It’s a shame that Peter Jackson has taken to deliberately lopping off bits of his films and ransoming them back to fans in expensive boxsets. What’s more, April’s paltry home video release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey came with nothing but a couple of trailers and a few video blogs that you can watch online for free.
Far from unexpected, the lavish, laden five-disc Extended Edition arrives in time for Christmas in same mould as the souped-up The Lord Of The Rings deluxe versions, making the earlier discs look even skimpier.
Grumbles aside, this is the boxset The Hobbit deserves – every bit as meticulous, ambitious and lovingly made as the film itself. Bristling with special features that cover every part of the epic production, it’s also padded out with extra footage and handsomely packaged in a fold-out slipcase.
Adding 13 minutes to the running time, AUJ now tips over the three-hour mark – pleasing purists but fuelling the critics of Jackson’s bloated adaptation. How much do the extra minutes add to the experience? On an extended-cut scale from TFOTR (not very much) to TROTK (a whole new film), the longer Hobbit doesn’t even really rank.
There’s more Hobbiton, more Rivendell, more of the dwarves being gross and the elves being snooty and more early mention of Bilbo’s ring – but none of it really adds depth. The two most noticeable additions are a longer rendition of the Goblin King’s musical number and a bizarre shot of the dwarves wrestling naked in a fountain.
It might not add much beyond minutes, but Jackson’s epics have never been about economy. AUJ is a film to lose yourself in and, while it would have been nice to see some meat added to the bones, it’s hard to begrudge the extra time spent in Middle-earth.
Said meat, it turns out, is saved for the special features. Spanning three discs and seven chapters, The Appendices takes us deep behind the scenes from script to screen – combining storyboards, creature designs, interviews and VFX shots into a candid documentary that’s even longer than the film.
There’s even a sneak peak at the crossover making of The Desolation Of Smaug, with Benedict Cumberbatch covered in ping pong balls, writhing around on a mattress. Does Tolkien’s slim novel need to be stretched out to three marathon movies? Probably not. But just like this boxset, the joy is in taking the long road through the story.
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