. I'm not inherently bothered by "making cinematic fanfiction" if it's done well, but Jackson's version of Thorin as an epic hero rather than a violent, blinkered aristocratic fool really does not work. I was hoping he might pull the rug out from under the audience in Film 3, but it looks unlikely now.
Alejandro Melchor
16. Al-X
Thanks, but no thanks. I'm tired of Jackson's fascination with elves and his need to cram them in every possible narrative orifice he can find. A promise of even more elves, in my case, is a clear sign to stay away from the extended edition.

The only way I would buy the extended DVD is if they changed Radagast's rabbit sled with a TARDIS ;)
Theo16
17. snahgle
Wait - what? With the notable exception of one scene in Return of the King*, I have always thought that the Extended Editions of the LOTR movies were uniformly better than the theatrical releases. FotR was especially improved, giving the events time to breathe and adding to their significance (the theatrical release was absolutely breakneck in pacing). TTT put a lot more flesh on many of the characters (Eowin comes to mind). RotK might be more 50:50, but I do personally enjoy the Mouth of Sauron.

*the "escape from mountains of falling skulls" scene... Though having seen "Dead Alive", I have an idea where that inclination came from.
Kerly Luige
18. Celebrinnen
I also prefer the Extended Editions, they have so much what had no time in the theatrical cuts - Galadriel's gifts, the torves after the battle of Helm's Deep (for which I am personally very happy), the way Aragorn gets his army of the dead ... Seems wrong to watch the TC-s now, when I know what's missing where ...

BUT I tried to but the EE of TH: AUJ, and did not get it! At first, I wanted to have the collector's gift set, and was replied it only comes with Blu-Rays. I don't want a Blu-Ray, I want a simple DVD. OK, I'll buy just the movie then, I thought. AND I was told by our country's biggest movie supplier that there are no DVDs with the EE, only Blu-Rays. Correct me is I'm mistaking, but I could not find an EE DVD from Amazon, either ...

Bummer, I say ...
Theo16
19. EmerarudoKitsune
I don't look at The Hobbit as a film adaptation of just the novel, but moreso a light adaptation made with ties to Jackson's LotR films, with various elements from The Silmarillion tossed in as an attempt to spicen things up.

Really, I feel like Jackson has just pulled a George Lucas. He made a fantastic trilogy based on a legendary story. Then, he felt the need to make a trilo-prequal, and CGI have of it, with rediculous ties to the original, slapstick comedy, and little allusion to the actual novel. Let's just hope that Disney doesn't buy this saga in a few years.

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