It’s no surprise to anyone who knows me or reads my reviews that I’m no fan of “The Hobbit” or “The Lord of the Rings” movies. I find them to be bloated messes which could easily be edited down from their existing theatrical and extended editions into something watchable. There are aspects of every film in the two trilogies that I like. However, as whole movies I struggle to get through any of them in one sitting.
One fan of Peter Jackson’s epic and overly long “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” trilogies has done what anyone working directly with Jackson has been afraid to do. An individual identified simply as the Tolkien Editor has taken it upon themselves to join “An Unexpected Journey,” “The Desolation of Smaug,” and “The Battle of the Five Armies” into one seamless four and a half hour film.
Highlights of what is dubbed “The Hobbit: The Tolkien Edit” will make diehard fans of the novel much happier. Three hours and twenty minutes of what many would call useless and unnecessary material is cut out in order to get back to the heart of the source material. A list of a few of the changes comes directly from the website the edit is posted at. Check them out in the Tolkien Editor’s own words:
“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 (thankfully!). 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 prelude with old Bilbo is gone. As with the novel, I find the film works better if the scope starts out small (in a cozy 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.
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 four-minute scene where Bard buys some fish and the dwarves gather up his pay.”
The good news is there’s way less Legolas. The bad news is we don’t see Christopher Lee / Saruman at all. You have to take the good with the bad, I guess.
With the exception of one awkward cut I specifically remember, the new editing job is phenomenal. You’d never know an amateur with access to iMovie or whatever this person used could put something this professional and satisfying together. The lower picture resolution even makes most of the janky CGI look smoother and easier to digest visually.
The Tolkien Editor posted an update stating that they made a six GB version available for download. The quality is somewhere in between DVD and Blu-ray. The copy I saw online was two GB and “The Battle of the Five Armies” footage was a little herky-jerky from being compressed. It was still worth a watch, however.
Do yourself a favor and go watch “The Hobbit: The Tolkien Edit” online as soon as possible. It’s not “official,” if you know what I mean. You never know how long the links will stay up. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how great this version of all three films far outdoes Peter Jackson’s overstuffed messes.