So, now I've seen THE HOBBIT again, for the sixth time, this time at home on dvd.
I still like it. A lot.
I was good this time and let it go at its own speed, but I suspect in many future viewings I'll fast-forward through least-favorite scenes and perhaps replay favorite bits. Once again I'm surprised how much of Tolkien's book they got into the movie, how little screen time the non-Tolkienian bits (orcs) took up, and how impressive most of the performances are (esp Freeman's Bilbo and, once again, Serkis's Gollum).
The extras are different this time around; aside from a relatively brief (six-minute) documentary on the natural New Zealand scenery they used, which is flat-out spectacular, it's mostly the trailers (two different ones, with the second coming in a number of variants with the final few seconds different each time) and the production blogs. I'd seen most but not all of these as they were released online; it's nice to have them preserved in more permanent and readily accessible form. Seeing them and the trailers, I saw bits from several scenes not in the first movie, most of which are still to come but a few of which must belong to a planned expanded edition of the first film.
In this category must fall the scene from the first trailer of Bilbo exploring Rivendell and coming across the shards of Narsil. The actor who plays Bofur also talks about having sung the Man-in-the-Moon/ Merry Old Inn song, which could come later (e.g., at Lake Town) but sounds as if it belongs somewhere early on.
In the still-to-come category is obviously Gandalf's exploration of sinister ruins --originally I'd believed these to be Dol Guldur; now I think they must be the Witch-King's tomb described by Galadriel and Elrond at the Council. Presumably it will be to explore these, rather than attend the White Council, that he leaves Bilbo and the dwarves at the edge of Mirkwood to go and do. We also in the production blogs see the dwarves all trussed us in spider-silk, Bilbo in the treetop (the butterflies episode, I presume), Beorn's hall from the inside (w. giant-sized furniture), and especially the barrel-scene. In this it's clear they've changed things so that rather than hidden inside closed barrels floating horizontally the dwarves are riding in barrels floating vertically and open on the top, so their heads and arms can stick out. This isn't how Tolkien described (or drew) the scene, but I understand the cinematic logic behind the change: closed barrels from which you might hear a muffled groan or shout is far less interesting to see than a barrel going down a rapid river with the actors at least partially in sight. So, that looks to be a changed scene, but not radically changed.
My favorite detail from the dvd extras: one props person explaining that they ran out of gold paint for Smaug's hoard, using up the entire available Asian supply and had to send to Germany for more.
There was something in the extras related to the computer games that gave me considerable pause, but since that's a tangential point I'll save it for another post.
inside Edmund Wilson
12 hours ago