hobbit fan edit

For some fans, interaction with films they love (or want to love) has become a full-on interactive thing. For various reasons — love, hate, curiosity, education — we see fans cutting their own versions of films more and more often. Even Steven Soderbergh is getting into the act of recutting favorite films.

One obvious candidate for active reappraisal is Peter Jackson‘s The Hobbit trilogy. One new Hobbit fan edit has shorn the series of hours of footage, leaving a roughly four-hour story that omits many of Jackson’s inventions and digressions in an attempt to get closer to the heart of the novel. It this legit? Not at all. It is, however, inevitable, and potentially a good illustration of how some of the films’ meandering added little to the adaption.

You can find all the details on the cuts here.

Here are some of the differences:

  • 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 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 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.

There’s also talk of the reduction of some of the Orc sequences, and also of Laketown. For my money, there is little in the Alfrid scenes from the last film that is worth keeping, but some of those scenes may be too tied to other characters.

This is probably only the first of many fan edits to come — The Hobbit is the series where there may be as many people clamoring for a shorter version of the overall story as there are ready to see the final assembled Extended Editions. And there’s only so much that can be done, since, well, it’s Peter Jackson’s movie. But the best sequences in the Hobbit films are enough to make me curious about what a great editor could do with it all — or more to the point, with a lot less of it.

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