I’m gonna do something a little bit different here this Wednesday. It’s actually something that I’ve wanted to do at some point – which is to go back to an earlier review of a film and add to it impressions of a different version of the film. Did it change my original view? Did some of my gripes about the shorter version get addressed by additional footage? And such and such…
And what would be a better candidate for this than to go back to my first – and as of yet, the only – review written right after seeing a new film in the theater; “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies“. The Extended Edition of that has been out for a while now and now I’ve seen it and can give my additional views. But first – here’s my original review I wrote December 15th, 2014 – almost a year ago:
So – as you can see from that, I had several problems with the somewhat obvious cuts in the film; some causing continuity errors, some causing characters magically transporting long distances and even some abrupt jumps in the music. So how did the extended edition change my opinion? Well – I think it’s best to go through the most noticeable additions one by one, so SPOILER ALERT to anyone who hasn’t seen either version of the film yet.
- Addition 1: Smaug makes one additional divebombing on Laketown and notices Bard for the first time while flying by. It’s just a quick addition that simply adds one beat to the scene. As I mentioned in my review, I really dug the Laketown mayhem and that’s not changed.
- Addition 2: more Dol Guldur-stuff; the orc guard that’s throwing Gandalf around is actually going to cut the Elf ring from Gandalf’s finger – continuing the theme of Sauron gathering all the rings that are still out there. This was actually a continuation to the added scene in “The Desolation of Smaug” extended edition, where Gandalf comes across Thorin’s father Thrain in the catacombs, who also has had the Dwarf-king ring removed from his finger – along with his finger. Another add here is Galadriel’s entrance – this time she actually speaks to the orc, warning him to leave – and then there’s no cut to wider shot, until we see her blast the orc into little tiny bits(here’s the first real signal that this version will have a LOT more carnage(that R-rating was not just a marketing ploy).
- Addition 3: a short one, but answers a big continuity issue. Mainly “Where the hell did Gandalf get a new staff?”, because his original was incinerated by Sauron in the last movie. Simple answer, Radagast gives his to Gandalf, saying “you need it more than I”.
- Addition 4: just before Bilbo sneaks out over the wall from Erebor, he encounters Bifur(James Nesbitt), who basically knows what he’s doing and agrees to look the other way. A nice little scene, kind of a bookend to a scene between the two in the first movie where Bilbo is also trying to sneak away from the camp at night.
- Addition 5: the Battle begins. Now here’s where the new stuff causes the film to be completely re-edited. Remember when Dain and his army arrived and just kinda taunted Thranduil’s elf-army for a while and then the “Were-worms” busted through the ground and the orcs arrived? Now HERE, the dwarves and the elves actually FIGHT against each other for a good bit before that happens. This is a major new beat to the battle and really actually makes the film earn it’s title “battle of the FIVE armies”. It always felt just…off to me that we have three adjacent scenes of separate armies arriving to the battlefield and NOTHING happening between the first two parties but some taunting. Well done.
- Addition 6: this one is the longest added scene and it fixed a giant peeve of mine. In the theatrical version, Thorin and his closest men jump on goats and ride towards Ravenhill – they bust through about three rows of orcs and in the next cut, we already see them ride up the cliff. Those goats sure went to hyperspeed there. In THIS version, however, only Thorin rides a goat. Four others commandeer a so-called “war chariot”, which is a thing that got introduced in some previous added footage as a formidable piece of dwarvish war technology. And DAMN do they mow down those orcs & troll while they race towards Ravenhill! I’d say this sequence is the main culprit for the R-rating, because the carnage they cause to the orc army is one for the books. The war chariot is basically a machine that’s designed for skewering and massive body dismemberment. A little snippet of this scene was actually shown in the theatrical trailers early on, but it took this long to get it. But I’m glad we did.
- Addition 7: another important one, mainly because– Well, because that annoying little fuck Alfrid finally buys the farm. Yes, people – I guess you could call it the payoff waited by millions. As Gandalf is having a bit of trouble getting Radagast’s staff to co-operate while fighting a troll, Alfrid – dumbass that he is – launches himself from a catapult he’s been cowering in and right into the trolls mouth. And there was much rejoicing. As I stated in my review, the character of Alfrid was, without equal, the worst screenwriting decision ever – but I’m glad even the filmmakers acknowledged that. Now if we could get the same addition to “Revenge of the Sith” for Jar-Jar…
- Addition 8: Beorn actually does some damage. Yup – Beorn’s part in the theatrical film: 3 quick shots. Here we actually get some added material of him – in his bear form – just absolutely MAULING countless rows of orcs. It makes him the formidable force that he was said to be, but what we never really got to see.
- Addition 9: the Funeral of Thorin, Fili and Kili and the crowning of the new king. Yeah – this was another little bit that was just totally cut short in the theatrical version. In that, we got just some horns being blown and then cut to Bilbo, leaving. Here we see the wake in the, I guess “mausoleum”-section of Erebor, as well as the revelation that Dain is now the next King Under the Mountain. Again, this addition just flows much better instead of the drastic cut in the earlier version.
And besides the ones I mentioned, there is a huge number of little added bits here and there – most of them in the end battle, such as the orcs’ “War beasts” – armored trolls – just inflicting heavy damage, each of the original party of dwarves getting their moments in the battle, Legolas making the beheading-record in the whole Middle Earth-series in one shot, the people at Dale both causing damages AND taking heavy casualties and lots more.
So – did the extended edition address my original gripes? Yes. Is is a better film? Yes. But does it fix some story level grievances I – and many a people in the Internet – have about this whole “The Hobbit“-trilogy? Not that much. I mean – it’s now done and finished. Many a debate can be had about “Should Peter Jackson maybe had reined himself a bit from the slapstick that somewhat plagues these films?” Yeah, probably. Some of that can actually be put into context now, as he himself has stated that after stepping in the directors seat with an insanely short prep time, he was “winging it” a lot in the early stages. And there is a certain amount of bloat all over this trilogy because of that. And it also caused him to rely on CGI much, much more than in the “Lord of the Rings“-films.
I’m sure there will be a thousand debates of “woulda, coulda, shoulda” about these films(as there have already been), and I’m sure there’s soon gonna be several fan-edits of the three films hitting the web, but like I said: it’s done now. And I guess, under the circumstances, the creative team did the best they could. Which is “quite not there, but somewhat”.
And that’s the last thing I’m gonna say about that.