As I mentioned in my post about The Battle of the Five Armies I was waiting patiently for the extended editions of The Hobbit films to come out in a boxed set to go with my LOTR extended edition boxed set. They fit together nicely side by side in my Ikea shelf as if by design.
I was disappointed by An Unexpected Journey, as a result saw The Desolation of Smaug on Netflix and as a result of that saw The Battle of the Five Armies back at the cinema and really didn’t like it all that much. So my experience of the theatrical versions was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster (a bit like watching The Force Awakens). However, always at the back of my mind was the thought that some of the problems with the films would be fixed in the extended editions – especially the disjointed edits during the battle in the third film.
Looking back at my previous post I realise I owe Peter Jackson an apology. Now I have watched the films through again I have a new appreciation for them. I’m not going to pretend that everything is fixed – there’s still the stupid plate throwing scene, there’s still some dodgy CG and there’s no getting away from the repetition of key elements already done in LOTR. But the extra and extended or reworked scenes in the extended editions make the films into a cohesive and very entertaining whole.
The nine hours of films are really not the whole story though. There’s nine hours of commentaries from the filmmakers to listen to and then there’s about 27 hours of extras in the form of Appendices. These appendices are a lot less repetitive than those accompanying the LOTR boxed set and offer great insights into every aspect of the filmmaking process. It is pretty much essential viewing for any cinephile or LOTR fan. I’m both so I enjoyed them immensely.
I watched the Appendices and then the films. I even persuaded Siggy to watch the films with me, which was no small feat given her reaction to having to watch the LOTR extended versions. ‘That’s three hours of my life I’ll never get back,’ she said after each LOTR film, but not this time. She actually enjoyed them (a bit, let’s not over egg it) – maybe because Martin Freeman and Stephen Fry and a couple of good looking actors were involved but also because the films were faster paced than the LOTR. She only fell asleep once for a few minutes as well, which is a record.
One thing that made me appreciate the films more was a lot of explanation of the dwarf characters. I got to know them a lot better over the making of documentaries in a way that didn’t happen in the film. This was always going to be a challenge for Peter Jackson and his team and I can see now that they made every effort to try and differentiate them.
I also appreciate now how it was The Desolation of Smaug that was the ‘filler’ film with less original Tolkien based story than the other two. It’s funny that this is the one I recall enjoying the most. Perhaps part of that was because I didn’t have to pay to see it in a cinema. I’m actually quite happy to forgive all the story changes they made to make these films work – to misquote Jackson in one of the Appendices ‘if we had made the films sticking exactly to the story in the book, no-one would have paid to see it.’
A short children’s book cannot be made into a trilogy of films to prequel LOTR. I now see that contrary to them ‘shoe horning’ scenes featuring Gandalf into the films to link them up with LOTR they were trying to elaborate on things Tolkien either glossed over completely or only mentioned in the Appendices of LOTR. So they are well within their rights to do so. This is particularly effective in the extended versions where more emphasis is placed on the Elven and Dwarven rings and the fate of Thorin’s father.
I could ramble on (sorry that’s a really obscure Led Zeppelin / LOTR pun – Google it) but I’ll leave it there. Suffice to say, while they have faults there is no denying the effort put into making these three films – it is clearly evident from the appendices – and: