At long last, I have seen all the extended editions of The Hobbit. Here is my complete, movie-by-movie (final) review, as well as the trilogy as a whole. I won't spoil anything, merely add or elaborate on the films themselves in regards to the extended films. This review covers the extended film footage only, not the documentaries.
The first Hobbit film sets everything up, and introduces quite a bit. Perhaps too much so. The fact that these are three films, shows us that not only Bilbo's story is covered. In fact, as he says in the prologue, "It began, long ago, in the east." And then, alter, "...and that's where I come in."
The film itself, in regards to the extended edition, does not feel overlong compared to the theatrical. Of all 6 extended edition films, The Hobbit: Part 1 has the least ammount of footage added - about 10 - 15 minutes changed / added. The Goblin King gets a new song, as does Bofur in Rivendell. The best added scenes are those in Rivendell, even though that may seem to be the slowest part of the film. Extended Edition rating, in regards to scenes added : 5/10
Film + added scenes : 9/10 [same as theatrical.] While the extended edition is preferable (more of the world, bonus features), the extended edition for this film does not bring a whole lot to the table.
The extended edition for The Hobbit: Part 2 nearly saves the film from it's thetrical edition mis-steps. Indeed, the 'bad footage' is still there. Nothing has been changed or altered (too much / at all...?) but merely with extra footage - approx 15 - 20 min worth.
We get more about the lore of the rings, and Thrain has been restored! He has been completely cut from the theatrical edition. Even so much so that in the extended edition, Gandalf is running around Dol Guldur with him, as opposed to alone. There is also more of Beorn - a little bit more. We also get a little bit more of Mirkwood - which is neat to see a few filmmaking tricks and effects to add to the stuffiness and confusion of the forest, but ultimately don't add too much (though a few moments from the book are present.)
Then we come to Lake Town....we get more 'useless' material with Alfrid and The Master. This is where I felt the theatrical also suffered but stresses my point in the extended.
Extended Edition rating, in regards to scenes added : 7/10
Film + Added Scenes : 9/10 [same as theatrical]
The extended edition truly makes a difference this time a round. Some sore spots are smoothed over (Thrain! more mention of the rings etc..) but this is an extended edition, not neccessarily a 're-edt', so those 'problem scenes' are still there, but the extra added good stuff makes up.
For starters, Smaug's attack on Lake Town is a little bit longer, and even more dire in spots. More important on the lore of the rings included in the Dol Guldur scene. In fact, book readers may know this, but this extended version of the film, for the first time in all 6 movies (extended and non) a fact in regards to Gandalf and the Rings...
Also, a scene I was looking forward to based on the previews is the dwarves on the cart being chased by wargs on the ice. There is more footage of the Battle, including Beorn. But no more about those worms..... Also, we get to see Gandalf getting Radagast's staff : "If what we say is true, you will need this more than I." Given Radagast's 'importance' and his duties he can go without use a staff. Though his power is diminished (...?) because of that; though his needs may not require 'power.' Anyway...
We also see a much needed coronation sequence. Which, is sadly, the end of the extended footage. Once Bilbo is talking to the dwarves about tea, there is no new scenes from then on.
It goes without saying that the extended edition of The Hobbit: Part 3 is neccessary - it's just unfortunate that so much was left out of the theatrical, making the theatrical actually suffer for it.
Extended Edition, in regards to scenes added : 8/10
Film + Added Scenes: 9.5/10 [improves the film]
On the whole: those who did not enjoy the three films, or have issues with the trilogy being a trilogy, or not sticking to the book.....I understand your points, even though I may not agree with them. The idea of an extended edition existing may appear to be excessively long, but it does not hamper the running time by too much. Not noticably, anyway.
The book is called The Hobbit, or, There and Back Again. I like to think of these films as The Hobbit, or The Prelude to the Lord of the Rings, as it has more in common with being a 'prequel' to The Lord of the Rings than a light hearted, slightly related quest.
As with The Lord of the Rings, even with their faults, I would take the extended editions of The Hobbit over the theatrical anyday, even if Part 1 does not add much to the film, or feature scenes that are openly welcomed.
With that said, here are elements I did not enjoy:
- Legolas' beefed-up role. We should have only seen him in the Woodland realm, and then again at The Battle of the Five Armies.
- Azog and Bolg: How many villains do we need? I understand that orcs need leaders and commanders etc, but too many scenes of 'orcs only'.
The romance: but because of how it was handled. Kili should have never gotten injured, and Tauriel and Legolas should never come to Lake Town prior to the battle. Make them flirt / fall in love while in Woodland, and then when they escape it should be a 'I wonder if they'll see each other again?' and then 'reunited' at the battle in the third film. Or something. I would have had the romance 'go about' differently.
- It takes just a little long to really get going and the adventure to truly begin; especially after the prologue in Part 1. I understand to many viewers this is the first (chronological) visit to Middle-earth, but with the prologue + the party, it takes a while for the adventure to get going.
- The politics of Lake Town. I preferred watching scenes with mention of Rings and the mystery about the necromancer than politics of Lake Town.
- 48 frames per second. I was glad to not see any of the three films in this format. I've heard bad things and did not risk it with this films. Perhaps in the future I'd be willing to try it out.
- A bit overuse of CG. What made The Lord of the Rings great was all the make-up and miniatures, etc. I just found that the CG was a bit over-used.
- Having a Frodo cameo.
- Stone Giants
- Sauron should have a stayed 'a shadow' or as 'The Necromancer' rather than 'coming forth' as Sauron. Sure, the council can discover who he is, but WE shouldn't see him as super powerful himself. Sure there can be orcs and spiders gathering, but he himself shouldn't have been able to do that much.
Plotlines still answered [on film] :
- what happens to Dale / Lake Town
- What happens to some of the dwarves
- What happens to Tauriel (and maybe Thranduil...)
- Why Radagast isn't in The Fellowship of the Ring [I like to think he is fully immersed in nature at this point - no dealings with anyone, and due to 'diminished power' not worth notice of the enemies]
So now, I come to it:
Extended editions, in regards to scenes added: 7.5/10
Films + added scenes: 8.5/10.
They may not be as good as The Lord of the Rings, but I'd say, overall in quality, The Lord of the Rings at its worst is The Hobbit at its best.
[my favourite of the six (extended) films remains The Two Towers]