The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is out on Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray and DVD this Tuesday, November 5th…I’ve reviewed the theatrical edition already, so what’s so cool about this version? In a word: extras. In a few more words – over nine hours of additional material, not including the feature-length commentary by Peter Jackson and Phillipa Boyens.
First, a quick synopsis:
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the first in Peter Jackson’s highly anticipated trilogy adapting the enduringly popular masterpiece The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien.
The adventure follows the journey of title character Bilbo Baggins, who is swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome Dragon Smaug. Approached out of the blue by the Wizard Gandalf the Grey, Bilbo finds himself joining a company of 13 Dwarves led by the legendary warrior, Thorin Oakenshield. Their journey will take them into the Wild, through treacherous lands swarming with Goblins, Orcs and deadly Wargs, as well as a mysterious and sinister figure known only as the Necromancer.
Although their goal lies to the East and the wastelands of the Lonely Mountain, first they must escape the Goblin tunnels, where Bilbo meets the creature that will change his life forever…Gollum.
Here, alone with Gollum, on the shores of an underground lake, the unassuming Bilbo Baggins not only discovers depths of ingenuity and courage that surprise even him; he also gains possession of Gollum’s “precious” ring that holds unexpected and useful qualities…A simple, gold ring that is tied to the fate of all Middle-earth in ways Bilbo cannot begin to know.
The screenplay for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is by Fran Walsh & Philippa Boyens & Peter Jackson & Guillermo del Toro, based on the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien. Jackson also produced the film, together with Carolynne Cunningham, Zane Weiner and Fran Walsh. The executive producers are Alan Horn, Toby Emmerich, Ken Kamins and Carolyn Blackwood, with Boyens and Eileen Moran serving as co-producers.
New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM), Present a WingNut Films Production, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. All three films in The Hobbit Trilogy, also including The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and the final film, The Hobbit: There and Back Again, are productions of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM), with New Line managing production. Warner Bros. Pictures handled worldwide theatrical distribution, with select international territories as well as all international television distribution handled by MGM.
First off, this is an “extended edition”, and like with the extended editions of the Lord Of The Rings films, there are 13 additional minutes of fully integrated footage, such that you’ll be trying to remember whether you’ve seen that scene before as it is so seamless.
Aside from some some minor stuff, here is some of what you’ll see in the Extended Edition that was not in the theatrical release:
- An extended scene with Thranduil at Errbor near the beginning
- The Old Took’s party
- Additional scenes in Rivendell, including Kili flirting with an Elf harp player, telling the other dwarves he really wasn’t interested, and a funny conclusion, plus talk about the swords and a dwarf song
- A scene with Bilbo and Elrond around the shards of Narsil, followed by Lindir and Elrond talking, and a brief view of some naked dwarven butt…
- A discussion by the Council about the seven dwarven Rings of Power
- The Goblin King singing “Goblin Town”
I can see why that last one was cut…not that it was bad, but it just further stretched the credibility of the Goblin Town scenes into cartoonish territory, although in general this film is a bit more lighthearted at times than the Lord Of The Rings films were.
But it’s what isn’t in the film that really sold this to me…it’s all the extras that aren’t in the film.
On the Blu-ray feature disc, aside from the commentary, there is one short (6:35) featurette, “New Zealand: Home of Middle-earth”, about the return of the production to new Zealand. Then there are two complete additional Blu-ray discs, each with more than four and a half hours of material. Just like with the Lord Of The Rings release, it features two “Appendices”, modeled after J.R.R. Tolkien’s own appendices in the books, and go over various aspects of the production.
“The Appendices Part 7” (4:31:11) includes an introduction by Peter Jackson and includes footage from Peter Jackson’s video diaries released on the web and in the first release, but greatly expanded. The different chapters are:
- The Journey Back to Middle-earth – Countdown to filming, pre-production, and “Dwarf Boot Camp”
- Riddles In The Dark: Gollum’s Cave – Shooting commences
- An Unexpected Party: Bag End – The dwarves descend on Bilbo’s home
- Roast Mutton: Trollshaws Forest – Double duty as trolls and being roasted on a spit
- Bastion of the Greenwood: Rhosgobel – Filming with Sylvester McCoy as Radagast
- A Short Rest: Rivendell & London – Filming the council scene
- Over Hill…: The Misty Mountains – Filming in the midst of Stone Giants and the trapdoor scene
- …Under Hill: Goblin Town – Goblins that didn’t look so good physically go on to be spectactular digitally
- Out of the Frying Pan…: The Forest Ledge – Light up pinecones, lots of fire and mechanical eagles
- Return to Hobbiton: The Shire – Filming Old Took’s party and guests on set
- The Epic of Scene 88: Strath Taieri – Running, running, and lots more running
- The Battle of Moria: Azanulbizar – What was supposed to be a short filming of the great battle becomes a 10 day shoot
- Edge of the Wilderland: Pick-ups and the Carrock – Getting extra shots all over Middle-earth, and a tribute to Martin Freeman with the last shot
- Home is Behind, the World Ahead – A preview as to what is ahead in the future films
“The Appendices Part 8” (4:45:19) include:
- The Company of Thorin – The casting of the dwarves
- Mr Baggins: The 14th Member – A look at Martin Freeman and creating Bilbo’s character
- Durin’s Folk: Creating the Dwarves – From concept to realization
- The Peoples and Denizens of Middle-earth – Creating the creatures and characters
- Realms of the Third Age: From Bag End to Goblin Town – Creating the locations
- The Songs of The Hobbit – Adapting Tolkien’s songs for the big screen
The production quality of these extras is spectacular. It doesn’t look like someone walked around with a home video camera and just snapped whatever they could…it appears that Peter Jackson had a full documentary team handling it. I had just as much fun watching the extras as the feature, especially all the bits about the dwarves and all the actors playing them and how much fun they had.
I think this will be the definitive release.
And don’t forget – less than six weeks to the release of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug!