This will be quick as I’ve already reviewed The Hobbit.
Last year I said that The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey felt like a film at war with itself – two separate movies trying to force themselves together. After three viewings of that original theatrical cut, I stand by my criticism. A wonderful film to look at, with mad strokes of genius, but far too long, clunky, and in some cases, forced.
Earlier this month, An Unexpected Journey got the Extended treatment. If you don’t recall, each film in The Lord of the Rings was released in these beautiful extended edition DVDs 11 months after their theatrical release. In the cases of Fellowship and The Two Towers (especially Towers) the films greatly benefited by the longer running time. These DVDs are the closest things to real magic I’ve ever seen. This is also true of the first entry in The Hobbit.
Expanding the running time of an already too-long film might sound like madness. Yet here more time is given to the quiet moments. The times when, as the audience, we’d like to breathe and appreciate the world more. With just a few extended scenes of Bilbo walking through Hobbiton, or Rivendell, we’re allowed to take in the sights, ease into our surroundings and become part of the journey.
It helps the pacing as well. This cut is very natural and fluid. Not once did it feel rushed or bloated. Small character moments that went almost unnoticed in the original cut now have real presence, bringing us into the fold as part of the company.
My only issue, still, is with the Pale Orc. Although the filmmakers handled the villain well enough it still comes out as a little forced. Thorin’s confrontational climax isn’t as tiresome here, yet it remains a tad drawn out. I understand why he’s there. I just don’t think he really needs to be. Oakenshield is engaging enough without a physical personification of his inner struggle.
The DVD, or blu-ray, or whatever, is so worth it. This is the film I wanted to see last year.