Extended Edition national Blu-ray 3D
The home video market is dead or dying — so they say. The digital age has brought on massive changes on how we view movies and in a relatively short time. The ways we consumed the “Lord of the Rings” movie trilogy is vastly different from how we tackle “The Hobbit.”
Many consumers actually jumped to the DVD format from VHS tapes with “Fellowship of the Ring.” But in the digital revolution, that was ages ago, back when everybody bought movies for home use and there was seemingly ever growing stacks of money to be made from that market.
Studios once had a cash cow in DVDs but the milk has dried up now. Once, extravagant DVDs and box sets ruled store shelves while today we visit Red Box and Netflix.
So when a Blu-ray like “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Extended Edition,” comes to market it is going against the grain, against conventional wisdom and against market trends. It’s also the best home release of 2013.
The film is still the film. If you loved it you will love it more. If you had problems with it, you will still have problems with it. The added time didn’t fix what people say is broken. But if you haven’t seen the film, for the home experience, I do recommend the Extended Edition. The length includes some character moments that make the film more a little more satisfying but not in a major way. A bathroom break is close to mandatory and while you can’t pause a theater, its easy from your own couch.
But while many think about the movie, make no mistake, the real prize here are The Appendicies content; Those who are only looking at this for the film are missing the point entirely. In fact, this collection, is itself a tremendous film that would be worth buying even without the cinema release. The movie itself is essential in the package, but what launches these discs into rare air is everything else that comes with it.
Prone to exercise laudatory caution because I write for TheOneRing, and I realize too much praise causes readers to become dismissive and classify the writer as a fan boy, I still proclaim with no hesitation that this is among the finest home video releases in history. It sits on a shelf in rarefied air with a very few discs that can even compare. Among those are the Extended LOTR editions, of which this is a companion piece.
While we are here talking credentials, let me fully disclose that I was on set to witness “The Hobbit,” being filmed for five weeks and I know (and like) many on all sides of the camera. More than that, I also interned for a couple of weeks with the producers of the behind-the-scenes content. I am even credited for extra interviews, so take my perceptions as you wish.
Even if you didn’t love the movie, the exploration of the process is a wonder to behold and the whole is a triumph. And, this triumph comes with WB and MGM financing this content behind-the-scenes content. This level of excellence doesn’t just happen and it isn’t cheap. It takes financial commitment, planning and time. With rumors of late delivery circulating, creating a shortage of discs in some places, I believe I speak for many fans who emphatically say, “So what? The wait is worth it.”
Despite all the greatness on the discs, there are a few things that are disappointing, so lets start with those.
Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Extended Edition
There is nothing about these covers that are exceptional or especially tasteful to tell consumers that these aren’t just another release on a store shelf. For some reason, with few exceptions, the marketing at Warner Bros. insists on slapping a bunch of floating character mugshots in a college for these films at every opportunity. More isn’t better and especially when even the casual audience knows what “The Hobbit,” is. Nobody is saying, “What? Gandalf is also in this movie?!”
A cover with a central visual idea would be a vast improvement and for these discs, there should be a graceful, classic cover, not a garish collection of floating heads. Better still would have been a style match with the LOTR EEs. The back of the 3-disc Blu-ray is actually great and would serve as a nice cover.
While we are here, the Bilbo in front of Erebor “Desolation of Smaug,” poster was infinitely more powerful that the nightmare LSD trip of Middle-earth’s usual suspects in the latest one. Boo. Very much related, if the Hobbit home video release couldn’t be a stylized match with the LOTR releases, at least we could have had a strong central character instead of a collection of them that says nothing.
Gollum and Bilbo exchanging riddles in the dark might be a place to start. The film’s strongest sequence, virtually perfect even, highlights a key moment in Middle-earth, sells us a familiar character and gives us an absolute iconic moment from literature. If things were right in the world, WB would issue an inexpensive replacement slip cover for a couple of dollars that ties this release back to the LOTR EEs. Seriously.
The art on the discs are quite good.
The commentaries with Philippa Boyens (writer, producer) and Peter Jackson (writer, director, producer) are good, but again, this is meant to be a companion disc and viewers really want more commentary perspectives as they were given in the LOTR discs. Obviously the filmmaker’s take are essential but including cast or key figures like Dan Hennah or Richard Taylor might be expensive, and not financially viable by the studios, but they are sorely missed. An unrealistic dream commentary might be to have all 13 main dwarf actors on one track or two tracks with half on each. Careful sound editing would be needed but Jed Brophy, Mark Hadlow, Graham McTavish, John Callen and William Kircher and all the rest, would be brilliant. There are two movies left to get this right.
I am sure there are many who will take exception to comparing the discs but for certain, many consumers are doing it. These are intellectually built to go together.
But, lets move on to the good (great) with a look at what is included on most versions of the film. It is worth noting that there is a Wal-Mart version of the Extended Editions available with minimal extras. (Hate to call them extras because they are main featured content.) Even if consumers think they want to save a few dollars and get that version, they actually don’t. There is no circumstance where that option is a wise choice. Any viewer willing to commit to a three-hour Extended Edition deserves to have the story of the film as well for a few dollars difference. Friends don’t let friends buy foolishly.
Extended Edition of the film with filmmakers’ commentary and
“New Zealand: Home of Middle-earth”
The commentary is mentioned above but the video feature sounds like it might be a commercial for New Zealand. It is actually, with celebrity endorsements. Newsflash: New Zealand is amazing.
The Appendices Part 7: A Long-Expected Journey -
This is a timeline of the movie that breaks down into parts how it was made, more or less, following the chronology of the film. Of course films aren’t made chronologically, but following the organization of the film is helpful. And the docs aren’t strictly about “how we did this,” as much as they highlight interesting stories from a particular segment of the production.
The beefiest is the first, “The Journey Back to Middle-earth,” which also happens to be excellent. It follows the almost absurd series of roadblocks that threatened to keep this film from being made. Viewers who followed TheOneRing will recall those days when it seemed time and again, fate had conspired to kill the film. This is excellent content that wouldn’t be included on many DVDs of other films.
The studios bravely allowed the team to tackle subjects like the financial problems that almost derailed the films and the hiring and departure of Guillermo del Toro.
It would have been much safer to sanitize these events and it happens on many Hollywood “extras” projects but here they are addressed head on — an impressive inclusion. That first documentary is a definite highlight but every single one of them holds up high standards of storytelling and visuals that feel as though the essential moments were not only talked about but captured.
It is in fact the best big-story view on this topic available in either print or film. To better understand sitting down and watching “The Hobbit,” in the cinema, this is essential viewing. It is also great not to start with the first day of pre-production but to have a wider view of the whole works.
One of the best segments, perhaps my favorite, is “A Short Rest: Rivendell and London.” The fact that the production went to London to film Sir Christopher Lee and Ian Holm is common knowledge. A lesser documentary might spend its time making just the fact of traveling from New Zealand to London to shoot the focus of the story. Instead, that is established and then the focus is placed on something far more interesting than it just happening: Lee and Holm.
Jackson and Lee are on camera holding up production so those gathered around can listen to Lee remember parts of his life that are legendary on the silver screen. He also gives Jackson some good-natured crap and it is respectfully returned. Graham McTavish and Adam Brown are also on hand, despite not filming, to listen to Lee and help the storytelling by putting his presence in perspective. It is gold and in fact, it is a pity somebody doesn’t produce an entire film based on the man behind Saruman.
Included in the same section is a pretty incredible give-and-take between Jackson, Cate Blanchett, Fran Walsh on a telephone and Ian McKellen. They discussed character motivations and all the bigger questions behind the dialog on the script page. It is pretty incredible. There are some excellent moments with Hugo Weaving. It all felt intimate, rare and was fascinating.
There are a lot of bright spots here and in fact they are more or less all bright spots, or will be to somebody. The producers and director Michael Pellerin seemingly pushed for excellence and achieved it.
- The Journey Back to Middle-earth
- Riddles in the Dark: Gollum’s Cave
- An Unexpected Party: Bag End
- Roast Mutton: Trollshaws Forest
- Bastion of the Greenwood: Rhosgobel
- A Short Rest: Rivendell and London
- Over Hill: The Misty Mountains
- Under Hill: Goblin Town
- Out of the Frying Pan: The Forest Ledge
- Return to Hobbiton: The Shire
- The Epic of Scene 88: Strath Taieri
- The Battle of Moria: Azanulbizar
- Edge of the Wilderland: Pick-ups and the Carrock
- Home Is Behind, the World Is Ahead
Jackson also appears on an introduction to promise more extended editions with DOS and “The Hobbit: There and Back Again.”
The Appendices Part 8: Return to Middle-Earth -
This disc delivers production details, some conspicuously missing from the film. For example:
The Company of Thorin -
The families of the dwarves are grouped together to give us more details and insights into these characters and actors. These associations are pretty tough to pick out on screen but are well presented here. Knowing more about these characters will likely enhance view of “The Desolation of Smaug.” Pity some of this wasn’t woven into the narrative. If you aren’t keeping score the chapters are, by family:
- Assembling the Dwarves
- Thorin, Fili & Kili
- Balin & Dwalin
- Oin & Gloin
- Dori, Nori & Ori
- Bifur, Bofur & Bombur
Martin Freeman enjoys telling the behind-the-scenes cameras they are number one, always with his middle finger or fingers. Here is another case of content many studios would shy away from, but a short collection of Freeman giving the one-fingered salute is part of the reveal of who this Martin Freeman is.
So in the next segment, and perhaps my favorite on this disc, we meet:
Software brought Gollum’s skin to life for “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” earning it an Oscar for technology and science
Mr. Baggins: The 14th Member
Next we get more tasty features:
- Durin’s Folk: Creating the Dwarves
- The Peoples and Denizens of Middle-earth
- These are broken into chapters:
- The Stone Trolls
- Radagast the Brown
- Azog the Defiler
Realms of the Third Age: From Bag End to Goblin Town — We spend an hour with locations, time well spent.
- The Misty Mountains
- Goblin Town
The Songs of The Hobbit – A look at the realization of Tolkien’s songs in An Unexpected Journey.
This last item is another of my favorites. It demonstrates that despite being last, it isn’t any less interesting that what came before. There isn’t fat here to pad out the disc but instead highly polished, carefully produced, interesting, quality content.
The movie looks and sounds great, showing off how good Andrew Lesnie and his team are at shooting moving pictures. How great does it look? If you go to the audio, visual, home theater or electronics stores, bring the Blu-ray version of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” with you to test out the things you might buy. The picture is lovely with great details in blacks (Riddles in the Dark) excellent color and all the rich details coming to life. Hate to sound hyperbolic, but when it comes to audio and visual excellence, this disc is leading the industry.
The sound comes in 7.1 surround, meaning it can send seven sounds to seven speakers to create a sound atmosphere, if you home is equipped, showing off the genuine excellence in sound design through out the film. This is a noisy movie with loud characters, loud animals and orcs, some dragon scenes, deep rumbling stone giants and lots of general chaos.
But, the dialog is always ready and easy to hear, including some pretty subtle Ian McKellen lines that come through just fine. In fact, if you have the proper system in your home, sitting in the middle of the sound environment, closing your eyes and just listening is a real pleasure.
This movie is worth owning a Blu-ray player for. The film, no matter how much you like it or don’t, is technically amazing. The extra scenes improve it slightly but just as importantly, there is a wealth of documentaries that are collectively and individually great and paint an excellent picture of what made “The Hobbit,” happen. I meant it when I said it above, this is among the finest home video releases in history. Minor quibbles aside, MGM and Warner Bros. did right by fans and this does stand alongside its LOTR EE predecessors. While this film doesn’t extended as much or as importantly, its extras are as good and perhaps better.
Posted in Blu-Ray, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee, Director news, DVDs, Fran Walsh, Guillermo Del Toro, Hobbit Cast News, Hobbit Movie, Hugo Weaving, Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Merchandise, MGM, Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens, Production, Studios, The Hobbit, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Warner Bros.
The danger will ramp up once the Company enters Mirkwood.
Another review from a staffer of TORN long ago, Wee Tanya brings her thoughts to you now.
Warning before you begin: Spoilers abound in this review. Read it or not, it’s up to you.
Tonight I had the extreme pleasure of watching a press screening of The Hobbit on behalf of TheOneRing.net. Not only was I ushered into the screening like an honored guest, but TheOneRing.net’s name is still renown, and I was even introduced by the night’s host to the whole crowd as “Wee from TORn”. Then he grilled me on Tolkien trivia, but don’t worry, I did us proud.
Much like Arathorn I’ve been keeping a low, spoiler-free profile for the past ten years. Life happened, and I managed to drift far enough away from the ride that when I caught up with Peter Jackson’s video diaries, I spent an entire evening watching every one. Fine, maybe I’m not totally unspoiled. But there I sat as the theater darkened, not knowing what to expect at all except for two things: first, that suddenly there were three movies instead of two; and second, that someone actually called the movie boring!
I’d like you all to know that it was not boring, not a jot. The pace is beautiful, lyrical even, and in the middle of Rivendell it slows to the stately walk of Cate Blanchett’s Galadriel. But it might seem slow at first because there is a LOT of tale to tell. Bilbo begins even before “Concerning Hobbits,” back in the dark days of the Silmarillion, and establishes the sacking of Erebor and Dale before we even know what a Hobbit is! In my opinion this was necessary, because it opens up a wider world to stare at (in awe) before the camera pulls back to the familiarity of Bag End. I wanted the camera to pause at every detail of Erebor, because it was stunning. It echoes the designs of Moria from the first movies, but amplified, because it is a Dwarven city at the height of its glory instead of one abandoned.
I admit that my eyes started leaking the second I saw Bilbo put pen to paper, and I have to applaud the larger-story continuity of the first scene. It begins on the very same day as Fellowship of the Ring, and shows Bilbo writing in the Red Book, expanding upon his story (which we all know he finishes up in retirement in Rivendell, so it’s even more touching to see this flow). Ian Holm is the first Bilbo that we see, and he’s perfect, of course. Elijah Wood’s Frodo wanders through, giving the scene even more continuity as we see Bilbo watch him leave — little does Bilbo know, Frodo is off to his own adventure. And then Gandalf shows up, and after that come dwarves and more dwarves, and the story is up and running.
But whose story? I’d like to posit that this movie is actually Gandalf’s story. Ian McKellen’s expressive eyes hold the heart of the plot, which for this movie boils down to, “Did Gandalf do well in choosing this particular burglar for the company?” McKellen must have some kind of meticulous timeline of Gandalf’s life in his head, because he can step back into the role of a younger, less secure, less shiny Gandalf with exquisite ease. Gandalf’s growth as a wizard is what’s tested here, and that stately-walking scene in Rivendel (which might be slow to some) is a fine moment in which we see Gandalf squirming in his seat, while his peers probe him: is this decision to help the dwarves really a good one? Can he back Radagast’s claim that the Necromancer is back, against the (slightly less Palantir-addled) Saruman? We’re not sure, and neither is he.
There are a few set pieces in this movie that all true fans expected, and all of them deliver. I was pleased to hear many songs meandering through Bilbo’s larder (That’s what Bilbo Baggins hates!), and while the cut was more like a fan’s extended version than Hollywood might want, in short: F*** ‘em. Peter Jackson gave me the story that I would’ve bought and watched in an extended version anyway, and I’m overjoyed that a third movie gave him the space to spread out and tell the tale as it was told in the books. Did the set piece with the trolls feel the way it did in the book? Of course. And I even squinted at them to make sure they were in the same position that Frodo finds them in, in Fellowship of the Ring. (SEE, Peter Jackson? You knew we’d keep track.)
As for Smaug, we saw some beautifully filmed teasing, but the Big Bad (ok, Medium Bad; the Big Bad is the Necromancer) is being saved for the final film. In a nice visual paeon to a certain Dark Lord, the movie ends with a thinly-slit reptilian eye. Symbolism, I get it! Other beautiful moments for Tolkien fans abound. Watch for: That Moment when Bilbo stays his hand instead of slaying Gollum. Watch for: The intricately designed beauty of each and every domain, including the goblin kingdom above Gollum’s layer. Watch for: FIGWIT.
I won’t discuss Riddles in the Dark, because it’s perfectly done.
What did I dislike? Well. Radagast was saved from being cute by his Peter Jackson-grossness (is that BIRD POO ON HIS FACE? Oh God of course it is), his plot explicated neatly from the Silmarillion. Radagast was necessary for getting information about Mirkwood over to the rest of the world. It’s a fan’s retelling of how it happened, and I’ll pretend that Fran and Phillipa heard it from local lore, the kind of stories that might appear at the Prancing Pony.
In short, I loved this movie, and I want more. Two more. Fine, take my money, and show me as many movies as you want!
Posted in Andy Serkis, Christopher Lee, Hobbit Movie, Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Peter Jackson, Richard Armitage, Sylvester McCoy, The Hobbit, TheOneRing.net Community