It is a measure of how relatively disappointing The Hobbit movies are that I have never felt compelled to seek out the extended editions. I own the Lord of the Rings movies in three different formats (including the ridiculously opulent gift set versions), watch the longer versions of the movies religiously, and adopted them as the absolute version of the trilogy as soon as they become available. And yet I have never felt the need to watch the extended Hobbit movies, such is the relative lack of vitality in Peter Jackson’s second Middle Earth trilogy.
I’d always felt three films, each the thick end of three hours, was far too excessive for the source material and resulted in a whole lot of padding, plus a couple of utterly redundant Elf-related sub-plots. So with all three Hobbit movies now available in their extended formats, I find myself questioning the purpose of watching even longer versions of three already excessive movies.
The good news is that, in terms of length, the longer versions of the movies are arguably better suited to a home viewing format than the theatrical versions to the cinema. The ability to pause the movies, skip scenes and even watch the films across several sittings means that the biblical length of the trilogy feels like far less of an issue.
In terms of additional and extended film content, much like the Lord of the Rings trilogy, many scenes feature relatively minor or superfluous extensions amounting to little more than longer combat sequences and bonus decapitations. On the more substantial side of things, there is additional material shedding more light on the disappearance of Thorin’s (Richard Armitage) father Thrain (Michael Mizrahi), a closer look at Beorn (Mikael Persbrandt) in his man form and an eye-opening sequence in which Bofur (James Nesbitt) rides a troll as his Dwarf pals do battle in a goat-driven war chariot.
I doubt there is a great deal present in these longer versions that will excite non-devotees too much, but those with a real penchant for Middle Earth should find the elongated films a treat.
The chief bonus comes in the form of the exhaustive and extensive behind the scenes features and in this respect the box set truly excels. The appendices, of which there are hours, provide a fantastic look into the often chaotic process of adapting The Hobbit for the screen. Fans of The Lord of the Rings who have watched the accompanying appendices will note the sense of camaraderie and harmony present throughout the intense filming process. What’s remarkable about the corresponding Hobbit documentaries is the palpable sense of bedlam on set. With the exit of original director Guillermo del Toro before filming began, the production was thrown into a state of pandemonium. In the appendices we see a cast, crew and director in Peter Jackson continually playing catch-up with a film trilogy that often appears to be running away from them. It’s a remarkably candid look at a production that appears to have been tough for many of those involved.
At the time of writing this I’ve barely made a dent on the many hours of material on offer, such is the size of box set. For all the flaws of these movies, and those flaws are not excised, this is a handsome and superior blu-ray package.
Fantasy, Adventure | New Zealand, 2015 | 12 | Warner Home Video | Dir.Peter Jackson | Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Ian McKellen, Lee Pace, Ken Stott, Evangeline Lily, Aiden Turner, Orlando Bloom