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.
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.