Last week, with the baby asleep, and Mom on her first night-out in five months, I got to sit down and watch the Extended Edition of The Desolation of Smaug that has been sitting on my shelf, taunting me with its unbroken shrink wrap.
For those who have seen the movie, but don’t want to invest either the time or the money in this edition, I thought I might briefly review the major differences.
Although there are lots of little bits in the EE which differ from the theatrical release, there are three that I would consider ‘important’.
The first of these is Gandalf’s introduction of the dwarves to Beorn. This is one of the real highlights of the book, but, much to my disappointment, didn’t appear in the movie. The EE edition includes the scene, although it sets it after the dwarves spend a night in the house. (Beorn only appearing the next morning). The scene is actually a great comedy piece, with the dwarves repeatedly mistaking Gandalf’s ‘signal’ and appearing before he is ready. Unfortunately, there is just something a bit off about Beorn in the scene. In a series that has constantly had to deal with making people appear different sizes, this seems to be the worst example. He just doesn’t quite seem ‘there’. Also, his acting isn’t quite as good as it is in the scenes included in the regular edition. Having watched the scene and somewhat enjoyed it, I actually agree with the decision to cut the scene from the regular release. There is also a short conversation between Beorn and Gandalf about Dol Guldur, which I think should have been left in as it gives a little more reason for Gandalf leaving the Dwarves at Mirkwood.
It is in Mirkwood where we get the second major extension, and the reinstatement of another lost piece of the book. Basically, we get several more minutes of Thorin’s company wandering in the confusing woods, including the crossing of an enchanted stream with a collapsed bridge. During the crossing over some twisted vines, Bombur falls in the water and into an enchanted sleep, forcing the rest of the party to carry him. This scene adds nothing to the overall plot, but it is fun, is in the book, and makes Mirkwood feel more like the great wood that it is – they cross so quickly in the regular edition that it makes it seem like a very small forest.
The last, and biggest, change from the regular edition is the inclusion of a new character, Thrain, father of Thorin. Thrain is briefly seen in the flashbacks in the first movie. We actually get some new flashbacks right at the beginning of the EE when Gandalf is talking to Thorin in Bree. (This also includes Gandalf asking Thorin about Thrains ‘ring’ – nice to see Gandalf doing his job). Later in the EE, when Gandalf is exploring the ruins of Dol Guldur, a crazy, emaciated version of Thrain attacks him. This is an odd scene, as for a moment, Gandalf feels hunted, only to be jumped by a really unthreatening old man.
I think this scene is an attempt to work back in an element from the book – Gandalf meeting Thrain in the dungeons of Dol Guldur. However, in the book that event happens before the events of the Hobbit (though it is told later). Here it seems strangely out of place. In fact, it is so out of place, that the writers obviously didn’t know what to do with Thrain and have him quickly dispatched by the Necromancers for no particular reason. It’s all a bit strange really.
Peter Jackson and crew, however, must have realized the scene didn’t work and removed it. It is fascinating to see how they managed to completely remove the character from the scene. I think in some instances they must have digitally removed him from specific shots that made it into the final cut of the theatrical release.
So, all and all, while the EE is fun to watch, it probably isn’t as good of a film as the theatrical release, with only the Mirkwood scene and a few tiny bits of pieces that might have added to it.