The Hobbit: An unexpected journey, the extended edition

UPDATE: I saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in 48 frames-per-second 3D. I felt that this format deserved its own article. Check it out here.

BENJAMIN ZAUGG: Right at the beginning of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, there is a wonderful scene depicting Thrór, the Dwarf King of Erebor, surrounded by mountains of gold, going completely mad with greed and power. As I watched the rest of the film I would frequently find myself recalling that scene and substituting that Dwarf King with Peter Jackson.

At a little over 300 pages long, the original paperback of The Hobbit is a rather and short straightforward tale. Originally, Peter Jackson was going to tackle it in two films, adding some backstory/sidestory elements to fill out two separate features. This was a bit of a surprise, but given Jackson’s relatively strong track record I was cautiously optimistic. When I heard that he was splitting the 300-page tale into three films I began to worry.

Peter Jackson's The Hobbit is far too long at 170-minutes.

Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit is far too long at 170-minutes.

Going in with these grave concerns I came out at the end neither disappointed nor overly pleased with what I saw. There is no doubt that the movie was a combination of two dark forces: Warner Brother Studios milking three films out of what could easily have been one or two, and Peter Jackson given unlimited power to explore every nook and cranny of his cherished middle-earth. What makes Jackson different to say, George Lucas, is that he is actually an extremely good filmmaker. So while this first installment is overloaded with tacked-on story elements it holds together far better than it has any right to.

If you go into this expecting a faithful film adaptation of the first third of The Hobbit you will probably be disappointed. However, if you want to experience a richly detailed backstory to Lord of The Rings where part of The Hobbit is the main plot line, then this may be your cup of tea. Perhaps because I went in knowing it would be more of the latter I enjoyed myself most of the time.

The problem with expanding the story beyond the original book seems to be that much of its spirit seems to have been lost in the process. Part of what made the book so charming was its very linear Bilbo-centric storyline and Tolkien’s excellent pacing – which was so different from LOTR. With all the backstory and ‘side-quests’ stuffed into this installment there is an added weight that slows down the narrative and it also feels like the story is more about the fellowship than about Bilbo Baggins. This is a particular shame because I felt that Martin Freeman’s Bilbo was the best thing about the film and I would have enjoyed a film more focused on that character’s journey.

It is only the extra story elements that slow things down, not the key ones. The arrival of the dwarves and the unveiling of their plan at the hobbit hole, while a scene or two too long, was very well done. The meeting of Gollum and Bilbo is above and beyond what I ever expected, and the appearance of the Goblin King (Barry Humphries) was excellent.

Whole swathes of story could be cut from around the main plot points and the film would only have benefited. Instead, Jackson seemed to be pulling out every bell and whistle to keep the add-ons interesting. I lost count of how many scenes occurred on or just near an overhanging cliff (there’s a new drinking game), and by the end of the film I’d almost forgotten what normal daylight looked like, because every scene seemed to take place at either sunrise or sunset. The editing seemed to be working overtime to keep things dynamic. Just when I thought they exhausted every camera angle a new one would appear.

Despite being a Frankenstein’s monster of plot and despite being something other than the original tale of The Hobbit, the stunning visuals and extraordinary cast made this film an enjoyable watch. I have no doubt that once all three films are finally released on Blu-ray, someone somewhere will rip and edit them all into a single three-hour epic with no extraneous plot. That film will be incredible. In the meantime, I’m going to treat each of these installments like the extended extended edition releases that they seem to be.

 

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Comments

  1. Just for your information, I LOVED the Hobbit – Can’t wait to see part two. Martin Freeman was better at playing bilbo Baggins than whoever played Frodo in The Lord Of the Rings

  2. I saw this movie with my girlfriend and she slept on and off. I “enjoyed” it though but nothing too special.

  3. i;ve seen it, is amazinggggggg!!

  4. Reblogged this on Bored American Tribune. and commented:
    – J.W.

  5. Still haven’t seen it but I am going to go in with an open mind my son saw and at age 12 he tended to agree with most of what has been said here. Still I will have to go and make up my own mind !!

  6. Call me a freak, but I love that Peter Jackson has managed to create a trilogy and expanded the story. I love the worlds he creates and brings to life, even if they don’t strictly follow the books.

  7. I enjoyed the movie, however in the book Bilbo never is involved in any stabbing and sword-play, (except with some large, fat spiders.)

    A major character trait of Bilbo’s is his timidness, and Bilbo’s heroism is the fact that over and over he presses ahead, often through pitch darkness, despite the fact he’d rather head back to his cozy Hobbit Hole.

    When Tolkien originally wrote the tale he hadn’t yet come up with the idea that Bilbo’s ring was THE RING. It was just a handy tool you could use, when you wanted to be unnoticed. In the epic battle at the end of “The Hobbit,” Bilbo just slips on the ring and makes himself scarce.

    The movie version seems to be reinventing Bilbo, to some degree. It will be interesting to see if Bilbo is any sort of warrior in the final battle. In the book Bilbo is not really a warrior; instead he is a hero by going ahead when he’s scared.

  8. I completely agree with everything you’ve written!

    Given that almost everyone I know has been raving about the movie, I seem to be the massive killjoy when I say that I wasn’t entirely thrilled while watching it. It’s nice to know tehre are people out there (lots from what I’ve readin the comments) who had some issues.

    YAY for people with like brains!

  9. I was apprehensive about taking my children (6, 8 and 9), but they loved it. We even watched it in 3D which I found to be a very comfortable and enjoyable experience (contradicting all of the warnings about headaches and nausea).

    I think this film heralds a new era, not just in the frames per second, but also the style of film. It felt like the audience were along for a stunning and exhilarating ride.

  10. muggiekins says:

    Bilbo’s encounter with Gollum is one of my unforgettable scenes there too. :-)

  11. icittadiniprimaditutto says:

    Reblogged this on Pier Carlo Lava.

  12. I actually was very sleepy through out this movie, i have never been a fan of genre, but i was willing to give the movie a try, but it was soooo long, and to see that when it ended it wasnt even concluded.. OMG! i mean dont get me wrong, its an ok movie, i even enjoyed some parts, but i dont think i will go watch the other ones.. Its just too much..

  13. Excellent …

  14. Reblogged this on TRYBAL NATION.

  15. I agree with your thoughts that it met in the middle …pretty good but definitely not the book! (or the movie trilogy)

  16. I loved this film when I went to see it, but I do think three films may be a bit excessive, I guess we will see how the second and third go. I’m looking forward to the second one coming out next year though.

  17. i actually love the movie, most probably because what you said – a history background of LOTR. coincidentally LOTR the fellowship of the ring was on HBO a few hours after watching Hobbit in the cinema. i feel so connected. but still, LOTR is more dramatic.

  18. Makere Stewart-Harawira says:

    Saw this with my son and grandson and generally loved it except for the fact that the endless war scenes seemed rather overdone – seen one, seen them all. Am also very concerned that Warner Bros were allowed to call the shots to the extent of doing away with any actors union, insurance or other benefits, a fact that I find shameful. All that aside, a film well worth seeing and which well shows off my much loved home country. I will go to the next, and the next, yet I too look forward to the day when the trilogy is combined into one more accurate rendition of the original story.

  19. While I think the Hobbit book is better than the LOTR generally — I agree that I think the movies may be a bit too long with the anticipated 9 hour running time. These are my thoughts: http://happyappalachy.wordpress.com/2012/12/16/help-wanted-burglar-for-hire/

  20. What I like from this movie is the location, is in the NZ? thx

    4 Bedroom Villas Seminyak

  21. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and have seen it twice now- once in 2D and once in 3D. I kind of wish it was only two movies in the making rather than three, but that’s just because I don’t want to wait that long to see the finished product. After watching the first movie, I have no doubt the others will be equally entertaining.

    Going into the movie I was looking forward to the scene in which Bilbo and Gollum met, and was very pleased with the result. I just loved their interaction and dialogue. For me that ended up being my favorite part since that’s what I most vividly remember when the story was read to me as a child.

    My only criticism is that nobody suffered more than a few cuts and bruises after plummeting over the sides of cliffs and seemingly being smashed against rocks.

  22. The book is fantastic! Usually something maybe altered to fit the screen but i felt the movie – ‘The Hobbit’ perfect! Like you said the first half was so elaborate and i was thinking where are the wolves and the dragon. In the end, I was quite dissapointed to know that the book has been split but then i did enjoy the movie.

  23. An interesting take. I was perhaps more favourable with my review (http://michaelpiggott.wordpress.com/2012/12/31/the-hobbit-freeman-bilbo-jackson-adventure-ring-dwarves-dragon/) and wasn’t as impressed as you were with the Goblin King. You’re right though, it would be interesting to see a condensed 3 hour version of all 3 once they’re all released, as no doubt each Jackson instalment will be around 3 hours long.

  24. I agree with your comment about Bilbo. My blog is a “moral-of-the-story-review”, and as such, Bilbo’s constant inner battle was the most obvious choice for my commentary, the climax of which seemed to me to be his battle of wits with Gollum, an extraordinary scene. While I loved The Hobbit, it could have certainly made room for Bilbo’s internal conflict, something apparently important to the original author.

  25. I have not seen the film yet and have been doubtful since Hobbit is my favourite Tolkien. However you gave me a reason to expect better than I did before reading this. Thanks!

  26. I enjoyed your commentary on The Hobbit very much. To say it was spectacular in 3D is an understatement. But…..the fact that Jackson practically rewrote the story distressed me to no end as I watched the movie! There were some “add-ons” I especially enjoyed, such as the interaction between Bilbo and Frodo in the beginning. It sort of solidified the Fellowship of the Ring. Including the White Council w/Galadriel, Saruman, etc. was a nice touch, but the orc/goblin thing that was still chasing after Thorin??? That was a huge stretch! Although I did appreciate seeing the story of how the dragon came to the mountain in the beginning. impressive. All in all, I was impressed, more by the artistry and filming magnificence than I was in Jackson’s sticking to the story line. He doesn’t seem to be able to do that very well in any of these books and that is sad. I still miss Tom Bombadil!!

  27. Reblogged this on L. V. Lewis and commented:
    Saw this at Christmas. I’m missing a crush-worthy hero in this in the vein of Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen). Sigh!

  28. This is definitely one of the most fair reviews of the movie I’ve read. Can’t disagree with it at all.

  29. Great summary, just what I thought about the movie as well

  30. Ermm! well I agree that 3 films might be excessive if based on the book. But overall I enjoyed the film – a bot slow to start – but the action soon picked up and had me in awe. I saw it in 3D and that made a massive difference to the experience for me. At the end of the day the Tolkien purists will argue with the film goers – it’s a film to entertain – pure and simple. Every director would have a slant of it – we should be amazed the book has even made it to film – it was in conceivable years ago. Are we so complacent about the effort, creative work and direction needed to get such a film to the public? – hurray to Jackson for taking Tolkien on doing a fantastic job of bring Middle Earth to life – even if it has a few extra characters / extensions or errors… and yes it’s there to make money – what’s new?

  31. Your reviews are great man! Agree with most of it. I thought that The Hobbit lacked the emotional gravity that made the preceding trilogy epic. Check out my review on my blog: filmhaven.wordpress.com

    Nice work .

  32. You are correct, the no extras edit will be wonderful. I was a better ‘before the lotr’ movie than the hobbit movie

  33. Great review. I agree with most of what you said and yes, the introduction to the dwarves at Bag’s End brought me back to the pages of the book. Unfortunately, I did feel like I’m watching a LOTR prequel and not The Hobbit as I knew it. The Hobbit was written in a very different style from LOTR giving it a very distictive feel. I would never have read LOTR had it not been for The Hobbit.
    I agree with Caleb, in that Bilbo is being reinvented here. I was really looking forward to the movie taking the tone of the book and I was disappointed when I felt like I was watching a sequel of LOTR. I look forward to the next installment and hope to recapture that feeling I got when I first read The Hobbit.

  34. Spot on review! Im a massive fan of the book, and Hobbits in general, and was saddened when it seemed that Bilbo wasn’t The main focus. It took forever to get into the actual quest, the whole first hour felt like “butter scraped over too much bread” ha! That being said though, I’m very excited to finally see Smaug come to life! Guess all we can do now is wait and see how the next two films add up..

    Cheers!

  35. My favourite scene both in the book and movie was without a doubt, Bilbo and Gollum’s meeting!

    I was extremely uncomfortable when I heard that this short book was being split in to 3, probably 2hr+ movies. I still am very cautious about it.

  36. I first thought that I would love what was to be three hobbit films as I’m such a Tolkien fan. However the plodding speed just sucked the life out of it really. There was also some dwarf dialogue which lifted me right out of Middle Earth and smack back into the 21st century – sorry can’t recall what it was now.

  37. La Calabaza says:

    Great post! I fully agree with you. Greetings from Argentina!

  38. La Calabaza says:

    Reblogged this on Mundo Calabaza and commented:
    Siguiendo con la faceta cinéfila, una excelente reseña de The Hobbit: An Expected Journey.

  39. loved it!

  40. Awesome movie, loved it so much. Good to see those famous characters again. :)

  41. CrazyHorse says:

    Reblogged this on {…}.

  42. Reblogged this on evgenydrozdetskiy.

  43. Reblogged this on The Linden Chronicles and commented:
    Fantastic Trailer!!!! I have to go and see this soon! Thanks for the share!

  44. I agree with almost all of your comments, especially with respect to the scene with Gollum being the centerpiece of this whole film and also that the Goblin King was delightfully repellent. On the whole, I was a little less kind in my review (http://downhousesoftware.wordpress.com/2012/12/23/the-hobbit-an-unexpected-disappointment/) comparing it to the second star wars trilogy and even digging up a video of Fonzie in a leather jacket and shorts.

    Yet, as with star wars, I’ll still flock to the theater with everyone else for the next installment and sit, with fingers crossed, hoping to be blown away.

  45. I recently watched the Hobbit, an Unexpected Journey movie and recently read the book just before I saw the movie.

    I really liked reading this blog. Thanks for writing it.

    P.S. Want to learn how to make money with your blog? Go here to find out more. http://earncashathomeideas.com

  46. I decided to ignore the film altogether until all of them are there. Hopefully someone will really create a condensed version. Great read.

    Regard
    Dirk

  47. I had never read any of Tolkien’s novels but I plan to once I view the final installation of The Hobbit. I loved this first film. I’ve already seen it twice and plan to see it once more in the forthcoming days/weeks. I’m excited for the two films!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] The Hobbit: An unexpected journey, the extended edition. [...]

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  3. [...] address both the film’s story and the 48 frames-per-second that brought it to me. Now having conquered the former, I’m setting out on a new quest –  to address the contentious issue of high frame [...]

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