A streamlined version of The Hobbit
By Danny F. Santos (doddleNEWS)
There are a lot of things that have irked me about the Lord of the Rings prequels that comprise The Hobbit. I’ll give some credit to director Peter Jackson in that when you watch the whole trilogy in one go, it’s far more satisfying, but you can feel where it’s been expanded.
One of my hobbies is re-editing movies for my own personal library. Sometimes because I think the filmmakers went wrong somewhere (like the Matrix sequels), and sometimes just to watch a film in a different way (my chronological cut of Kill Bill or all 3 Evil Dead movies edited into one seamless 4 hour film). There’s an entire sub-culture of fan-edits that really kicked off in 2000 with Star Wars: The Phantom Edit, fueled by cheaper editing software and even some Hollywood veterans like Topher Grace and Steven Soderbergh are getting in on the action.
The Hobbit trilogy has been a prime candidate ever since the first film was released in 2012. First of all, they expanded on the material from the book using the appendices in Lord of the Rings, and secondly, they further expanded the series from 2 films to 3. An editor going by the name TolkienEditor crafted the films into a 4.5 hour cut that streamlines it into a movie that better reflects the book called The Hobbit: The Tolkien Edit.
Personally, I may attempt my own cut in the future, but I’d be far more interested in streamlining the story with the additional appendix footage that ties the film into Lord of the Rings, rather than a more faithful reinterpretation.
Here is an example from The Hobbit: The Tolkien Edit, ‘The Barrel Ride’ sequence:
- The investigation of Dol Guldor has been completely excised, including the appearances of Radagast, Saruman and Galadriel. This was the most obvious cut, and the easiest to carry out (a testament to its irrelevance to the main narrative). Like the novel, Gandalf abruptly disappears on the borders of Mirkwood, and then reappears at the siege of the Lonely Mountain with tidings of an orc army.
- The Tauriel-Legolas-Kili love triangle has also been removed. Indeed, Tauriel is no longer a character in the film, and Legolas only gets a brief cameo during the Mirkwood arrest. This was the next clear candidate for elimination, given how little plot value and personality these two woodland sprites added to the story. Dwarves are way more fun to hang out with anyway. 😛
- The Pale Orc subplot is vastly trimmed down. Azog is obviously still leading the attack on the Lonely Mountain at the end, but he does not appear in the film until after the company escapes the goblin tunnels (suggesting that the slaying of the Great Goblin is a factor in their vendetta, as it was in the novel).
- Several of the Laketown scenes have been cut, such as Bard’s imprisonment and the superfluous orc raid. However, I’ve still left quite a bit of this story-thread intact, since I felt it succeeded in getting the audience to care about the down-beaten fisherfolk and the struggles of Bard to protect them.
- The prelude with old Bilbo is gone. As with the novel, I find the film works better if the scope starts out small (in a cosy hobbit hole), and then grows organically as Bilbo ventures out into the big, scary world. It is far more elegant to first learn about Smaug from the dwarves’ haunting ballad (rather than a bombastic CGI sequence). The prelude also undermines the real-and-present stakes of the story by framing it as one big flashback.
- Several of the orc skirmishes have been cut. I felt that the Battle of the Five Armies provided more than enough orc mayhem. If you pack in too much before then, they just become monotonous, and it lessons their menace in the audience’s mind. I was tempted to leave in the very first Azog confrontation (since it resembles a chapter from the novel), but decided to cut it for a variety of reasons. Specifically, I found it tonally jarring to jump from the emotional crescendo of Thorin being saved by Bilbo (and the sense of safety the company feels after being rescued by the eagles), straight back into another chase sequence. Plus, I think the film works better if Bilbo is still trying to earn Thorin’s respect the entire journey, as he was in the novel. Not to mention the absurdity of Bilbo suddenly turning into John McClane with a sword!
- Several of the action scenes have been tightened up, such as the barrel-ride, the fight between Smaug and the dwarves (no molten gold in this version), and the Battle of the Five Armies. Though, it should be noted that Bilbo’s key scenes—the encounter with Gollum, the battle against the Mirkwood spiders, and the conversation with Smaug—have not been tampered with, since they proved to be excellent adaptions (in no small part due to Freeman’s performance), and serve to refocus the film on Bilbo’s arc.
- A lot of filler scenes have been cut as well. These are usually harder to spot (and I’ve probably missed a couple), but once they’re gone, you’ll completely forget that they ever existed. For example, the 4-minute scene where Bard buys some fish and the dwarves gather up his pay.