Finally! My very own copy of the extended edition of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey arrived! I spent a happy afternoon watching the movie and I’ve had some time to think about it. These things are all about editing, are they not? And we writers can learn from what the pros do. So this is my opinion on the extras. Pretty obviously there will be ‘spoilers’ if you don’t wish to know what the additions are.
Right, so they’ve left the room, we can continue.
The process of editing is all about driving the story forward, making the whole a satisfying experience. Of course, my favourites will be other people’s blerghs, and vice versa.
Jackson had actually edited back the very long prelude, where the background to the story is laid out. In this version, we see Bilbo going out to buy the fish which he never gets to eat, we see a few more pretty pictures of hobbit boys and girls doing hobbity things. Yes, I reckon I would have edited out those scenes, too. They really didn’t add anything.
However, there is a sequence in Thranduil’s visit to Thror which I felt added a lot. Thror effectively taunts Thranduil with a box of jewels and Thranduil and his people march out in a huff. Not quite the same message as came out in the original movie.
Not much changes until we reach Rivendell. There, we see more scenes of the Dwarves behaving disgracefully, a repetition of their behaviour at Bilbo’s house, complete with food fights and bathing in the fountains. Yes, I could live with that being cut. We also got to see Bilbo really enjoying Rivendell, pretty much on his own. He comes across the shards of Narcil, and the painting of Isildur facing Sauron. There is also a brief conversation between Elrond and Bilbo, where Elrond says Bilbo can stay as long as he likes. These scenes add to the gap between the Dwarves, Bilbo and the Elves, and also show the passage of time. The Dwarves don’t just stay overnight at Rivendell, an impression you’d be forgiven for in the first release. Yes, much of it didn’t add to the story. In fact, when I saw the footage of a bunch of naked Dwarves cavorting in the fountains, I wondered why Gandalf was never shown in a change of clothes, with at least clean hands. Did you notice his fingernails? However, while I thought the scenes of Bilbo really enjoying Rivendell explained a few things, it would have been hard to leave them in if the food fights etc were taken out.
One other scene added information – an overheard conversation between Elrond and Gandalf where Thorin’s parentage is discussed with references to mental instability. Bilbo and Thorin both hear what is said, and the words had this watcher’s brain ticking. I’m betting we get to meet Thrain in the next movie, and (having read the Hobbit many times) I know that strand of insanity is important.
Let’s move on to the Misty Mountains. It seems Jackson had more of the fight between the rock giants to entertain us with. Ho hum. Then down we go to Goblin Town. I’ll bet Barry Humphries had a ball playing the Goblin King. The extended version treats us to a rap rendition of the song Tolkien wrote in his book for this section, performed by the Goblin King and his band. Mistake. The Goblin King comes across already as a figure of fun without making it worse.
And that’s about it. Unlike the extended version of LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring, I don’t think this extended version added a great deal. So overall, the extended edition isn’t a better movie. It’s a pity that Jackson reduced the confrontation between Thranduil and Thror to an almost king/vassal situation. The hints of other happenings in the overheard talks at Rivendell would have helped. But for the rest (most especially the Goblin King and his band) the red pen was right.
These things are always a matter of opinion, though. I’d love to know what you thought.