Extended edition TH – AUJ: 5 things I’ve learnt

Like any other devoted Ringer, when the extended editions of Fellowship, The Two Towers and The Return of the King were released I immediately watched them and then spent hours going through the bonus content.

Director and producer Peter Jackson named this bonus content the ‘appendices’. He was following in JRR Tolkien’s footsteps; Tolkien placed a huge amount of background material at the back of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ that he called the appendices.

Now that I’ve finally got my hands on copies of the extended editions of the three The Hobbit films courtesy of my friend Ben, I’m attempting this feat again. It really is a feat, as all together there is around 27 hours of bonus material.

Here are five of the things that I have learnt from watching the appendices in An Unexpected Journey.

Sir Ian McKellen contemplated quitting acting due to the difficulties of green screen filming

As Gandalf (McKellen) is 25% larger than the dwarves and Bilbo, a lot of McKellen’s scenes were shot on green screen while the dwarves and Bilbo were shot simultaneously on the main set.

Hidden earpieces and faces on illuminating tennis balls meant that McKellen knew when to say his lines and who to speak to. It sounds easy enough but, as McKellen points out, part of being a successful actor is reacting to those around you. Very hard to do when your counterpart is an inanimate object.

The podium that Bofur dances upon in Rivendell is the same podium that the One Ring is placed onto during the Council of Elrond

I am, quite frankly, ashamed that I missed this.

When Bofur (James Nesbitt) seeks to liven up the atmosphere during the company’s dinner with the elves he jumps onto the same podium that would later hold the One Ring.

For me, this is a defining moment.

During the events of An Unexpected Journey, 60 years before the events of Fellowship, the majority of Middle-earth was in full bloom. While darkness was slowly creeping back into the world, it most certainly hadn’t reached Rivendell.

Elrond and the elves of Rivendell were thriving. They opened their doors to the company and we saw a Rivendell that was full of life. At that point, that podium was merely a podium, with nothing special about it.

Fast forward 60 years and that podium became something quite different. It held the most dangerous artefact within Middle-earth, and the reason that Sauron was able to return.

I doubt Elrond was ever able to look at that podium in the same way, the memory of dancing dwarves long forgotten.

Radagast has worn a hat-shaped hole into one of the branches in his house

One day, hundreds of years ago, an acorn fell out of Radagast’s pocket and began to grow. Radagast, the sensitive, nature-loving wizard that he is, didn’t have the heart to remove the seedling so it continued to grow until it came up through the house.

Over the hundreds of years since, Radagast has worn a hat-shaped hole in one of the lower branches from walking back and forth.

It is these kind of subtle, delightful touches that make the Rings and The Hobbit films so captivating.

Set decorator Ra Vincent commented during the appendices that 90% of the work his team does within the films isn’t noticed. The 10% that is, is what makes it worthwhile.

Sadly, the hat-shaped hole is one of those things that I missed. The Academy didn’t, though, as Vincent and colleagues Dan Hennah and Simon Bright were nominated for Best Achievement in Production Design for An Unexpected Journey.

The One Ring was previously missing from the Isildur mural in Rivendell

Perhaps it can be explained that the passing of time has worn it off, but in The Fellowship of the Ring, the mural that depicts the moments before Isildur cut the One Ring off Sauron’s hand is actually missing the One Ring.

When we see the mural again in An Unexpected Journey, as Bilbo is taking a look around Rivendell after the company has arrived, you see that the One Ring is there, in all its bright golden glory contrasted again Sauron’s black metal gauntlet.

This correction is courtesy of Tolkien artist and conceptual designer Alan Lee. Howe actually painted the mural for Fellowship of the Ring, and, as such, simply painted the One Ring on when An Unexpected Journey began filming.

Ori was potentially the dwarf that fell down the well in Moria in FOTR

While you are able to physically distinguish between the 13 dwarves, there is not time in the three films to get to know them all individually.

With some of the dwarves, notably Thorin, Kili and Balin, you do get a strong flavour for their personalities, but with the rest there are only a few glimpses.

The appendices are able to fill in the gaps and provide this background information.

Oin, for example, is the alchemist and healer of the company; producer Fran Walsh joked that with all his lotions and points Oin coined the term ‘ointment’.

The appendices also reveal that because Ori keeps a journal, he may well have been the dwarf in Moria whose diary Gandalf reads from and who Pippin accidentally causes to fall down the well.

This is a sad thought but it encourages you to think about what happened to Thorin’s company following the events of the three films and imagine what their lives were like.

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