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This is a sensational Blu-ray set, but did this first Hobbit movie really need to be longer....?
Warner / 182 Minutes / 2012 / Rated PG-13 / Street Date: November 5, 2013
It’s probably not entirely fair to say that The Hobbit sucks, but there’s no denying that it feels like it does. I mean, there was no way that this disastrously bloated prequel (it’s fair to call it a prequel, right?) was ever going to hold up to its Lord of the Rings predecessors, but one hoped going into cinemas last Christmas that even if An Unexpected Journey paled by comparison, it would still offer a fun chance to return to cinematic Middle-earth.
But even that was marred by a polarizing filming style – in 48fps rather than the normal 24 – that gave every element of The Hobbit an over-vivid, video-gamey feel that, while admittedly hyper-real, lacked the sheen of The Lord of the Rings’ iconic imagery. Again, nobody really expected lightning to strike twice, but I keep thinking about the first fifteen minutes of The Fellowship of the Ring and how it not only established the narrative groundwork for the world of the films, but how in just a few short minutes, exceptional storytelling fused with VFX grandeur in such a way that even non-fantasy-dorks were completely enthralled. It sucked you in and kept you there for all ten hours of the trilogy.
Peter Jackson hired a capable set of craftsmen for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, but any thrills like those found in LOTR’s prologue are sorely absent here. In an act that will likely make Warner Bros. an extra $2 billion dollars but rid these new Tolkien films of any inherent integrity, The Hobbit’s triptych release pattern is its number one enemy: maybe the second two films will be snappier, but An Unexpected Journey feels loooong.
And now it’s even longer. Warner’s Lord of the Rings: Extended Editions are hallmark releases, but somehow with a little extra wiggle room, those three movies were able to truly let the organic aspects of its fantasy narrative to flush itself out. In this Hobbit: Extended Edition, the parts that already felt unnecessarily thorough are absolute land mines: some of the sequences on this 3+ hour cut are so interminable that they stop the already slap-shot movie dead in its tracks. And now Warner wants fans to double dip – let’s see exactly what this new edition holds that its earlier BD release did not…