Just finished watching The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, extended edition Blu-Ray. I think the most notable difference is in pacing; it’s much better, overall, and there’re more bits from the book included.
Scenes of a common tone and mood now feel equally paced, which eliminates contrast between “faster” and “slower” segments set at the same urgency level of storytelling. Usually, that sort of unevenness is a problem fixed by more cuts in the “slower” segments. Adding even more material – as was done here – to achieve properly equal pacing can be very risky; most of the time you’ll make a padded film feel even more padded. But here, I’m glad to say it’s a change for the better.
Directly related is that the film actually feels less fighty. The theactrical cut felt like a runaround between fights. But the battle scenes were not extended much if at all, so take up a smaller percentage of screen time. The result feels – for lack of a better word – a bit more Hobbitesque.
I particularly liked the additional material in the prelude, and in Rivendell; I doubt anyone would be displeased with either. Watch it for that, if nothing else.
At any rate, an improved version; only 13 minutes additional, but it’s all well-placed. I suppose someone wanted to keep the theatre version below the scary three hour mark, because with one exception, I really do think all these bits needed to be there. Give it a watch, see what you think.
eta: Anna’s spoilerriffic review post here, with details about the specifics of the added footage.