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Hobbit II Extended Edition: SMAUG HARDER

I know I've ragged on the Hobbit movies in my posts, but I still enjoy them. I like the cast, I find Jackson and his collaborators' approach to the material to be... interesting, and the visuals are nice, though they look a bit more Warcraft than Tolkien. (I'm pretty sure that's where the notion of dwarves having burly Scots accents originated, as I can't find any textual basis.) So I buy them when they come out on Blu-Ray... or, more accurately, I wait another six months and pick up the Extended Editions. I loved the EEs for LotR; it was like getting the movies all over again a year later, with interest. (And the extras for those old DVDs are still second-to-none.) So far I haven't gotten the same warm nostalgic feeling for the Hobbit movies... but then again, The Hobbit ain't LotR, no matter how much they try to stretch it out. That said, the 25 minutes of extra/alternate scenes in Desolation of Smaug are considerably more substantial than the eight or so minutes added to Unexpected Journey. If you're curious about the longer version, here's what's been added, with star ratings for relevance and entertainment value (* = Meh, ** = Blatant Fan Service, *** = Of Interest, **** = Snazzy). SPOILERS will obtain throughout.

1. The Prologue

The Prologue at Bree is stretched out a bit, with more references to Thorin's father Thrain and a flashback to the battle at the Gates of Moria. There's a considerable payoff later on, but it really doesn't add much to the story. And can you even have a flashback in a prologue that's also a flashback? That's some serious Christopher Nolan shit right there. **


2. Beorn

Beorn (the human) gets a lot more screen time than he did in the theatrical version, and it's pretty solid stuff. Instead of coming off as a feral wildman, he seems a lot cannier, wittier, and warier, haunted by tragedy and largely uninterested in the affairs of men, wizards, and dwarves. He has a couple of more scenes with Gandalf, and warns him about the Necromancer and the Witch-King. ****

3. Mirkwood

More scenes of Bilbo and the Dwarves in Mirkwood, including a scene where they have to cross a river by climbing on vine-like branches that's like something out of Jackson's King Kong, plus more scenes of them hallucinating on Mirkwood fumes. Adds nothing, but an eerie scene with Thorin trying to kill a white stag is nice, though. *


4. The Witch-King's Tomb

The scene with Gandalf and Radagast gets extended a bit, with a flashback to the Rangers sealing the Witch-King in his tomb (presumably before he became all Wraith-y). I'd pretty much thought that the Ringwraiths were already noncorporeal at this point, so what would there have been to bury? Oh well. (It does explain how "the Necromancer" got his soubriquet.) **


5. Laketown

There aren't a lot of extended scenes here, just little bits here and there to expand your sense of the city. We see that Bard has allies among the townspeople who will cover for him, but most of the additional material consists of the Master and Alfrid scheming to eliminate Bard and feels more like something out of Blackadder than Tolkien. Nothing much to see here, and sadly no extended Colbert cameo. *


6. Thrain

Holy crap, it's Thrain! Gandalf finds him wandering the alleys of Dol Guldur, ragged and broken. Then Sauron shows up and bad stuff happens. The scene was intended to tie in with the flashbacks in the Prologue, but since we've barely been acquainted with the character it doesn't have much emotional resonance. And Thrain's departure is kinda silly (hint: Wilhelm scream). A lot of it really counts more as an alternative sequence than an extension, with much of the action reshot for the theatrical version with Gandalf solo. But there's a link to LotR as well, with Gandalf inquiring about Thrain's missing Ring of Power. ***


That's pretty much it, though there are probably a number of shots and lines of dialogue that were added to the EE as well. I can't say that the new material makes the movie any better — it doesn't help the stuff that was dodgy to begin with, like the video game-y setpieces on the river or inside Erebor. But, if you liked the movie, or the franchise, and just want a bit more of it, the EE is a fun way to kill a little bit more time than you did in the theater.

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