Why I’m salivating for the extended edition of The Hobbit on DVD [guest post by KatharineD]

[For those who have not yet read it, here’s a previous post by KatharineD, a regular commentator on “me + richard armitage.” Many, many thanks, KatharineD, for offering this post right now! — Serv]

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7cf5ac441e7dbaf42df7fec8fcf84e5bWhen the details were released several days ago for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Extended Edition DVD coming out later this year, it sent me back to the box set of The Lord Of The Rings EE- not to watch the movies themselves, but to rewatch the bonus material, something I hadn’t done in a while. If you have the set, I encourage another look-see; if you’ve never seen it, it’s an absolute treat — a rare, in-depth look inside the world of film-making. It’s like the production blogs we’ve been getting for The Hobbit,  to the power of ten. As soon as I read ‘9 hours of extras’ for TH:AUJ, I thought oh yes, here we go again! For those of you who’ve never seen these documentary features, let me give you a taste!

aWhen the box set was first released in 2004, I bought it for my two sons for Christmas. We were familiar with the extended cuts of the movies, which we’d seen at the cinema, but had no idea what the bonus discs would offer up. I remember feeling none too energetic on Boxing Day, so one of my sons and I decided to investigate the unknown discs. We didn’t even have a DVD player at the time, so we both tried to get comfortable in front of the computer screen.

bWell, the experience was absolutely riveting — this was the complete story of starting out with Tolkien’s trilogy, writing the script, and working through pre-production to the actual filming process and far beyond. The extras did not constitute a cursory glance or a token effort to add the obligatory extra to the home movie release — this was a step-by-step look behind the curtain, told in exquisite detail by the most creative craftsmen and movie makers we could ever hope to meet. I’m talking hours of material here — this wasn’t Middle Earth the movie itself, but rather Peter Jackson’s own special magic world; it was like touring Willy Wonka’s factory and seeing how the sweets were made. I should perhaps add that I’m no Tolkien nerd, nor was I a LOTR aficionado at that point, having seen the movies but nothing more than that, so when I say I was completely enthralled, I speak as a layman who had no prior expectations whatsoever.

cImmediately apparent were the passion and enthusiasm of everyone involved — a sense of having been handed a sacred task, for which nothing less than total commitment would do. Weta Workshop really came into its own on this project, taking an integrated approach to set design, costume, weapons, armor and prosthetics. Led by Richard Taylor, the design team created a complete vision for the worlds of elves, dwarves, hobbits, orcs, wizards and men. The level of detail for each object, be it sword, breastplate, chair or button, was exquisite, and certainly far more than the naked eye would pick up on film.
eJackson began the project by telling everyone involved that he wanted them to think of the tales of Middle Earth as being a kind of prehistory, not fantasy at all. That world had to feel ‘real’ and I think that directive was exemplified by the work the Art Department did to create Hobbiton, starting one year ahead of filming to prepare not only the structures, but also the natural environment.

dWhat came across strongly from the people at WETA was a kind of crazy ‘can do’ attitude to problem solving — no suggestion was too absurd, no creation too ‘out there’. They were starting from scratch, with the help of Alan Lee and John Howe, the renowned Tolkien illustrators, working to achieve a level of world-building not contemplated before. WETA Workshop and WETA Digital are home to some seriously geeky artisans and technicians who at the time of LOTR were at the forefront of developing CGI battle scenes, motion capture filming, and highly detailed model building. It’s easy to forget that Gollum came to life in an unexpected way through the pioneering work done by Andy Serkis over ten years ago. What we see on screen in The Hobbit really is the culmination of a great deal of innovation and design work that was continually improved during the LOTR years.

fIt was great to hear a young Christian Rivers (recently featured on Jackson’s Facebook page as splinter unit director on the final day of The Hobbit) talking about collaborating on the storyboard process, and Daniel Falconer (the author of the Chronicles books) enthusing over being given the task of designing beautifully detailed elven armor.
gThe actors, too, had a sense of creating something new and wonderful, but were quite unburdened, at the start at least, by the sorts of pressures Richard Armitage and others working on The Hobbit undoubtedly felt in trying to honor the incredibly successful forerunner. Words from Viggo Mortensen in describing his approach to his character inevitably draw comparisons with remarks made by Richard — the need to stay in character (to the extent of carrying his sword around with him off set), and stuntmen told stories of his commitment to acquiring and executing high level sword fighting skills. His charismatic personality won over everyone in spite of his late call up to the role of Aragorn and he became the unofficial leader of The Fellowship. Jed Brophy, our much-loved Nori (I swear the only part of Jed that’s aged in over a decade is his hair color), featured quite strongly as one of the main horsemen on set, as well as playing other assorted roles.

zBy the time I came to the extras for The Return Of The King, I was familiar with all the main players- people like Andrew Lesnie, the Director of Photography and Dan Hennah, the head of the Art Department, both of whom, albeit significantly greyer this time around, still play major roles in Jackson’s film making.
tThe acclaim of the first two movies in the trilogy raised a great deal of expectation around ROTK, which everyone from Jackson down felt keenly. Just watching all the various departments’ staff talk about the incredible pressure they felt to deliver the highest quality film under serious time constraints was compelling — they often expressed the overwhelming nature of the work load, and yet the need not to let down their esteemed director. Jackson clearly inspires great loyalty amongst his troops, which RA has mentioned as influencing his portrayal of Thorin. The movie was completed just ahead of the deadline and world premiere in Wellington.

rA section of footage is devoted to the Academy Awards the following year, and I dare anyone who sees it not to cheer along with all the winners as one after another collected Oscars for their roles in creating the movie — people like Howard Shore for the memorable soundtrack; Peter King for makeup; Francis Walsh, Jackson and Phillipa Boyens for the screenplay; the sound mixers; and the visual effects team. The culmination of the night was of course best director for Jackson and the major award of Best Picture. I felt as though I had toiled along with them all (after roughly seventeen hours of behind-the-scenes footage!) and gloried in all their success.

The most touching moments of all for me were the farewells to all the actors at the end of pickups. If you want to know what to expect at the end of The Hobbit: There And Back Again DVD in a couple of years, take a look at these video excerpts. I get teary every time I see this footage, even though I know exactly what to expect — it is just so incredibly moving, and I’m sure it’s exactly what Armitage and all the dwarf actors felt just recently. I found particularly poignant the speeches made by Christopher Lee and John Rhys Davies, both of whom have worked extensively in the movie industry. Both stressed that the level of love and devotion shown by all involved was unheard of in Hollywood, and they marveled that New Zealand was showing the rest of the world what could be achieved when committed people collaborated so wholeheartedly on a project.

Viggo Mortensen’s Last Day As Aragorn
Elijah Wood’s Final Day

This DVD set was, and still is, the gold standard in what we could possibly want from a home movie release — beautiful packaging, well thought out menu design, and high quality special features, including various commentaries (and even Easter eggs for those clever enough to locate them!). Diehard fans from back in the day will countenance nothing less from The Hobbit. The list of special features for An Unexpected Journey looks to be every bit as detailed and interesting,  with special note of ‘The Company of Thorin’, ‘Durin’s Folk’, and ‘The Songs Of The Hobbit’  — all extremely pertinent to fans of one Richard Armitage!

See the complete list of extras here.
I don’t know about everyone else, but I held off buying the theatrical version of The Hobbit on DVD, because THIS was exactly what I was waiting for!

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[See coverage of the edition at Heirs of Durin and TORn as well. –Serv]

~ by Servetus on August 5, 2013.

26 Responses to “Why I’m salivating for the extended edition of The Hobbit on DVD [guest post by KatharineD]”

  1. It’s like people who leave before all the credits finish running. You never know what is going to happen at the end of the film. Ghostbusters was a great example–no one expected the ghost at the very end. Extras are great. Even the ones that came with the reg Blu-ray were great!

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  2. Thanks for this Katharine. I’ve seen a fraction of these extras on You Tube. I saw LoTR *after* TH. I had no interest in it beforehand, but now I consider it almost part of TH and in some ways it brings me closer to Thorin. This weekend the Fellowship aired on commercial TV and I kept it on throughout several showings. It seems that the fabulous extras you described are a lot like the post-production vlogs we’ve seen from TH, except unlike the vlogs, there was nothing that had to be held back in LoTR.

    I was on the fence whether to buy the extended version or wait for a boxed set of all three films, but you’ve made up my mind for me.

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    • First up- I’m not sure why my pretty pictures aren’t showing up (and I thought I’d been so clever in finding them all!). Hopefully Serv can fix this at her end.
      I’ve rewatched Fellowship Of The Ring, and I get all excited when references are made to The Hobbit, like poor old Ori’s skeleton in the Mines of Moria!
      It’s possible there’ll be perhaps one more feature when Warners inevitably release a box set of TH trilogy, but there’s no way I’m waiting another 2 years to get my hands on all this stuff- it’s as complete as I need it to be, especially as this will have the extra 15 minutes of the actual film.

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  3. Thank you, Katharine, for reminding me how much I loved the extended LOTR dvds. I was seeing the glass as half empty because the extra minutes added to the Hobbit are almost half of the footage added to each of the LOTR films. I forgot how much I enjoyed the extras…. Of course, I will buy the extended version, but I will throw my bad attitude into the fires of Mt. Doom.

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    • Oh, believe me, I’ve seen the negative comments over on TORn- packaging doesn’t look as elegant, not enough new film footage…I guess PJ and the marketing dept are victims of their own well-established high standards. I personally wasn’t worried that there were fewer minutes added- I think it’s probably due to turning two films into three quite late in the planning process.

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  4. I totally agree with you, Katherine! I love the extras on the LOTR EEs, and I thoroughly love the new production vlogs we’ve been getting over the last couple of years. In fact, I’m hoping for a vlog about the final days of Hobbit pick-ups, pretty soon.
    But the extras on ROTK are so special — you can really tell that this was a new experience for everyone, from the tearful last days of filming to the Wellington Premiere. They were all just giddy with disbelief, amazed that this stuff was really happening to them.
    I still love watching them from time to time.

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    • I loved when the cast all went up on stage at the Academy Awards- as you say, giddy with excitement. I wish, wish, wish RA and the rest of TH cast could have such a thrilling moment- one to treasure for a lifetime.

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  5. Thanks Katharine 🙂 I think I buy it for my hubby, of course.

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  6. Lovely! I have chills just thinking about preordering the EE.

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    • I’m going to have to be a bit more patient than the rest of you- for some reason Australia really is the end of the world when it comes to DVD releases and movie opening dates- over two weeks later, damn them!

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  7. If you check my blog–I’ve done it. I’ve pre-ordered.

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  8. I am waiting for the box set too! I’ve no doubt PJ will pay me in spades for my waiting!
    I did have a copy of TH sent to my mom for her birthday in March but was later forced to perform an ill-advised rescue of said DVD. (she owned it for two weeks without watching it, then finally watched it and complained she couldn’t understand what they were saying and THEN said she couldn’t follow the storyline, of a story she had read to me many times, seen the cartoon and watched all of LOTR in utter fascination….the biggest shock, Thorin and CO. didn’t try to kill me in my sleep for making them stay there as long as I did.)

    So, I will purchase the box set, of which my favorite feature is usually watching the film and listening to all the actors comment on what was going on during particular shots. And I also may or may not have a copy gotten by nefarious means. Come on November!
    Thanks for the Post KatherineD

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    • There’s no mention of an actor’s commentary this time around, so hopefully we get one for DOS. I often find the director’s commentary is more interesting as they have a good handle on the whole project, and obviously know what they wanted from each scene.

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      • Yes, but PJ is not half as funny as Billy Boyd and Dom Monaghan ripping on each other for three hours, right? There are still plenty of great reasons to wait for the box set.

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        • Well that’s true. I watched a video clip of Dom and Billy the other day and they really are a naturally funny pair of guys. I know people like to paint Aidan And Dean in the same light, but they just don’t have the same comedic vibe.

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          • Totally agree. Though neither Dom nor Billy could play a (seriously young) vampire that just melted my heart with his quirky smile, seriously weird roommates and adorable Irish accent…tink, torin, too cute!
            Alas, I’ve outed myself again…

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  9. Thanks for the commentary, KatharineD — now I know what I have to look forward to. I admit that I already bought the DVD, but that’s okay — I know I can pass it on to people who will enjoy it. I just hope for some more stuff with Armitage (I know, I’m a serious overfocuser 🙂 ).

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  10. […] on "me + richard armitage". Her previous guest posts treated her visit to Sydney Supanova 2013 and her musings on the prospective extended edition DVD release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Longtime readers here know that this topic — how some Tolkien fans reacted to Armitage's casting […]

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  11. […] on "me + richard armitage". Previous guest posts treated her visit to Sydney Supanova 2013 and her musings on the prospective extended edition DVD release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. She followed up with two posts on "Playing Thorin" — Tolkien fan reactions to Armitage's casting […]

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  12. […] For KatharineD’s reflections on what we might expect from the Extended Edition, read here. […]

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  13. Thank you Katharine for reminding us all how wonderful LOTR was. It brought me to tears watching Viggo’s last day and Elijah’s. I bought TH when it came out just as I did LOTR and all the rest as they came out and now I will get this extended edition. I’m sure when the series is finished we will have the same number that we had with LOTR. Pete always seems to have more and more film to give us which is wonderful.

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  14. Almost time for The Hobbit AUJ Extended edition KatharineD – I’m also looking forward to all the behind-the-scenes extras. Thanks for going down memory lane with LOTR

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    • It’s going to be great, isn’t it? I can’t wait for stuff on recording Misty Mountain, dwarf boot camp etc etc….

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