WARNING: This review contains spoilers for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Extended Edition) digital version for Apple TV
I fell in love with Peter Jackson‘s vision of Middle Earth with his Lord of the Rings trilogy, and owned all of Extended Editions that included very detailed Appendices that covered every aspect of making the movies. Now the same is available digitally, such as through Apple TV, and will be available for purchase as DVD, Blu-Ray, and Blu-Ray 3D November 5th. Having watched the extended scenes as well as the new appendices, I can say that I never want Jackson’s Middle Earth to end!
Saying I’m a Tolkien fan is like saying I’m a girl. I have a long history of loving Tolkien’s works as I wrote about in one of my first blog posts. When I first saw The Hobbit, I attended on opening night to watch it in IMAX 3D. I cried during the opening scenes and felt happy to be back in Middle Earth. But I had issues with the movie.
First, I didn’t like that one book was being turned into three movies. I felt like the content of the book, which is written for a much younger audience, could be well covered in two movies. Three made it seem greedy as well as giving the space for unnecessary added content. Jackson’s team had the rights to pull from the LOTR trilogy books as well as The Hobbit but could not pull directly from the books that Tolkien’s son Christopher has published posthumously or from the historical tome of The Simarilian. But the Appendices at the end of Return of the King offer a lot of good notes that do indeed connect The Hobbit to LOTR as well as fill in more back stories.
I had issues with Azog’s role and his additional scenes as well as the contrived ending to the movie where Thorin thanks Bilbo and Bilbo finds his courage because that really didn’t happen that early in the narrative. My friends told me I was being too picky and grumpy. Maybe I was channeling a bit of Thorin too much (because who wouldn’t want to channel a bit of Richard Armitage?). Now watching the two offered Appendices with The Hobbit (Extended Edition), I am full of forgiveness and love for the work because I can now recognize the challenges in bringing The Hobbit to the screen.
I don’t want to spoil too many of the extras, but here are some of my favorite parts. The first appendix takes you through the movie from first scene to the last, whereas the second one gets into the specific developments. I enjoyed seeing the evolution in bringing the multiple new species and characters to life done masterfully by WETA from the LOTR trilogy to now. They really are on the cutting edge of special effects. There’s a deeper connection to who each of the individual dwarves are that I never understood, but that really enriches the story. My favorite extra covered the importance of the songs that Tolkien wrote in and that are performed well, although cut in the theatrical version. (And it really must be said that Richard Armitage has a fantastic singing voice!)
From a writer’s perspective, I benefited from seeing how the actors dug deep into the texts and interacted with Jackson to make their characters more rounded and real. It’s something I’ve struggled with before in making my characters be more than just two-dimensional to live fully both on and off the page. I also saw and appreciated again how intricately Tolkien wove his story, and how he pulled it through to the trilogy later.
Already a Tolkien fan and a Peter Jackson fan for being the best ambassador of that fantasy realm possible, I fell in love with it all over again. There are only an extra 13+ minutes added to the film, but the value is in the extras. I believe it is well worth the purchase to those who appreciate seeing what it took to get the film made. By the end of viewing the extras, I no longer resented Jackson for making the book into three films. I’m okay with delaying saying goodbye to Middle Earth for three movies. And now, I’m ready for the opening night of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug on December 13th.
For those who want to join, there will be a simulcast celebration across the world on November 4th to be streamed live online as well as a few places where you can buy tickets and watch in a theater. Hero Complex from the LA Times gives the following details:
“The event will take place Monday, Nov. 4, with Jackson and cast members gathering at satellite-linked theaters in Los Angeles, New York, London and Wellington to screen footage from the Dec. 13 release and answer questions in front of a live audience. CNN anchor Anderson Cooper will host the event from New York, where actors Richard Armitage, who plays dwarf Thorin Oakenshield, and Bloom, who is set to reprise his “Lord of the Rings” role as Legolas Greenleaf, are set to appear. Lilly, who plays a new elf named Tauriel created for the film, will attend the event in L.A. London will host Pace (the Elf King Thranduil), Evans (Bard the Bowman) and Andy Serkis, Gollum performer and second-unit director. Jackson will be beamed in from New Zealand.”